RD Burman: Music Maestro of Bollywood

Although its common for star kids to get into the show business, very few star kids actually go on to display talents and create ‘works’ that match/exceed the ones created by their parents. Rahul Dev Burman, the only son of composer Sachin Dev Burman was one such star kid.

On his 77th birth anniversary, Bollywood remembers R D Burman, popularly known as Pancham Da, and share their sweet memories with the genius.

Even Google, acknowledging the genius, paid tribute to the legendary music composer through a doodle on its home page, on his 77th birth anniversary.


Facts about RD Burman

  • It is said that little Burman could cry in five different notes and because, Pancham means five, he got the nickname ‘Pancham’.
  • Popular song Sar Jo Tera Chakraaye was composed by Pancham when he was very young. His father decided to include the soundtrack for Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa.
  • RD Burman played the mouth organ in the popular song ‘Hai Apna Dil to Aawara’, composed by SD Burman.
  • Pancham Da composed music for more than 330 movies. He also won the Filmfare award for best music director three times in 1983, 1984 and 1995 (Very few considering the quantum of good work he created).
  • Many in Bollywood feel that Pancham Da was not given due recognition for his creations during his lifetime, and people started acknowledging the genius only after his death.
  • The many who ruled the music scene for almost 2 decades, was completely sidelined in the eighties
  • Filmfare Awards started the Filmfare RD Burman Award for New Music Talent in the industry, in 1995, just a year after his death.

Teesri Manzil

The film is a milestone in RD Burman’s career as it was his first hit in the film industry; the style of music composed by RD for the movie was totally different from what was heard till then. There was no looking back for Pancham from there on.

Watch: Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyar Tera.

Singer Shailendra Singh sung several 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.

Gave Music for Sholay

RD Burman was also part of the biggest blockbuster in the history of Indian cinema – Sholay. R.D. Burman sang for ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’, a high-voltage song that’s played even today in clubs. The song has since then been remixed several times, but the original one still rocks.

Watch: Mehbooba Mehbooba

Battling the Testing Times of 1980s

Film buffs who are old enough to remember the films made in the 1980s, would remember the time when music in most Hindi films was just trash (later half of the eighties). And even legends like RD Burman would get very little work.

But why did music take a backseat?

Things had changed, the original superstar Rajesh Khanna was on his way out; the new superstar ‘Angry Young Man’ Mr. Amitabh Bachchan was churning out blockbusters. Unfortunately for RD Burman, Mr. Bachchan worked with filmmakers like Manmohan Desai and Prakash Mehra (who had not worked with RD much).

With the advent of the Video Cassette Recorder (VCR), people had easy access to films (mostly pirated ones). Quality gave way to quantity, and standards fell across all departments of filmmaking, including music.

Few years later, the trend was to make remakes of South Indian films, with Jeetendra, Sridevi & Jaya Prada in the lead. Filmmakers were keen to roll out their films faster, and were not ready to commit time for better music.

Things were particularly bad for music in the second half of the decade (1980).

Shammi Kapoor once asked RD Burman, how are things going, and RD replied that he has not recorded a song in the last 2-3 months. Things were bad for the genius.

Despite the horrible 1980s, RD Burman did compose some great numbers during that period – Roz roz aankhon tale (Jeeva, 1986), Jab chaha yaara tumne (Zabardast, 1985), Ae saagar ki lehron (Samundar, 1985), Aisa sama na hota (Zameen Aasmaan, 1984), Tu rootha to mai ro doongi sanam (Jawaani, 1984), Samundar me nahake (Pukar, 1983), Mammaya kero kero kero mmma (Arjun, 1985), all songs of Sagar (1985), 1942 a love story (1994).