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Revealed: Unknown facts about RD Burman!

Last updated on: May 12, 2011 17:35 IST

Revealed: Unknown facts about RD Burman!

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Patcy N in Mumbai

India's fascination with RD Burman -- or Pancham as many know him -- will perhaps never die. The musician, who has captured the imagination of at least three generations of Indians, continues to live on in his music and through books such as the latest one -- RD Burman The Man, The Music written by Anirudha Bhattarcharjee and Balaji Vittal.

Patcy N caught up with the authors, who spoke about his huge body of work, his downfall and the way his music will be remembered even after his death.

Anirudha and Balaji have been friends from their college days -- they're both from Kolkata. But Balaji now works in Delhi and his family is in Hyderabad -- where they met at an intercollegiate quiz contest.

Anirudha and Balaji are engineers. Anirudha works as an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) consultant with an MNC while Balaji works at the Royal Bank of Scotland.

It was Anirudha who wanted to do something on Pancham for quite a while. In fact in early 1990s, he even started writing a book on him but never managed to go beyond the first chapter.

In 2008, Balaji had the idea of writing a work fiction but Anirudha already knew if he had to write something, it had to do with Pancham. Balaji agreed.

They already had archival matter on Pancham.

Aniruddha also had the basic structure already in mind. What they needed was to fill in the empty spaces and write a complete book.

Since both held full-time jobs, they divided the task.

They did not have much of conflict while writing the book. The idea that Anirudha had in mind was that of 'Pancham died a lonely man but after his death, rose as a phoenix rises from the ashes.'

They started the story from where Pancham dies, but still lived on because of his work.

"We have touched all the topics -- like Pancham as a child, his schooling, his father, his foray in Bollywood, his marriage, Pancham the superstar and then his gradual decline," Aniruddha says.

"As a kid, I used to collect stories (on R D Burman) printed in the magazines and papers. I would also visit the national library in Kolkata," he tells me.

His friend Devdan Mitra of The Telegraph newspaper allowed him to go through the paper's library. His friend Sudipto Chandro helped him with numbers of people in the Hindi film industry.


Image: Balaji Vittal reads a verse from R D Burman; Aniruddha Bhattacharjee sings the song.
Video: Afsar Dayatar
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'My favourite chapter is about Burman in the 1980s'

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Balaji worked in Delhi while his family lived in Hyderabad so travelling was part and parcel of his life.

Only this time, a third city was added to his itinerary -- Mumbai -- where he would interview musicians and Bollywood personalities who were associated with Burman.

"We had the archival material but going with just that wasn't right. So we decided to hit the road and meet as many musicians as we could get hold of. So I visited and interviewed people in Mumbai, Chennai as well as Delhi.

"I would travel on Friday evenings, meet people over the weekend and return to work on Mondays," Balaji recollects adding that the musicians he met were very co-operative.

Among the actors he interviewed were Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor and Dev Anand 'as these three people featured in many Pancham films'.

They also interviewed filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Parinda and 1942: A Love Story had music by Burman), singer SP Bala Subramanium and even actress Bindu because she did her first cabaret Mere Naam Shabnam on Pancham's song from Kati Patang. The two tried meeting Rajesh Khanna without much success.

Meeting people gave them a fresh perspective.

Along the way, they learnt things about Pancham they'd never have known had they stuck to the research material. The anecdotes, stories behind the songs he created and the way he worked are documented in the book.

A challenge the authors faced was selecting songs from the thousands that RD Burman created. After much thinking, Balaji suggested that they pick only the popular ones so the readers could relate to them.

"My favourite chapter," Aniruddha says, "is about Burman in the 1980s. The standards of music had started to fall and besides Jaidev and Khayyam, he (Burman) was the only composer who could maintain a certain level of harmony amidst a clutter of cacophonic sounds. Also, RD of the '80s is largely unexplored."

Balaji however says he is fascinated with the epilogue.

