What was going through in the mind of the young Kumar Sachin Dev Burman, when he took the microphone to record a song in Yahudi Ki Ladki in 1933? Sources say, although not validated, he wanted to become an established singer in Bengal. What he turned out to be was the best music director in India. And, I have chosen my bold letters very carefully. S D was a great singer himself, even the lack of recognition as a singer in Bengal might have been one of the major reasons that he moved to Bombay. Another reason could have been to come out of the image of a folk singer and to try out something different. Whatever be the reason, it is a fact today that S D Burman had been the longest standing music director in the history of Hindi Film Music, who died right at the top , giving competition to his own genius son at the age of 69.
The writer admits right at the beginning that he is no scholar on the vast subject of S D Burman. There are far too many people who are delving deep into this man's work and exploring newer things everyday.
Owing to his standard as a vocal performer, S D knew his singers very well. Although he was older to most of the first generation music directors in Hindi films, IE, Khemchand Prakash, Anil Biswas and Naushad- SD started his innings as an independent musician in Bombay late, in fact pretty late, at the age of 40. And the first achievement he got was to come out of his Bengali background and create partnership with people who did not even know Bhatiyali and Dhamail. His first patron was late K C Dey- the blind singer, to whom SD had assisted for a long time in the 40s and then Ashok Kumar of Bombay Talkies, who had given him the first break in Hindi films with Shikari and Eight Days(both in 1946).
SD's peak period cannot be determined in mere periodical figures. He was one of the top three in the 50s, 60s as well as the 70s. This article looks at the various combinations SD had formed with the singers throughout his careers, and interestingly, with all his top 5 singers- SD had a fallout, sometimes or another.
It hardly mattered to the grand old man. His top 4 singers were- Lata Mangeshkar(around 175 songs), Asha Bhosle(around 135 songs), Kishore Kumar(around 122 songs) and Mohammed Rafi(around 100 songs). Tell you what, you can simply count the number of movies where SD had used all these four together( Teen Deviyan, Jewel Thief, Aradhana- all falling in the mid to late 60s , come to the mind immediately). Clearly shows the shift of preferences SD always had.
SD's most famous rift perhaps was that with Lata Mangeshkar. Facts say, he stopped recording with Lata in 1957 and then resumed again in 1962- a gap of five years, whereas, theoretically, Lata had releases with SD right up to 1958- Seetaron se Aagey- which might have been recorded earlier, and resumed again in 1962 with Dr. Vidya. Considering 1961 to be a year when SD had no releases, SD-Lata stood blank only for 2 years..!!!!, quite contradicting to the fallout which have been hyped so much in Hindi film music- 1959 and 1960. SD had three releases in 59- Kagaz ke Phool, Insaan Jaag Utha and Sujata-all sans Lata and six releases in 60- Ek Ke Baad Ek, Kala Bazaar, Bombai ka Babu, Akalmand, Apna Haath Jagannath and Manzil- again all without Lata. He had some more albums which did not have Lata , like Nau Do Gyarah(1957) and Chhupa Rustam(1973), but they fell either sides of the famous fallout period.
So, Lata Mangeshkar- the primary female singer under SD's baton, had a fallout with the Grand Old Man for a couple of years, and still SD kept on going good. Then, almost converging with the same period, SD had a rift with his most used male singer- Kishore Kumar. Although, cannot be termed as a "rift" in true sense, from 1958-1964, SD used Kishore only in four movies- Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Bewakoof, Apna Haath Jagannath and Naughty Boy- all featuring Kishore himself as the hero. This was quite contradicting to the fact that between 1951-1957, Kishore was the number one male singer for SD singing 33 songs in 17 films. The result for SD, however, was the same- unaffected.
The reason for the fallout of Kishore and Lata were mostly on personal grounds, as the trivia goes. However, there were three serious fall outs which SD had, and all three were taken judiciously by SD with his professional senses proving too strong to his personal likes. The first casualty was Geeta Dutt(ne'e, Roy)- who had given SD his first hit song- Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya and his first hit album- Baazi. Geeta-SD were the first superstar singer-MD combo in Hindi Film Music and rocked the arena with hits like Do Bhai(1947), Pyar(1950), Baazi(1951), Jaal(1952) and Pyasa(1957). But when SD decided to call it a day with Geeta, post-Kagaz Ke Phool(1959) , there were hardly any personal grounds behind it. It was as if SD could read the writings on the wall that Geeta was too tired to carry on the baton and hence Asha should be the first substitute of Lata for his ventures.
Asha also had an end to her dream run. 1958, 1959 and 1960 saw Asha Bhosle featuring as the leading female singer in all the movies of SDB, doing full justice to her role of a substitute to Lata Mangeshkar in SD camp. While Asha did full justice to whatever SDB had given her in that period, when SD patched up with Lata, Asha was simply put to second position yet again. Post-Bandini, Asha Bhosle had hardly anything serious to sing under SDB. Although, with her true genius, she could convert a peppy "Raat Akeli hai" into a timeless classic.
And then, there was Rafi- SD's last fallout. Mohd. Rafi was like an esteemed guest in the recording studios of SD until 1957. He sang for SD in Do Bhai, SD's first major hit and since then he had been sporadically there in movies like Ek Nazar(1951), Naujawan(1951), Jeevan Jyoti(1953), Society(1954), Devdas(1955) etc singing occasional numbers. Things changed in 1957 with Pyasa, when Guru Dutt insisted SD to go for Rafi as the primary singer. Rafi obliged with elan and since then for the coming 7-8 years, SD denied to see anything beyond Rafi. SD-Rafi created some of the most memorable songs in that period like Beechhde sabhi bari bari, Khoya khoya chand, Saathi na koi manzil, Hum bekhudi mein tumko, Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, Sunle tu dil ki sada, Aese to na dekho, Kahi bekhayak hokar, Din dhal jaye, Tere mere sapne etc. What more, it was S D Burman, who played the major role to patch up the long rift between Lata and Rafi and not the latter's other more touted partners like Shankar Jaikishen, Madan Mohan or Naushad.
The late years of the 60s were not good for SD. He had no releases in 1966 and 1968 and only one in 1967. The good work he had done with Guide(1965) was on the verge of getting marred. 69 was crucial for him and he was back with a bang with Aradhana. Kishore, after many years, proved to be the trump card for SD again, and Rafi- his primary singer for the last 12 years, took a backseat. No personal grudge, no singing fault, no artistic difference- SD placed aside Rafi, just like what he had earlier done to Geeta for Asha and Asha for Lata- reading the writings on wall, that the time was changing...
And with all these changes, what remained unchanged was his music, his melody. If he could do a Jayein to jayein kaha with Talat in 1954, so he could a Din dhal jaye with Rafi in 1965 and so he could a Badi sooni sooni hai with Kishore in 1975.