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Beat poet

Even as we rocked to Rahul Dev Burman's `Dum Maro Dum,' he took us on a magic swirling trip of classical tunes in `Amar Prem.' On his birth anniversary (June 27), it is worth remembering that the man that musicdom and Bollywood celebrates with remixes and movies today, was largely ignored towards the latter part of his career.



IN THE GROOVE: Rahul Dev Burman

THERE IS an urban legend floating among Pink Floyd aficionados about a shabby, overweight man pottering about in the studio during the recording of Wish You Were Here, a tribute to the brilliant but flawed genius of the founder of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett. When security demanded identification from the man, they discovered much to their discomfiture that the intruder was Syd Barrett, the subject of the album!

There is a similar sense of irony in the way Rahul Dev Burman (June 27, 1939 - January 4, 1994) has become synonymous with cool today. The film industry that spurned the genius now celebrates him in movies like Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar and Jhankar Beats. Pubs, discos, and the zillion remix albums all celebrate R.D's sense of groove and attitude. And the fact that anything prefixed with "R.D" translates to crisp currency is an added bonus in these days of creative famine.

One is willing to forgive that vapid remake of Love Story, Khwaish not for the 17 kisses but because Mallika Sherawat's character is an R.D fan.

There are two stories about how R.D earned his nickname Pancham - Ashok Kumar called him Pancham when he heard him singing only pa, pa, pa from the Sargam and the other story is that he got the nickname because as a child he could cry in all five notes.

Pancham had the misfortune of working at a time when the fate of a film was linked to its music. So, when Ramesh Sippy's Saagar flopped at the box office, people stopped approaching R.D as well.

The ascendancy of Bappi Lahiri and the disco sound also contributed to the master musician being sidelined. Just like the Seventies saw Pancham at his zenith producing gems in every genre of music - jazz, rock n roll, blues, pop and classical, the Nineties was ripe for a revival. And the two men who had the finger so on the beat were Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Parinda, 1942, A Love Story) and Ram Gopal Varma (Antham/Drohi).

Pancham belonged to an age when music was passion - he would wait on the turning for Mehmood's scooter to slow down so he could jump on the pillion and sing tunes till Mehmood gave him Chote Nawab (`61). He would drag good friend Gulzar out of home at 2 am to go on a drive to listen to a tune.

He used a spoon against a glass (Chura Liya - Yaadon ki Barat), desks (Masterji Ki Aayee Chittee - Kitaab) a bamboo whistle with a balloon (Abdullah) or bottles filled with water at different levels (Maajhi Re - Khusboo). He would wait through the night for the sound of raindrops and was the first to introduce the Brazilian Bossa nova rhythm.

Pancham had a special bond with the percussion sound. When Bally Sagoo remixed Chura Liya, an industry was born. It is interesting to work out how Pancham would have reacted to this reinvention of his music. Would he be amused, bitter, irritated or plain indifferent?



TRIBUTES GALORE: `Jhankar Beats' is the latest in the long line of works celebrating the R.D magic

Given his fascination for innovation (he introduced the twin track effect used to such melodious effect in Qatra Qatra - Ijaazat and the electronic organ in O Mere Sona Re - Teesri Manzil), maybe he would have given us remixes to die for.

While recuperating from a bypass surgery following his heart attack in `98, Pancham is said to have composed over 2,000 tunes and stored it in his memory bank. Wonder where they are now for we could surely do with some rich, zippy tunes full of attitude rather than pale imitations and hopeless wannabes.

Did you know?

R. D. BURMAN displayed fine comic timing in Bhoot Bangla and Pyar Ka Mausam.

Pancham composed music for three Telugu films - Antham (1990), Chinni Krishnudu (1989) and Rocky (1987).

Pancham helped his father S.D. Burman, who was not well, with Jewel Thief by composing the mukdas.

Dev Anand did not play the complete version of Dum Maro Dum in Hare Rama Hare Krishna, as he was worried the song would overshadow the film.

Pancham won the Filmfare award thrice - Sanam Teri Kasam, Masoom, and 1942 - A Love Story - he was nominated 16 times.

Nasir Hussain did not sign Pancham for Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak - a break after Teesri Manzil.

Pancham composed an international album Pantera in collaboration with Latin American composer, Jose Flores.

Subhash Ghai promised Pancham Ram Lakhan but gave it instead to Laxmikant Pyarelal - who had played in Pancham's orchestra.

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER

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