The singer-songwriter had been on treatment for several weeks. “He suffered from OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) and recurrent lung infections… He succumbed to his illness at around 11:45 p.m.,” Dr Deepak Namjoshi of CritiCare Asia Hospitals, Mumbai said in a statement.
In the 1980s, a disco track became mandatory in Hindi films after the runaway success of Qurbani’s “Aap jaisa koi” (singer: Nazia Hasan, composer: Biddu). The songs became something you both danced to and listened to. For the young and the restless, rhythm has gained more importance. And the electronic synthesizer has become the most requested instrument. No Bollywood composer has understood, captured and expressed the new musical ecosystem like Bappi.
His flirtation with disco started with “Hari Om Hari” (Pyara Dushman, inspired by Neil Sedaka/Eruption’s One Way Ticket) and “Rambha ho ho ho” (Armaan). Director B Subhash’s Disco Dancer became his big noon. From the title track to “Jimmy Jimmy”, every track on Disco Dancer was danceable and delicious. If ‘Awara hoon’ was Hindi cinema’s main cultural export in the 1950s, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ remains a musical ambassador even in Vladimir Putin’s Russia today. Just go to YouTube for confirmation.
This was also the time when Southern production houses were making large investments and breakthroughs in Hindi films. Bappi’s breathless foot swatters and Indeevar’s nursery rhyme lyrics (Char baar marenge ek baar ginenge (movie: Mawaali) were integral to these mind-numbing performers whose storylines could match Donald Trump’s statements about disbelief. duo became the go-to “Himmatwala”, “Mawaali”, “Maqsad”, “Tohfa” by Jeetendra were all propelled by Bappi’s music. “He was a king in Madras”, Subhash told this reporter he a few years ago.
Bappi’s music played an important role in shaping the early careers of Mithun Chakraborty and Govinda. The rise of up-tempo songs spurred the rise of the dance star. Disco Dancer from Mithun and Ilzaam from Govinda, both had music by Bappi. The final part of the Disco Dancer title track gave birth to Mithun, the star. Govinda also broadcast her arrival with a Bappi-composed track, “I’m a Street Dancer,” where her dress shone like pinball but her jiving was as simple as breathing.
Bappi-da, as many affectionately called him, was a workaholic. Writing for the film magazine Madhuri in 1986, famed journalist Vinod Tiwary said that even if the composer returned home around 11-12 a.m. and found a producer waiting for him, he would not only talk to him, but also start a session. musical. if necessary. In the 1980s, Bappi provided the score for 230 stunning films. In 1985, he gave music to 33 films: 30 Hindi, 2 Bengali, 1 Tamil; which means a movie that comes out every 12 days! In a career spanning almost five decades, he provided music for approximately 500 films.
The composer was dominating the charts with his sol-scorchers; some of them are copies of foreign hits and desi classics. But he also produced works of exceptional value. In the films of the Rajshri productions (‘Ek Baar Kaho’, ‘Manokamna’) and in ‘Apne Paraye’ by Basu Chatterjee, we discover another facet of the composer.
Critics were surprised by his sure-footed folk tunes in ‘Apne Paraye’. “Shyam rang rangaa re,” where he used the khol, a percussion instrument from Bengal, has the meditative feel of a Chaitanya kirtan. ‘Gao mere mann’ carries the scent of ponds, banana leaves and 19th century Bengal. Few people would associate it with songs like ‘Saiyan bina ghar soona’ (movie: ‘Aangan Ki Kali’), ‘Chaar din ki zindagi hai’ (movie: ‘Ek Baar Kaho’) or ‘Kisi nazar ko tera’ (movie: ‘Aetbaar’). Many of these songs were sung by Yesudas and Bhupendra.
Born in the North Bengal town of Jalpaiguri to musical parents, Alokesh (his original name) was trained by guru Samta Prasad and was hailed as a tabla prodigy at just six years old. “Nanha Shikari” (1973) is his first Hindi film. But the composer made a strong impression with ‘Chalte Chalte’ (1976), among his finest scores.
Amit Khanna, who wrote the lyrics for the film, tells how Bappi got the film. “Director Bhisham Kohli, also nephew of Dev Anand, was looking for a musical director for his project. He couldn’t get RD and LP. Bappi had come to Navketan earlier to look for work. And I was impressed with some of the songs that I heard. I said to Bhisham, why not try it? During the musical session, Bappi played the tune “Chalte Chalte”. I wrote the first lines. And that led to the song,” recalls Khanna.
Slowly it made its way distributing hummable melodies even in low budget action films such as “Zakhmee”, “Surakksha” and “Wardat” by Ravikant Nagaich and the horror sons of the Ramsay brothers (Saboot) .
The smash hit ‘Disco Dancer’ elevated his career. But when Prakash Mehra, then Bollywood’s biggest director with Manmohan Desai, signed him for ‘Namak Halal’, Bappi had hit the stars. The music to ‘Namak Halaal’ and ‘Sharaabi’ (both Big B movies) was worth the weight of the gold chains he lovingly wore. In the age of social media, these channels have become the subject of countless memes and digs. “Namak Halaal’s Pagh ghungroo baandh” was nearly 12 minutes long, but the tune still held the attention. ‘Raat baaki’, which he sang with Asha, is a remarkable composition. “Sharaabi” won him his only Filmfare award in 1985.
He continued to compose with some success in the 1990s: “Aaj Ka Arjun” by KC Bokadia and “Aankhen” by David Dhawan, to name but two. “Gori hai kalaiyan” (movie: Aaj Ka Arjun) topped Binaca Geetmala in 1990.
In recent years, Bappi has sung in ‘Baaghi 3’ and ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’. Last April, he had contracted the Covid but had recovered well. “When I had Covid it lifted my spirits. When I called him last November to wish him his birthday, he didn’t pick up the phone. His daughter Rema called back a few days later to say he was unwell,” Khanna said.
From now on, the amiable and always smiling composer is no more. But the best of Bappi Lahiri’s ’80s tunes remains as groovy as ever. And we know that even today there is no better farewell song than ‘Chalte Chalte’.