12 years have passed since the dark day of January 4th that brought the news of Rahul Dev Burman aka Pancham’s untimely death. Surprisingly this sad demise somehow has renewed public interest into his vast and varied musical output and over these years resultant debates, discussions and discoveries have turned this talented composer into an international musical icon. It is an apt but a bit too late acknowledgement of Pancham’s musical genius, who in his last few years was reduced to being a struggling by-stander by the merciless showbiz industry that shamelessly ranks success before talent.
As every day, Pancham’s countless tunes keep reminding us of the ingenious workings of his musical mind, what could be a better tribute on his 12th death anniversary than remembering 12 of his most memorable masterly compositions! Here are my top 12 Pancham- classics that to me define the man and his music.
1. Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera – Teesri Manzil – 1966
Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle breathed fire into this pop- rock composition but not before toiling hard for days to master a challenging tune composed by this rank newcomer. This bold and brash song really signaled Pancham’s arrival on the big stage.
2. Yeh Shaam Mastani – Kati Patang – 1970
From that mesmerizing opening whistle to Kishore Kumar’s final landing note, this song was a classic example of a composer and a singer being in perfect harmony. With an astonishing array of such magnificent romantic songs, this peerless team was to provide the impetus to Rajesh Khanna’s brief but dazzling reign as a superstar.
3. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja – Caravan- 1971
This was yet another song of unbridled sensuality unleashed through Asha’s power-packed vocals and Helen’s on-screen pyrotechnics. Pancham’s own inimitable addition of Monica My Darling was just the perfect icing on the cake.
4. Raina Beeti Jaaye – Amar Prem – 1971
This brilliant classical melody was Pancham’s answer to those tradition-bound critics who had labeled him a westernized Tara Ruru Ha Ha Hoo Hoo- kind of composer. So impressed was the hard-to-please musical genius Sajjad with this Lata- number that he considered it one her best classical numbers.
5. Jaane Jaan Dhoondhta Phir Raha – Jawani Diwani – 1973
R.D.’s youthful adventurous streak comes to fore in this delightful Asha- Kishore duet punctuated by some innovative pitch changes and clever orchestration.
6. Bahon Mein Chale Aao – Anamika – 1973
Always the one to experiment, Pancham scores a clear winner in giving this naughtily sensuous number to Lata instead of the usual choice of Asha. The melody queen adds an extra dimension to this playful seductive song.
7. Karvatein Badalte Rahen Saari Raat Hum – Aap Ki Kasam – 1974
Duets is a difficult genre to master but Pancham once again shows his mastery over it in this Lata – Kishore duet- an exquisite expression of love and longing by two exquisite voices.
8. Mehbooba O Mehbooba – Sholay – 1975
The maestro himself lent his gruff barking voice to a song adapted from a Demis Roussos number and the result was an electrifying dance number for the greatest blockbuster in the history of Indian cinema.
9. The Musical Medley – Hum Kisise Kam Nahi – 1977
This novel dance-competition- medley specifically designed for the lighted disco floors was undoubtedly yet another musical milestone. It’s in the tradition of the Sawal-Jawab- songs of yesteryears but with a new-age look. Rafi starts off with a moody Chaand Mera Dil, then Kishore comes up with a macho Aa Dil Kya Mehfil Hai Tere, which then is countered by R.D.’s own act Ho Tum Kya Jaano Mohabbat Kya Hai and finally Kishore and Asha dish out a fluffy teaser Mil Gaya Hum Ko Saathi. These are four distinct songs and yet presented as one stirring musical package to show Pancham’s ability to mix and match moods according to cinematic requirements.
10. Hamein Tumse Pyar Kitna – Kudrat – 1980
Yet another example of R.D.Burman’s versatility. Just compare the two versions of this song. If Parveen Sultana’s classical Thumri styled version won the awards and was a connoisseur’s delight, then Kishore’s superbly soulful version was also a master-class in plain expressive singing.
11. Mera Kuchh Saaman – Ijaazat – 1987
The song that won Asha and Gulzar their National Awards is a testimony to Pancham’s ability to infuse musicality into seemingly non-musical lyrics. After mockingly comparing the lyrics to a newspaper headline, Pancham found just the perfect notes to bring out the emotions hidden between those words.
12. Pyar Hua Chupke Se – (1942-A love Story)-1994
In a soundtrack that was released after his death, Pancham showed how he could evoke magic even through new voices. This Kavita Krishmurthy- number was steeped in sweetness and romance.