Rahul Dev Burman, also known as R. D. Burman, and Pancham da, (June 27, 1939 to January 4, 1994) was one of the great music composers of Bollywood. Commonly R.D. Burman is known as Pancham among his fans. He was the only son of singer and music composer Sachin Dev Burman and Meera, and the second husband of playback singer Asha Bhosle. He is credited with revolutionizing the music in Hindi films, and his style and techniques continue to be followed by the composers of today.
According to stories, Rahul Dev Burman was nicknamed PANCHAM because, as a child, whenever he cried, it sounded in the fifth note (Pa) of the Indian musical scale. The word Pancham means five (or fifth) in Bengali and Sanskrit. Another version is that when the veteran Indian actor Ashok Kumar saw a newborn Rahul Dev Burman uttering the syllable Pa repeatedly, he nicknamed the boy Pancham. Pancham was born in Calcutta. After coming to Mumbai, he learnt sarod from Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. When he was nine years old, he composed his first song, Aye meri topi palat ke aa, which his father used in the film Funtoosh (1956). The tune of the song Sar jo tera chakraaye was composed by him as a child. His father loved the tune and included it in the soundtrack of Guru Dutt's Pyaasa. As a child, Pancham also played the mouth organ in the famous song Hai apna dil to aawara (from film Solva Saal - 1958, starring Dev Anand). Pancham began his music career as an assistant to his father. His first film as a music director was Chhote nawaab.
He started independent music composing for long. Out of his 331 released movies 292 were in Hindi, 31 in Bangla, 3 in Telugu, 2 each in Tamil & Oriya and 1 in Marathi. RD also composed for 5 TV Serials in Hindi and Marathi. He also scored a large number of non-film songs in Bangla (also known as Pooja songs or modern songs), which are available in different albums. He did a song for a small documentary film called Maa Ki Pukaar too, in 1975.
A good amount of his work, however, is still work in hand (the last 5-6 years of his life), but when he kept composing tunes and stored them.
R D Burman did playback in eighteen movies composed by him. He was famous for unique, grunting bass singing style. He also acted in the film Bhoot Bungla (1965) and Pyar Ka Mausam (1967).
He also used some of the popular western songs to compose his own tunes. His one of the super hit song "Mehbooba Mehbooba" is inspired from the song "Say You Love Me" by the Greek singer Demis Roussos
R D Burman started his career as assistant to his father, Sachin Dev Burman. 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 few songs.
R D Burman's first released movie as a music director was Mehmood's Chhote Nawab (1961). Mehmood once said that he gave the movie to R D Burman because he got tired of R D Burman denting his car with the persistent drumming of his fingers! The first song Ghar aaja ghir aaye to be recorded for the movie was sung by Lata Mangeshkar because R D Burman wanted no one but the legendary singer to sing his first composition for movies. The song brought together S D Burman and Lata Mangeshkar who had stopped recording together since 1957.
R D Burman continued to work as his father's assistant in movies like Bandini (1963), Teen Deviyaan (1965) and Guide (1965). Mehmood gave him his second movie as a music director in 1965 - Bhoot Bangla. The soundtrack is notable for Aao twist karein, a Desi version of Chubby Checker's Let's twist. In the movie, R D Burman also acted alongside Mehmood. He also composed the music of Teesra Kaun in 1965.
R D Burman's first hit movie was Teesri Manzil (1966). Burman gave credit to lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri for recommending him to Nasir Hussain, the producer and writer of Teesri Manzil. Vijay Anand also said that he had arranged a music session for him before Nasir Hussain. After hearing his music, Nasir Hussain made him the music director of Teesri Manzil. Initially, Shammi Kapoor (hero of the movie) was unhappy over choice of R D Burman. He wanted the tried and tested Shankar-Jaikishen, who had composed music for most of his films. However, after hearing R D Burman's music, he had no problems. The songs O haseena and Aaja aaja belonged to a genre that Indian music lovers were unaware of. Mohd. Rafi sang all six songs, four of them were duets with Asha Bhonsle. Nasir Hussain went on to sign R D Burman and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri for six of his films including Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) and Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973).
In 1967, R D Burman composed music for the movies Chandan Ka Palna and Baharon Ke Sapne but neither film did particularly well at the box office, even though Burman's compositions were much liked. Meanwhile, he continued to work as his father's assistant for movies like Jewel Thief (1967) and Talash (1969).
In 1968, Burman had his second major box office hit after Teesri Manzil titled Padosan (1968). His music for the comedy film was much appreciated.
In 1969, Waris and the musical hit Nasir Hussain's Pyar Ka Mausam (where he also acted in a supporting role) were released. For Aradhana (1969), R D Burman was credited as associate composer. When S D Burman fell ill during the recording of Aradhana's (1969) music, Pancham completed the music.
R D Burman was India's most popular composer in 1970s (Bollywood's superstar era), famous for his peppy tunes. He teamed up with singers Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and others to churn up some of the biggest hits in the Bollywood music history.
In 1970, R D Burman composed music for six movies, of which Kati patang (a Rajesh Khanna starrer) was a musical hit.
Eleven more movies with R D Burman as music director were released in 1971. Of these, Amar prem, Buddha mil gaya, Caravan, and Hare Rama Hare Krishna were musical hits. Amar prem is noted for intricate songs based on Indian Classical Music such as Raina beeti jaaye (sung by Lata Mangeshkar) and one of the best sad songs that industry ever produced Chingari Koi Badhke was also in this film. Buddha mil gaya had simple, peppy numbers like Raat kali ek khwab mein aayee and Bhali bhali si ek soorat. It also had a classical song Aayo kahan se Ghanshyam?. Caravan had the best Bollywood cabaret ever - Piya tu ab to aaja, picturized on Helen and sung by Asha Bhosle and R D Burman ("Monica! O my darling"). He also received his first Filmfare Best Music nomination for "Caravan." The title song of Hare Krishna Hare Rama sung by Asha became the hip-hop anthem for the youngsters. The song is used in Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories soundtrack, titled Dum Maro Dum for Radio Del Mundo in 2006. Other songs like Phoolon ka taaron ka and Kaanchi re were also popular.
In 1972, R D Burman composed music for nineteen films. Seeta aur Geeta, Rampur ka Lakshman, Mere jeevan saathi, Bombay to Goa, Apna desh and Parichay were musically successful. The high-pitched Asha-R D Burman duet Duniya mein logon ko from Apna desh became popular. Songs like Beeti na beetayi raina and Musafir Hoon Yaron from Parichay marked the beginning of a fruitful association between R D Burman and lyricist Gulzar. Rajesh Khanna's Mere jeevan sathi had beautiful evergreen Kishore Kumar numbers like O Mere Dil Ke Chain. Also released in 1972 Jawaani diwaani was a hit. Songs like Abhi nahi, Jaan-e-jaan dhoondhta phir raha and the title track were all chart-busters that year.
1973 saw fourteen more R D Burman soundtracks, of which the most successful ones were Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baraat, Shareef badmash, Heera panna and Anamika. In 1974, sixteen movies with R D Burman music were released. Aap ki kasam and Ajanabee were major hits.
In 1975, there were nine movies with R D Burman soundtracks including the superhit Sholay, Deewaar ,Aandhi, Khushboo and Dharam karam. In Sholay, he sang Mehbooba mehbooba, picturised on Helen and Jalal Agha and for which he received his sole Filmfare nomination for playback singing. Aandhi had classic Gulzar songs sung by Kishore-Lata - Is mod se jaate hain, tum aa gaye ho, Tere bina zindagi se koi and others. Khushboo was another R D Burman-Gulzar masterpiece with songs like O manjhi re.
R D Burman also completed the music of Mili (1975) after his father went into coma and died. In 1976, there were 8 movies with R D Burman as music director, of which Mehabooba (1976) was a classic musical film based on reincarnation, where Rajesh Khanna played double role as Singer (Classical and Modern) with a very sophisticated way. Nine more movies were released in 1977. Naam gum jaayega (Kinara, 1977) is another of R D Burman-Gulzar gems, but it was "Kya Hua Tera Wada"(Nasir Hussain's Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, 1977) that revived Mohd. Rafi's career and became one of the most popular songs ever. Although, Kishore Kumar still continued to be the dominant male playback singer for R.D. Burman's songs, the success of "Kya Hua Tera Wada" enabled Burman to use Rafi more frequently.
In 1978, nine more R D Burman releases, including Shalimar and Kasme vaade. Shalimar included hits like Hum bewafa hargiz na the (Kishore Kumar) and the title track (Asha Bhosle). The title track, Mile jo kadi kadi and Aati rahengi baharein of Kasme Vaade were very popular. The title track and Raju chal Raju of Dharmendra-starrer Azaad were also moderately popular. Ghar was a huge hit for R.D. Burman-Gulzar duo with songs like Tere bina jiya jaaye na, Aaj Kal paon zameen par, Phir Wohi Raat hai.
1979 was a relatively full year for R D Burman, although he composed music for ten films. His biggest hit was Golmaal. The most popular songs were Aanewala pal (Kishore Kumar) and the title track (Golmaal hai bhai sab golmaal hai) sung by R D Burman and his assistant Sapan Chakraborty. Few other R D Burman hit songs in 1979 were Jeevan ke har mod pe (Jhoota kahin ka), Rim jhim gire saawan (Manzil), Saawan ke jhoole pade (Jurmana) and Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahani (The great gambler, sung by Asha Bhosle and actor Sharad Kumar).
In 1980, there were ten releases. The film Kudrat ( RD, Majrooh Sultanpuri, 1980) was a musical hit. The song "Humein Tumse Pyar Kitna" was recorded twice with a male singer (Kishore Kumar) and a female singer (Parveen Sultana), who received the Filmfare Best Female Playback Award. R D Burman churned out musical hits like The burning train and Shaan, which were not successful at the box office. The burning train included popular Sahir Ludhiyanvi qawwali sung by Asha Bhosle and Mohammad Rafi - Pal do pal ka saath hamara. The film is also noted for Teri hai zameen, sung by Sushma Shrestha and Padmini Kolhapure as child-singers. Shaan had sizzlers like Pyar karne wale pyar karte hain shaan se (Asha Bhosle), Doston se pyaar kiya (Usha Uthup) and Yamma yamma (duet sung by Rafi and R D Burman). R D Burman also composed for Alibaba aur 40 chor (Приключения Али-Бабы и сорока разбойников in Russian), an Indo-Russian collaboration. Actor Rekha made her singing debut under R D Burman with the songs Kaayada kaayada and Saare niyam tod do in Khubsoorat (1980). The lyrics were penned by Gulzar. Other popular songs included Sun sun didi tere liye (Asha Bhosle) and Piya bavari (Asha and Ashok Kumar). The songs of Abdullah (1980) also became popular. The score is noted for Rafi-song Maine poocha chaand se, in which R D Burman modernised his father Sachin Dev Burman's tune. Mohd. Rafi's death stuns R.D. Burman, as it does the entire nation.
The year 1981 saw R D Burman composing for fifteen films. He created two hit soundtracks with lyricist Gulshan Bawra and Universal Music India (then called Music India) - Satte pe satta and Yeh vaada raha. Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Satte pe satta was a story of 7 brothers and their 7 brides. The songs picturized on the seven brothers were sung by R D Burman, his assistants Basu and Sapan Chakravorty, lyricist Gulshan Bawra, Bhupendra, Anand Kumar C and Kishore Kumar. The songs for the ladies were sung by Asha Bhosle, Annette and Dilraj Kaur. The hit songs include Dukki pe dukki ho, Pyar hamein kis mod pe, Dilbar mere and Zindagi milke bitaayenge. R D Burman's major hit in 1981 was Sanam teri kasam. The hit soundtrack included Kitne bhi tu kar le sitam, Jaan-e-jaan and Dekhta hoon koi ladki haseen among other songs. He received his first Filmfare Award for Best Music for this film, after being nominated for 12 years. received In 1981, R D Burman also composed music for Rocky (Sanjay Dutt's debut movie) and Love story (debut film of Sanjay Dutt's brother-in-law, Kumar Gaurav). The songs from both the movies were popular. However, Rocky bombed on the box office, while Love story was a superhit. Jahan teri yeh nazar hai from Amitabh-starrer Kaalia (1981) also became very popular among listeners.
Fourteen more R D Burman soundtracks were released in 1982. The team of Nasir Hussain, R D Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri (which had started with Teesri Manzil (1966)) presented Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai in 1982. The songs Poocho na yaar kya hua and Dil lena khel hai dildar ka became fleetingly popular, but the consensus was that Burman didn't deliver as strongly for Nasir Hussain this time as he had done previously. The film wasn't a hit either, and it was the last time the late Mohd. Rafi would be heard in a Nasir Hussain-R.D. Burman-Majrooh Sultanpuri collaboration. Ashok Kumar's last song Chalo haseen geet (Shaukeen, 1982) was composed by R D Burman. Angoor (1982) is noted for R D Burman's spoof on the O. P. Nayyar hit Preetam aan milo, sung by Sapan Chakravorty. Bemisal had good music but the film did not do well. In 1983, there were fifteen R D Burman soundtracks, of which Masoom and Agar Tum Na Hote are considered classics. He also received his second consecutive Filmfare Award for Best Music for "Masoom."
In 1984, fourteen R D Burman soundtracks were released. This year, Gulshan Kumar's T-Series made its entry into the arena of original film soundtracks. The company's first major music rights acquisition were for Pramod Chakravorty’s bi-lingual Jagir(Hindi)/Teen Murti(Bengali). The film's music was composed by R D Burman. This year, R D Burman came with somewhat disappointing scores. But he introduced a plethora of talented new singers in these years. Kumar Sanu was given his first break by R D Burman in Yeh desh (1984) as voice of Kamal Hasan. Abhijeet was given his major break by R D Burman in Anand aur Anand (1984). Although he made his debut a long time ago, Hariharan (singer) was first noticed in a duet with Kavita Krishnamurthy, Hai mubarak aaj ka din (Boxer, 1984), which was composed by R D Burman. Nasir Hussain's Manzil Manzil tanked, and critics commented on decline on Burman's music for the film.
In 1985, R D Burman had only two music hits among his 12 soundtracks, Saagar and Alag Alag. Mohammed Aziz, a popular Rafi clone of 1980s, made his debut with Shiva Ka Insaaf (1985) under R D Burman. Nasir Hussain's Zabardast (1985) became his third flop in a row, along with Burman's music. Hussain defended Burman to the press: "I disagree that RD gave weak music in (Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai (1982) and Manzil Manzil(1984)). He was passing through a lean phase during Zabardast." Hussain stopped directing films and handed the reins over to his son Mansoor Khan, who hired other music directors. Hussain put a positive spin on it at the time by saying, "We did not ‘drop’ Pancham – Mansoor felt that he could not possibly tell Pancham Uncle to change his style for him. Pancham will come back the day I direct again, which I plan to do soon." But that never happened. The partnership between Hussain and Burman which had started so strongly nearly twenty years ago with Teesri Manzil (1966) ended with a thud.
1986 is said to be the worst year of his career. None of his 9 soundtracks made a mark that year. After 1986, he started getting less work. The producers who gave him patronage suddenly seemed to have disappeared. Bappi Lahiri's ' plagiarized ' or lifted, Western Disco tunes had taken their toll on R D Burman. The year 1987 saw only 5 releases including the brilliant Ijaazat, which failed to prevent his downfall. Ijaazat is still considered a matchless score, with classics like Choti si kahani se, Khaali haath shaam aayi hi, Katra katra and Mera kuch samaan (which won Asha Bhosle the National Award as Best Singer).
1988 saw some four more R D Burman soundtracks of which Libaas had good songs, but the producer refused to release the film. R D Burman gave music for 6 more movies in 1989, of which Parinda and Joshilaay were successful.
R D Burman's last years were not very pleasant. The few films he composed music for flopped at the box office. Subhash Ghai promised him Ram Lakhan but gave it instead to Laxmikant Pyarelal. This greatly upset Pancham. He suffered from a heart attack in 1988 and underwent heart surgery. During this period, he composed many tunes, which were never released.
R D Burman gave music for few mediocre movies in 1990 (two), 1991 (three) and 1992 (six). In 1993, there were four more releases, of which 1942: A Love Story (released after his death) has an unforgettable score. The film won him the third and last of his Filmfare awards. The music of Janam Se Pehle (1994) was also composed by R D Burman. After his death, Ghatak: Lethal (1996) was released.
After his death, in the late 1990s, the remix versions of R D Burman's hits ruled the Indian music scene. Even today, most of the Indian remix songs are his tunes remixed.
Gang (2000) was released long after R D Burman's death. He was also credited for music of few more films after his death. For example, Monsoon Wedding (credit for Chura liya hai) and Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar (2002), which had R D Burman songs "recreated" by one of his assistants Babloo Chakravorty.
Jhankaar Beats (2003 movie)starring Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose, Juhi Chawla & Rinkie Khanna was sort of a tribute to RDB, wherein Suri & Bose play musicians who revere RDB & his music & whose music is influenced by Burman. There was a remixed version of Burmans popular Kishore Kumar number "Humein tumse pyaar kitna" which was integral to the film.
Foreign collaborations and private albums
R D Burman also produced private albums, including one based on the samba. He also collaborated with Boy George. He has also composed music for an album called Pantera produced by Pete Gavankar in 1987 whose lyrics were written by Jose Flores. The 2002 release "Jhankaar Beats" features one of his famous tunes from the movie Kudrat while paying tribute to him. In 2008 on 26th April, 113 Minute documentry Film made by Brahmanand singh named Pancham Unmixed - Mujhe Chalte Jana Hai was premiered at IIFLA (ArcLight Hollywood), in Los Angeles. The film takes an incisive look into the Pancham’s reflective artistry and buoyant-but-also-lonely inner being. Featuring a host of close friends, colleagues and admirers, the film attempts to evoke awe, admiration and nostalgia the way most of his music does, till date.
Pancham married a lady named Rita in 1966, but they were divorced in 1971. He then married Asha Bhoslein 1980. Together, they recorded many memorable tunes and also staged many live performances. After his father died in 1975, he took care of his mother. After Pancham's death, his mother eventually ended up in old-age home but came back to her late son's house to die on October 15, 2007.
Pancham had financial difficulties particularly later in his life. There have been wide discussions about the disconnect between the success of his music and his financial success. Even today, at any given moment there is some radio or television channel that is playing his music. His music has found a new generation of followers. But unfortunately his music and his talent was never recognized during his life leading to financial difficulties.
There have been accusations of plagiarism against Burman claiming that he often copied, or "lifted" tunes and melodies from several different sources such as popular Western or African tunes. Notable examples of plagiarism can be found online.
Pancham was comfortable with all types of music, be it the romantic Raat kali from Buddha mil gaya (1971), the sexy cabaret Piya tu ab to aaja from Caravan (1971), the ultimate hippie anthem Dum Maro Dum from Hare Krishna Hare Rama (1972) or the classical Raina beeti jaaye. It is said that Dev Anand did not include the complete version of Dum Maro Dum in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, as he was worried the song would overshadow the film. At times, R D doubled up as a singer too. His most famous song as a singer was Mehbooba from Sholay. This song is inspired from the song "Say You Love Me" by Demis Roussos.
Pancham was a very creative person. His percussion included a spoon against a glass (Chura liya hai from Yaadon Ki baraat), desks (Masterji ki aa gayee chitthee from Kitaab) a bamboo whistle with a balloon (Abdullah) and bottles filled with water at different levels (O maajhi re from Khushboo).
Some of Pancham's songs were inspired from popular western tunes. For example,Aao twist karein (Bhoot Bangla) was a direct lift of Come lets twist again by Chubby Checker while Tera mujhse hai pehle ka naata koi (Aaa Gale Lag Ja) is said to be a copy of The Yellow Rose of Texas by Elvis Presley. There are many such other examples available at itwofs. "Bhali Bhali Si Ek Surat" (from Buddha Mil Gaya) is inspired by "Jump in the Line" (by Harry Belafonte).
Pancham also adapted folk music from eastern Europe in some of his tunes, such as the songe in movie Satte Pe Satta. There have been discussions regarding the influence of the communist block of the eastern Europe on Pancham's music.
Pancham has also directed music for some regional films, including Bangla, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi. He also acted in one of the Bengali film named Gayak (starring Amitkumar and Debasri Roy), where RD plays himself and 'discovers' Amit singing on a beach. Pancham's non-filmi music comprises few albums, including 'Pantera' - the international album for which he shares credit with Latin American composer, Jose Flores.
However, his song "Mil Gaya, Humko Saathi Mil Gaya' is a direct lift from the popular ABBA song 'Mamma Mia'.