Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Age was just a number- S D Burman's marathon success

Retirement age of a Government officer is 60. The same for corporate personnel is sometimes even a couple of years less. There is no retirement age for a creative person though, but his creativity  again gets restrained by the growing age and grey hairs. Gulzar sahib, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, M F Hussain, Satyajit Ray had constantly challenged this fact, but perhaps, they themselves would have agreed to the fact that the creative work of their later years were not upto the supreme standards they had themselves set up in their younger to middle age.
Sachin Dev Burman would have vehemently disagreed to this theory though. What else, he might have taken this as a personal insult as well! Not only this musical wizard kept competing with peers half his age, he outlived all of them in terms of longevity in career as well! Had death not taken him away at the age of 69, this maestro  surely would have continued to outperform contemporaries and set new standards in creative world.

Take the retirement age of 60 and S D touched that age in 1966. Now, SD never enjoyed a very good health. He was frail and intermittent ill health played spoilsport throughout his career since he went past 50. Ironically, 1966 did not have any musical release of Burman Dada. He had three void years in the 60s- 1961, 1966 and 1968. Considering 1967 having only one release, the late 60s period was the least productive period for Sachin Karta in terms of output and blame it on his poor health. 
Jewel Thief was released in 1967, and the 61 year old created a soundtrack which even a 31 year old music director would have envied to make. Youthfulness, Sombre, Seduction, Romance- he blended a cocktail of all the emotions in a single soundtrack which saw S D Burman’s rejuvenation in musical arrangement and orchestration. S D, consciously, had moved out of his minimalist approach to step into the new generation music making of rhythm, sound variation and arrangement, keeping his core competency of melody making in tact. Guide(1965) and Teen Deviyan(1965) had already shown that trait, but Jewel Thief was a testimony of improvisation which S D Burman denied to give up till his last days.
Perhaps, musically his most popular and successful venture happened in 1969, when Dada was 63 year old. I mark this year very significant, as by that time the whole lot of Dada’s contemporaries in age were almost retired, eg, Anil Biswas(b 1914), Naushad(b 1918), C Ramchandra(b 1918). Dada was a decade older in age from them also, but for the arguments sake let us consider them as his real peers. Now, even the lot far junior to Dada, like Madan Mohan(b 1924),Salil Chowdhury(b 1923), O P Nayyar(b 1926), Ravi(b 1927) and Shankar Jaikishen(b 1922 and b 1929)- with whom Dada had been competing throughout the 50s and 60s, were somehow highly short of their creative prime of 50s and 60s, by the time 70s started. In fact, except for Madanji and Salil babu and to some extent Shankarji, the output of all the others in the 70s were far from being memorable.And the baton had already been passed on to a lot which were three decades younger to Dada- R D Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji.
Aradhana may be famous for the rise of Rajesh Khanna and Kishore Kumar, but let us not forget the very important part of S D Burman- who at the age of 63, showed the entire world that he is far from being finished and had left his ill health far behind to start a new innings afresh. So, let others be happy with their retirements before their time, Sachin Dev Burman- the true prince of Tripura- was actually anticipating his second innings to be started afresh.
He followed the thundering success of Aradhana with √©lan- 1970 saw Prem Pujari, yet another melodious masterpiece by SD, now that he was 64. The movie might have been a flop, but the music was a huge success. Even his other release in 1970- Ishq Par Zor Nahi- was very high on musical quotient.
Dada made slight changes in his musical strategy. Sahir had long been a history for him, Shailendra had passed away. Majrooh, who served him big time from late 50s to mid 60s, was still there but Dada decided to work with the younger lot of poets like Neeraj and Anand Bakshi. With Bakshi sahib giving him Aradhana success and Neeraj Prem Pujari, in 1971, Dada stuck to both of them with 3 movies with Neeraj and 1 with Anand Bakshi. This also showed Dada’s clear cut resurgence in demand. Being restrictive in his choice of work throughout his career, his maximum assignments were in 1960 when he had around 7 releases in a single year. Throughout the 70s, Dada was buried into assignments and releasing 3-4 movies every year. Considering his selectivity and age, this was a huge accomplishment and deserves all the hats off!!
All his albums released between 1971 to 1975 were of high musical standard. Sharmilee(1971) and Tere Mere Sapne(1971) were sublime creations with sweet, melodious numbers embedded everywhere. Gambler was a mixed bowl of rhythmic, jazzy tunes coupled with sad and romantic numbers. Naya Zaman had a touch of mediocrity crept in, but the title song and a superlative “Duniya O Duniya” more than made up.
Dada kept on achieving milestones year after year, ill health and reduced support from his son-who was also at the height of his own musical pinnacle that time- notwithstanding. He even shared the mike with his son and Lata Mangeshkar in Yeh Gulistan Humara(1972). Abhimaan(1973) might be the only mega-musical Amitabh Bachchan can boast of in his whole career. A single handed extravaganza by Lata Mangeshkar, Abhiman saw S D Burman at his prime form. This man simply denied to cease!

Dada was singing too! Leave apart his own albums like Prem Pujari, Yeh gulistan humara, Zindagi zindagi, Sagina and Aradhana, he even took out time to record for his son in Amar Prem(1971) and ghost-composed a couple of tunes as well!
What adjective you can use for a man, who at the age of 69, could create a tune like “Badi sooni sooni hai zindagi”, lying at the hospital bed? That one masterstroke from Mili(1975), which he gave before leaving this world, was good enough to show the world that age, was indeed, just a number for him.
Dada Burman left for heavenly abode in October, 1975. By that time, it wont be a understatement, to say that the music industry was dominated by only 4 music directors- Dada himself, his son RD, Laxmikant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji.  He was perhaps, the only music director apart from Jaikishen(who died in 1971 at the young age of 42), who left the world while still being in the highest demand. Khemchand Prakash and R D Burman had missed that feat by a whisker, as the earlier’s Mahal(1949) and later’s 1942 A Love Story(1994), had created nationwide rage while both the creators just went  into the eternal sleep.
Dada Burman started his Hindi film career late. His first movie as an independent music director was Shikari, which was released when S D Burman was 40 year old. Many of the legendary music directors from golden era, including his son RD, found it very difficult to keep and maintain the same level of creative supremacy once they went past their 40s. S D kept his assignments limited, even at the helm of his popularity, focussed more on quality output, changed himself with the changing times and never got biased under any circumstances.  He sounded different in different decades unlike many who could not or did not wish to adapt to the changing taste and trends.


  1. You mean Abhimaan owes its success only to Lata and not to Kishore Kumar?

    1. To a large extent, yes! Three solos and three duets have an edge over one solo and one duet! :)

  2. Good read. The man was genius. An article of this size or any size for that matter can never do justice. Still, well done.

  3. Nopes Arghya. Meet an mila re manka was the most popular song. Followed by Tere mere..

    1. from what I recall from listening to VB and puja pandal output, "Meet na" and "Piya bina" were the two songs that I heard the most.