I sometimes find it very disturbing when people blame Rahul Dev Burman for being biased to his preferred set of singers (read three of them). Nothing can be more uncalled for than this. Was Pancham really biased?
Was he more biased than Naushad? Who, in spite of being liked to be called as a Classical Wizard, used the best classical singer in the industry-Manna De- only 6 times in his whole career of 60 odd movies? Well, controversies do rise, so let us stick our discussions only to Pancham and see his judgment behind his choice of singers.
|R D Burman with Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt|
R D Burman, a Genuine Genius (I feel the urge to use the word Genuine here, as I see nowadays, the word Genius has lost its authenticity), wanted to come out of his Great Father’s shadow. He did so, with entirely a different kind of sound, melodies, arrangement and experimentation but almost with the same set of singers his father had used. SD’s top four singers were- Lata, Asha, Kishore and Rafi –in that order-and RD’s top four were- Asha, Kishore, Lata and Amit Kumar (Rafi held the fourth position till the singer’s early demise in 1980, AK took over in the 80s afterwards).
R D Burman was one of the first to stretch Lata in the unorthodox numbers. He used Lata in Drunkard Female numbers in Chandan Ka Palna(1967), Seeta aur Geeta(1972), Jheel ke us paar(1973) and Do Chor(1972). That Lata could sing “Yaari ho gayi yaar se lak tunu tunu” would have surely been out of any other MD’s imagination those days. Giving her great classical numbers are all history, but giving Lata peppy, rhythmic melody was so refreshing to hear those days when Lata Mangeshkar was almost stereotyped for “sati savitri” numbers by other MDs.
But, RD’s genuinely great pairing with Bhupinder, Rafi, Shailendra Singh, Mukesh and Manna De are hardly discussed of.
Bhupinder: Although Bhupindermandeep Singh debuted under Madan Mohan, it was with Pancham that this baritoned, versatile artist really flourished as a singer! Starting with Abhilasha(1968), Parichay(1972) was the turning point in this association’s career, Pancham gave some of his best melodies to Bhupinder in Kinara, Sitara, Raja Rani, Satte Pe Satta and Troyee. He showered great confidence on him in classical numbers like Meethe bol bole and Mitwa bole meethe ber, gave him Qawallis like Salaam kijiye, equally confided on him sentimental numbers like Kobe je kothay ki je holo bhool and gave some mesmerizing duets with Lata Mangeshkar- Beeti na beetayi raina, Naam gum jayega and Thodisi zameen. RD gave some numbers to Bhupinder just keeping the singer, who was a long time musical associate with him also, in mind.
Rafi: in spite of having around 105 songs recorded together, RD-Rafi is not much discussed in Hindi Film Music history. Rafi was the main singer of RD in the 60s, when the latter was a newcomer and the former was a Colossus. Some mesmerizing beauties like Tumne mujhe dekha, Tumhe dekha hai, Zamane ne maare, Wadiyan mera daman, Tum bin jaaoon kaha, Deewana mujhsa nahi were created by the combo in the 60s. Although Rafi stopped getting the cream of Pancham after 1970, still some solos of RD seemed to have been delicately composed for Rafi even in the 70s like Pyar hai ik nishaan kadmon ka, Chand mera dil, Koi aur duniya mein tumsa haseen hai and Gulaabi aankhein. Pancham also gave some great Qawallis to Rafi like Salaam kijiye, Hai agar dushman zamana, Pal do pal ka saath humara etc.
Mukesh: Less is beautiful when it comes to Mukesh and Pancham. Well, he gave Mukesh some astoundingly brilliant numbers even though their association was for only 19 songs in 12 years. Jis gali mein tera ghar, Kahin karti hogi, Suhani chandni raatein, Ek din bik jayega, Zindagi mein aap aye, Mere humsafar geet hai, Lalla lalla lori- almost each and every Mukesh-RD song was a hit. He used Mukesh for Rajesh Khanna in Kati Patang and Raja Rani.
Manna De: In my honest opinion, Pancham’s most versatile association, after Kishore Kumar, had been with Manna De. They could be funny, serious, peppy, classical everything with élan. Be it “Aao twist karein”, or “Sawariya aao”, or “Aayo kahan se ghanshyam” or “Gori tori paijaniyan” or “ Abhi to haath mein jam hai”- Manna De was always special for Pancham. When most of the other MDs were using Manna De either for character artists or for classical songs, Pancham used Manna for heroes like Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan with peppy, filmy numbers.
And of course, there were Anup Ghoshal, Arati Mukherjee, Annette and Manmohan Singh, who had got their temporary fame in Hindi film music singing R D Burman’s numbers. Isn’t it amazing that a music director who had made Mehmood, Anand Bakshi or even Sapan Chakravorty sing songs, is most often touted as “biased about singer choices”?
R D Burman was a true blue versatile music director, even in using his singers also…