BAppi Lahiri, who passed away last week, was responsible for changing the sonic nature of the song in the Indian film. He was not only a composer but also a singer and could play many instruments.
He was born into a musical family in Bengal. His extended family included singers like Kishore Kumar, who was also a pioneer in making film singing more inclusive by not retaining the relative purity of vocalization. Kumar was open to international influences that came to the subcontinent through composers and instrumentalists from the West. For hereditary musicians, the growth process includes becoming familiar with and playing various instruments and genres. Of course, familiarization is one thing and being good at something is another. It seems that Lahiri was proficient in anything he wanted to do, including singing.
He first made “synthesized disco music” work effectively in the cinema of his native province, Bengal. He then explored other sectors of the film industry in the subcontinent, including Telugu, Gujarati, Kannada and Tamil.
He then applied his lessons to mainstream Hindi cinema; best exemplified by the Bollywood label, and achieved great success, permanently changing the sonic face of music in movies. It was especially popular in the 80s and 90s.
As a medium, film is more prone to technological change as it originated from the invention of the camera which could capture the moving image and then recording sound and synchronizing it with that moving image. Those who were more receptive to change did well for themselves and the medium, rather than the purists. The huge commercial enterprise and the involvement of large capital in the medium has made it an industry where box office success has taken on crucial importance.
Lahiri got her first opportunity in a Bengali film Daadu in 1974 where he made Lata Mangeshkar sing his composition. His Bengali film successes were: Amar Sangee, Asha O Bhalobhasa, Aamar Tume Amar Prem, Mandira, Raktelekha and Priya. His work in Bollywood followed from there. The first Hindi film for which he composed music was Nanha Shikari. His first composition in Hindi was You Hi Mera Chanda, sung by Mukesh. He then composed the music for many other films, including Naya Kadam, Aangan Ki Kali, wardat, disco dancer, Hathkari, Namak Halal, Masterji, dance dance, Himmatwala, Judge Chaudhry, Tohfa, Maqsad, Commando, gang leader, sailaab and Sharabi.
He composed some of the great melodious songs, including those of Chaltay Chaltay and Zakhmee. Zakhmee, in fact, was his real breakthrough. For this he composed a duet with Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar entitled: Nothing is impossible. For the same film, his compositions Jalta Hai Jiya Meraa Kishore-Asha duet, and the solos of Lata Mangeshkar: Abhi Abhi Thi Dushmani and Aao Tume Chand became popular and brought him greater recognition.
The duo Phir Janam Laingay Humsung by Kishore and Lata, became famous thanks to the film Phir Janam Laingay Hum. All the songs from the movie Chaltay Chaltay became hits, bringing him recognition as a musical director on a national level. He sang a duet with Sulakshana Pandit, titled Jana Kahan Hai which brought him recognition as a singer.
He also composed music for some ghazals, including Kisi Nazar Ko Tera Intezaar Aaj Bhi Hai and Aawaz Di Hai for the 1985 film Aitbaar. He was also responsible for some of the great melodious songs sung by Kishore Kumar in duets with Asha Bhosle or Lata Mangeshkar in films starring Rajesh Khanna in the 1980s. Hit films included Naya Kadam, Masterji, Aaj Ka MP Ram Avatar, Bewafai, Maqsad, Suraagh, Insaaf Main Karoongaand Adhikaar. After the success of the film HimmatwalaBappi Lahiri regularly composes duets sung by Kishore Kumar for films, starring Jeetendra in Judge Chaudhry, Jaani Dost, mawali, Haisiyat, Tohfa, balidaan, Qaidi, Hoshiyaar, sinhasan, suhaagan, majaal, Tamasha, Sonay Peh Suhaga and dharm.
Going with the flow in 2016, Lahiri voiced the character Tamatoa in the Hindi-dubbed version of Disney’s 3D computer-animated fantasy adventure film. Moana. He also composed and sang Shona the hindi version of Brilliant. It was his first time dubbing an animated character. He also appeared in Ramtaran song Dance bar Yeh Hai.
Bappi Lahiri made something of a record by composing for 12 successful silver jubilee films with Jetendra in the lead in the mid-1980s and entered the Guinness Book of World Records for recording 180 songs for 33 films in 1986.
He also won the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award.
The author is a Lahore-based cultural critic