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'Even today, Pancham is a chart-topper'

January 06, 2024 12:35 IST
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'Pancham told me once, "It's very difficult to be taken seriously when there are stalwarts like Shankar-Jaikishan, S D Burman, Madan Mohan and Naushad... How do I make my mark?"'

Amit Kumar salutes R D Burman on his 30th death anniversary on January 4.

IMAGE: R D Burman and Amit Kumar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amit Kumar/Instagram

In a throwback interview, singer Amit Kumar had spoken about his deep bond with Rahul Dev Burman.

"I was R D Burman's blue-eyed boy," he had told Subhash K Jha.

"My professional association with Pancham started in 1975 with the song Bade Achche Lagte Hain in Balika Badhu. At that time, I was a novice. I had sung a couple of songs earlier. I used to visit R D Burman and he would visit mine and cook. He was a fantastic cook!

"We'd compose music together. He had three friends in the film industry: Shakti Samanta, Ramesh Behl and me. We were with him till the end."

Before Amit, his father Kishore Kumar was RD's pal.

"My father was very close to Pancham. Because of their closeness, I became friends with Pancham. I think I sang the maximum songs for Pancham after Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar and my father.

"I think Ashaji sang around 800 songs. My father sang 500-600. I sang about 150 songs for Pancham. That's more than Mohammad Rafisaab. We were associated for 20 years till his death. We loved each other unconditionally."


IMAGE: Amit Kumar with R D Burman, brother Sumit Kumar, Leena Chandavarkar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amit Kumar/Instagram

Amit shared a close kinship with the entire Burman family. "The Burman family was like family to me. Sachin Dev Burman mentored my father, and Pancham mentored me. When Sachinda was composing for Guide in 1965, I was a little brat jumping over the harmonium all over the recording room. Burmandada enjoyed me jumping around like a monkey.

Speaking on how his journey as singer began, Amit had recalled, "I came to Bombay from Calcutta in 1971. Aradhana had released and my father's second innings as a playback pasha had begun.

"One day, my father was going for a recording with Manna Dey for Pancham. It was a song in a film called Khalifa. My father asked me to accompany him. I sat listening to my father and Mannada rehearse.

"Suddenly Pancham turned to me and said, 'I heard that you sing very well. Sing for me.' I was nervous, but I sang my father's song in Jhumroo as the stalwarts in the orchestra accompanied me.

"While returning home after the recording, my father said, 'You lost a golden chance. Your singing was bakwas.' I was hurt. I told my father, 'I was nervous. To hell with singing, I'm going back to Calcutta.'

"But in the evening, Pancham called and told my father to send me for a recording the next morning. My father said, 'What will he do in a recording?' Pancham said I had to sing a song for a film to be directed by Shakti Samanta and he needed a raw voice.

"My father said, 'Main kis khet ka mooli hoon? Why do you need my son when you have me?' Pancham explained he needed a young voice to sound like a 17 year old."

IMAGE: Sachin and Rajni Sharma in the song Bade Achche Lagte Hain from Balika Badhu.

Amit chose to perceive his father's professional envy as banter. "My father was actually very happy for me. I sang the song Bade Achche Lagte Hain. I never knew it would become so popular. In fact, it didn't become an overnight rage. It took three years to become popular. Today, it's a household number.

"Bade Achche Lagte Hain gave me an identity beyond being Kishore Kumar's son, and I give full credit to Pancham. He forbade me from copying my father. He said no one could sing like him. He said, 'Sing in your own voice.' I did."

IMAGE: Vijeta Pandit and Kumar Gaurav in Love Story.

Then came the songs of the Kumar Gaurav launch.

"Love Story made me very popular. Rajendra Kumar, who launched his son Kumar Gaurav, knew my father from the time Rajendra Kumar assisted H S Rawail in Sharaarat. My father sang in that film. Rajendra Kumar wanted Kishore Kumar's son to sing for his son in Love Story.

"I will tell you a shocking fact: R D Burman hated the music of Love Story. He did not like Yaad Aa Rahi Hai, which became my biggest hit. While recording the number, Pancham called me aside and said, 'Yeh gaana Yaad Aa Rahi Hai bahut bakwaas hai. It sounds like a bhajan instead of a love song.'

