How The Late Bappi Lahiri Won A Lawsuit Against Dr Dre
Forget About Dre: How The Late Bappi Lahiri Won A Lawsuit Against Dr. Dre

Saregama filed a staggering $500 million lawsuit against Aftermath as well as parent company Universal Music Group, on September 12, 2002

Bappi Lahiri, a man considered to be the disco legend of the Hindi film industry, passed away on Tuesday. He was 69 years old.


While the legendary composer was often accused of plagiarizing songs from popular western contemporaries, one of his biggest controversies went the opposite way, when he took on one of the world’s greatest record producers of all time—Dr Dre.

Addictive vs. Kaliyon Ka Chaman

Bappi Lahiri with Lata Mangeshkar, who he affectionately called ‘Maa’ throughout his life. | Credits: Public Domain

The year was 2003. Both Dr Dre and Bappi Lahiri were coming off considerable highs; the former had just produced a range of hit records following the success of 2001, while Lahiri raked in royalties from a massive range of work from the 1990s, taking a well-earned 6-year sabbatical after revolutionizing Bollywood dance music.

The controversy stirred up in 2002, when Dre’s Aftermath Records released “Addictive” by Truth Hurts (Shari Wilson), featuring Rakim. The song was her debut single, and peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling 600,000 copies in the US. The problem arose when Compton producer DJ Quik used a certain Bollywood song as the track’s main sample:

There’s no mistaking it; the entire instrumental groundwork for the track comes directly from “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai,” a track from the film Jyoti (1981). The song was sung by Lata Mangeshkar, and the film’s soundtrack was composed by Bappi Lahiri. When “Addictive” came out, Lahiri immediately sought out record company Saregama India Ltd.


The result? In Bappi’s own words from a 2009 Hindustan Times interview: “Dr Dre used my song “Kaliyon ka Chaman” in his album “Addictive,” for which I sued him.”



Once Dre’s production came to copyright holder Saregama’s notice, they immediately issued a cease-and-desist order against Aftermath Records, which was ignored.

In response, the Indian record company gathered their legal team and filed a staggering $500 million lawsuit against Aftermath as well as parent company Universal Music Group, on September 12, 2002. They also filed an injunction to prevent further performances or broadcasts of Addictive.

It’s amusing to note that Lahiri also did “take inspiration” from another song for one track in Jyoti. Performed by Kishore Kumar, the film’s second track, “Chidiya Choon Choon”, was lifted from Roaring Lion’s “Mary Ann” —a 1940’s calypso classic.

As far as Bappi goes, the legendary singer-composer accepted ‘copying’ as a tradition amongst Bollywood musicians. In a 2007 interview, he addressed this by saying:


“If we talk about copying, it is a tradition. Salil Chowdhury also copied Mozart. SD Burman also copied; RD Burman copied a lot. What they did was, they’d be inspired by a small piece. Now, what do I do in a modern environment? Mithun Chakravorty was dancing like John Travolta, Michael Jackson. So I had to take that beat.”

Always unapologetic, Bappi Lahiri’s discography and larger-than-life persona will always be remembered as the sound of classic-era Bollywood, and he is sure to be missed by music lovers.

(Featured Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, AP)

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