The Golden Gaans of Bappi Lahiri

Back in the 1980s when the primary sources of entertainment were Vividh Bharati and Doordarshan’s Chitrahaar, it was quite typical to wake up in the morning to neighbourhood radios playing the latest Hindi film music interspersed with advertisements and the soothing announcements of Ameen Sayani et al. The radio and TV announcers would mention the credits diligently – singer, lyricist and music director. In the latter case, there were three names that were repeated all the time – Laxmikant Pyarelal, RD Burman and Bappi Lahiri. In some of the programs which were request based (Jhumritalaya se Sonu, Monu, Deepak aur saathi farmayish karte hain…), RD Burman and Bappi Lahiri generally got more mentions. It is this upbringing, if I may say, that leads me to pick my favourite music directors of all time – RD and Bappida.

In the case of the former, there is a lot of literature by his legion of fans. Bappida always seemed to get subaltern treatment from so-called critics who were more influenced by his appearance, inarticulateness and general demeanour. Not that it matters, but those who have heard Bappida beyond the overplayed disco songs will know that he was a much bigger talent than otherwise perceived. In this post, I will list 10 songs which I don’t think most people would have heard of, let alone heard. Once you hear these songs, we can then talk.

Song #10: Jalta Hai Jiya Mera, Zakhmee (1975)

The film, according to reports, did relatively well. 1975 was the year of Deewar and Sholay, so the word “relatively” is the keyword. Produced by Tahir Hussain, brother of Nasir Hussain and father of Aamir Khan, the movie was a typical multi-starrer convoluted story based film. But like all Nasir Hussain films, this film had good music – by Bappi Lahiri. This was his first major hit score.

In the 1980s, Bappi Lahiri scored a number of films of Jeetendra which involved, what people like to call, “raunchy” song sequences. These sequences involved Jeetendra cavorting with the likes of either Sridevi or Jayaprada singing songs with “suggestive” lyrics. But, back in 1975, in his only third year of his career, he did this song featuring Rakesh Roshan and Reena Roy.

Songs #9: Main Deewani Radha Tumhari, Shikshaa (1979)

A young man, with a privileged upbringing, drives around showing off his fancy wheels. He runs over someone killing that person. When the police come to arrest him at home, his privileged surroundings intervene and the driver steps up to take the cosh. The driver goes to jail and the young man is back on the road. This does sound familiar. And very recent too. Writer M Balaiah and director S Ramanathan might well be pre-cogs when they weaved this story into their 1979 film Shikshaa. Raj Kiran plays the young man. The film did moderately in the matinee shows and faded away. With films like Mr Natwarlal and Kaala Patthar anchored by the Big B doing the rounds, this film had no chance. But we may remember this film for two songs.

It was always difficult for any singer, especially female, to break into Hindi playback singing in 1950s and 1960s when Lata Mangeshkar was around. The occasional song offered by Hemant Kumar and Salil Chowdhury notwithstanding, Arati Mukherjee would be a less familiar name for most listeners. Though popular in Bengali cinema sharing space with Sandhya Mukherjee for the coveted honour of doing playback for Suchitra Sen, Arati Mukherjee found fame in 1982 when she won the Filmfare and National Award for Do Naina Ek Kahani in Masoom. Here, she is singing this lovely Gita Govinda style song (poetry where Radha sings of her love for Krishna).

Song #7 & #8: Humse Tum Mile & Zid Na Karo, Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979)

This Mahesh Bhatt film starring Vinod Khanna was a reasonable hit but is notable for a more than significant role for Helen which got her a Filmfare award for best supporting actress. An interesting casting choice was to have Danny Dengzonpa as the son of Helen, suggesting some realistic film making techniques rather than pandering to box office formula on casting. There are two very interesting songs – a gem by Yesudas (I could not find the original film scene featuring the song. There is a Lata Mangeshkar version also).

The lyrics are by Farukh Kaiser, a lyricist who started song writing in the 1950s itself but his best work were in the late 1970s-1980s). Again, we see a lot of poetry in the songs. The second song from this film that I will direct you to is performed by Danny Denzongpa and Chandrani Mukherjee. Danny was a very competent singer with a unique voice.

