|Bappi Lahiri with VJ Archana at a Channel [V] event in Calcutta|
The golden man with the golden chains. Music director Bappi Lahiri talks about being The Disco King, Golden Man and Bling Bling, his latest ad and his fascination for gold. Bappida admits he wants to win a Grammy but claims winning an Oscar doesn’t mean much...
Tell us about your latest album My Love...
It’s the first Rhythm’’Blues album by an Indian to be released worldwide. The American rapper Jiddah has performed on it. It’s the number one song on Channel V.
Now you want to become world famous?
I am an international star. Rahman has got an Oscar now. I recorded my first international album in 1979. Nobody becomes a big music director by winning an Oscar. My Disco Dancer album is such a big achievement. The Oscar-nominated singer Maya (M.I.A) remixed the song Jimmy Jimmy aaja aaja and it was in the UK Top 10 and the Hollywood film Don’t Mess With The Zohan used my track and also gave me credit. I brought Samantha Fox to India in my film Rock Dancer. Boy George, Apache Indian have sung my songs. So I already have got a big name internationally. I haven’t done a film with an American director and that’s why I haven’t got an Oscar.
How come you are without your trademark gold chains in the video of your new song Phoolon se pooncho?
I am known for my gold chains. When the remix version of my song Kaliyon ka chaman was released in America, it became an instant hit. The Hollywood press gave me the tag of “Bling Bling Bappi Lahiri”. Now all big hip-hop stars wear big chains and watches like me.
Even a new ad featuring you talks about your obsession with gold. Have you learnt to laugh it off?
Gold is lucky for me. It’s become my trademark. If some other person is wearing a gold chain, people will say, arre Bappi Lahiri ko nakal kiya. If a singer wears a chain, people compare him to me. Chain means Bappi Lahiri.
Which is your favourite gold piece?
Of course Ganpati bappa (shows his gold chain with idol). When Michael Jackson came to India, he told me ‘Lovely chain, can I have it?’ I told him: ‘No, I am sorry because it’s my God’.
With so much gold, don’t you feel scared of being robbed?
(Guffaws) No. God is there to protect me. I have a kada from the Golden Temple too. I believe in all religions. I am a Brahmin. I respect all religions because power is one.
Has the income tax department ever troubled you?
No. They know how much gold I have (laughs).
You are also turning an actor?
Yes. I have acted with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor in Main Aur Mrs. Khanna. It’s a big role. I have also sung the title song. I also did a small role in Om Shanti Om. I am doing another film It’s Rocking Dard-e-Disco with Rituparna Sengupta, Sneha Ullal and Aryaman. I am playing a Disco King in it. It’s a comedy film like my mama Kishore Kumar’s films. Hans hans ke log paagal ho jayega.
I am quite experienced in acting. I did a cameo in Kalaakar, in which I had a wonderful scene with Sridevi. I acted for the first time at the age of 19 in my mama’s picture Badhti Ka Naam Daadhi which had Kishore Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Amit Kumar.
You are known more for your disco numbers rather than the softer songs. Which did you prefer composing and why?
I definitely preferred composing soft, melodious numbers. I have been given the tag of Disco King because I brought the word “disco” to India but I have done so many soft numbers. When I do shows, I sing both kinds of songs.
You had a fruitful collaboration with the late Prakash Mehra...
I have done seven films with him and given music for four superhit pictures with him — Namak Halal, Sharaabi, Zindagi Ek Jua and Dalal. I miss him a lot. He was a very good producer. It’s a huge loss to Bollywood.
Most of your songs have been sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle. Who are your favourite singers today?
Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi saab are legends. Now, there are talented singers like Alka Yagnik, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shaan, Kumar Sanu and Sonu Nigam. Today, there is a trend of new voices. One can’t make out one singer from the other. I had introduced a lot of fresh voices like Alisha Chinai, Parvati Khan, Usha Uthup and Sharon Prabhakar.
What are your forthcoming projects as a musician?
A film starring Govinda and Priyanka Chopra, Jackie Shroff’s Kya Time Hai Yaar, K.C. Sharma’s Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Satish Kaushik’s Tere Sang for which I have done the background score and the title song.
What do you think of the music scene today?
There is nothing new. They are doing the same thing that I did 25 years ago. Melody and poetry are lacking in today’s music. That’s why they are remixing old numbers like Aa dekhen zara, Bachna ae haseeno, Kaliyon ka chaman. Today, anyone can be a music director (laughs). Now a song is not heard, but seen.
Will the Hindi film music industry benefit from Rahman’s Oscar?
No, it’s a Bollywood film with Hollywood masala. Kismat agar accha ho toh Oscar milta hai.