Right notes for RD's tunes

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By JHINUK MAZUMDAR
  • Published 20.07.08
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Name: Bhanu Gupta (Picture by Bishwarup Dutta)

Age: 76

Claim to fame: For almost 30 years, Gupta was part of the group of musicians who brought RD Burman’s timeless compositions to life.

Musical career: His association with Burman started in 1965 and continued up to the composer’s death in 1994. “I was a part of all his compositions during the period and played guitar and harmonica for him. Panchamda taught me to play different rhythm patterns on the guitar.”

“Burman could find music in the creaking of a ceiling fan and the crumpling of a sheet of paper. If I played a staccato rhythm or hummed something, he would find music in it. Later I used to play the tunes that he would like since I understood his preferences,” smiles Gupta.

“Burman was a hard taskmaster. He was a perfectionist and matching his standards as a newcomer was initially difficult. Moreover, syncopated rhythms are tough. But it was a great learning experience.” The songs of Aandhi and Amar Prem are some of Gupta’s favourite numbers.

Post 1994, he has played for Anu Malik, Nadeem Shravan and Bappi Lahiri, among others.

Ballygunge to Bombay: The man from Ballygunge Place learnt to play harmonica himself. “There was little scope for music in Calcutta and so I left my job in a private firm and much against the wishes of my family, went to Mumbai in 1959,” he says.

He started by playing for Bipin Dutta and later played for Madan Mohan and Salil Chowdhury. “While recording for Chowdhury, I chanced upon a guitar in his studio. I bought a guidebook and started practising the instrument for hours. Madan Mohan picked me to play for him in 1963. Around that time, Burman needed a guitarist for a couple of songs. I was called in but not as a sitting member. But I believe he liked me.”

Home at last: Gupta returned to the city in January this year because he wants to do something for his “own people”. Born and brought up in Burma, he had first come to the city at 18 and stayed for nine years before shifting to Mumbai.

“The Mumbai music world is great but even after all these years I could not adapt to the culture there. So I am back and I want to stay here,” says Gupta, who is now busy recording an album. “I am also working on the unpublished songs of Salil Chowdhury, and releasing them.” He also teaches guitar at his Moore Avenue home.