New Delhi, March 2 (Calcutta Tube) Bollywood musician Biddu cut his teeth in the literary world with his autobiography, ‘Biddu: Made in India‘. Till date his records have sold more than 38 million worldwide. He is still remembered for ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ in late Feroze Khan’s 1980 hit ‘Qurbani’ starring Zeenat Aman.
‘I hadn’t intended to write an autobiography. In 2007, I decided to write a novel. I started writing in Spain where I spend a lot of my time. Two years later, in March 2009, I came to Delhi with my manuscript and met several publishers. They liked the story, but suggested why don’t you write an autobiography first since you are known for your music. Then we will take a look at your fiction,’ Biddu said.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B002DE7NPQ” display=”inlinepost”]The musician returned home to write his memoirs in April 2009. ‘The book was ready by September. It is the first of a three-book contract that I have signed with HarperCollins-India,’ he said.
The book traces his life as Coorgi tribal boy Biddu Appaiah, born to a gregarious mother and a doctor-father in Bangalore, when ‘the city was a pleasant little heaven of 700,000 people’ in 1945.
As a 12-year-old, Biddu dreamt of going West and making it big as a composer. At 18, his was a popular act at Trinca’s, a nightclub in Kolkata. At 19, he had the college crowd of Mumbai dancing on its feet.
In the early 20s, he left the country and ended up hitchhiking across the Middle East before arriving in London – ‘with only the clothes on his back and his rusty guitar’.
The stint was followed by hardship, great music and then fame with compositions like ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ (with Carl Douglas); and albums ‘Disco Deewane’ (with siblings Nazia and Zoheb Hassan) and ‘Made in India’.
‘I wanted my autobiography to be fast-paced, interesting and funny. And if you are writing about yourself, you have to be disparaging. I did not want to sound egoistic,’ he said.
Three years ago, Biddu, the musician who gave India the Bollywood cult number ‘Aap Jaisa Koi…’, decided to swap his guitar for the pen – partly because ‘music was not the important thing in the world any more’.
‘Record sales were dipping and the X-box was moving in – unlike 15 years ago when music was the most important thing. I did not want to keep doing music year after year till I grew old with a foot in the grave,’ Biddu told IANS here.
The musician, ‘who does not own a single CD because he does not listen to music or read books’, felt ‘he was not very determined or ambitious’.
‘I just love to compose music throughout the day,’ he said.
Biddu attributes his ‘indifference to listening to other people’s music to his growing up years’.
‘I grew up without television or radio. Once a week, I heard crackling pop music on the Binaca slot in Radio Ceylon,’ he said.
Calcutta gave Biddu the first toe-hold in the industry during the 1960s. The musician cherishes fond memories of his brush with the city.
‘When my band Trojan and I entered the night spot Trinca’s with just Rs.200 in our pockets, the owner thought we were the Beatles. We introduced ourselves and he told us to sing. We sang and won a six-month contract. Later, we moved to Mumbai (then Bombay),’ the John Lennon-Elvis Presley-Stevie Wonder fan recalled.
The musician laments the takeover of popular music space in India by Bollywood and piracy of his music by ‘illegal downloads from the internet’.
‘In the West, I lose only 10 percent of my music, but in India, I lose 100 percent of music. The television has no space for non-film music and record labels in India cannot sell any more.
‘I think the last Bollywood soundtrack that sold around 75 lakh (7.5 million) albums was ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge‘. Recent Bollywood albums, barring a few, rarely cross the 200,000- mark. The quality of talent in Bollywood is also very low now,’ he said.
The musician said he sold only Rs.3 million worth of his album, ‘Made in India‘.
Biddu prefers to write, instead. ‘I don’t make music any more. I write for six hours a day,’ he said.
His new novel is set in 1951 just after the ‘British left India. (It) has romance, bigotry, mystery and murder,’ he said. ‘It is almost like a Bollywood potboiler,’ Biddu said.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at email@example.com)