Biddu changed Indipop with ‘Made in India'. Now, an autobiography traces his musical journey
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, 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 HarperCollins. 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.”
Bollywood vs pop
“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. 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, “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. “ Iam going to travel across the country and do shows.” The person responsible for launching or re-launching many musical careers, from Alisha and Nazia Hassan (and brother Zoheb) to Shaan and Saagarika 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.SHALINI SHAH