Bappi Lahiri thinks he is to music what Bachchan is to films, though 12 years older. Imagines young fans proposing. Just released new album. To act in 3 movies. Remains king of bling. Like all rock-stars, doesn’t give a flying fig what people think of him! Check out the quote-riot..
You’ve been around for almost four decades now. Do you think you have any competition in Bollywood?
(Instantly) No, no, no, no! I’m doing three films as an actor including Main aur Mrs Khanna, and have more offers as well. I’m doing ads, songs, reality T V shows and music for two-three big films, including one with Jackie Shroff and one with Govinda. I also did a rock show where public went mad when I sang Jhoom, jhoom, a song that dates back to the mid-80s. It’s all public’s love. In film industry, there is Amitabh Bachchan and in music industry, there is Bappida. But Amitabh Bachchan is 12 years older than me. <b1>
What about competition abroad?
There is no competition, but there are singers who dress like me. Among women, there’s Beyonce and there’s Shakira and among men, there is 50 Cents, Eminem and definitely, Akon. He sang for the IPL finale, where he was wearing a lot of chains. It’s good, he has style.
In spite of doing many international collaborations, you still haven’t won a Grammy Award.
I have got hundreds of golden and platinum jubilee discs. But yes, I promise, in 2010, main definitely Grammy mein nomination kar raha hoon. Let’s see if I get it or not. I have given 15 movies with block buster music.. that’s a bigger achievement than any Oscar.
You are the only singer in India with a distinct look. Is that so you can connect with youngsters?
Dekhiye, if I don’t wear gold chain, people say you are not Bappi Lahiri. When I wear it, they say, yes, now you are Bappida.
Today, if someone wears gold chains, they say why are you copying Bappida. Only few people have such an image. Elvis Presley had a gold cross, Michael Jackson has sunglasses and Elton John has a hat.
I created the gold-man image of Bappida (shows his gold chains).. ‘bling-bling, gold chains, I’m a golden man, you are my golden fan’. I’m a Hindustani and I want to show hum kisi se kam nahin. When I go to Hollywood with gold chains, everyone asks, “Who is he?” I want to show everyone, dekho bhai dekho, Bappi Lahiri knows how to dress.
How have you been able to pull off this image for nearly four decades now?
Bas, public ka demand hai. For them, I have released my new album, My Love. With it, I’ve brought R ‘n’ B music to India, with American star Jiddah. It’s playing on every channel today. I shot videos in two big towns, New York and Sydney, so Bappida stays among the younger generation, even though I’m already there. Like my song, Ramba ho ho ho has now become Jai ho ho ho. Nothing is new for Bappi Lahiri. Whatever catchlines I had introduced 25 years ago, are coming back. And it’s all because of janta-e-janardhan. I give my salaam to them.
When did your obsession with gold chains start?
Gold is my lucky charm. When I recorded of Zakhmi, my mummy gave me a gold chain with a locket that has God’s name. When I got married, Mrs Lahiri said that gold is very lucky. As my married life passed by, my gold chains got bigger. Hahahaha. But yes, the gold Ganpati around my neck keeps me safe.
Do you wear gold when you sleep also?
No, no, no, no. I don’t wear it at home. Because you have come, I have worn it for the image. Otherwise, I can come without chains, without sunglasses and without rings.
Who designs your clothes?
I and Mrs Lahiri design them. I do my shopping from Beverly Hills in Los Angeles and also Oxford Street. I like buying clothes.. I have three to four wardrobes full of clothes.
Were you surprised when a cola company approached you for an ad, though it’s a youth brand?
No, no, no. I feel very young, that’s why I have done an R ‘n’ B album. And everyone has done ads like Amitabh Bachchan, SRK, Dhoni.. but my ad is such a big hit that children stand outside my gate and say, Bappida, show us your gold toothbrush. (Laughs) Main humiliation mein aa gaya! It’s definitely the director’s magic. There is no corner in India that doesn’t like the ad.
Were you wild as a youngster?
Hahahaha! Bachpan mein to bahut kuch dhamaal karta tha. I used to play cricket.. hattrick bhi kiya tha. But I couldn’t continue it since my daddy said if I get hurt on the wrists, I wouldn’t be able to play tabla and keyboards. Since childhood only, I got involved with music and have followed it passionately ever since.
