Bappi Lahiri: There will never be another like her

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.."

Bappi Lahiri: There will never be another like her
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Subhash K Jha

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 a 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 in a 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 biday de maa ghori asbo 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 Sooni sej saja doon (Jyoti), Sooni sooni rahe (Phir Janam Lenge Hum), Aao tumhe chand pe le jayen (Zakhmee), Saiyan 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 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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