A Eulogy for a Genius...

This is not a homage, not a tribute nor a biography. Homages and tributes are written about and safely archived. As for biography, some would have attempted, succeeded and even made money out of their works! What you read in the following lines are my personal opinions about one great musician/artiste/pioneer (well, I am running out of befitting nouns!) - RAHUL DEV BURMAN (fondly/aptly called as Pancham - a note in the scale that projects/dominates/balances itself whenever it occurs).

R.D.Burman a.k.a. R.D. or R.D.B entered into a time-frame of established stalwarts when classical music (or at least its toned-down versions) was predominant in Hindi Film music. The restless but creative mind of a genius found that tunes doled out were becoming stereotyped - creativity was restricted to a limited repertoire of ragas. This harbinger of change ushered in, a different facet to film music by a synthesis of the East and the West (the roots were never compromised though!) - an experiment that paved the way for other music directors to ape and venture into the foray. There are innuendos and accusations about RDB's so-called plagiarism (aping/modifying Western tunes) but all these so-called puritanic pundits fail to register the simple fact that this great soul had transcended the traditional barriers to explore, discover and present that facet of music, the Indian hoi polloi would have neither heard of or even bothered to. His efforts threw open the doors to all music enthusiasts to learn/imbibe the other (safely disregarded) side of music. People talk of National Integration but this man was a step ahead - he ushered in the concept of Universal Integration through the only, but powerful medium he knew - MUSIC.

The singularity of RDB's composition rests in the choice of instruments as part of the ensemble. To digress a bit, even his choice of singers (specially Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi and Manna Dey of yesteryears) were to some extent biased - only on the basis of perfect match of wavelength. The singer knew what was expected of him/her under RDB's baton and RDB knew exactly how to exploit the singers' god-given talents for the perfect rendition. Kishore and Asha were the immediate choices through whom he could fully express his vibrancy and zest for life. To soothe and make a song more mellifluous, he would opt for Lata. My personal list of songs chosen for your listening pleasure includes noted singers and the releatively-new singers. Admire (if you can!) the way he has brought out the best from each person. Even Kumar Sanu! (Pardon my tone, but personally, I consider him as an ungainly attempt to be a substitute for the stalwarts of the past but in truth, not even in the periphery!). With Kishore's passing away, RDB had but no choice than to try him out in 1942 - A Love Story (the sheer discomfort of the whole venture would have triggered off RDB's demise). So much about the singers!

Speaking about the instruments in his orchestra, the timbre of each instrument was so unique that hearing a piece of an interlude would immediately let one know that the composer could be none other than RDB (at least to me!). Listen to the perfectly tuned triple conga, the tabla and the rota toms! Compare the same with any song of Laxmikant Pyarelal (another Bollywod duo of music directors) and the choice of instruments (specially the percussion) that sounds like old discarded Dalda (an old Indian household product) tins! Neither would RDB repeat a roll consistently like L.P. (if you don't believe me hear 'Bindiya Chamkegi' - I personally could count the same roll after each logical end upto 17 times or more!!). I am in no way belittling L.P. (they have some good creations to my liking but...) The fillip created by usage of the kajra of the tabla (the black circle which when struck on the surface reverberates to raise the note by half) to embellish a rendition is peculiar of RDB's compositions. RDB was one of the few musicians who exploited the so-called obsolete instrument like the accordion and the santoor (which now has gained popularity thanks to maestros like Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma).

The unswerving loyalty for his work just did not rest with his millions of fans all around the world. Directors like Gulzar, Nazir Hussain, Shakti Samanta, Ravi Tandon to name a few, had always opted for RDB to compose music for their films. Notable among these, of course, is Gulzar who had been with Pancham through thick and thin. The esoteric pen of Gulzar found its best expression through Pancham's compositions. The euphonious songs from 'Parichay', 'Aandhi', 'Khushboo', 'Kinara' among others speak for themselves. Besides, whenever RDB composed for Gulzar, they always had an ethereal touch to them. It comes as no surprise when Gulzar pays rich tributes to this genius through several albums of his. If any man missed Pancham dearly, it would be none other than Gulzar.

The travesty of Bollywood manifests itself in the compositions of the new crop of music directors who have unabashedly plagiarized RDB's style, be it as simple as the style of rhythm or even portions from his past creations. It deeply saddens me to note that while Pancham did not get the condign recognition for his creativity, many have stooped down to fill their coffers with re-mixed/re-hashed versions of his compositions. All the same, as a fan, I should not fail to appreciate the result of such actions, though dastardly - they not only rejuvenated Pancham's creations but also brought him back into the limelight, albeit posthumously. The 4th of January 1994 would have been his last day on this planet, but he still continues to live in the hearts of several undying fans of his, re-mixes or otherwise...