Sachin Dev Burman, also known by the title of Sachin Karta owing to his royal lineage of the Comilla Rajbari (erstwhile East Bengal and Assam) was born on 2nd October, 1906 to Nabadip Chandra Deb Burman, an expert at the sitar, the Dhrupad gharana and sculpture. Burman finished his schooling and graduation from Comilla and arrived in Kolkata to pursue higher studies. While at Comilla, Sachin Dev Burman was under the tutelage of his father while there were other informal sources of his education – Madhav and Anwar who introduced him to the world of the Ramayana and the richness of folklores. Later Ustad Badal Khan and Bhishmadev Chattopadhyay were appointed to instill in the young Sachin Dev Burman roots of eastern classical music.
On his arrival in Kolkata, Sachin Dev Burman trained under K.C.Dey. It was at this time that he had his first break with All India Radio, Kolkata. He did his first recording an H11, 78rpm record – a semi-classical song and a folk-song in 1932 and the record became a hit big enough to establish Sachin Dev Burman as a kingpin of Bollywood music. The first film for which he sang was Sanjher Pidim (Bengali) in 1935 though he had sung earlier in 1933 for Yahudi ki Ladki which was rejected and replaced by Pahari Sanyal. His first stint at music composition was in 1937 in the Bengali film Rajgee. After the death of two close friends – lyricist Ajay Bhattacharya and composer Himangshu Dutta and at the behest of Filmistan’s Sasadhar Mukherjee, Burman went to Bombay in 1944. He had the offers of two films at hand – Aath Din and Shikari. However these two hits were not big enough to earn him a niche in the big bad world of Bombay music. Just when he was calling it quits, Ashok Kumar requested Sachin Dev Burman to compose for Mashaal which instantly took the composer to the pinnacles of success. During his brief musical sojourn at Kolkata, Burman earned the earnest audience of great stalwarts like Kazi Nazrul Islam, Dhurjati Prasad Mukhopadhyay, Dilip RoyRavi Shankar, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Mukhopadhyay et al. In Bombay Burman’s art married those of Kaifi Azmi,Anand Bakshi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Dev Anand and the likes and gave to India some of the greatest hits of all times. During this time he offered guiding hands to Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, Geeta Dutt, Manna Dey and many other such experts whose names today stand for themselves. Subsequently he composed for the films of Guru Dutt and gave films like Baazi, Pyasaa, Kagaz ke Phool, Jaal to name a few. His Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer… deserves special mention for the harmonious marriage of the tune and the words. In 1958 he composed for Kishore Kumar’s production Chalti ka Naam Gaadi. His thin timbrel-like voice was used for commentaries in Aradhana and Guide. Sachin Dev Burman’s hits are a plethora. Mentioning some of them will be doing injustice to the rest. He was the reigning music baron of the decades from the 1950s to the 1970s. He worked with the supreme names in Bombay and gave to posterity some of the unforgettable melodies of all times. The films with Dev Anand and Guru Dutt deserve special mention. Shabnam was his most raved about hit with Filmistan. He holds the record for having the greatest number of hits per film. While paying tribute to his contribution to films, we often overlook Burman’s stage performances with Ustad Fayyaz Khan, Abdul Karim Khan and other such maestros. He was a celebrated singer in intellectual circles of Kolkata. Burman also acted in one film – Dhiren Ganguly’s Bidrohi.
In 1934 Sachin Dev Burman was awarded the All Bengal Classical Music Conference gold medal. This was followed by the Sangeet Natak Academy Award and the Asia Film Society Award in 1958. After this there was a steady flow of awards for the maestro - National Award Singer (1972), National Film Award for Best Music Direction for the film Zindagi Zindagi (1974), Padma Shri (1969), Filmfare Best Music Director Award for Taxi Driver (1954), Filmfare Best Music Director Award for Abhimaan (1973), International Jury on Folk Music, BFJA Awards, Best Music (Hindi Section) for Teen Deviyan (1965), Guide (1966), Aradhana (1969), Abhimaan (1973), BFJA Awards, Best Male Playback Singer (Hindi Section) for Guide (1966), Filmfare Nomination for Best Music for Sujata (1959), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969, Talaash (1970), Prem Nagar (1974). Sachin Dev Burman passed away on 30th October,1975. He passed on the baton to his son Rahul Dev Burman who was definitely the greatest achievement that the Sachin Karta could have had. Tributes to Sachin Dev Burman did not cease with him just as his music did not cease with him. Agartala (Tripura), the royal family of his ancestors has a bridge dedicated in his name. An S.D.Burman award has also been set up in his honour. The Sur Singar Samsad Academy Award is given to talents of music. The West Bengal government has decided to declare Sachin Dev Burman’s house a heritage building. A postage stamp was displayed to commemorate his 101st birth anniversary. Sachin Dev Burman wrote his autobiography called Sargamer Nikhad. A biography was released on the minstrel’s 101st birth anniversary. Sachin Dev Burman’s fans have attached the epithet “golden” to his era. Apart from his skill at music, he was known for his professionalism and dedication to his work. He changed the trend of Hindi cinema by saying that first the music, then the lyrics as opposed to first lyrics, then music. Whenever a certain film did not have a theme that matched his genre of music, he would refuse it immediately, example Madhumati, Shiv Bhakti. A perfectionist to the core, he waited for the recording of the song Hontho pe aisi baat … till a certain drum arrived from Sikkim. He also set multiple tunes for the same song allowing the film maker to call the final shots. The film Aradhana which established the careers of more than one person like Kishore Kumar, Anand Bakshi etc had Sachin Dev Burman as its music director. The little known facts are that this great musician was also proficient at the flute and took keen interest in angling, hockey and lawn tennis in the manner of the royalty from which he hailed.