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Pancham Da: Remembering the legend
RD Burman was one of the best composers ever. A publicity-shy man, RD let his music do the talking. The list of his compositions is so huge that you can pick a song for every moment of your life. His songs take you to a different world altogether.
THIS MAN revolutionised the Indian music in late 60s. His style, technique and innovations are still followed in Bollywood. His hip and energetic youthful compositions became a cult in the film industry and his partnership with Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar set new standards in Hindi music. Every time you switch on the radio or television, you will listen to his songs being played on one station/channel or the other. Yes, i am talking about the one and only Pancham Da or RD or Rahul Dev Burman. June 27, is his birthday, one of the greatest musical composer ever.

In music industry, the ultimate merit in the eyes of the peers is success. But the success of Pancham Da is not related to his compositions only but the universal awe, admiration and nostalgia created by his music is because of that never dying factor in his music. It is also the rediscovery of musical essence of the vast repertoire of melodies that did not do well during its time, mostly due to bad promotion.

RD Burman started his career as an assistant to his father, Sachin Dev Burman. The mouth organ played in the song ’Hai apna dil to awara’ sung by Hemant Kumar in the film ’Solva Saal’ is played by RD Burman himself. He assisted his father in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959). His first film as a music director was Guru Dutt’s Raaz (1959). However, the film was shelved after some shooting and recording of a few songs. He then got his break in Mehmood’s Chhote Nawaab in the year 1961. His compositions in the film Teesri Manzil starring Shammi Kapoor made him a celebrated composer. The songs like ’O’ haseena zulfon waali’, ’Aaja aja main hoon pyaar tera’, ’O mere sona re sona ee’, ’Deewaana mujhsa nahin’ were unlike anything audiences had heard of till then and the music of Teesri Manzil was hummed across the nation.

RD Burman was very innovative and experimental. He picked the music for his songs from very indigenous sources. In fact, innovativeness became synonymous with RD. He has been quoted as saying, “I don’t say that I am a knowledgeable man when it comes to raags. I don’t say I tried to do so and so song in Raag Darbari or attempted some difficult raag in another song. Whatever comes to my head I compose.”


In ’Chura liya hai tumne’ he used the sound of a spoon hitting a glass. For the Kitaab song ’Master jee kee aa gayee chitthee’ he brought some desks from a classroom in the studio while recording and used them as percussion.


In Abdullah he used the sound of a bamboo whistle with a balloon tied to it for a song. Once, to get the sound of raindrops, he spent a whole rainy night in his house’s balcony recording the sound he wanted.


In the song ’O manjhi re’ from the movie Khushboo, RD Burman used bottles with water filled at different levels and created a hollow sound by blowing into them and this sound effect was used with the orchestra.
During the recording of ’Hum dono do premee’ (Ajnabee), the musicians were on strike. So he improvised the song with emptied-out musical interludes and just listen to the song!


Many people say that Pancham Da plagiarised, which is not completely wrong. But while plagiarising too, he kept his unique stamp of authority over the number. Today, most of the originals may have been wiped off from memory, but the inspired numbers remain. His inspiration of "copying the tune" extended to incorporation of different forms of tunes and rhythm patterns into his music.


No matter what the people say but I can assert that RD was one of the best composers. A publicity-shy man, RD let his music do the talking for him. The list of the compositions is so huge that you can pick a song for every moment of your life. I met few pretty faces in Delhi very recently and remembered the last composition of Pancham Da from film ’1942-A Love Story’, ’Ek ladki ko dekha to aisa laga’.

RD continues to rule today as well. This is evident from most of the soundtracks today being re-mixed in the Indi-pop scene are RD’s compositions. You might not be aware of this but you must have rocked and danced to his songs.
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