"It is very interesting and fun also it took us the longest time to write as we were writing about his legacy," he says pointing out that a lot of contemporary Hindi movies like Main Hoon Na, Om Shanti Om, Chandi Chowk to China and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi among others have have used his creations in their films. There are people who have branched out from him and made great careers!

Image: Aniruddha and Balaji sing some popular R D Burman songs

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'Kishore Kumar was like SD Burman's adopted son'

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There are some interesting stories about how Pancham composed his songs that the authors have narrated in the book.
 
Here's one:
 
Once Pancham and filmmaker Ramesh Behl, who were good friends, went out for an after-dinner ice cream. They were stuck in a jam and that was where Burman created the chord of Tere Bina Jiya Jaye Na from the film Ghar.
 
Balaji says, "He would find rhythm even in the sound of a whirring fan. He used it in Suno Kaho, Kaha Suna from Aap Ki Kasam.
 
"Pancham was a very intelligent composer in the antara of Tere Bina Jiya Jaye Na. He used his father's tune from the song Dukhi Man Mere from Funtoosh. His father's work had a lot of influence on him.

"There is a story that Funtoosh had a song (Ae Meri Topi Palat Ke Aa) that was composed by Pancham but he hadn't been credited for it. One may never know but the truth is that both the father and son complimented each other well.
 
"SD Burman was more in favour of Indian classical music whereas RD was slightly westernised so they mismatched and experimented their music."
 
When you ask Aniruddha the controversial question about who composed the music for Aradhana, he insists it was SD, the father.

"RD was just an assistant," he says going on, "And the myth that SD preferred Mohammed Rafi over Kishore is not true because till Nau Do Gyarah, SD only used Kishore Kumar's voice for Dev Anand.
 
"After that Kishore Kumar got so caught up with his acting assignments, producing movies and composing his songs, he was not available. But once he was free, he started singing for songs featuring Dev Anand for SD again.
 
"Kishore Kumar was like SD's adopted son. SD obviously loved Rafi but he adored Kishore Kumar." Aniruddha says.


Image: Balaji narrates an incident as to how Tere Bina was made

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'Lata would get sad numbers, Asha would get raunchy ones'

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There are also stories that how quickly RD would compose his tunes.

Balaji says, "Once Pancham was at a hotel after he had separated from his first wife. Bhanu Gupta was strumming on his guitar when Pancham instantly thought of the tune for the second line of the song Musafir Hoon Yaaron from Parichay! They worked through the night and by dawn, they had the entire song composed!"
 
Aniruddha adds, "The title music of Pather Panchali and the song Musafir Hoon Yaaron are very similar. It could be because Pancham was the student of Ali Akbar Khan saab so perhaps he was influenced by his music."
 
Balaji says, "RD and Asha Bhosle have given us many magnificent songs are but not many know that Pancham and Lata also did some great work together, starting from the first official number he composed -- Ghar Aaja Ghir Aaiye from Chote Nawab, followed by Aaja Piya Tohe Pyar Doon from Bharon Ke Sapane, Na Koi Umang Hai from Kati Patang, Raina Beeti Jaye from Amar Prem, Bahon Mein Chale Aao from Anamika and Tere Bina Jiya Jaye Na from Ghar.
 
"Lata would get the sober and sad numbers that were picturised on devoted wives and sniffling heroines. The raunchy stuff went to Asha," he added.
 
Burman loved to experiment too so he would also make Lata sing the stray risque song like Bangle Ke Peeche (which later became famous as Kanta Lagaa an item number) and Asha a sober number likle Jab Tak Rahe Tan Mein Jiya, a song of a devoted wife (both these numbers are from Samadhi).
 
Another little-known fact is that some of Pancham's most popular songs were first made it in Bengali and then used in Hindi movies.
 
Some instances of this are songs like Meri Bheegi Bheegi Si from Anamika and Tum Bin Jaoon Kahan from Pyar Ka Mausam, Yeh Shaam Mastani from Aradhana, Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa Toh Nahi from Aandhi, Jaane Ja, Dhoond Tha Phir Raha from Jawani Diwani.


Image: Aniruddha sings R D's Bengali song which he later used in Bandhe Haath

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