Sunday, December 04, 2016

What did Bappi Lahiri do with Kaifi Azmi's poetry?

This was 1978. There was a flood in Bengal. My father travelled there to give some succor to our suffering family. They had lost their house and were living on the banks of a seething riverine. Father had some money. So they started rebuilding the house. Father did not have much leave and he came back to Nilgiris where we were then.

I did not watch many movies then. In fact, even if we went to the movies, I tended to loiter outside. But then, I was fixating on a strange song called "Bambai se aaya mera dost" and the film was Aap ki Khatir. And that had come to the Kilimanjaro hall in Wellington. Charming hall beside a cricket ground. So we went to see it. Vinod Khanna. Rekha. Some domestic drama. Both of them in robust form. Suddenly Bambai se...burst onto the screen. Ecstasy. First sampling of the Bappi beat and the Bappi voice.

Bappi Lahiri became an artist to follow up on.

And what a follow up he presented.

Toote Khilone. The title would straightaway suggest bad songs. Wrong. Bappi Lahiri would make history with this.

But let me start with the cast and crew. Shekhar Kapoor was the hero. Shabana Azmi was his lady in the film. Again, a drama. Shekhar was unimpressive. His acting career went to dogs post this effort. Shabana went the other way. Ketan Anand directed the film. Very underrated director. Yes, he was another nephew of Dev Anand. I was to meet him eight years later in Hyderabad. When he was there for Filmotsav along with his next, the superb Shart. But this was pretty insipid drama. Loosely put together.

But that song. Maana ho tum behad Haseen. Alone made a difference to its lifetime business. Rescued it from the depths. The entire nation took notice of Yesudas's skills at the mic and Bappi's orchestral skills.

Listen to Bappi's work closely. This. Aitbaar. Namakhalal. Sharaabi. Sansar. Sailaab. Chalte Chalte. One thing would be common. His set up of the orchestra. His clean instrumentation. His chorus. You got to listen to his choruses. And the rhythm. He also was very good with classical compositions. Bappi is ridiculed a bit these days. Memes, spoofs and what not. But back in the days, he sometimes provided great music.

Back to the song. It starts with a guitar riff. Then a brief lull before Yesudas's voice brings in certified magic. The chorus follow and immediately there's an aura to the song. Yesudas raises pitch with Dekho kabhi toh pyaar se and you are tempted to sing along. There are the violins and there's the piano. Very Bappi. He could play all these instruments himself. And the simple rhythm. The bass guitar keeping count. Very understated orchestra giving primacy to the voice. Very unlike Bappi and his reputation.

In the following years, I must have sung the song countless times in the bathroom with a plastic mug doing the work of the bongo. I loved the enclosed space feel in the bathroom that gave the right vibration to my voice through Maana ho tum.

But who wrote the song? Gulp. The illustrious poet lyricist Kaifi Azmi. You nonplussed? You thinking how did that blingy man get to do this great song? Well, he was a talented young man then. Bappi Lahiri.

Yesudas rates him as a great composer to this day. Unfortunately, Bappi chose the easier way out by living under the shadow of the moniker "Disco king".

That said, just listening to "Koi yahaan aha nache cache!" Yeah, kill me.

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