Monday, 30th October 2017

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Jaago sonewaalon!

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By Rahul Dev Burman was great. But was supreme greatness thrust upon him? By P. Bhaskar Rao
  • Published 2.02.07
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It was during the making of Guide (1964) that its music director Sachin Dev Burman fell ill and was advised rest for four months. Several producers who had signed Dada had to switch over to other composers. But Dev Anand, who was producing Guide, refused to do so though only one song was recorded till then. Dada asked Dev to let R. D. Burman take over; Dev agreed that Pancham was good, but said that Guide would go with S.D. Burman only and will be released with just one song if SD could not complete it.

Comedian Mehmood was producing his film in 1961 and went to Dada with a handsome signing amount. But the latter told him that he didn’t work with any and everyone. It was only then that Mehmood could succeed in signing on son RD for Chhote Nawab.

The above instances do give us an idea of the character and respect the senior Burman commanded, but also show the initial travels of the junior to gain a foothold in the industry. Thus began the career of a trendsetter-to-be that is Rahul Dev Burman. It was 12 years back in the month of January that Hindi cinema music lost him, but the younger generation of today still adores him.

It is an undeniable fact that Pancham (Ashok Kumar nicknamed RD thus) was highly talented and gave excellent tunes in the pre-Aradhana (1969) era. Tunes like Ghar aaja ghir aayee (Chhote Nawab), Jaago sonewaalon (Bhoot Bangla), Sharabi mera naam ho gaya (Chandan Ka Palna) hit the pop charts, but films were hard to come by. Mainly depending on Rafi and Lata, it was not until 1967 that he brought in Asha in Teesra Kaun (Achcha sanam) and continued with her in a big way and in later years also married her. It was Teesri Manzil (1967) which established him as a new wave composer who brought about a certain freshness in Hindi cinema music. But what we intend to point out here is how this multi-talented, master experimentor lost touch with quality and melody in later years.

Having helped out his father along with veteran Jaidev in the 60s, including Guide, he had a large treasure of classical music tunes to his credit. But a decision to woo a later generation by getting trendy and using his beat-based, West-inspired jazzy fusion music seemed to cut short his creativity.

It was SD who patronised Kishore Kumar’s voice since the 50s when he got him to playback for Dev Anand (Jaal, 1954) and Dada’s use of Kishore perhaps stands a class above most of the RD presentations, contrary to belief! Starting from De bhi chuke hum dil nazrana (with Geeta Dutt) in Jaal there are scores of unforgettable Kishore melodies from the Senior Burman stable. Even the other composers who scored in Kishore-acted films, like C. Ramchandra (Ina meena deeka, Asha Bhosle, 1957), Shankar Jaikishan in Shararat (1957), .P. Nayyar in Naya Andaz, Ragini, Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala, Madan Mohan in Bhai Bhai, Ladki, Chacha Zindabad, Lakshmikant Pyarelal in Mr X in Bombay and many more seem to have actually got better results from Kishore going by the number of films in which they used Kishore’s voice. It may be mentioned here that RD scored in about 340 movies and the number of songs he has given to Rafi, Manna Dey, Mukesh and other male singers put together may amount to hardly a hundred. The rest of the songs in male voice are those of Kishore. Given this fact, can any fan of RD pick a hundred Kishore songs of either quality or popularity from their Guru’s stables?

The millions of fans of RD had only gone overboard in glorifying their hero and have little realised that he could have done a far better job. There wasn’t a single instrument he couldn’t play. He played the mouth organ in his father’s Solva Saal (Hemant Kumar hit Hai apna dil to awaara) and in later years introduced the electric organ in haseena zulfonwaali (Teesri Manzil). A singer in his own right he provided different tunes for his own self. His association with Naseer Husain (Teesri Manzil, Baharon Ke Sapne, Pyar Ka Mausam, Caravan, Yadon Ki Baraat, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai), Shakti Samanta (Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Ajnabee) and Dev Anand (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Heera Panna, etc) have opened the floodgates of his inherent talent to the other producers and didn’t look back right through the 70s. Yet, there is something we find missing from the Junior Burman. He held centrestage in the musical arena of that era, but the big question — did we have the best of songs then? Why is it widely believed that the decay in musical standards in Hindi cinema began from the 70s? The Hindustani classical music support to cinema music was on the wane and copying the West had become commonplace. RD had his own khazsana of classical talent and why did he have to copy or be lured by the tunes which would have a momentary phase? Numerous tunes have been lifted straight from the Western originals like his Aao twist karein (Chubby checker), Mil gaya hum ko saathi mil gaya (Mama mia, Abba). Many of SD’s tunes too have been reproduced straight or rehashed in several of his films.

Coincidentally, and perhaps unfortunately, the 70s saw a number of senior composers and melody makers retiring or quitting the scene and lyricists not finding favour with the listening public thanks to the rot that had set in. Good lyrics gave way to foot-tapping and over instrumentation. Composers like Shankar- Jaikishan, Naushad, Roshan, C. Ramchandra, Madan Mohan, Jaidev, Ravi and .P. Nayyar had seen and given their best by then. It was only Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji who could just manage to walk that extra mile.

It may be recalled that this sub-standardism that crept in had given rise to the Ghazal craze in the 80s and we saw the likes of Mehndi Hasan, Ghulam Ali from Pakistan suddenly growing popular especially in the Hindi heartland, followed by a host of their desi counterparts.

As a result the 80s drew almost a blank with hardly any mentionable film songs. So can we conclude that the post-Aradhana scenario in Hindi cinema music had gone from bad to worse? And thanks to the likes of RD and Bappi Lahiri? And when some semblance of quality began to be restored by the 90s, composers like Nadeem-Shravan and Ismail Durbar, we find a miserable dearth of singers. When RD himself resurrected Kishore, the giant of a Rafi was overshadowed, and names and songs of Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey, Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor and Suman Kalyanpur were lost in the R.D. Burman-led 70s musical din.