Bollywood’s Disco King Bappi Lahiri, who passed away on Tuesday night, will not only be remembered for his catchy tunes but also his eccentric fashion choices. Lahiri carved a name, in fact, an identify for himself with his bling. His penchant for heavy and often expensive trinkets, including the seven gold chains around his neck, a ring for each of his fingers, a bracelet with his name etched on it and his Louis Vuitton sunglasses, made him a style icon.
While his razzmatazz rarely took the spotlight off of his music, it made him stand out in the music world as a composer who knew how to represent visually everything he delivered sonically. And at 66, Bappi da, who created over 9,000 songs in his lifetime, detailed how he came to be known as ‘Bling Bling Bappi Lahiri’ in an interview with Anupama Chopra for Vogue.
“It began when my mother gave me my first gold chain in 1974. After I got married, my wife gave me another in 1977. Today, Bappi Lahiri means gold. When I’m in New York or London and it’s very cold, my gold chains are hidden under my jacket. Indians come and ask: ‘Are you Bappi Lahiri?’ And I say, ‘Yes’. They then inquire, “But where are all the gold chains?” So, across the world now, gold chain mera pehchaan hai, it’s my identity,” the late legend had shared.
He had also asserted, “Now all over the world, people say, ‘Bling Bling Bappi Lahiri.’ The latest film I’m in is Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy — they used my song ‘Jhoom, jhoom, jhoom baba’. So, those in Hollywood now also call me ‘Bling Bling Bappi Lahiri’.” Asked when the costumes started becoming dramatic, too, Lahiri shared, “My image is very defined and my shiny costumes are part of it.”
Lahiri also detailed what inspired him to create this image and all the love that motivated him to stand by and evolve it. “I watched Elvis Presley as a child, he had a chain with a big cross, dark glasses and a bracelet. I decided that I would also create an image for myself. And just like that I established my image with time. Today, without gold there’s no Bappi da. Whenever I go somewhere, my fans treat me like a hero. They love my songs, be it Ooh La La from The Dirty Picture, Tune Maari Entriyaan from Gunday or Tamma Tamma Again from Badrinath Ki Dulhania. And these are just the recent ones—I’ve done 640 films. Even 50 years later, if one of my songs plays, 2,000 people will be dancing. The public is crazy about me.”
Lahiri also “got the Supreme Court to copyright” his look. He had assured, “Nobody can copy me, no one can dress up like Bappi Lahiri and no one can make fun of me. If anybody copies my dress, I will sue. In fact, if anyone copies my songs, I’ll sue them, too.”
The Disco Dancer hitmaker’s 2002 song, Kaliyon Ka Chaman, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, was lifted. “It was used in an international song—they took it and didn’t give me any credit. I immediately went to Los Angeles and told them they need to give me credit. I didn’t want money because the song is owned by HMV. After one year, I got justice. My song Jimmy Jimmy has also been sung in 45 different languages. It has been remade in Russia, China, Istanbul. Sab Jimmy Jimmy ke peechhe pagal hain! Even Disco Dancer made history. When Michael Jackson visited India, he met me personally and said, “I love your song Disco Dancer.” He also loved my gold chains!”
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