None of R D Burman's collaborations was as rewarding and resplendent as with Gulzar, who turns 89 today, August 18, 2023, says Subhash K Jha.
I firmly believe the songs of Gulzar will far outlive his cinema. Parichay, Khushboo, Ijaazat and Kinara are more memorable for their music than anything else.
Rahul Dev Burman was to Gulzar what Madan Mohan was to Chetan Anand.
Take away the Madan Mohan melodies in Heer Ranjha and what are we left with? Take away Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin from Aandhi (the song that Gulzar saab refers to as the signature tune of his friendship with RD), Naam ghum jayega from Kinara or Mera kuch samaan tumhare pass pada hai in Ijazaat, and the power impact and glory of Gulzar's cinema would be substantially diminished.
R D Burman shared a long-lasting fiercely fecund creative partnership with other film-makers, notably Nasir Hussain and Shakti Samanta in whose cinema Burman Junior poured the elixir of immortality. But none of RD's collaborations was as rewarding and resplendent as with Gulzar.
Gulzar's closest friend in the entertainment industry was composer Rahul Dev Burman.
One night way past midnight Pancham showed up at Boskiana, Gulzar saab's bungalow, excited as hell.
He dragged Gulzar saab into his car for a drive and played the tune he had composed for Parichay.
The song was Musafir hoon yaaron. The two buddies drove around Mumbai all night listening to the song.
We've never stopped listening to the song even forty years after it was created.
R D Burman always complained how difficult it was to give music to Gulzar saab's lyrics.
'Next you will bring me the newspaper headline and tell me to tune it,' RD scoffed. Not this one. Not this time.
Musafir..., a song about the journey of life, makes complete sense even today.
Gulzar recalls RD's reaction the words, Iss mod se jaate hain kuch sust qadam raste ...pathar ki haveli se sheeshon ke gharondon mein tinko ke nasheman tak...
RD's reaction: 'Where is this city called Nasheman?'
When in Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin Lataji sings Jee main aata hai teri daaman mein sarr chupa ke hum rote rahen, time stops still.
I rate this among Gulzar's best for these lines alone.
Interestingly, RD had first composed this number as a Bengali song for Durga Puja. Gulzar heard it and said, 'Now this is mine.'
Do nainon mein aansoon bhare hain in Gulzar's Khushboo was also a Durga Puja song in Bengali. It is my most favourite Gulzar-RD song.
I rate it even higher than the exquisite classic Beeti na bitayee raina.
While Lataji is beyond supreme in both, in Do nainon mein she takes RD's pure unalloyed notes to a stratosphere beyond human definitions of excellence.
Interestingly there are two versions of Do nainon mein aansoon bhare hain.
When the first version of the song with a complete orchestral accompaniment was recorded, Gulzar felt the mood was too loud for a lullaby.
He suggested that Lataji do the song again with minimal orchestral accompaniment.
'You tell her,' RD hid behind Gulzar.
Lataji readily agreed to do the song twice over.
In the film we hear Hema Malini lip-syncing the minimalist version. On the album it is the full-throated orchestrally lush version that we hear.
This is not the first time that RD chickened out when it came to briefing Lataji on a Gulzar lyric.
For the song Aapki aankhon mein kuch mehke hue se khwab hain in the film Ghar, there was a word 'badmaashiyon'(mischief) in the line Aapki badmaashiyan ke yeh naye andaaz hain which RD thought was too flirtatious to be sung by Lataji.
Gulzar was emboldened to do the needful. Lataji not only readily accepted the word she even added a flirtuatious giggle to it during the recording.
"Recording with Gulzar saab and Pancham was always a very special occasion. Every song I sang for them had a life far beyond cinema. I am thankful to both. I cherish every song I sang for them. The ones I remember the most are Beeti na beetaayi raina (Parichay), Tere bina zindagi se (Aandhi), Naam ghum jayega (Kinara), Din jaa rahe hain (Doosri Sita) and Sili hawa choo gayee (Libaas). I also loved my sister Asha's songs for Gulzar saab and Pancham in the film Ijaazat," Lataji once said to me.
In the gem Mera kuch saamaan tumhare paas pada hai in Ijaazat, there is no rhyming metre, just random thoughts about a broken relationship put together like shards of glass on the floor piercing the soul. This is Gulzar at his rawest.
Apparently he wrote this number as a hark back to his own broken marriage to Raakhee.
The wounds that that never heal are the hurt that we need to preserve in our hearts hoping they never would heal.
Asha Bhosle loves every song that she did with her Pancham and Gulzarbhai.
Asha loves to cook and both Pancham and Gulzarbhai loved to eat.
Gulzarbhai loves her karela ghosht and Bengali kheer. But amidst all that camaraderie, there used to be arguments as well.
While Gulzar and RD never really had serious disputes between them, they'd squabble with Asha a lot. But it would always be resolved in the end because as she once told me, she had the deadly combination of khaana (food) and gaana (song) on her side.
Gulzar once pointed to a strange coincidence that ties his poetry to his much-missed pal Rahul Dev Burman's compositions.
In one of Pancham's most beloved songs, Mera kuch saamaan tumhare paas pada hai in the movie Ijaazat, Gulzar had written the line ek sau solah chaand ki raatein, ek tumhaare kaandhe ka til.
Those 116 moonlit nights that Gulzar wrote about proved prophetic. Gulzar realised that exactly 116 of his songs were set to music by Pancham.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com