Pancham: The Urban Timbre (Part 7)

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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 7

তুমি কত যে দূরে

Oddly, Pancham, a music composer, was hesitant to create music for Bengali films after the failure of Salil Sen’s Rajkumari in 1970, despite having renowned actors like Uttam Kumar and Tanuja as the lead cast. Following his divorce and its aftermath, he refrained from composing music for Bengali films for a few years. 

However, he did select some of his works for the basic Bengali songs that HMV released as Pujor Gaan during the Durga Puja festival. According to Goutam Rajadhakshya, Pancham’s true genius remains underappreciated, as his experimentation was at its fullest in those Bengali basic songs.

Innovating musical sounds was always his forte. He took lesser assignments for Bengali films. While some of them succeeded, many were left unmarked. For instance, he composed Bendhechhi Beena in a classical tune for the film Kalankini Kankabati (1981) which Parveen Sultana rendered: 

Though this was one of Uttam Kumar’s last movies released after the actor’s demise. And yet, it went out of public memory because of inept writing and direction. However, when Rahul reused the same tune to compose Anand Bakshi’s Ae Ri Pawan with his unique fusion beats, for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Bemisal (1982) and let Lata Mangeshkar sing it, the song became a must number in binge-listening: 

Khamos sa afsana paani me likha hota

Pancham as the Music Director, ensured every note of every instrument played in a song plays a specific function. So, when the final output was being played, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Bhanu Gupta, Louis Banks, Manohari Singh, Basudev Chakraborty, Maruti Rao Keer, Tony Vaz, Uttam Singh, Homi Mullan, Kersi Lord, Ranjit Gazmer (Kancha) and singer/guitarist Bhupinder, each of his key musicians found the mixed tracks so finely balanced that not a single note was overlapped by vocal or any other instrument. 

Pancham acquired this rare technical finesse, because like an in-born man-manager, he was one of the keenest learners. He perfected to utilise the mechanism of acoustics the way he envisioned, which integrates with the craft of filmmaking.

Sholay (1975) overwhelms us not only because it sparkles with good writing and top-notch direction. Without music, though, its grandeur remains incomplete. Pancham complemented the visuals with innovative background music and sound effects that cinegoers had not experienced in Indian films until then. Pancham also excelled technically, when it comes to the completion of Sholay.  

Writing about the frenzied time when Ramesh Sippy had to reshoot the climax of the film, noted film critic Anupama Chopra wrote in her book Sholay: The Making of a Classic (Penguin Books; 2000; cite p. 145): 

The last scene – Veeru and Basanti meeting in the train – was shot after the background music was done, so Pancham had to create music for the scene without seeing it. The long gestation hadn’t dulled Ramesh’s (Sippy) enthusiasm, he lived the film, every frame of it. He gave Pancham a detailed breakdown of what he was going to shoot, including how many shots the scene would have and from whose point of view it would be, and how many seconds each shot would be. When the shot was actually done, the music was out of sync by only a FEW FRAMES.

(Emphases mine; 24 frames of a celluloid film run a second on screen)     

In Raj N. Sippy’s Satte Pe Satta (1982) Rahul wanted to produce an ominous screeching sound to produce the menacing implication of Babu (Amitabh Bachchan in his other role in the film) coming out of jail. Instead of playing any musical instrument, he used human sound as the music. He asked Annette Pinto, the Goanese singer, to gargle some water in front of the microphone. As she scaled up her gargling, the effect multiplied:

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3 responses to “Pancham: The Urban Timbre (Part 7)”

  1. […] and son Rahul Dev (L to R) Asha Bhonsle, Rahul Dev Burman and film director and lyricist Gulzar Part 7 Part […]

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