Did a lot of girls propose to you at that time?
(Guffaws) Bachpan mein ladki log ka bahut proposal aaya. But when I liked someone, I married her and now she is Mrs Lahiri. We are together for 32 years now. That time I sang a song, (sings) Pyaar maanga hai tumhi se. I also sang (sings) Pyaar chahiye mujhe, jeene ke liye. But after marriage, it’s become (sings animatedly, clapping hands) Zamaana to hai naukar biwi ka (laughs loudly).
Do you consider yourself romantic?
(Wide grin) Yes, I’m very romantic. I composed a very romantic song (sings) Pyaar to hona tha, for my album, My Love. I picturised it on Australia’s top model, Suzy. When I saw her, and thought of her, the song happened instantly. I’m a creator, and I get inspired whenever I see something beautiful. Dil ka bhavana hota hai. It’s God’s blessings that I can come up with a dhun instantly.
What are the romantic things you do for your wife?
I do everything for Mrs Lahiri. When we go to America and London, we go for candlelight dinners. We go to nightclubs also since Mrs Lahiri likes discos. We go quietly to discos and listen to the music going on there. That’s how I got R ‘n’ B music to India. I heard it there and got it here. I brought all new things to India, like reggae, disco and even Samantha Fox.
You have always been very outspoken to the public. But do you have secrets too?
(Instantly) No, no, I’m a family man. Dekhiye, I’m a public figure. I am seen with big British and Hollywood stars. So, I don’t meet anyone thinking there should be a scandal. You should meet everyone, for sure, but only as friends. Because I have a very good wife, who has given me two very good kids.
Err.. I didn’t mean it that way. I meant, is there anything no one knows about you?
Oh! Hahaha! I’m a very cool person and I like watching cricket a lot at home. I also enjoy listening to music. I have a routine.. I compose something new everyday.
Do you still get love letters?
Hahaha! Now everyone calls Bappi Lahiri as Bappida, so no love letters. But yes, when girls come for autographs, unko dekhne se lagta hai.. they are thinking if Bappida wasn’t married, to main propose karta tha. They seem quite sad. So, you get to know that if Bappida was young and a bachelor, they would have proposed for sure.
My first film, Nanha Shikari, came in 1973, but Master Bappi had composed for two Bengali films from age 17. Zakhmi came in 1974, Chalte Chalte and Aap Ki Khatir came in the 70s. (Laughs) Then, 80s, as you know, belonged to me, from super hit songs in Disco Dancer, that had 8 ka 8 gaana superhit, to Sharabi, that had six ka six gaana superhit, to the decade’s last super duper hit, Giraftaar. In one year, 14 films of mine were silver jubilee hits. At one point, I was working on 100 films together.
In 90s also, I gave many hits. I only made the first computerised song in India, Tamma tamma in Thanedaar. In 90s, Aaj Ka Arjun came and it’s song, Gori hai kaliyan worked till 94-95. Then Aankhen came with O laal dupatte wali. In 97, I got Golden Lotus, the National Award, for a movie Lal Darja that I produced. With that, every award in India is over.
In 2003, my biggest comeback was as background music director for Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Maara, the very beautiful Anupam Kher film, which had very beautiful background music that got nominated at a lot of places too. Taxi no 9 2 11 came in 2004, that had the remarkable hit, Bambai nagariya, which I sang. And 2007 had Guru with Abhishek Bachchan, where I sang for him like I sang for his father. Bas, after that, I have launched my album, My Love, which is the people, who love me so much.
Even in Hollywood, everyone knows me. I have offers from Whitney Houston, and Jackson Five. All this happened because Bappi Lahiri’s Disco dancer was a phenomenal hit. And (sings) Jimmy, jimmy, aaja, aaja, was sung by the famous singer M.I.A., who has been nominated for Oscar. Even in the Adam Sandler movie, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, they used the tune of the song in the background and then gave my name in the credits along with other famous superstars like Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson. Dr Dre used my song Kaliyon ka chaman in his album Addictive, for which I sued him. But he gave credits afterwards, so it’s okay and I am happy.