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Bappi Lahiri: There Will Never Be Another Like Her



Bappi Lahiri

Bappi Lahiri breaks down several  times while mourning the  loss of  his Mata Saraswati Lataji. “Many say she  was   the reincarnation  of  Mata Saraswati.

I say  she  was sakshaat Saraswati Mata. Unko main hazaar pranaam karta hoon. In her going  I’ve lost my  mother all over again. I have been in her lap when I  was toddler. When I had Covid last year  I was  at Breach Candy hospital for fourteen days. Maa Called my wife every day…every single  day at 7 pm sharp.Even when  I came home from hospital she  was extremely concerned  , specially about my voice.”

 Bappida can’t  stop his  rush of fond memories  of   his Saraswati Maa. “On  27 November  2021 she sent me a beautiful handwritten letter with her aashirwaad and a gift for me—a silver Ram-Lakshman-Hanuman statue—and a saree  from my wife.She  considered me  her son. She  has known from when I  was  2. She  would visit our home in  Kolkata.”

     Bappida is disgusted with attempts ina  section of the press to project Lataji as monopolistic.  “ It’s shameful. You can’t compare  Lata Mangeshkar with anyone. There has  never been anyone  like her  .There never will be. Many have tried  to imitate her. They’ve fallen flat  on their  faces. People  say she is a reincarnation of Mata  Saraswati. I  say she IS Mata Saraswati.”

Bappida’s association with  Lataji  goes  back to before his  birth. “She sang for  my father Aparesh Lahiri. Do you know that  Bengali song Ek baar bidai de maa ghori asshbo from the film on Netaji  Subhas Chandra  Bose about this 18-year old freedom fighter bidding his mother goodbye before being hung to death? It is composed  by my father and sung by Lataji. Not a single  person who hears this song can stop himself  from crying. It is to Bengal what Kar chale hum  fida is  to Hindi audiences.”

Bappida fondly recalls Lataji visiting his home. “I  was 4 when in the Eden Garden locality of Kolkata where we lived, Lataji came home and blessed me. I still have a picture of me sitting in her lap.She sang many Bangla songs for my father(Aparesh Lahiri)  who was a well-known composer in Kolkata . From then on she has supported me. She sang my first composition in a Bengali film Daadu. If she hadn’t sung for me I’d have been swept away by the competition. She sang for the first time in Hindi for  me in Chalte Chalte.Her  songs Pyar mein kabhi kabhi and Dur dur tum rahe are hummed to this day.”

Bappida  breaks into  lines  of  Dur dur tum rahe, and  reminisces, “I am one of the lucky composers  alive for whom she sang so many songs. How unfortunate are  those composers who don’t know what  her voice means to a song.  The songs that she sang for me ,  like Soonee sej saja doon(Jyoti), Sooni sooni raahein(Phir Janam Lenge Hum),  Aao tumhe chand pe le jayen(Zakhmee), Saiya  bina ghar soona(Aangan Ki Kali) and Chanda dekhe chanda (Joothi) are  my most  precious compositions.”

Bappida’s  Milne se pehle bichad jayen hum kyon banke bigadd jaye bhaag  by Lata Mangeshkar   in the  film Aag Hi Aag  about love and   parting,  has a history. It was to be originally  sung by Kishore Kumar. Reveals   Bappida, “It  was  composed  for Kishore Kumar. But when he  came to the recording studio and  heard the tune he  shook his head and said, ‘Nah, yeh gaana sirf Lata gaa sakti hai, Ussko bulao.’ We  persuaded him  again. He came to  sing the number again. Again , Kishoreda said , no get Lata. Then my producer Pahlaj Nihalani  and  I  began thinking. If Kishoreda thinks it is for Lataji,  it must be  for her.’ She came, she sang all three parts of this birha  song  in no time  at all. It was perfect, flawless. When  she sings the words  ‘Mitwa  oh mitwa’ in  the Bengali baul tradition we all wept in the studio. According to me  this is the finest song  on separation  in love in Hindi cinema.”

Adds Bappida, “When I  hear this song I  know why I call her Mata Saraswati. She is beyond incredible. I don’t know how Kishore Mama would have sung Milne se pehle in Aag Hi Aag. But after hearing how Mata Saraswati sang it we were sure there was nothing more  that could be done  with these heartbreaking lyrics by Anjaan.”

 But the one  composition for Lataji that Bappida is proudest of is is  Kaliyon ka chaman. “This song  from the film Jyoti  was picked up by the  famous American rappers Truth Hurts and  used by them.”

He  feels Lataji is beyond  praise. “I really  don’t have words  for her. I  only know there never  will be another Lata Mangeshkar..”

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