Chirodini Tumi Je Aamar happened in 1987. But till today, whenever Prosenjit Chatterjee takes to the stage, this love anthem composed by Bappi Lahiri in Amar Sangi plays. The Bengali matinee idol has innumerable hit songs in his kitty but this number by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle from Amar Sangi will be synonymous with Prosenjit. On Wednesday, when India woke up to the news of legendary Bappi Lahiri’s death in Mumbai at the age of 69, back in Kolkata, Prosenjit is crestfallen.
Prosenjit says he is at a loss of words to express how “special” the veteran musician was. To him, Bappi da, as he was fondly called, was ‘family’. Starting with Amar Sangi to Ulte Debo Palte Debo in Bikram Singha: The Lion Is Back, Prosenjit-Bappi Lahiri pair has provided several hits to the Bengali film industry.
“Not just in Bengali films, Bappi da has composed the music for all the Hindi movies I have done. The audiences have always loved the songs created by Bappi Lahiri-Prosenjit jodi,” says Prosenjit.
Veteran actor Biswajit Chatterjee calls him a ‘trendsetter’. “A boy from Bengal, Bappi made a place in the Hindi music industry. At a tender age, he delivered one hit after another. He brought a new flavour to Hindi music with his pop and disco sounds,” he says.
Indians were introduced to disco-style music through Lahiri. His music made the Indians dance be it on I am a Disco Dancer, Pag Ghungroo, Aaj Rapat Jaaye, Raat Baaki Baat Baaki, Zooby Zooby, Tamma Tamma Loge to and Ooh La La.
With his trademark gold chains that he wore for luck, India’s ‘Disco King’ ruled Bollywood in the 70s, 80s and 90s. In the Bengali film industry, too, he created hits like Bolchhi Tomar Kane Kane, Uri Uri Baba, Aamar Eche Korche and Aaj Ei Dintake.
Arati Mukhopadhyay has sung several compositions of Lahiri. Her song, Takhon Tomar Ekush Bachhar, is a landmark. “Everywhere I go, Takhon Tomar Ekush Bachhar is played. Tomar Gharer Putul Gulo is also a hit. I have sung for him in so many Hindi films. He created such lovely compositions,” says the singer.
Born on November 27, 1952 in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri to musician parents Aparesh Lahiri and Bansuri Lahiri, Bappi started playing tabla at the age of 3. His mother always wanted to see him prosper in Mumbai. She had gifted him a gold chain with a Hare Rama Hare Krishna locket. When she gave him the jewellery, she had said it would bring him luck. In 1975, Lahiri tasted his first success with Zakhmi. Since then, there was no looking back.
Shantanu Moitra says Bappi Lahiri’s personality reflects in his songs. “He was full of life. He wanted everyone to forget everything and dance with his music. This attitude was new for emerging India when he entered Bollywood,” says the PK composer. Moitra isn’t ready to just tag him as ‘Disco King’. “His music had much more than pop and disco. The songs of Arati Mukhopadhyay are melodious,” he says.
Haimanti Sukla had a family relationship with Lahiri. Even Kishore Kumar was Lahiri’s maternal uncle. Shukla remembered how Aparesh and Bansuri Lahiri struggled to make their son shine in Mumbai. “Bansuri aunty used to learn classical music from my father, Pandit Harihar Sukla. She was a favourite student. Bansuri aunty always wanted Bappi to work in Mumbai,” she says.
Lahiri used to call Sukla as ‘Sona di’. After Sukla sang for Chashme Buddoor, she says Bappi told her why she didn’t meet him in Mumbai. “He was such a well-behaved man,” she says.
In Usha Uthup’s career, Bapi Lahiri is omnipresent. In 1980, Uthup recorded ‘Hari Om Hari’ for Pyaara Dushman, her first with Lahiri. Her distinct voice was mellifluously used later by Lahiri in songs like Rambha, Tu Mujhe Jaan Se Bhi Pyara Hai, Koi Yahan Aha Nache Nache, Naaka Bandi and Uri Uri Baba. Uthup was inconsolable on the death of Bappi Lahiri.
“Every song is because of him. From Rambha, Koi Yaha, Hari Om Hari to Uri Baba… There’s no show that runs without him. Be it a para or a maidaan, without a Bappi Lahiri song, I will have no show,” says an emotional Uthup.
February 2022 has been unkind with the death of legendary musical figures from Lata Mangeshkar, Sandhya Mukhopadhyay to Bappi Lahiri. Uthup says she is devastated on hearing of his death and prays to God to be kind. “How much bad news awaits us now? Please God, be kind. I am devastated,” she cries.
Recalling them as ‘unbreakable jodi’, Uthup says she spoke to Lahiri a few months ago. “He asked him if I was going out anywhere. Then, he said he has composed a few numbers and we will record them soon. He always used to say we are an unbreakable jodi. I have never felt like this. Is this an age to go?,” she says.