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Bappi Lahiri with stills from Namak Halal and Disco Dancer Image Credit: IANS and IMDB

As fans and industry stalwarts mourn the death of legendary composer and singer Bappi Lahiri, who died of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in the early hours of February 16, one can’t separate the man from his music.

Lahiri composed the soundtrack of the ‘80s and ‘90s with film albums such as ‘Chalte Chalte’, ‘Namak Halal’, ‘Disco Dancer’, ‘Sharaabi’, ‘Shola Aur Shabnam’, ‘Saaheb’ and countless more. As we bid goodbye to the legend, here’s a trip down memory lane to pick his top tracks that would be the pride of any playlist even today.

‘Chalte Chalte’ (‘Chalte Chalte’, 1976)

Lahiri arrived in Bollywood in the early ‘70s, a time when RD Burman was king of compositions. Yet, three years into his career as a mainstream composer, Lahiri surprised fans with a gem that was the title track of ‘Chalte Chalte’, sung by the legendary Kishore Kumar and picturised on Vishal Anand and Simi Garewal. Bollywood was changed forever.

‘Pag Ghungroo Bandh’ (‘Namak Halal’, 1982)

Rarely do you come across a film soundtrack where every song gives you the feels. Yet, Lahiri managed to achieve this feat in the early decade of his career, giving us the gem that was ‘Namak Halal’. He arrived as the Disco King in Bollywood riding the coattails of songs such as ‘Jawani-Jan-e-Man’ and ‘Raat Baaki’. But it was the ‘Pag Ghungroo Bandh’ track that showed off Lahiri’s versatility playing with classical compositions as well and repackaging them as mainstream for the masses.

‘Yaad Aa Raha Hai’ (‘Disco Dancer’, 1982)

Lahiri was all passion when he crooned this particular song, which plays in the climax of the film. In a film soundtrack that was peppered with dance numbers. Lahiri stood out with this track, elevated further by his own vocals and Mithun Chakraborty’s yearning appeal.

‘Yaar Bina Chain Kahan Re’ (‘Saaheb’, 1985)

Directed by Anil Ganguly, Lahiri went full disco for this fun-loving track picturised on Anil Kapoor and Amrita Singh. Don’t be surprised if you finds shades of Donna Summer in the track. The song also made it into a Bengali film before it was recreated for Bollywood in the 2020 film ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’.

‘Humko Aaj Kal Hai’ (‘Sailaab’, 1990)

Filmed in 1990, the song featured in the average entertainer ‘Sailaab’, which is now only remembered for this hit track choreographed by Saroj Khan, who won a Filmfare Award for the same, with Lahiri bringing grace to composition with heavy Maharashtrian influences. Madhuri Dixit exuded grace as a young fisherwoman who is revived and is awaiting the love of her life to come sweep her away.

‘Bambai Se Aya Mera Dost (‘Aap Ki Khatir’, 1977)

No trip to Bombay (now Mumbai) was complete in the ‘80s and ‘90s without someone crooning this Lahiri composition, which featured in ‘Aap Ki Khatir’, which was a reported remake of Barbra Streisand film ‘For Pete’s Sake’ (1974). Lahiri crooned this number himself and it remains iconic even today.

‘Ooh La La’ (‘The Dirty Picture’, 2011)

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After a short hiatus from showbiz, Lahiri returned as a playback singer in the Ekta Kapoor produced biopic, inspired by the life of adult star Silk Smitha. Lahiri stepped up to revive the ‘80s magic as he crooned ‘Ooh La La’ with the same zest of a man in his 20s and what he brought to this Milan Luthria directorial was entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.

‘Dil to Dil Hai’ (‘Zindagi Ke Juaa’, 1992)

The Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit-starrer may have you reaching for the tissue box with its tragic twists, but that certainly cannot be said for the soundtrack, including the sensuous number by its lead actress on ‘Dil to Dil Hai’. Lahiri is in his element all through the highs and lows of the track, roping in the versatile Asha Bhosle who takes the track to another level.

‘Dil Mein Ho Tum’ (‘Satyamev Jayate’, 1987)

The Disco King turned off the bass for this romantic ballad that was featured in the Raj N Sippy directed thriller, starring Vinod Khanna and Meenakshi Sheshadri. The movie went on to give a new lease on life to Khanna’s career but it is the song ‘Dil Mein Ho Tum’ that is remembered decades later.

‘Inteha Ho Gayi Intezaar Ki’ (‘Sharaabi’, 1984)

Lahiri repeated the magic of ‘Namak Halal’ with Amitabh Bachchan on screen crooning to the voice of Kishore Kumar as a wistful lover awaiting the arrival of his loved one. The almost bluesy number finds its inner beat at the very finale of the track, picking up the tempo in a celebration of love that is oft repeated by yearning lovers even today.

Bonus track: ‘Tamma Tamma’ (‘Thanedar’, 1990)

We can’t have a ‘Best of Bappi Lahiri’ list and not mention ‘Tamma Tamma Loge’, despite the fact that the song was not exactly an original composition. The original song, which was picturised on Sanjay Dutt and Dixit, was actually a blend of two songs composed by Mory Kante, namely ‘Tama’ and ‘Yeke Yeke’. The Gen-Zs woke up to the track in 2017 in ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya’ but nothing compares to Lahiri’s efforts.