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An ode to Pancham da

RD Burman’s soul-stirring compositions are timeless and still reminiscent of the past. Here’s an ode to the legendary composer who revolutionised Indian film music

Tathagata Chatterjee
Jun 30, 2021
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RD Burman would have turned 82 earlier this week (June 27). He was a phenomenon way ahead of his time. But how did the gifted composer cast a lifelong influence on humble listeners?

My introduction to R D Burman’s music was when I watched the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna along with my mother and aunt. They were forced to take me along to Menoka Cinema for the film as being a toddler at the time, I couldn’t be left alone. I couldn’t understand the film’s storyline at the time. Rather than educating me, my mother pointed at Dev Anand and told me he was Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island and that was sufficient to keep me hooked. I had just finished reading Treasure Island at the time and couldn’t get the fascinating character out of my head. What’s also embedded in my memory is the sight of a girl vigorously swaying her head to the rhythm of words that reverberated ‘Dum Maro Dum’. I found the rhythm catchy even though I couldn’t figure out what the words meant then or what would’ve inspired her to sway that way. Over the years, I took a fancy to many RD albums but this one will always remain special to me as it was the first time I was introduced to the composer’s tunes.


One’s memories of consuming music during the formative years are often mangled with place and situations in life that one dealt with at the time. I remember watching The Great Gambler along with fellow tourists at a hotel in Madurai during a Durga Puja family vacation. In the middle of the film, even when my father whispered to me that he knew the person disguised under the nom de plume “Bikramaditya” on whose story the film was based, it failed to bother me as I was completely consumed by the film’s plot. But the songs of the film were what stayed with me for much longer.

In 1980, my father who was into James Bond films (and unlike his serious demeanour) took me along to watch Shaan at Elite in Kolkata. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Especially since it was scored by RD. Usha Utthup’s explosive rendition in the opening sequence left an indelible mark on an impressionable mind.


Around the same time, the disco wave had taken over Hindi cinema and I was hooked to the groovy beats too. In 1982, for the first time in my life, I bunked school to watch Sanam Teri Kasam at Roxy in Kolkata. Once again, it was RD’s music that had an intoxicating charm over me and drove me to dare to skip school. So, off I went to Esplanade, roamed around New Market to kill some time and eventually, scurried into the cinema hall to experience the explosive soundtrack coming alive on screen. I remember being riddled with some guilt but the payoff seemed worth it. The following year, the delight doubled when RD received his first Filmfare Best Music Director Award for Sanam Teri Kasam, a scintillating collection of catchy tracks like Kitne Bhi Tu Kar Le Sitam and Jana O Meri Jana (sung by RD himself).


RD’s enviable musical repertoire also happened to be cathartic. I remember in 1982, when I watched the Bengali film Troyee at Prachim, the track Kobey je Kothay Ki Je Holo Bhul (sung by Bhupinder Singh’s soulful voice) hit me hard. It was almost as if RD was trying to musically convey that no matter how badly hurt your heart is, the world doesn’t stop for your grief. The warning was served in advance. The awareness and impact dawned much later. And one did turn to his music for heartbreak too. In 1988, when I was in college and was nursing one, I found solace in the Hindi version of the same song in Naa Mumkin. Rendered in Kishore Kumar’s deep baritone with lyrics by Anjaan, the song is none other than Aye Zindagi Huyi Kahan. Just listening to the number gave me the strength to accept things the way they were and move forward. And on the maestro’s 82nd, when the whole world continues to grapple with the ongoing pandemic, let’s play an RD Burman classic and momentarily be transported to a place where everything seems fine and nothing hurts.

Here’s our pick of the top 10 albums by RD Burman:

Amar Prem, Aandhi, Yaadon Ki Baarat, Masoom, Golmaal, Hum Kissi Se Kam Nahin, Padosan, Rocky, Sanam Teri Kasam, 1942 A Love Story

About The Author:
Tathagata Chatterjee is an advertising professional based out of NCR. He likes to read, write, watch films and listen to music in his spare time. He can be reached at @TathagataChatt2 on Twitter.

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