"The song was a superhit. I rang up Pancham, 'Ab bolo, kya bolte ho.' Pancham was quiet. At that time, he was going through a lean phase.

"Love Story brought him back in the reckoning. My favourite song in Love Story was Kaisa Tera Pyar Kaisa Gussa with Latabai (Mangeshkar). After Love Story, everyone hoped Kumar Gaurav and I would become a team like Rajesh Khanna and my father. But that wasn't meant to be.

"Pancham and I came together to compose music for other Kumar Gaurav-starrers like Teri Kasam, Lovers and Romance which were flops."

Recalling the first recording for Love Story, Amit Kumar recalled, "The first song we recorded in Love Story was Yeh Ladki Zarasi Deewani Lagti Hai with Asha Bhosle and me.

"Raj Kapoorsaab and my father came for the recording. Just imagine, I was singing in the recording booth with Asha Bhosle while Raj Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar and Kishore Kumar were chattering behind us. We were getting distracted and the stalwarts were asked to leave the recording room. The atmosphere was jovial, easygoing and fun."

IMAGE: Amit Kumar with father Kishore Kumar and mother Ruma Guha Thakurta. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amit Kumar/Instagram

Amit remembers his his first meeting with Panchamda: "My father made a film called Door Gagan Ki Chaon Mein where he played my father and I played a mute boy. In the film, my father takes me to the city for medical treatment. There was a shot where we had to climb down the stairs, disheartened.

"My father needed a mouth organ piece in the background. Pancham played the mouth organ very well, so he called Pancham up to come and play the mouth organ. That was the first time I saw Panchanda. I think it was 1963.

"By then, Pancham's first film as an independent music director Chote Nawab had released. But Pancham wasn't well known. We became friends. At that time, he was Sachin Dev Burman's son and I was Kishore Kumar's son.

"We met again when he came to our house with Mehmoodsaab to get my father to sing the track Jago Sone Walon in the film, Bhoot Bungla. Thereafter, we met frequently.

"When I heard the songs of Chote Nawab, I was clean bowled by Pancham's versatility. On one end, he composed Matwali Aankhon Wali, and on the other, he composed Ghar Aaja Ghir Aaye Badra. I knew this man was a genius.

"Then I heard Pancham's songs in Bhoot Bungla. My father's Jago Sone Walon was fine, but the Manna Dey song Pyar Karta Ja was even better. But Pancham couldn't make a mark, in spite of beautiful music in Teesra Kaun and Chandan Ka Palna, until Teesri Manzil,

"Pancham was trying to find his identity. He told me once, 'It's very difficult to be taken seriously when there are stalwarts like Shankar-Jaikishan, S D Burman, Madan Mohan and Naushad. How do I make my mark?'

IMAGE: Amit Kumar on stage with father Kishore Kumar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Amit Kumar/Instagram

Defending RD's Western tunes, Amit said, "In Teesri Manzil, Pancham introduced the bass guitar into Hindi film music. People said he plagiarised songs. Ha, chori kisne nahin kiya? All composers sought inspiration.

"When Pancham borrowed, he did it with style. He created his own musical style, completely removed from traditional film music. He revolutionised the sound of music.

"Jaikishanji had predicted about Pancham, 'A boy has come. He's going to make chutti of all of us.' Pancham was something else. He was ahead of his times. My song Roz Roz Aankhon Taley with Asha Bhosle, which is so popular today, was a flop when it was composed in 1987. It has gained popularity in the last 10 years.

"Today, we have fabulous technology to support film music. But listen to the clarity he brought to the sound of the 1960 and 1970s!

"The title song in the film Rama O Rama was my first recording after my father expired. My father died on October 13, 1987, and on January 1, 1988, I recorded Rama O Rama. Pancham died too young. He never took care of his health.

"Even today, Pancham is a chart-topper. Last week, I was with the music company Saregama. They told me their revenues are generated from Kishore Kumar and R D Burman's songs. I am proud to say that after my father, I was Pancham's favourite male voice.

"No one can surpass the impact of Panchamda He was a complete composer."

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