Pancham: The Urban Timbre (Part 2)

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About Satyabrata

Satyabrata Ghosh is primarily a cineaste, who loves to pen his thoughts on movies, actors and directors who matter to him. Since his adolescence to his youth and further, with a mind to make films and write about films, one thing that keeps him grounded is listening to the loop of Hindi songs and Bengali as well. Incidentally, quite a large number of songs in this loop are composed by Rahul Dev Burman. The euphoria of listening to these songs – poignant and grandiose, with their imagery-rich lyrics by stalwart song-writers Gulzar, Anand Bakshi et all, stimulate him to probe more into his social and cultural milieu that borne such creative restlessness. This is the very first piece of his daring out of undying love for a man he feels very close to, albeit, with no personal encounter.

Pancham: The Urban Timbre
Part 2

Sar jo tera chakraye

With the Funtoosh song as a badge, Rahul qualified himself to be a part of the core musician team of his father. It was at that point, that Guru Dutt came to senior SD asking to compose songs for Pyasa (1957). Rahul was right there when Guru Dutt narrated a song sequence as a cut-away from the sombre mood of his film. To amuse the audience Vijay, the persecuted poet in the film will find his first friend, a masseur. 

The senior Burman, who doted on his only son, was not taking his Tublu for granted. Keeping aside his princely ego, he accepted that this song must have raw zest it could be well-matched with his son’s ebullience. So, he let Rahul translate once again the lines Sahil Ludianvi penned. 

But I love to believe, Guru Dutt must have felt an affinity towards young Rahul. He must have found some semblance with him when he left Udayshankar’s Dance Academy at Almora and reached Pune to work as a choreographer at Prabhat Studio. Whatever it could be, Rahul became instrumental in brightening up the spectacular darkness of Pyasa with this embalming song:

As an Assistant to his father, Rahul often played harmonica in songs and background scores his father composed. One of the most notable accompaniments by Rahul in his early career was in the song Hai apna dil to aawara, composed by his father for Raj Khosla’s Dev Anand starer Solva Saal in 1958: 

In 1959, Rahul signed up as the Music Director under Guru Dutt’s banner. The film was Raaz, directed by Niranjan, one of Guru Dutt’s assistants. Guru Dutt was so distressed by the commercial failure of his magnum opus Kagaz Ke Phool (1959) that he decided not to credit himself as the Director any more. However, in order to keep his company running and retain his staff, Guru Dutt renewed his interest in producing and acting in films. (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1964), was unmistakably directed by the maestro, but the credit screen shows his dialogue writer Abrar Alvi’s name.) 

Rahul recorded two songs for Raaz, one sung by Geeta Dutt and the other by Shamshad Begum, penned by Shailendra. The film, starring Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman, was an adaptation of The Woman in White, a novel by Wilkie Collins. The filming stopped after only 5 rolls were canned, and the songs were eventually lost. 

Years later, after Guru Dutt’s untimely death in 1964, Raj Khosla, one of his assistants, purchased the rights to the film. He turned it into Mera Saaya (1966) with Sunil Dutt and Sadhna in lead roles. 

Professionally, it was another jolt for Rahul, as the new Producer-Director replaced him and Shailendra with the veteran team of Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Madan Mohan.

Jago Sonewalo 

Mehmood Ali, by then, had become quite successful as a comic artist. He must have developed confidence in Rahul’s energy and creative spirit. Listening to the earlier advice of senior Burman, he signed Rahul as the Music Director of Chote Nawab (1961) in his maiden venture as the Producer.  

However, the story goes that Mehmood came to senior Burman’s house, and before he could utter his proposition, the temperamental ‘Sachinda’ outrightly refused to work with him. Mehmood somehow managed to say that he had come not to him, but to his son. 

Was the father happy and proud to see his son, a junior assistant, signing an agreement with a Producer to compose music? He must be, and so was Rahul’s mother, Meera Dev Burman. But his struggle to mark a stamp of his distinction came to the forefront then. 

Lata Mangeshkar heard Rahul singing to her Ghar Aaja Ghir Aye by Shailendra, and she assumed it to be a composition by senior Burman. Rahul faced a tough time to convince her that he owned the song’s tune:

Rahul knew that he had to demonstrate his versatility as a musician. For him, Jago Sonewalo was also a means to prove how variant he could be to pave his own musical path.

This was one of his earliest compositions in which he ensured that the voice and accompanying instruments would replace each other as the song progressed. To do this, Rahul deviated from the standard method of creating two separate notation sheets for the singer and musicians. Instead, he took the time to explain to Kishore Kumar and the accompanists how the tempo of the musical arrangement of the song would vary in places:

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