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Panchamda Revisited By Jyothi Venkatesh

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The English version of the Bengali article A Humble Tribute By Jyothi Venkatesh which has appeared in Pratidin, Kolkata today on the occasion of the 80th birthday of the late R.D. Burman

Had he been alive today, the simple genius would have turned 80 but then unfortunately for us, he was not destined to live long. When music director R.D. Burman, who was born on 27th June, 1939 died on 4th January 1994, exactly 25 years ago, he actually left behind nothing else but a memorable treasure of songs. His bank locker revealed that the pitiful financial legacy he left for his second wife Asha Bhosale was just Rs 5 in the locker. “It’s a joke,” Bhosale had told journalists then.

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Though his maternal grandmother had fondly given him the nickname Tublu, Burman was fondly called Pancham – or the fifth music note – by friends in the industry. Although Bhosale married Burman in 1979, they had drifted apart over the last few years and Panchamda was living and leading a very lonely and disturbed life before death embraced him. I should know, because the otherwise boisterous Burmanda had turned stoically a chronic loner and a cynic in every respect, especially after he drifted away from Asha Bhosale. 54 was no age to die but in his death, Panchamda had sought solace, away from the cunning and also matlab-oriented film industry which was only exploiting him

Panchamda revolutionized Hindi film music since he had made his debut with comedian Mehmood’s film Chhote Nawab way back in 1961. How can you easily forget his wide range as a composer with hit numbers like Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera (Teesri Manzil) Parveen Sultana’s soulful thumri Hame Tumse Pyar Kitna, Yeh Hum Jaanet Nahin (Kudrat) or for that matter the hilarious Ek Chatur Naar Badi Hoshiyar (Padosan) or the melodious Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa To Nahin (Aandhi)

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During the second half of the 1980s, RD Burman was overshadowed by several up and coming young new music directors including Bappi Lahiri and other disco music composers. Many filmmakers stopped patronizing him, as films featuring his compositions flopped at the box office one after the other. Take for example, Nasir Hussain, who had signed him up for every single of his productions since Teesri Manzil (1966), did not sign him up for Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988) and opted for Chitragupta’s sons –the young turks Anand and Milind.

Panchamda had evolved as a philosopher thanks to the jolts that his life had bestowed on him during his later stage when he was getting very few offers to compose seven from his ardent friends like Subhah Ghai. Subhash Ghai (who is known to have an amazing musical sense), announcing his movie Ram Lakhan with a top star-cast like Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Madhuri Dixit. Though the task of composing the music was given to R. D Burman, by Subhash Ghai, as luck would have it, when the project was about to start, another of Subhash Ghai’s big budget mega movie (If I am not mistake it was Dev starring Amitabh Bachchan in the lead) got shelved and there was major re-shuffling done in all his projects onboard. The result was that Laxmikant Pyarelal, who were earlier supposed to do another big movie for Subhash Ghai, were roped in to do the music of Ram Lakhan too and Pancham was simply taken off the project unceremoniously.

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With the return of the melody post-Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak,  Panchamda’s score in Parinda in a way laid the foundation for his swan song, 1942: A Love Story but unfortunately for Panmchamda, he did not live to see his song becoming a rage after it was released.

Though without any doubt, LP came out with one of their career best scores in Ram Lakhan,which is still remembered for its musical excellence, the unexpected incident did hurt Pancham a lot and it also became one of those few crucial things which not only broke his musical heart but also wounded his soul deep inside. I have first hand information as I was privy to what went on in Panchamda’s mind when I met him at the music release of an album of Leena Chandavarkar with whom Panchamda shared very warm vibes especially as he had composed several hit chart busters for her late husband r_d_burman-4

The music release function was held in an industrial estate in Andheri East in the terrace of a factory, a very unusual place where any one would host a music release function. I made it a point to attend the function, in tandem with yet another journalist friend of mine who was very close to Panchamda, not only because Leenaji had specifically requested me to be present but also because I knew that Panchamda was supposed to attend the function as the chief guest on Leenaji and Amit Kumar’s insistence.

It was a very solemn function with a difference because not many in the media or the film fraternity had bothered to attend the function in the far out place and after the formal official release of the album by R.D Burman, when it was time to leave the venue, Panchamda offered to drop me and my journalist friend anywhere we wanted to go, we asked Panchamda if he could drop us at the Leela Penta Hotel which was nearby, on his way home from the function. Panchamda asked us to hop across in his humble Fiat and on the way asked us which function were we headed to and literally froze for a second r_d_burman-5

It was a party which was being hosted by Subhash Ghai to mark ten years of his having become a director in the film industry and also mark his tie up with Lakshmikant and Pyarelal whom he had signed to compose music for Ram Lakhan , ironically after he had unceremoniously dumped R. D. Burman who had been signed earlier . It might have been the manner in which he was replaced in Ram Lakhan by Subhash Ghai, after the showman had promised him the film, which could have dampened his spirit.

Panchamda asked the driver to stop the car a minute before the car was about to enter the portico of the Hotel and  politely told us in folded hands whether it was okay if he dropped us from the car there itself instead of going all the way till the area where Subhash Ghai was hosting his party, because he was not invited to the party as Ghai was skeptical how he would take it  if he was invited a party where he was announcing that Lakshmikant and Pyarelal were going to compose for his Ram Lakhan.

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Not many are aware of the fact that under his tutelage, musicians like Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Louis Banks, Ramesh Iyer, Pandit Shiv Kumar and also the Lakshmikant-Pyarelal duo had come up. Today, legendary singers like Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi and Bhupinder are known for some of their most memorable songs with Pancham’s music backing them up. And then there are the lyricists, whose words Pancham brought to life in his music. His musical partnership with Gulzar (Parichay, Ijaazat), Anand Bakshi (Amar Prem) and Javed Akhtar (Love Story 1942) etc.

It was very touching for me to hear and very humiliating and distressing for Panchamda that Subhash Ghai had forgotten the innumerable golden hits that the music maestro had painstakingly composed over the years like Duniya Mein Logon Ko ((1972) Kuch To Log Kahenge, Chingari Koi Dhadke, Mere Saamne Wali Khidki Mein to name a few and dumped him just because a few films for which he had composed did not succeed at the box office. It is indeed very sad that after his bad patch as a music composer, it was Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1942: A Love Story’, which helped Panchamda reclaim his mantle as one of the greatest film score producers India has ever seen.

But then that is life for you dearies, as Khalid Mohammad would quote!

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Panchamda, RD Burman, RD Burman Biography

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