Yesterday, on Friday 27 June, he would have been 75.
Fifty-five is no age to die for anyone, leave alone a creative genious like Pancham, like RD was known. I did not know RD.
As a fan, one of course didn't need to know him personally. His songs were enough to connect.
He had made a name for himself much before I entered college but on Vividh Bharati and Radio Cylone's Binaca Geetmala hosted by the irreprsible Amin Sayani, one heard his melodies regularly.
There was one indirect connection though.
In the early 1970s, my father was posted to INS Shivaji, the picturseque naval station near Lonavla. The Rajesh Khanna hit Kati Patang had been released in 1971 and the song 'Yeh shaam mastani' like all other numbers in the movie, was a big hit. The song had been picturised near Lonavla and whenever we went to town from the cantonment, excited mothers and teenagers in the military bus would invariably point to the spot where the shooting of the film had taken place! The song and the name of the music director remained at the back of the mind since Amin Sayani, in his sonorous voice would, grandly announce the details of every song on radio.
As one entered final years of school, sports, cycling and studies--in that order--took up all the time. There was no place for movies or music.
That was to come in the early years of college in Pune. I don't remember the exact month or date but it was certainly in 1980 when a group of us college boys happened to stumble into a morning show on a weekend, hoping to enertain ourselves after a hectic exam week. The movie: Teesri Manzil.
One had watched Shammi Kapoor's movies earlier. Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Junglee, Kashmir ki Kali, to name just three. But Teesri Manzil was different. The movie plot was unique, the casting impeccable (Premnath in his early villian role before he epitomised evil in Johny Mera Naam, half a decade later). But the strongest point was the movie's music and the masterly situational build up to each song by that genious of a director Goldie Anand.
I fell in love with RD's music instantly. Those days there was no internet to search or watch RD's songs but there were footpath markets that sold old film magazines and booklets that compiled songs with lyrics. So I started scouring the bookshops and kabadiwalas for anything written on RD Burman. Raju Bhartan used to write brilliant, detailed pieces on music and music directors in the Illustrated Weekly of India and Times of India; Shrish Kanekar, a marathi writer of repute was another source although, if I remember correctly he was mostly critical of Pancham. So as the information trckled in and got stored into one's memory box, RD became ny favourite composer.
One of the best aspects of being in a college hostel in Pune in the early 1980s was the variety of movies one could watch.
The morning shows (9 am to noon) invariably ran the muisicals, love-and-romance-peppered-with-separation-in-Kashmir-valley type movies, starring Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar and Joy Mukherjee; at noon in threatres like West End and Rahul, one could watch English movies, war, curry westerns and romantic by turn. and the 3-6-9 pm slots were reserved for current lot of movies which invariably meant Amitabh Bachchan or Dharmendra shows or multi-starrers which were in vogue in those years. So in a month our viewing would range from Phir wahi Dil laya hoon to Roman Holiday to Muqqadar ka Sikandar and from Aarzoo to Rear Window to Ram Balram! In those carefree days, one watched at least 300 movies of all types, a pleasure one never had an occasion to enjoy during the course of the past three decades and more!
An occasional rerun of Amar Prem, Aradhana, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Kati Patang, Yadon ki Baarat, to name films randomly, was the icing on the cake.
Through all this RD's music lingered on although he wasn't as impactful in the 1980s as he was was during the Rajesh Khanna era. Its been over three decades since Pancham composed those ditties but I never tire of listening to these 10 songs.
1. Rim jhim gire saawan from Manzil (the Lata Mangeshkar version, not the more popular Kishore number)
2. Diye jalte hain, phool khilte hain from Namak Haram
3. Diwana mujha sa nahin--Teesri Manzil
4. Tum bin jaaon kahan (the Rafi version, not Kishore's)--Pyaar ka mausam
5. Aaja piya tohe pyar doon--Baharon ke Sapne
6. Waddiyaan mera daaman--Abhilasha
7. Meri Jaan Meri Jaan Kehna Mano--Do Chor
8. Tum mile pyaar se--Aparadh
9. Deewana leke aaya hain--Mere Jeevan Saathi
10. Sharm aati hain magar--Padosan
Each one of us will have a different list but this is mine. Why, I can have 10 other equally melodius compositions to replace and then 10 more... so why quibble?
P.S. As a reader pointed out, the Aparadh composition is not RD's, it is Kalyanji-Anandji's. What the heck, it is still hummable and in the same class as Pancham's! Enjoy!