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Is Bappi Lahiri the Indian Marvin Gaye?

His music defined “sexy time” in the '80s and '90s, and tuned us into the unique concept of 'jawani', a loose notion of what it means to be young and horny. And the magic infects millennials too.
Bappi Lahiri
A little bit of bling and a keytar: If it worked for Bappi da, it'll work for you too. Images: Wikimedia Commons.

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There is a song in the 1982 film Namak Halaal called “Aaj Rapat Jaye” in which Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil dance in the rain. She’s wearing a white and red sari and the song starts with the classic sari pallu caught in his button move, and even at age 10, I knew this was “sexy”. Not the kind of sexy that my parents send me out of the room for, but definitely sexy.


The Namak Halaal soundtrack was my first real introduction to Bappi Lahiri, and it came to me as part of my Amitabh Bachchan syllabus (designed by my father). Remember Asha Bhonsle’s sexy gasp/exclamation at the end of “Jawani Janeman”? Uho-ohh.

Whether you like to ever think about it or not, you know by the quality of Bappi da’s music and the inherent, underlying sexiness of it, that this guy fucks. (I’m sorry! Did that visual ruin your day?) But his music isn’t part of your usual baby-making playlist; you know the one, usually featuring Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Boys II Men (or if you dated the boys I did as a teenager, Enrique Iglesias).

I only had a vague understanding of the word jawani then. I was offered the tepid ‘youth’ as a definition but it felt too bland for Bappi da’s music. I mean have you seen the man? There is nothing subtle or tentative about him. This is a man that knows who he is, what his style is, and how to embody that, through spring, summer and winter. Never one to shy away from bold colours and super shiny accessories, he hasn’t needed to update his look ever because it is classic, it’s iconic, and at this point, legendary!

Many years later jawani crossed that bridge and acquired an overtly sexy definition with “Sheila ki Jawani”. But that didn’t fit well either. Bappi da didn’t make music for sexy times in bed; his music was more hip-thrusting than chest-thrusting to me. Sure, hip thrusting is a good move in bed too, but playing the Disco Dancer soundtrack during sex is just an invitation for a serious injury, kids.


Over the years, I listened to a lot of Bappi Lahiri music, mostly on cassettes that we hoarded at home. While he started his career in 1975, he hit peak Bappi da status when he brought disco and sequinned pants to Bollywood. Disco Dancer released a few years before I was born, but somehow, it never felt old to me. I heard songs like “Koi Yahaan Nache Nache (Auva Auva)”, “I Am A Disco Dancer” and the mildly suggestive and really instructional “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja Aaja” everywhere, from Sunday morning radio shows to little kids on singing competitions on television. The disco craze took over the country and Bappi da just got there first. He paid homage to his hero Elvis Presley, and decided gold chains were going to be his thing too. He became a shiny, flashy, fleshy symbol of the happiest music of that era.

Bappi da produced hits after hits, redefining popular music in every decade. From Sri Devi and Jeetendra’s “Ta Thaiya Ta Thaiya” in Himmatwala (I urge you to re-watch and re-live this video), “Tamma Tamma Loge” (with a new remix version in 2017’s Badrinath ki Dulhaniya) to “Kaliyon ka Chaman” (originally from the 1981 film Jyoti, greatly benefitting from the sexualized remix era of indie pop).

And the man can sing! Bappi da’s silky, high-pitched voice has given us some of the sultriest new songs like “Oh La La” from Dirty Picture and “Tune Maari Entry” from Gunday.

But for me, the song that defines Bappi Lahiri is 1999’s “Yaar Bina Chain Kahaan Re” from Saaheb. The music video, which I still watch regularly, fighting the urge to comment, “who’s still watching in 2018???” on YouTube has Anil Kapoor and Amrita Singh sitting alone in the middle of the night imagining sequinned versions of themselves dancing, revelling in their love, and just generally enjoying their jawani.


Baddi da’s music isn’t just a youthful dorm song or a super sexy item song. Instead it’s something right in the middle. It’s the soundtrack for that moment you know you’re going to get laid or that car ride home after a great night when you suddenly remember how young and happy your life can be. It’s that second date after the nervousness has worn off and you know you’re going to have fun; it’s that slight thump-thump of your heart when you twirl around in front of the mirror before you head out for the night. It’s the feeling of capturing that excited panic in your selfie camera just before you enter a party. It’s the long extended period of jawani that makes up for all the best and worst moments of your life. Bappi da’s music reminds me that being young is not about age; it’s really a collection of moments where you look out arrogantly into the world and grin because only you seem to have cracked the code for life.

Bappi da knows that every single moment is a moment to sing! Give him a mic and he’ll happily sing you a “peppy number” anytime, anywhere. The man is an unaging, glittering, talented, beautiful gift to music who can’t stop, won’t stop.

His confidence and his absolute disregard for whatever you think about him are inspiring. It doesn’t matter if you make fun of his obsession for gold chains, he doesn’t care if you think he plagiarised a few songs or whatever, he is not pretending to be modest. And why would he? He started playing tabla at the age of three, he’s composed music for over 500 movies, he’s worked with Snoop Dogg, MC Hammer, Dr Dre samples his songs, MIA covers them and even the Star-Lord loves them!


He is unmoved by your cynicism. Nothing will make him unhappy. Bappi da is the embodiment of jawani. Have you ever seen him sad or not flashing his trademark smile? Nope. You think he knows the influence he’s had on our collective sexual awakening? Yes, definitely!

Here’s a small jawani playlist for all those moments and every time you feel like you need some Bappi Lahiri in your life.


"Inteha Ho Gayi Intezaar Ki" from Sharaabi

"Raat Baki Baat Baki" from Namak Halaal

"Jalta Hai Miya Mera" from Zakhmee

"Mausum Hai Gane Ka" from Surakksha

"Hari Om Hari"


Pyaara Dushman

"De De Pyar De"



"Jawani Janeman" from Namak Halaal

"Tamma Tamma Loge" from Thanedar

"Yaar Bina Chain Kahaan Re" from Saheeb

"Koi Yahan Nache Nache"


Disco Dancer

"Zoo Zoo Zobbie Zobby" from Dance Dance

"Jhoom Jhoom Jhoom Baba" from

Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki