Remembering Pancham Da: A collection of anecdotes by people who worked with RD Burman to mark the 77th birth anniversary of the legendary musician.
In his small flat in Mumbai, an excited Gulshan Bawra wanted to show us his kitchen. The lyricist stopped at the utensils rack, took down a rice pot and turned it upside down. “Here stood Pancham. He had come to my house, as usual, for dinner and drinks. And he started beating a rice pot this way, singing impromptu, Sarson da saag bana de anju, makki di roti bana de anju…”
“In the other room, I took the pen and the paper to just put some other words to that tune which he was singing to my wife who started preparing the Punjabi dish. The lyric came quickly: Kasme wade nibhayenge hum/ milte rahenge janam janam”
Watch Amitabh Bachchan and Rakhee in Kasme Waade
Gulzar and Rahul Dev Burman was a fabled jodi. In Gulzar’s words, “we have spent our youth together.” But in number of songs with SD Burman’s son, Bawra stood just behind Anand Bakshi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Bawra event lent his voice to one of RD’s famous songs—Pyar Humen kis Mod pe le aaya (Satte pe Satta)—singing just one word: “Haay” (in Shakti Kapoor’s lip).
“One evening at Filmcentre (the studio where Burman recorded his maximum songs), I was sleeping on the floor and Pancham was preparing for the next day’s recording. When he finished one line, mere munh se nikal gaya, haay. He stopped recording and told me to say ‘haay’ in different ways. The next thing he told me was to come next day for the song recording.”
Watch Pyar Humein Kis Mod Pe from Satte Pe Satta
Whoever worked with RD Burman, had fond memories of the man who always maintained that conceiving a song was not enough, it has to be nurtured. Shailendra Singh had already shot to fame before RD Burman called him to sing for Rishi Kapoor-starrer Khel Khel Mein. Singh was ecstatic and on the first day, RD gave him an audio cassette with the dummy song recorded in it. The cassette also contained the original English song from which RD planned his score. On the cassette cover, Singh later saw, written in small letters: “Bappi ko mat dikhana”. A mischievous RD didn’t want rival Bappi Lahiri to know about his “inspirations”.
Back home, Singh wanted his other family members also hear what his first song with RD would be. Within a few minutes an embarrassed Singh scrambled to stop the cassette player. The reason: the dummy song, in RD’s own voice was laced with expletives. Later, when Singh confronted RD, he simply giggled, “oh! You didn’t know my style? I often use gaali as dummy words.”
Singh had many memorable songs with RD but he won’t probably forget that one big loss: He was all set, rehearsed and ready to sing O Hansini in Rishi Kapoor’s film Zehreela Insaan. A day before the recording the Bombay musicians went on a strike. “When the strike was over after a month, Kishore’da (Kishore Kumar) recorded the song,” said Singh was a dry smile.
Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle sang their maximum duets with RD Burman. And both of them shared a deep personal bonding with the flamboyant music director. Once Pancham had arranged a belly dance show exclusively for Kishore Kumar. The payments were made but the dancers didn’t turn up. They waited for more than two hours and finally, Kishore turned to Burman and sang, “Shey toh elo na, elo na.” RD lapped up the tune, “yeh zindagi kuchh bhi sahi (film: Romance)” thus got life.
His associates like Bhanu Gupta would tell us how from a rotation of a defective fan, he got the tune “Suno, Kaho, Kaha Suna” or, from the strumming of a chord in guitar created “Musafir hoon yaaron”, which he played to Gulzar at the middle of the night. A Nepali shepherd’s folk song became the prelude music for “Poochho na Yaar kya Hua (Zaamane ko Dikhana Hai)”.
Watch Pucho Na Yaar Kya Hua
In short, RD Burman created music from all sources. And he created music for all.
(The writer had interviewed many associates of RD Burman in his earlier jobs)
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