July 18, 1975 made Bappi Lahiri. It was the day Chalte Chalte, his first hit, was recorded. So every year, he cuts a cake on this day
"On July 18, 1975, Chalte Chalte, which was sung by Kishore Kumar was recorded. Woh gaana aaj bhi ek amar gaana hai, sada bahaar hai. It's sung at all functions. That is a time I can never forget. My mother and father had come to the recording as well. I wasn't married then. Vishal babu (the actor Vishal Anand, who plays the lead in the film) really liked the song. When he heard the part 'Hum laut aayenge tum yunhi bulate rehna', he broke down.
"At that time I wasn't even Bappi Lahiri, but Kishore mama came up to me and blessed me. He said, "Just give it two years, Bappi. You will shoot up as a composer." Like I said, the song was to be recorded on July 18. Nine has been a lucky number for me. The digits in 18 add up to nine. I was born on November 27 and two and seven add upto nine.
"There was an uproar at the time of the recording. Media wasn't so big then, but people were already talking about my father. He had sung for Shankar Jaikishan. So when I came into compose, tongues had begun wagging as to what this Bengali boy would do and whether he would live upto his father's image.
"The lyrics of Chalte Chalte were written by Amit Khanna, another unknown name at that time. Khanna was Dev Anand's secretary and went onto head prestigious committees like the Indian Motion Pictures Association (IMPA). I had gone to meet Dev Anand and Vijay Anand for a sitting. Vijay Anand was a top director then. It was then that Khanna told me that he had written Chalte Chalte. He said, 'I'm no writer, but this is just something that came to me.' So I composed the tune then and there, seated at the office.
"Director Bhisham Kohli was also at the office at that time. Chalte Chalte was Kohli's film and the soundtrack was being composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. The duo didn't have time to do one particular song and had given a No Objection Certificate to Kohli which said that he could get that song composed by anybody he wanted. So Kohli happened to hear the song when I was at Vijay Anand's office and loved it.
"Kohli told me that he wanted to sign me on. My father insisted that he wanted to see the NOC because Laxmibhai and Pyarebhai were right on top then. My father didn't want to cross swords with them. But we saw the certificate and I was signed on, on the spot. The signing amount was Rs 1,001 and I was paid Rs 10,000 for the entire song.
"One could buy a Premier Padmini car with Rs 30,000. Kohli received a cheque from Polygram as royalty for Chalte Chalte. He bought a flat opposite Rafi saab's house in Bandra and a brand new Premier Padmini. And like Kishore mama predicted, my career only shot up after Chalte Chalte. After this I did playback singing for the first time. I have recorded almost 7,000 songs but Chalte Chalte was a turning point of my life.
"This is why I remember July 18 every year and celebrate it. We cut a cake that has Chalte Chalte written on it. I call my friends over. There's a sense of camaraderie. Sometimes singers like Babul Supriyo and Vinod Rathod come; we remember Kishore babu and listen to his songs."