Cult creator: What makes RD Burman’s music appeal to the youngsters of today?
Exactly 27 years ago, in the wee hours of January 4, 1994, Bollywood music icon Rahul Dev Burman (Panchamda) made his untimely exit into immortality. It was an agonising shock for his legion of loyal fans, who idolised him for his scintillating scores.
RD, the ‘rebel-utionary’ composer-singer, who was fondly called ‘boss’ by his team of extraordinary musicians, left behind a trailblazing rich repertoire of his timeless tunes. Some of which have inspired myriad remixes, that continue to enthrall the millennial youth and mesmerise the middle-aged alike. Testimony to RDB’s evergreen songs is evident in the Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (1972) song recreated in Karan Johar’s movie, Student of The Year 2, retaining the ‘gili-gili-akkha’ scat-phrases. More recently, Burman Jr’s racy romantic track Humne Tumko Dekha (1975) was recycled by Google as their commercial jingle! After so many decades, mind-boggling sounds (like ‘wakaao’) and hook lines of chartbuster RDB-songs still command instant recall.
Attached but detached
Way back in the 1980s, as a budding film scribe, I was often invited to interview the affable RDB, at live recordings at Film Center (I consider myself ‘truly blessed’). That was where I got to observe the witty, jovial genius at work with that maverick method in his madness. We would also catch up at filmy parties and movie premieres, and converse about world music trends. RD had a fetish for Latin-American music and rhythms − remember his album, Pantera (1987)?
Once I began bonding, with Panchamda, he would fondly pepper me with ‘gaalis’ (abusive slang) or play discreet pranks on me, whenever I turned up late at some filmi party or event he was co-hosting.
Versatile melody-queen Asha Bhosle had shared with me that although Bubs (which was what she would fondly call RDB) was a fabulous composer of romantic melodies, he was somewhat detached in real life. Always young at heart, he was totally attached to his music − he literally lived, slept and breathed music (RDB’s rhythmic breathing fillers in iconic songs like Piya Tu Ab Toh and Duniya Mein Logon prove it). Diamonds and luxury cars hardly fascinated him. But he did have a quirky sense of humour.
“Knowing my obsession for cleanliness, he once sent me a gift-wrapped broom along with a rose. We had a one-upmanship game between us, as to who was better at cooking,” recalls madame Bhosle, wearing a smile.
Big heart and little fuss
Panchamda continues to be my inspirational guru, with whom I began my journalistic writing career, and I wish to share five lessons I learnt during my association with the mahaan yet bade dilwala musical phenomenon who ruled Bollywood from 1983 to 1993.
▪ Have a sense of humility. Despite his celeb status and cultish youth anthem melodies, he would brush away showers of praise with the self-effacing stance of, “I don’t know how, but those tunes just happened.”
▪ Dare to experiment, reinvent and defy musical norms. “If you are not different, the audience is likely to be indifferent,” he explained.
▪ Work with a team, motivated by creative freedom. “My musicians don’t work for me, they work with me,” revealed ‘Boss’.
▪ Strive to be yourself. It’s generally considered next to impossible for a composer or singer to not just leap out of the towering shadow of a legendary father, but also surpass that level of popularity. But Rahulda proved he was a super chip off the old Sachinda block.
▪ Be resilient. (Maybe like the frequent echo effects in his songs). Bounce back with a knock out smash hit whenever you stagger.
After pack-up, moody Rahulda’s passions included driving (he steered with one hand, cooking delicious food at home, nurturing chilly plants and watching football matches. A magical maestro, he could conjure up a serenading classical raga theme or a peppy Western romantic tune out of thin air, in maybe 55 seconds. Strangely, one of RDB’s ever-relevant retro tracks, also sung by him, goes, Kal Kya Hoga Kisko Pataa, Abhi Zindagi Ka, Ley Lo Mazaa. Futuristic, prophetic. That is the Pancham punch!
Chaitanya Padukone is an award-winning senior entertainment journalist and author of the book of memoirs, R D BurMania.
From HT Brunch, January 3, 2021
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