Remember Satte pe Satta and the duplicate Amitabh Bachchan? There is a haunting piece of music which plays in the background when the other Amitabh Bachchan (Babu) walks out of jail, is actually a sound of gargles. R. D. Burman's Pancham featured the singer record that piece with water in her mouth. From a bunch of keys to physically playing a beat on the back of a shirtless studio worker and then the unforgettable spoon on glass sound at the start of Chura Liya; Pancham could make music out of everything.
For a composer as talented as R D Burman to be almost jobless in the last few years of his life was a living death. Lata Mangeshkar once recalled that 'he died Unhappy- industry was not kind to him'. How cruel the industry was to Pancham just because some of his music didn't do well. His own wife Asha, who often criticized Bappi Lahri’s music and called him ‘Sasta Pancham’ went on to record several songs with Bappi, as during the mid 80’s he replaced R D Burman and became the first choice of every producer. Vidhu Vinod Chopra has gone on records and accepted that during the making of his film 1942 A love story he wasn’t happy with one of his compositions so he rudely said to RD ‘I don’t want your drama, I want your music’. Sadly, This is how the industry works. You are as good as your last project ! Thankfully his last was the best in class.
He provoked a sonic revolution with Dum Maro Dum in 1971 which sent the nation into a trance and in the same year he stunned everyone when he composed Raina Beeti Jaye for Amr Prem. Mehmood once said that he gave his friend Rahul his break as music director in Chhote Nawab because he got tired of Rahul denting his car with the persistent drumming of his fingers. His later association with Nasir Hussain catapulted Rahul into the big league. Even as Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Jawani Diwani made Pancham a pop icon, he often teamed up with Gulzar to produce gems like Tum Aa Gaye ho, Naam Gum Jaye Ga and Tujh Se Naraaz. Even in the early 80’s, he was the first choice for romantic films like Love Story, Rocky and Betaab.
Unfortunately, the decline came in the late 80’s and early 90’s when he stopped getting work. Asha, his wife said ‘with the coming of Bappi Lahri,his producers disappeared. If they get a plagiarized tune at a lower cost, why would they come to original?’ He passed away few weeks after the release of his last project 1942-A Love Story, the songs of which are timeless and are remixed to date. His fans like me still lament his early death. But then, as a consolation, Burman has left us his dazzling repertoire, many a ready fix for RD junkies and their forever companions on the roads.
– Sadiq Saleem is a Dubai based entertainment writer. He can be contacted on his page fb/sidsaidso.