"Naam gum jaayegaa, cheharaa ye badal jaayegaa
Meree aawaaj hee pahachaan hai, gar yaad rahe…"
Rahul Dev Burman's name is one to reckon with in not just Indian music circles, but the world over. He is responsible for giving Hindi cinema several genres of music and also for shaping the success of many other people who are today in the limelight.
Burman is also referred to as RD or better still as Pancham aka Pancham Da. Pancham in Bengali means fifth and it is said that his infantile wails sounded like the fifth note of the Indian octet (Pa or Pancham) and hence the name. Some other family sources say that the veteran film actor Ashok Kumar had named the boy Pancham because of his repeated use of the sound "Pa". Whatever be the historical origin of the name, it has become a permanent one in the annals of history.
RD was born to Sachin Dev Burman and Mira Burman on 27th June 1939. He spent some of his formative years in Kolkata but later moved to Mumbai. Music was in his genes and he was under the tutelage of his renowned father, but he also trained on the sitar under Ali Akbar Khan.
In 1958 Guru Dutt gave him the foray to enter the world of professional music with Raaz but the 19 year old RD needed more time to mature in order to reckon with music direction. He heeded this signal and he hit it off with Mehmood's Chhote Nawaab in 1961. Thereafter the genius didn't need to look back and he went on to make 331 films, 5 TV serials, 164 non film songs(134 Bengali, 30 Hindi) and his expertise spanned 5 languages.
However after the first few films he apprenticed his father with the latter's music direction which proved to be a great source of learning for RD. The film that earned RD enormous laurels was Nasir Hussain's Teesri Manzil and he was able to debunk the theory that RD was making full use of his father's abilities and name. "O haseena…" and "Ajaa ajaa…" spelt magic for the music goer and RD became a household name. Hit after hit followed and they brought home a series of awards. Some of his most fondly remembered films are 1942: A Love Story (1994), Ijaazat (1987), Saagar (1985), Sitamgar (1985), Betaab (1983), Love Story (1981), Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (1977), Khushboo (1975), Aandhi (1975), Sholay (1975), Aap Ki Kasam (1974), Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972), Jawani Diwani(1972), Parichay (1972), Apna Desh (1972), Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1972), Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Seeta Aur Geeta(1972), Amar Prem(1972), Mela(1971), Caravan (1971), Buddha Mil Gaya (1971), Kati Patang (1971), Pyaar Ka Mausam (1969), Padosan (1968).
Shelley had remarked that "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts" and RD Burman exemplifies this. His marriage to Rita Patel fell through within 5 years and he then married Asha Bhosle for whom he carved a special niche in the world of films. However there are mixed reviews of this marriage too and the irony of his life is that the man who is responsible for enormous turn-overs of various music companies and musical legends himself staggered under financial losses and passed away on 4th January 1994.