The world lost two luminaries in a span of ten days. People woke up to the news of the death of the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar on February 6, 2022, sending shockwaves across the country. Nine days later, India lost another music icon in Bappi Lahiri, who breathed his last on the night of February 15th. The two greats, whose lives were linked professionally and personally, were lost — a chapter closed in 2022
Lata Mangeshkar was a much loved international figure whose songs provided the backdrop to hundreds of movies for decades. Such was her popularity that music crooned by her was heard constantly across India, be it in shops, taxis, or salons and barbershops. Lata didi, as she was lovingly called, was a voice that resonated with Indians across the world, becoming an integral part of their happiness and sorrow. Her mellifluous voice not only set the tone in Indian cinema, but also became the voice of every Indian across the world. And to think, early on in her career, she was dismissed because of her greatest asset.
Perhaps one of Lata Mangeshkar’s biggest contributions to Bollywood was making it go global. With an estimate of over 25,000 songs that have appeared in more than 1,000 Hindi films (not to mention her other projects in more than 20 different languages), she was perhaps the most famous voice representing Bollywood to the global audience. Such was the influence of the veritable legend that in the 1980s she was given Honorary Citizenship to the United States, The Republic of Suriname, and presented with the key to Guyana.
And while Lata made Indian music popular in the West, Bappi Lahiri, who called the legend Maa, used the West’s biggest musical influences and integrated them into Bollywood music. Having cemented his place in the Bengali film industry with songs in popular films Amar Sangi, Asha O Bhalobasha, Aamar Tumi, and more, Lahiri turned his attention to Bollywood where he is credited with popularising the use of synthesized disco music. Lahiri has 472 films to his credit. His phenomenal career began in 1973 with actress Kajol’s father Shomu Mukherjee’s Nanha Shikari. Often referred to as the Disco King of Indian cinema, Lahiri became eponymous for his trademark style in music in films Wardat, Disco Dancer, Namak Halaal, Sharaabi, Naukar Biwi Ka, Naya Kadam, among others. His association with Mithun Chakraborty, who grooved to his tunes, turning the masses crazy is what he is best known for.
The two icons of Indian music shared an unmissable and personal bond as well. Barely days before his own demise, Lahiri had mourned the loss of Mangeshkar in an interview given to columnist Subhash K. Jha. The singer-songwriter had called Mangeshkar the reincarnation of Goddess Saraswati, stating that in her death he has lost his mother all over again.
In fact, Mangeshkar sang Lahiri’s first composition for a Bengali film titled Daadu and would also sing his first Hindi composition Chalte Chalte.
Lahiri’s Milne Se Pehle Bichad Jayen Hum Kyon Banke Bigadd Jaye Bhaag sung by Lata Mangeshkar for the film Aag Hi Aag was originally supposed to be sung by the legendary Kishore Kumar (who, incidentally was Lahiri’s maternal uncle as well). However, despite coming to the studio twice to record the song, he left both times, saying only Mangeshkar could do justice to the number. Finally, Mangeshkar rendered the immortal composition.
According to Lahiri’s own admission, Mangeshkar considered him as a son, having known him from when he was two. The singer would often visit his family home in Kolkata, the association dating back to when she sang for Lahiri’s father — Ek Baar Biday De Ma Ghure Aashi. In fact, the icon even had shared that he had a picture, sitting on Lata Mangeshkar’s lap when he was four – an image he shared following her death, simply captioning it – Maa.
Umang Sharma is a media professional, avid reader, and film buff. His interests lie in making the world a better place through the power of the written word.