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'Not a single mean bone in Bappida'

Last updated on: February 21, 2022 18:27 IST
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'People sometimes ridiculed him for the way he looked or dressed.'
'Sometimes they ran down his music.'
'But I have never heard him say one bad word about anyone.'

IMAGE: Kalpana Iyer, left, and Bappi Lahiri at a concert.

Bappi Lahiri, Usha Uthup and Kalpana Iyer rocked the floor in the 1980s with their disco songs.

Hari Om Hari, Rambha Ho Ho Ho, Tu Mujhe Jaan Se Bhi Pyaara Hai, Koi Yahaan Aha Nachche Nache, all these songs were iconic then and they still resonate with listeners.

Bappida was not just an integral part of the actress's career right from her first film, but also a part of her life.

He was family.

Today, Kalpana Iyer, who lives in Dubai, is devastated that she is so far away.

She tells Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya, "He was just four years older than me. At 69, he is gone. At 65, I feel so alone."

The first film I signed was Rajshri's Manokamna (1980).

I started the shoot in Madh Island with Raj Kiran and this beautiful romantic song, Tumhara Pyaar Chahiye Mujhe Jeene Ke Liye.

After that, Bappi Lahiri, who composed it, was associated with every successful song, every turning point in my career.

Pyaara Dushman, which also released in 1980, launched me as a dancer with Hari Om Hari.

Other hits like Ramba Ho Ho Ho (Armaan, 1981), Tu Mujhe Jaan Se Bhi Pyaara Hai (Wardaat, 1981), Koi Yahaan Aha Nache Nache (Disco Dancer, 1982) made Usha Uthup, Bappida and me the trimurti, an unbeatable combination.

I have said this before, in fact, all my life, and I will say it again, I am Kalpana Iyer because of them.

Had Bappida not composed such superhit songs for me, had Ushaji not sung them with so much heart, I don't know if I'd have been remembered as fondly today.

I knew Hari Om Hari and Rambha Ho Ho Ho would be a rage even before they were picturised, just from listening to the cassette (Gen Z readers, please note: Music was then circulated on cassettes like this. [external link]).

That was the time of Saturday Night Fever, disco, Bappi Lahiri and Usha Uthup. But what makes them iconic is that even four decades later, kids know Ramba Ho Ho Ho!


IMAGE: Kalpana Iyer, left, and Bappi Lahiri .

I count my blessings everyday.

Bappida affectionately called me Kalpuda. Don't ask me why, I never asked.

In fact, his whole family calls me that.

He would pick up the phone and ask in Bangla, 'Kalpuda, kemon achcho, bhalo to? (How are you? Good, I hope) Kothai achcho? Chole esho (Where are you? come over)...' And I would go running.

Sometimes it was for a song, sometimes to bring in a puja or a birthday at home.

The Lahiris are a very gracious and hospitable family and love celebrating with others. There was not a single family function I wasn't invited to.

I am very close to his wife Chitrani and his children, Rema and Bappa.

His Baba and Ma were good friends with my mother too. He was a good son and always very respectful to his elders.

We went on stage shows together across India and the world... to the US, Amsterdam and the Fiji Islands...

IMAGE: Kalpana Iyer, left, with Amrish Puri, second from left, Bappi Lahiri, third from left, Chitrani Lahiri, second from right, and Urmila Puri, right. Photograph: Kind courtesy Bappi Lahiri/Instagram

I sang in these shows because Ushaji couldn't always be there.

Even when I wasn't doing well, even when Bappida had taken a small step backwards, our lives and hearts were entwined.

There were many who, going by his appearance, believed that he was loud and flamboyant.

They were wrong.

He was a simple family man, child-like, always laughing and happy in his own space.

A rare talent who went beyond the dhoom dhamaka disco songs to compose beautiful melodies like the soulful Dil Mein Ho Tum (Satyamev Jayate, 1987) or the playful Abhi Abhi Thi Dushmani (Zakhmee, 1975).

He lived for his music, always experimenting with new sounds and instruments. A visionary, often far ahead of his time.

People sometimes ridiculed him for the way he looked or dressed.

Sometimes they ran down his music.

But I have never heard him say one bad word about anyone.

There was not a single mean bone in his body. No malice.

IMAGE: Kalpana Iyer, second from left, Bappi Lahiri and Mithun Chakraborty, right.

Four years ago, I was at the launch of a magazine in Dubai where I am settled now. Ushaji was on stage and she spontaneously and graciously called me up.

Bappida, who was in the audience, joined us to sing, Yaad aa raha hai tera pyaar.

Some people make a place in your life, carve a place in your heart forever. Bappida did, in mine.

He was just four years older than me. At 69, he is gone. At 65, I feel so alone.

Today, when a part of me has gone with him, when I am so far away that I couldn't even see him one last time, when my heart breaks because I can't be with Chitrani and the children because of the distance, I am thankful to God that I have memories like this to remember Bappida by.

In retrospect, that launch function seems like his parting gift to me today. It feels like it happened just yesterday.

Just before him, we lost Lataji (Mangeshkar), our Maa Saraswati.

Deep in my heart, I know the two of them are now making beautiful music in God's land.

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