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A tribute to R.D. Burman
Out of the father-son duo - S.D. Burman and R. D. Burman - my favourite was the elder music director. But today, I pay tribute to his son RD whose birthday was celebrated on June 27. I particularly want to praise him for his successful efforts in bringing Lata and elder Burman closer after they had drifted apart and she was not singing for him.

He insisted that Lata would sing his first composed song, ‘Ghar aja ghir aye badarva in Chote Nawab’; and so it was. Rahul Dev Buman was born in 1939 in Kolkata and was the only child of his parents. From his very birth he seemed to be musically inclined.

Once, as an infant, RD was mumbling something. Ashok Kumar, who was close-by, heard him minutely and remarked jokingly that the infant was mumbling in the fifth scale of music - the Pancham scale. The name stuck. And so, Rahul Dev Burman came to be better known as Pancham or R.D.

Asha Bhosle had a failed marriage. Pancham too had got married in 1960 and his marriage had failed. So they both got married although they did not stay together. RD is remembered by many for his jazzy style. But he is also remembered for the song he sang in Sholay, ‘Mehbooba 0 Mehbooba’.

But look at the serious numbers he composed based on classical raags. Those songs are immortal. Many might not know that R.D. composed them. This is because they have a unique classical depth which is quite in contrast to the frivolous numbers he composed for some films.

In fact, from his very first film, ‘Chote Nawab’ he created an exquisite impression by composing that evergreen and memorable number, ‘Ghar aja ghir aye badarva sanwariya’. It was based on Rag Malgunji. His serious songs did have a style that was quite different from some of the noisy stuff that he composed.

Coming back to his classical numbers, Lata again rendered for him the song, ‘Bada natkhat hai yeh’ in Amar Prem’, which was in Rag Khamaj. Again, in Raag Lalit, RD composed for Amar Prem the wonderful song, ‘Raina beeti jaae, shyam na aye’.

How can one ever forget that melodious number sung in solo both by Lata and Kishore, ‘Mere naina sawan bhadon’ in film Mehbooba based on Raag Shivranjani? The list is unending. Among his earlier films, Padosan was a big hit. And how can one forget that song by Kishore and Manna Dey, ‘1k chatur naar badi hoshiyar’. It has comedy but is based on a very difficult classically-structured tune. Only a genius like RD could have created that fantastic number which I still regard as one of the best comedy numbers if not the best, to have ever been created.

The classical base is retained even when the singers are taking liberties with their voices to suit the verses. It was a very tough assignment. But it was not entirely original- because decades earlier Ashok Kumar had crooned the first line in the same tune, shivering under a tap, in Bombay Talkies film Jhoola which was released some time in 1941-1942. The Pyar ka Mausam songs were a treat by Lata, Kishore, and Rafi: Turn bin jaaoon kaha is unforgettable. And Kati Patang had a haunting Lata number, ‘Na koi umang hai’.

There were three bumper hits from Kishore including ‘Yeh shaam mastani madhosh kiye jaae’. But, the surprise hit in the film was sung by Mukesh: ‘Jis gali mein tera ghar na ho sajana us gall se hamen to guzarna nahin’. This was quite different from the other songs and had a unique Mukesh flavour which probably the young music director specially created for him, apparently recalling that his father had composed some immortal numbers for Mukesh too, like ‘Chal ri sajni ab kya soche, kajra nab eh jaye rote rote’ for Bombai Ka Babu and ‘0 jaane wale ho sake to laut ke aana’ for Bandini, to say nothing of ‘Bahe na kabhi nain se neer uthi ho chahe dil mein peerr’ which his father composed for Devanand in Vidya, a film made in the 1940s.

The Lata number in Anamika, ‘Bahon mein chale avo’ was such a treat. The softness of her appeal, the soothing lilt in the tune was mesmerizing. ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ was another landmark film in which Asha sang the super-hit title song. But Lata/ Kishore also sang a tuneful number: ‘Phoolon ka taron ka sab ka kehna hai’.

And can we forget the Lata-Kishore duet,’ Tere bina zinadgi’ in Andhi? One of the most memorable songs composed by him was for film ‘Baharon ke sapne’. And who else but Lata could have poured the gold in her voice into that immortal song ‘Aja piya tohe pyar dun’.

Asha Bhosle did sing a couple of hit songs for him, the most notable one being from Teesri Manzil with Rafi, ‘Aja aja main hoon pyar tera...’ but they were not a patch on the qualitatively superior sorts that Lata sang. On every Holi, we can never miss the ‘Sholay’ song, ‘Holi ke din sab dii mil jaate ham’ sung by Lata and Kishore.

It is thus clear that Lata was the backbone of his music. R. D. Burman died very young on January 4, 1994. In 1988, he got a heart attack when a bypass surgery was performed on him. But the heart attack in 1994 proved to be fatal. His last film was 1942-A Love Story - a musical hit. He was not among the pioneers. But he certainly followed their trail, leaving his own musical footprints on the sands of time.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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