Today, Bappi Lahiri turns 59 and plans to bring in his birthday quietly. “We’ll have a party later to celebrate the success of The Dirty Picture,” he says, ecstatic that his song ‘Oo la la…’ is topping the charts. “Back in the 1980s, I had 12 jubilee hits in a year-and-a-half. This song is in the same-Jeetendra-Sridevi Mawwali style and after the recording I had told the composers Vishal-Shekhar, that we had created a superhit.
But I had never imagined that it would sprint ahead in three weeks, faster than last year’s ‘Sheila…’ and ‘Munni…’,” he admits. The composer, who has sung for several actors from Vinod Khanna (‘Bambai se aaya mera dost…’ from Aap Ki Khatir, 1977) and Amitabh Bachchan (Raat baaki… from Namak Halal, 1982) to Sanjay Dutt (Tamma tamma… from Thanedaar, 1990) and John Abraham (Bambai nagariya…’ from Taxi No. 9211, 2006), is thrilled by the response to ‘Oo la la…’
“People still like my voice. Recently at a show in Kolkata I had to sing it three times,” he beams, pointing out that his jazz album, Walking On Love Street, is on CMJ’s Top 5 New World Adds Chart and and WONY Oneonta, New York — Top Ten Jazz Playlist Week. “My song with American Idol winner Shaun Barrows is playing in 38 radio stations, and also hotels, airplanes and stores.”
Walking On Love Street that has Diana Williams as Bappi’s co-lyricist, Doron Zor on the guitar and features five-time Grammy nominee Jeff Lorber. It was recorded at Hollywood’s Rusk Studios, with the acoustics, including sitar, flute and santoor recorded in India with Bappi himself on the tabla. The album is dedicated to his wife Chitrani, who he met at a recording studio. “I was 23 with just three films to my credit, Zakhmi Aurat (1988), Chalte Chalte (1976) and Aap Ki Khatir. She was 19. It was love-at-first sight and I told my parents that this was the girl I wanted to marry. We came home in a car and then on a whim, went walking down love street. We’re still there,” he smiles.
With 462 films to his credit, Bappi who completes four decades in the industry, points out that he’s won many awards and celebrated many jubilees. But this is the first time that two of his songs are topping the charts, in India and abroad at the same time. “It’s a rare feat for any musician and I didn’t need a Danny Boyle to boost me. I did it on my own with an album I produced, composed, wrote and sang for,” he points out. “For years, people have been calling me a copy cat, but these are original. RD Burman, Shankar-Jaikishen and I were merely ‘inspired’. Today’s music directors just take songs from every country and simply ‘chaapo’ (produce) them under their own names.”