The Magic and Madness of R D Burman

On his birthday today, looks back at the journey of the musical maestro

20545 Reads |  

The Magic and Madness of R D Burman

RD Burman revolutionized Bollywood with his inimitable style of music. From electronic rock to Jazz, Burman’s music had multicultural influences. His compositions had a mix of Western, Latin, Oriental, Arabic & Bengali Folk music. Here’s taking a look at the journey of one of Bollywood’s most talented music composers.


There are many stories behind RD Burman being called Pancham. Some stories say that that as a child whenever he cried, it sounded in the fifth note (Pa) of music notation. The word Pancham means five in his native language Bengali and hence, he was called Pancham. Another story says that the first note that he sang was the fifth note. Another version is that when veteran Indian actor Ashok Kumar saw a newborn Rahul uttering the syllable ‘Pa’ repeatedly, he nicknamed the boy Pancham!

The X Factor

Burman experimented with different natural musical sounds like the sounds produced by rubbing sand paper and knocking bamboo sticks together. The opening beats of the song Mehbooba Oh Mehbooba came from beer bottles, while cups and saucers were used to create the tinkling sound for the song Chura Liya Hai (Yaadon Ki Baaraat). For Satte Pe Satta, it is said that he made the singer Annette Pinto gargle to produce a background sound. The whooshing sound in the song, Meri Samne Wali Khidki Main, came from rubbing a comb on a rough surface! It is said that in order to get the sound of raindrops, Burman spent a whole rainy night in his house’s balcony recording the sound he wanted.

He Dreamt Music

It is said that Burman sometimes dreamt tunes. When he revealed this to his father SD Burman, a legendary music director himself, his father asked him to hum the tune he dreamt into a tape recorder or jot down the notations next morning immediately. It is believed that the tunes of Kanchi Re Kanchi Re (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), Tum Bin Jaoon Kahan (Pyar Ka Mausam) and Duniya Mein Logon Ko (Apna Desh) all sprang from Pancham’s dreams.

The Musical Journey

Pancham Da’s musical talent was on display when he composed his first song at the age of 9. The song was Aye Meri Topi Palat Ke Aa, which was used by his father SD Burman in Funtoosh. Burman’s first release as an independent music director was for the film Chhote Nawab in 1961. Mehmood had initially approached SD Burman for the music of this film but he didn’t have any free dates. At this very meeting, Mehmood saw Rahul playing tabla and decided to get him onboard as music director for the film. Burman’s first hit movie as a music director was Teesri Manzil (1966).

Passion For Music & Cooking

After his first big hit, Teesri Manzil, RD’s demand as a music director shot up. When filmmakers came to his house, RD felt he couldn’t serve simple dishes like dhokla to them. So, both alcohol and non-vegetarian food were introduced in the house. RD himself was the cook.

The 70s

Pancham became highly popular with his compositions for movies like Kati Patang, Hare Ram Hare Krishna, Seeta Aur Geeta, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Bombay To Goa, Apna Desh,  Parichay, Yaadon Ki Baaraat,  Aap Ki Kasam, Sholay, Aandhi and many more. Movies starring Rajesh Khanna brought him a lot of fame. Burman won 3 Filmfare Awards for Sanam Teri Kasam, Masoom & 1942 A Love Story.

Personal Life

Rita Patel, a fan of the composer, had laid a bet with her friends that she would be able to get a movie date with him. They met in Darjeeling. Burman got married to Rita in 1966. Their marriage did not last long and they got divorced in 1971. It is said that the song Musafir Hoon Yaaron from Parichay was composed by him, when he was at a hotel after the separation.

Burman married Asha Bhosle in 1980. Their close association started in 1966 with Teesri Manzil. In an interview, Asha said that they shared their passion for music and cooking. They lived more like friends, as partners in their musical journey than as husband and wife.

The Last Days

During the late 80s, the talented music director’s career started declining. Subhash Ghai promised him Ram Lakhan (1989), but gave it instead to Laxmikant-Pyarelal. At the premiere of Gardish, every member of the film crew was invited by the producer except Burman as he was considered unlucky. However, Vidhu Vinod Chopra decided to work with Pancham in 1942 – A Love Story. The music of the film was released after his death, and was highly successful. It posthumously won him the third Filmfare Award.

Even decades after his untimely death, Pancham Da continues to inspire music directors and singers alike even today.

Image Source: Youthconnect & Saregama
All our pictures are free to be leaked without our permission. Do note: They are not Censor Certified.