On the 27th of this month, RD Burman turns 76. I write in the present tense because RD continues to live in our hearts and fill our souls with love and magic! I’m not sure there’s any musician who has managed to strike a chord with such a vast cross-section of people- age, gender, generation notwithstanding. From swinging party music to soulful, gut-wrenching paeans – R D has traversed the musical universe like nobody else ever has, and perhaps, never quite manage to. His range varied from the catchy Aaja <g data-gr-id="109">aaja</g>, main hun <g data-gr-id="110">pyaar</g> <g data-gr-id="111">tera</g> from Teesri Manzil (1966) to the soulful thumri Hame <g data-gr-id="96">tumse</g> <g data-gr-id="97">pyar</g> <g data-gr-id="98">kitna</g>, ye hum <g data-gr-id="99">nahin</g> <g data-gr-id="100">jaante</g> by Parveen Sultana in Kudrat (1981).
He passed away at the age of 54, in 1994, receiving the last of his three Filmfare Awards, for his score in 1942- A Love Story, posthumously. According to his frequent collaborator, sister-in-law Lata Mangeshkar, Pancham (as he was fondly known) was unhappy in his final days. In an interview around this time last year she said, “For a composer as talented as Pancham to be almost jobless was a living death. Pancham was very unhappy. He would sometimes share his grief with me. I feel sad even now when I recall how cruel the industry was to Pancham just because some of his music didn’t do well”. Which is, of course, unfortunate, given that RD influenced a whole generation of musicians in the country through his revolutionary creative genius, and continues to inspire <g data-gr-id="113">artistes</g> till date. In fact, such is his legacy that entire films have been made as a tribute to him and his music! Dil Vil Pyar Vyar (2002), which contains several re-arranged hit songs of Burman, was made as a tribute to him. Jhankaar Beats (2003), which catapulted the music director duo Vishal-Shekhar into the limelight, is also a tribute to him.
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan. And, over the years, I’ve tried to look beneath the <g data-gr-id="101">surface,</g> and discover the genius inside. Of course, I’m nowhere close to done yet. But, here are some lesser-known facts about my most favorite musician that, as a fan, I feel is my duty to share with all of you!
1. RD was, as Gulzar says, as good a craftsman as he was a musician. He picked the sounds for his songs from very indigenous sources.
In Chura <g data-gr-id="82"><g data-gr-id="83">liya</g></g> he used the sound of a spoon hitting a glass.
For the Kitaab (1977) song Master jee kee aa <g data-gr-id="107">gayee</g> <g data-gr-id="108">chitthee</g> he brought some desks from a classroom in the studio while recording and used them as percussion.
In Abdullah (1980) 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 balcony recording the sound he wanted.
In the song O Manjhi Re from the movie Khushboo (1975), R D 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 <g data-gr-id="80">dono</g> do <g data-gr-id="81">premee</g>, the musicians were on strike. So he improvised the song with emptied-out musical interludes!
2. R D Burman made his acting debut in Mehmood’s Bhoot Bangla (1965). Later in Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) <g data-gr-id="87">too</g> he gave a hilarious performance as Popat Lal.
3. R D Burman was nicknamed as Pancham and was popularly addressed by most of his industry friends by the same name. Apparently, the <g data-gr-id="103">monicker</g> was given by actor Ashok Kumar when he heard the newborn Rahul saying the word Pa (the 5h/<g data-gr-id="102">pancham</g> note in an octave) repeatedly.
Another story says that RD Burman could cry in five different notes and hence, was called Pancham
(derived from <g data-gr-id="104">paanch</g>).
4. It is believed that some of the tunes credited to his father, the popular music director S D Burman, were actually composed by R D Burman. These superhit songs include Sar Jo Tera Chakraye (Pyaasa), Mere Sapno Ki Rani Kab Aayegi Tu (Aradhana) and Kora Kagaz Tha Yeh Mann Mera (Aradhana).
5. Popular music director duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal played in the orchestra of R D Burman. R D Burman also gave breaks to several newbie singers like Kumar Sanu, <g data-gr-id="84">Abhijeet</g> and Mohammad Aziz. His frequent collaborators included <g data-gr-id="78">artistes</g> like Kersi Lord, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, and Louis Banks!
Happy Birthday, <g data-gr-id="88">musaafir</g>! You continue to live in our hearts… (<g data-gr-id="89">tumhein</g>) <g data-gr-id="91">chalte</g> <g data-gr-id="92">jaana</g> hai, bas <g data-gr-id="93">chalte</g> <g data-gr-id="94">jaana</g>!
The author is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy