RD Burman, Musings on some lesser known aspects of the Boss


Pancham was the nickname of Rahul Dev Burman. He was a worthy son of a great father, Sachin Dev Burman. They are more popularly called RD Burman and SD Burman.

Much is known and discussed about Pancham and Asha Bhosle, and also about Pancham and Kishore Kumar. However much less is known about his early life, his experimentation with acting, his personal role as a musician and how he met his 1st wife. Similarly, how he got his breakthrough and details of his collaborations with Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi are less known.

Lets take a trivia journey through these less discussed aspects.

The early years;

Born to Sachin Dev Burman and Meera Dasgupta, Rahul was initially nicknamed Tublu but later was called Pancham, a name which remained with his throughout life. Some say Ashok Kumar called him Pancham as he repeatedly said only Pa, pa and pa. Others say that he was nicknamed Pancham as he could cry in all 5 notes. A third theory is that when as a child he cried, it sounded like the 5th note, Pa. Anyways, the name Pancham stuck to him throughout.

The tune “Sar jo tera chakraye” was composed by Pancham as a child. and used by SD Burman in Pyaasa Even earlier when he was just 9, he composed his 1st song, “Ae meri topi palat ke aa” which was used by his dad in Funtoosh.

It is said that Pancham got into bad company and hence SD sent him off to Salil Choudhury and Ustad Ali Akbar Khan for training. He also learnt rhythm from tabla maestro Brajen Biswas and the sarod from Ashish Khan.

Pancham the musician

Yaad aa gai vo nashili nigahen, a song sung by Hemant Kumar in the movie Manzil, had music by SD and the harmonica (French harp or mouth organ) was played by Pancham. So also in the iconic song ” Hai apna dil to awaara“, also sung by Hemant Kumar in the movie Solva Saal, with music by SD, Pancham played the harmonica. In the Lata song “Ae meri zindagi“, in the movie Taxi Driver, Pancham played the Bongo.

He was a successful music arranger for a long time, until he started working on his own and succeeded with a bang with Teesri Manzil.  He had an eye for talent and put together a team of fabulous musicians including Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Kersy Lord , Louis Banks and Laxmikant Pyarelal.

Pancham the Actor;

Bhoot-bangla (haunted house) was a horror-comedy movie directed by Mehmood. Pancham plays Stocky, a Youth club member who enters the haunted house with Mehmood, the Club President. Aao twist karen is a memorable song of this movie.

Pancham also acted in Pyar ka Mausam, in which he plays a comic sidekick of Rajendra Nath, named Jhatpat Singh in the movie. The iconic song “Tum bin jaoon kahaan” is played as many as 5 times in the movie, thrice on Shashi Kapoor ( Rafi version) and twice on Bharat Bhushan ( Kishore version)

Yes, music of both these films were by Pancham. He had also got the chance to play Bhola in Padosan but declined the offer as he wanted to concentrate on his music. This turned out to be one of Sunil Dutt’s best movies.

Apart from these two Hindi movies, he also did a cameo role in the Bangla movie Anyay Abichar. 

The breakthrough- Teesri ManzilPancham and Shammi Kapoor

Pancham had worked hard in composing several tunes for Teesri Manzil, in which Dev Anand was supposed to be the hero. However, Shammi kapoor replaced Dev Anand and Pancham thought that his chances were gone as Shammi Kapoor was a superstar and had his own team and his preferred music director, Jaikishen.

However, it is the greatness of Jaikishen that he convinced Shammi Kapoor to give a chance to RD. Shammi asked RD to sing a song. Pancham started with a Nepali folk song which Shammi said he will give to Jaikishen and said give more tunes. Pancham took up the challenge, sang the songs he had prepared for Teesri Manzil, namely Diwana mujhsa nahin, Oh hasina, Oh mere sona re sona and Aaja, aaj.

Shammi then said that Pancham has passed the test and now he would be the music director for Teesri Manzil and he would give him more opportunities in future too.

Pancham and Rafi

The Pancham-Kishore partnership has been much discussed. However it is not that Pancham did not like Rafi, it is just that he preferred Kishore and the duo developed an amazing chemistry.

Pancham and Rafi have given us some magical solos and duets like Gulaabi Aankhen (The train) , Chand mera dil (Hum kisise kum nahin), Aaja aaja ( Teesri Manzil), O haseena zulfon wali jane jahan ( Teesri manzil), Tumne mujhe dekha ( Teesri Manzil) Chura liya hai (Yaadon ki baaraat), Yamma Yamma ( Shaan), Jaanu meri jaan (Shaan), Maine poocha chaand se ( Abdullah), Ni sultana re (Pyar ka mausam) and Poocho na yaar kya hua (Zamaane ko dikhaana hai).

Interestingly Rafi Saab’s only National award was for a Pancham composition “Kya hua tera Wada” from Hum kisise kum nahin. 

Pancham and Lata

Pancham met Lata Mangeshkar for the 1st time at Kardar studio in 1950 when SD was recording for Naujawan. He saw a thin girl in a simple saree and mistook her to be a pilot singer before his Dad introduced them and he has been a fan ever since. Pancham says that Lata was unique as her voice has a special high frequency suitable for dynamic microphones and she sounds different without a mike.

Lata didi has said that Pancham was extremely talented and could compose in any style. He knew which song to give to which singer. For instance , while “Piya tu ab tu aaja” was given to Asha, “Raina beet jaaye” was given to Lata. Didi goes on to say that one of the the signature tune of her career, “Naam ghum jayega” was given by Pancham. Lata Didi also says that two composers who grew in stature after passing away were Pancham and Madan Mohan.

Pancham and Rita Patel

Pancham had become a huge star with the success of Teesri Manzil. He had met Rita Patel in Darjeeling and she wanted him to go for a movie with her. He agreed, but then in the interval she vanished. Pancham somehow caught up with her and asked why. She replied that she wanted to win a bet that she could go for a movie with the Teesri Manzil star music director. Pancham laughed and said, you wanted to go on a movie with me, now i want to go to a movie with you. They soon got married but the marriage lasted only a few years.

Pancham is such a fascinating personality that it is not possible to do justice to him in a single blog; Part 2 will come up soon…….

The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films and music.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Pragativadi.com and Pragativadi.com does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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