They left the world just nine days apart. Lata Mangeshkar and Bappi Lahiri were a truly melodious combination that also helped showed graphically that the composer was much more than a disco “specialist” as he was, unfortunately, branded by almost everyone.
Remembering Lata Mangeshkar & Bappi Lahiri: A melodic combo
Lata had a special rapport with almost all frontline composers. Often, this began with their first songs and it was no different with Bappi Lahiri. Details of the song, from the Bengali debut film of the composer, Daadu (1969), are sadly not available online. (Lata also had a long relationship with Bappi’s father Aparesh Lahiri in his Bengali movies). But her first Hindi song with him was a duet with Kishore Kumar, the very catchy ‘Rahen Na Rahen Chahe Hum Aur Tum’ from the Mahendra Sandhu-Rehana Sultan film Ek Ladki Badnaam Si (1974).
However, for obvious reasons, Bappi preferred that Lata’s first solo, ‘Aao Tum Chand Pe Le Jaaye’ from his commercial breakthrough, Zakhmee (1975) is considered their first ‘blend’—it was very popular! And yet, the same film’s ‘Abhi Abhi Thi Dushmuni’ was a memorable tangy teaser of a melody that drew instant attention. And these two songs then set the template for the Lata-Bappi team—most of their future collaborations would be marked by a piquant, heady blend of melody and rhythm, often with a Western tweak in the musical phrasing.
Everyone knows that in their initial upswing, Lata had reserved a certain days in a month for Laxmikant-Pyarelal, but very few are aware that she did the same in the 1970s for Rajesh Roshan and Bappi Lahiri as well!
And Lata could be very Indian too under the composer too. ‘Saiyyan Bina Ghar Soona’ (Aangan Ki Kali), ‘Tum Saamne Baithe Raho’ (Ikraar), ‘Halke Halke Aayi Chhalke’(Apne Paraye) and most of the songs of his first two films with Anand Bakshi—Patita and Jyoti—saw the versatile genius compose everything from a ghazal to a mujra, lullaby and folk-based melodies.
Patita had ‘Thoda Resham Lagta Hai’ that was used in part by the R&B singer Dr. Dre in his album ‘Addictive’ besides ‘Baithe Baithe Yaad Aayi’, and Jyoti saw ‘Angdai Leke Prem Kahani’ and ‘Sooni Sej Sajaa Doon’. And possibly because of Anand Bakshi’s presence, a heavy influence of Laxmikant-Pyarelal seemed to pervade both Patita and Jyoti. But Bappi was often considered to mould his music along R.D. Burman’s style.
However, in our first interview, he, however, categorically denied the Pancham influence and said that his inspirations were S.D. Burman, Madan Mohan and Kalyanji-Anandji!
And careful observers of his music will note the influence of these three entities in his Lata numbers alone. In particular, Madan Mohan was definitely like a subtext not only in ‘Tum Saamne Baithe Raho’(Ikraar), but also in ‘Zindagi Ke Raaste Mein’ (Armaan) and ‘Na Jaa Re Na Jaa Re’ (Aaj Ka Arjun).
‘Jeena Bhi Koi Jeena Hai Jab Tak Tera Saath Nahin’ (Saboot) was very S.D. Burman-Dev Anand-like in its Kishore-Lata structure and even orchestral tenor. And Kalyanji-Anandji-ish cadences marked the same film’s Lata solo ‘Dooriyan Sab Mita Do’ as well as ‘Aap Jo Mere Meet Na Hote’ (Geet) over a decade later.
But perhaps the definitive Lata-Bappi traditional song was the semi-classical gem, ‘Dard Ki Ragini’ from the unreleased Zeenat Aman film Pyaas. That it became popular enough despite the film not making it to the theatres speaks a lot for the lovely melody.
Another observation: Almost always, Bappi preferred Lata for solos. There is no known Lata-Rafi duet under him, as Bappi also preferred Rafi solo! The composer opened his Hindi innings (Nanha Shikari) with Mukesh and Asha but after that, even Mukesh-Lata, a hit combo, never did a song with him. Kishore was there in hits like ‘Nainon Mein Sapna’ (Himmatwala) and some others, but compared to Kishore-Asha, the duets were in a marked minority.
When Bappi had Lata in duets, it was more in the ‘90s era when Raag Shivranjani and other high-pitched cadences came into fashion, and Bappi paired her not only with reigning Rafi clones Shabbir Kumar (‘Gori Hai Kalaiyan / Aaj Ka Arjun) and Mohammed Aziz (‘Koi Vaada Koi Ikraar Na Kiya’ from Paap Ka Ant) and later Kumar Sanu (‘Maine Dekha Sapna’ from Policewala Gunda) but also Pankaj Udhas (‘Mahiya Teri Kasam’ in Ghayal and more songs in Thanedaar and Gunahon Ka Faisla).
In duets, therefore, Lata had a mixed innings even earlier with the composer—‘Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi’ (Chalte Chalte) was with Shailendra Singh, ‘Dil Tha Akela Akela’ (Surakksha) with Bappi himself and ‘Iraada Karo To Poora Karo’ (Insaf Ki Awaz) with S.P. Balasubramaniam.
Initially, Lata would sing multiple songs in a single soundtrack for the maverick musician—Paapi, Jyoti, Patita among them. His first 15 years was when Bappi did his best work with Lata, especially in the song I consider their best-ever collaboration—‘Shama Jale Ya Na Jale’ filmed on Zeenat Aman in Paapi (1977). The same film saw other underrated Lata nuggets like ‘Pyar Hai Gunaah Suno’, ‘Bol Sajana Mujhe Chhodke Yahan’ and ‘Aa Jaanejaan Aa Meherbaan’.
The haunting ‘Bheega Bheega Mausam’ (Suraag), ‘Naina Yeh Barse’ (Mohabbat), the saucy ‘Rootho Na’ (Ahsaas), the hauntingly rhythmic ‘Chhodo Bhi Yeh Nakhra’ (Dilsey Miley Dil) and the seductive ‘Door Door Tum Rahe’ (Chalte Chalte) were among the other great highs of the composer-singer coalescence.
But at no time, they or we as listeners would even conceive that both would leave for a better world almost together, to perhaps make great music in the heavens together.
Also Read: Lata Mangeshkar on her 7 most romantic songs
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