4th January 1994: R.D. Burman, renowned music director, died

A leading and influential music director of the Hindi film industry, Rahul Dev Burman was born on June 27, 1939 in Calcutta. He died on January 4, 1994. R.D. Burman’s father S.D. Burman was a renowned film composer himself. His mother Meera Dev was a lyricist.

R.D. Burman, known as Pancham da in the film world, studied at Calcutta’s St Xavier’s School. He was trained in Hindustani classical music by stalwarts such as the sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. He started his career by assisting his father in films such as ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’ (1959), ‘Bandini’ (1963), and ‘Guide’ (1965). As an independent music director his first released film was ‘Chhote Nawab’ (1961), produced by the comedian Mehmood who had initially approached Burman’s father for the job.

Burman’s first hit as music director was the film ‘Teesri Manzil’ (1966). The film’s six songs were sung by Mohammed Rafi (of which four were duets by Asha Bhosle) and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri. The songs included such popular numbers as “O Mere Sona Re Sona Re”, “O Haseena Zulfonwali Jaane Jahan” and “Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyar Tera”. Burman later married Bhosle.

The producer of ‘Teesri Manzil’ Nasir Hussain signed the Burman and Sultanpuri pair for several films including ‘Baharon Ke Sapne’ (1967) and ‘Yaadon Ki Baaraat’ (1973).

The latter’s hit songs included “Yaadon Ki Baarat Nikli Hai” (sung by Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar) and “Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko” (sung by Rafi and Bhosle).

The 1968 comedy ‘Padosan’ had several popular songs such as “Mere Saamne Wali Khidki Mein” (sung by Kishore Kumar) composed by Burman.   

Burman teamed up with his father in films such as ‘Jewel Thief’ (1967) and the 1969 film ‘Aradhana’. Later, recalling his early days as a music director, in an interview to Filmfare magazine in June 1984, Burman said: “Till the end of 1964 I didn’t have much work. ‘Teesri Manzil’ was the only big hit to my credit. It was only after I assisted my father in ‘Aradhana’ that producers thought ‘Pancham ko bhi kaam dena chahiye’. Shaktida [director Shakti Samanta] who had seen me work in ‘Aradhana’ gave me his ‘Kati Patang’. My assignments started picking up then on.”

Teaming up with singer Kishore Kumar in the 1970s, Burman delivered several hit songs such as “Yeh Shaam Mastani”, many of them in films starring Rajesh Khanna who then was going through his super-stardom phase. Burman tried something new in “Dum Maro Dum”, which was sung by Asha Bhosle in the film ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’, making it one of the great numbers of the era.

Some famous numbers composed by Burman in the early 1970s include “Raina Beeti Jaaye”; “Raat Kali Ek Khwab Mein Aayi” and “Piya Tu Ab To Aaja”. Other popular films in which his music played an important role included ‘Aap ki Kasam’ (1974), Aandhi (1975), and Sholay, one of Indian cinema’s biggest hits. Burman’s hit run continued in films such as ‘Gol Maal’ (1979) and ‘Khubsoorat’ (1980). However, he found commercial success a little elusive as the eighties progressed.

In the Filmfare interview he agreed that the way a song was filmed had a big impact on its eventual success. “The song Na Mein Dhan Chahun (‘Kala Bazar’) sounded very good when recorded and might have helped the film. It was a key song in the film but was filmed very badly; the placement was wrong and didn’t sound good at all,” he said. “In ‘Mehbooba’ all the songs were badly filmed and harmed the film. Shakti Samanta is of course good, but in this case he missed the bus. Before this film was released the songs could be heard blaring from loudspeakers but two weeks after the release they too were rejected by the audience.”

Burman underwent surgery in 1989 after suffering from a heart attack in 1988. He died in 1994. Many singers and musicians in India have been influenced by Burman. The jazz artiste Aarti Rao-Shetty told The Hindu in June 2013: He [Burman] had the pulse, the groove and the melody to drive the most conservative [person] to the dance floor and the most inhibited [person] to break into song. His music was compelling, his melodies were ear worms and his clever incorporation of rhythms of the world with bongos and congas were simply superb. If anyone knew how to blend jazz, Latin and rock ’n’ roll into Hindi film music, creating a brand new sound, it was R.D. Burman.”

Burman was once asked which award mattered to him the most of all the awards he had won in his lifetime. He replied: “When in any railway station, I listen to any of my composed songs in the voice of a porter — perhaps he doesn’t know me — is there any appreciation or recognition bigger than this?”

Also on this day:

1950 — Binayak Sen, human rights activist, was born

1957 — Gurdas Maan, Punjabi singer and actor, was born

1965 — Aditya Pancholi, Hindi film actor, was born

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