Biddu changed Indipop with “Made in India”. Now, an autobiography traces his musical journey, says SHALINI SHAH
Popular music in India, for the most part, has been music from Hindi cinema. Then, in 1995, “Made in India” changed everything – nearly so – opening people's eyes to the world of individual, independent talent without the backing of film banners and already-established star power, the importance of larger-than-life music videos, and the fact that all this could actually translate to commercial success. It not just made Alisha Chinoy, till then a playback singer with occasional pop album trysts, an overnight star but signalled the arrival of Biddu as a music producer and composer of reckoning.
‘Made in India' is still what many of us associate Biddu with, though, to be fair, it was the song ‘Aap jaisa koi' from Qurbani, composed by Biddu and rendered by a very young Nazia Hassan, that made him a recognisable name in India.
Now, Biddu tells us the tale of his musical journey in “Made in India: Adventures of a Lifetime”, published by Harper Collins. Strangely, the autobiography wasn't what Biddu originally had in mind. “Last March I approached the publishers with the manuscript of a novel I had already written. They told me an autobiography would be more interesting and offered me a three-book deal. I went back to London and by September I was ready,” says Biddu. So now, the second book is a “serious one”, while the third is a “work of fiction set in Mumbai.”
“Pop music today is Bollywood. When you're competing against Bollywood, with its big budgets and big stars, you don't have much of a chance unless you can create a Lady Gaga or Coldplay. The problem with Indipop now is most of the artistes tend to imitate. There's no original talent,” says Biddu.
“Made in India: Adventures of a Lifetime” is the sum of many significant and insignificant events in Biddu's life as a musician – from the day a nervous 13-year-old froze in front of 200-plus crowd during a talent show in Bangalore, to the release and subsequent success of this hit album in April 1995.
Elvis Presley was a significant influence during Biddu's earliest days of musical aspiration.
“Later on there were The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, though Elvis was probably one of my first influences. But no influence was really deep,” recalls Biddu.
In the book, you find out how a musician with a guitar suddenly found himself in the position of a producer, that too of a Japanese band that had to learn by rote the lyrics of ‘Rain falls on the lonely' as they spoke no English!
The book makes for an interesting read not just for its account of Biddu's journey from India to London and back, but in also how it stood in relation to the musical ambience of those times and occasional glimpses of artistes who later made it big – the Hippie movement in Europe, cafe conversations with a not-yet-famous David Bowie, the London club days of Jimi Hendrix, radio's role in the survival of a song, the electronic-isation of music, the gradual fading of disco under the onslaught of punk.
‘Kung Fu Fighting', the single which Biddu composed with singer Carl Douglas, was another of Biddu's hits and it remains so even today. There's an interesting chapter on how the song almost didn't make it to the album's A side.
Recalling the “Made in India” days, he says, “The timing was just right. India had just opened up then, and there was this whole interest in India. It was the right song at the right time. Today it wouldn't have meant the same thing.”
The music producer in him, though, is now taking a break. “From October to February I'm only going to travel across the country and do shows. The music will be 30 per cent Indian and 70 per cent Western,” says Biddu.
The person responsible for launching or re-launching many musical careers, from Alisha and Nazia Hassan (and brother Zoheb) to Shaan and Saagarika, Shweta Shetty and Sophie Chaudhary, doesn't see himself in the role again.
“I don't like doing the same thing again. There's no new act, no one with that personality along with talent. I've worked hard so far. But it's better to make no album than a bad album,” says he.
What a miss!
There's one incident which Biddu hasn't mentioned in the book, though he wished he did. “It was quite some time back. I met Sonu (Nigam) the first time at Holiday Inn in Mumbai. We were sitting at the restaurant and I saw an attractive girl wearing jeans and tattered T-shirt walk past. She was with an older man who could have been her dad. Just when she was leaving, Sonu told her ‘I love your films'. She smiled and turned towards me and said, ‘I love your music. I am a big fan.' I asked her, ‘What's your name?' She replied, ‘Madhuri.' ‘What do you do?' I asked her. ‘I act,' she said, ‘...in films.'
After she left Sonu told me she was Madhuri Dixit. Madhuri Dixit! I felt like such an idiot!”