Song #5 & #6:  Aawaz Di Hai & Kisi Nazar Se, Aitbaar (1985)

Mukul Anand had a brief but extremely exciting 12-15 year film making career. He started with the remake of the 1962 Gregory Peck film Cape FearKanoon Kya Karega in 1984. One year later, he took a Hitchcock classic Dial M For Murder and made a very competent remake – Aitbaar. Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babbar and Suresh Oberoi come together in this thriller and Raj Babbar as the insidious husband puts in a fine performance. The trio were however topped by Danny Denzongpa as a coughing Inspector Barua providing the denouement

Suresh Oberoi plays a ghazal singer and Bappi Lahiri produced a couple of ghazals for the film. Written by Hasan Kamaal, these two songs show the range that Bappi Lahiri was capable of. 1985 was bang in the middle of the decade and Disco Dancer, Sharaabi, Namak Halaal, etc had already made Bappi the leading contender in discos, pubs and parties everywhere. Here he was suddenly breaking the trend and producing these two gems.

Both the songs are duets featuring Bhupinder and Asha Bhonsle. I must say that Bhupinder’s voice does not quite cast well with Suresh Oberoi’s hamming. It may even be distracting. I suggest you listen to the audio and forget about the hamming.

One of the features of Bappi Lahiri’s songs is the fine poetry in his songs. While they cannot rival the greats like Shailendra, Sahir and Majrooh, Bappi Lahiri had the likes of Gauhar Kanpuri, Anjaan and Hasan Kamaal pen some fine words.

This stanza from one of the songs captures relationship between the three main characters, from the point of view of the woman. It also brings out the essence of the film’s story to follow.

Kabse khadi thi baahein pasaare
Is dil ki tanhaaiyaan
Duniyaa se kah do na ham ko pukaare
Ham kho gaye hain yahaan

Song #4: Pyaar Chahiye, Manokamna (1979)

Can we have a list of Bappida songs without Bappida singing? For that we pick a film starring Raj Kiran and Kalpana Iyer. I am not too sure anyone saw this film. I can’t find any review of this film online. This particular song, with lyrics by Indeevar, is filmed along Juhu Beach.

Song #3: Jaana Kahan Hai, Chalte Chalte (1975)

Incidentally, there are a whole lot of Bappi songs filmed on beaches. Like this one from Chalte Chalte. Vijay Anand moves in front of the camera and tries to work his elder brother’s charms.

Song #2: Zindagi Hai Zindagi, Shart (1986)

Ketan Anand, song of Chetan Anand, was a long time fan of Bappi Lahiri and had him as a music director in many films. Shart starring Naseerudding Shah, Shabana Azmi and Kanwalijit is an interesting film inspired by the Jack The Ripper story. Yesudas gives voice to this song.

Song #1: Mana Ho Tum, Toote Khilone (1978)

It is quite revealing to see the number of songs that Yesudas has sung for Bappi Lahiri. One normally associates the great singer with Salil Chowdhury or Ravindra Jain. I have already played two Yesudas songs earlier. Here is by far the best song from the duo. The film, directed by Ketan Anand, is notable for featuring Shekhar Kapur in the lead role. Not much of an actor, thankfully he was better off as a director.

And just to round it off, here is Sonu Nigam recreating Yesudas’ song.






Appreciating Gulzar – Masoom

As I continue to listen to Gulzar’s songs, old and new, every time one hears a song, there is a new meaning that one discovers. Today I was listening to songs from Masoom, Shekhar Kapur’s first Hindi film as a director.

Each one of the songs is a delightful piece by itself, besides the music of the LoRD. Let’s have a few sample lines from the different songs.

One of my favourite songs, not just of this movie, but of all time is the one sung by Arati Mukherjee – Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani.  This song in the film is picturised as a lullaby sung by the mother Shabana Azmi for her two daughters. The lines are ostensibly a story for the kids. But there is something deeper in it. Have a look. There is antara which goes like this

chhotee see do jheelon mein wo
bahatee rahatee hai
o chhotee see do jheelon mein wo
bahatee rahatee hai
ko_ii sune yaa naa sune
kahatee rahatee hai
kuchh likh ke aur kuchh zubaani

Between two lakes (jheelon – tear drops? remember the song starts Do Naina aur Ek Kahani) flows the story (story of life?). Whether any one listens to it or not, the story goes on and on, sometimes in letters sometimes in voice.

The rest of the song you will see borders on distress and sadness.

Another favourite song, also with explicit nonsense lyrics, reminiscent of Sukumar Ray’s Aabol Taabol is Lakdi Ki Kathi. Song sung by kids having fun. Gulzar has done this many times. Earlier was one in Kitaab – remember VIP underwear banian?

ghodaa thaa ghamandee
pahunchaa sabjii mandee
sabjee mandee baraf padii thi
baraf mein lag gai thandee

The arrogant horse reaches the market, the market is covered with snow, in the snow the horse catches a cold. To what end was the arrogance? Only to catch a cold? Nice.

Finally I will end with Huzur Is Kadar.

koi manachalaa gar pakad legaa aanchal
zaraa sochiye aap kyaa kiijiyegaa
lagaa dein agar badhake zulfon mein kaliyaan
to kyaa apanii zulfein jhatak diijiyegaa

This song was one of those drinking songs when one is a little elevated from the ground.

(All lyrics taken from and due credit to all respective contributors)


After Dhan Ta Naan, I will now take up another brilliant song from Kaminey, Fataak

There’s a clear message about AIDS and unsafe sex and all that. However, it is not preachy unlike most others. In fact, there is a subtle hint of sarcasm at Indian attitudes. I will focus more on the use of a few words or phrases.

“bhavra” – a bee, no doubt. What is a bee doing here?  I have two guesses a) the “sting” of the virus floating around human habitat and b) “bhavra” a better way to say “bhadva” i.e. a pimp – some one who tempts you in to lust. By a fair stretch of imagination, “bhavra” could mean your own death warrant in the form of a debilitating disease.

ke bhavra bhavra aaya re,
gun gun karta aaya re,
sun sun karta galiyon se
ab tak koi na bhaaya re

fatak, fatak..

sauda kare saheli ka
sar pe tel chameli ka
kaan mein ittar ka phaya re

fatak, fatak

ke bhavra bhavra aaya re,
gun gun karta aaya re

Trying a free verse translation

The bee flies in
Buzzing through the streets
Still looking for its prey

Fatak, Fatak

Lo, here he trades off a friend
Who has come with hair glistening with Jasmine oil
And ears doused with the scent of roses

The verses that follow describe the different consequences and manifestations post the sting.

Dhan Ta Nan

Sukhwinder Singh, Gulzar and the two Vishals – Dadlani and Bharadwaj combine to create “Dhan Ta Nan“. Powerpacked stuff. Just Mohit has posted the lyrics on his blog.

While the song has been around for some time, I really got to hear it properly last week as one was swamped with work. But maybe the overworked mind played a part to it – the song just blew my mind out and cleaned all the stress out.

So what does Dhan Ta Nan mean? Vishal Bharadwaj says in this interview that the phrase was a childhood one usually associated with games of cops and robbers. As kids one would come up from behind, point pistol like and say “Dhan Ta Nan”.

So he goes to Gulzar and says please write a song with this, reminiscent of how he got Gulzar to write Beedi. I am yet to see the film so I suppose there is a context of the lyrics with the film. So I do will an analysis of lyrics without the knowledge of what the film is about (and the specific context of the song).

Aaja Aaja Dil Nichode
Raat Ki Mataki Tode
Koi Good Luck Nikaale
Aaj Gullak Toh Phode

Dil Nichode will mean squeezing the heart out i.e. going full out; “raat ki matki” another Gulzar original metaphor – the unknown of the night, the black box so to speak; “Gullak” I think means treasure.

I would then proceed to translate the above lines as (forgive the break in rhyme)

Come, let’s put our full hearts out
To break the unknown of the night
Let’s find our own luck
And break the treasure chest.

Let’s move on

Hai Til Til Taara Dil Dildaara Mera Teli Ka Tel
Kaudi Kaudi Paisa Paisa Paise Ka Khel

Til = sesame, also a mole; Teli Ka Tel = ? Absolutely no idea (obviously something very oily but beyond that what?), one of Gulzar’s tantalising word plays. Kaudi Kaudi etc = obvious

My attempt at translating the above two lines falls here but for the second line re a game of extreme detail where every cowrie counts.

Aaja ki one way hai
yeh zindagi ki gali
ek hi chance hai
aage hava hi hava hai
agar saans hai to
yeh romance hai

Nice, no need to translate. Lots of Hinglish in the lines, typical of Gulzar in recent times, e.g. “Personal se sawaal karte hain

koi chaal aisi chalo yaar ab ke
samandar bhi pul pe chale
phir tu chale us pe ya mein chaloon
shehar ho apne pairon tale

kahin khabrein hain
kahin kabrein hain
jo bhi soye hain kabron mein
unko jagana nahi

This is, in my opinion, the most profound verse in the song.

Play the game of all games, Friend
So that we may bridge over the entire sea
Then whether you go or I go
Entire city will under us, under our feet.

There’s excitement (khabrein = news = gossip = scandal = excitement) on one side
There’s stillness (kabrein = graves = death = stillness) on the other
Those who lie asleep in the graves
Let sleeping dogs lie

That ends my study of Dhan Ta Nan. In the meantime, people have dug up some old video pertaining to VB-Gulzar doing one version of DTN back in the ’90s.

In sometime I will also write about another piece in the same soundtrack – “Fataak