Rahul Dev Burman (27 June 1939 – 4 January 1994) was an Indian music director born in Clacutta, India,is regarded as one of the most influential composers of the Indian film industry. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Burman composed musical scores for 331 films. Burman did major work with Asha Bhosle, his wife and Kishore Kumar and scored many of the songs that made these singers famous.He has also scored many songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Nicknamed Pancham, he was the only son of the composer Sachin Dev Burman.
He was mainly active in the Hindi film industry as a composer, and also provided vocals for a few compositions.He served as an influence to the next generation of Indian music directors,and his songs continue to be popular in India and overseas.
Burman was born to the Bollywood composer/singer Sachin Dev Burman and his lyricist wife Meera Dev Burman in Calcutta. According to some stories, he was nicknamed Pancham because, as a child, whenever he cried, it sounded in the fifth note (Pa), G scale, of music notation. The word Pancham means five (or fifth) in Bengali, his mother tongue. Another theory says that the baby was nicknamed Pancham because he could cry in five different notes. Yet another version is that when the veteran Indian actor Ashok Kumar saw a newborn Rahul uttering the syllable Pa repeatedly, he nicknamed the boy Pancham.
When he was nine years old, R. D. Burman composed his first song, Aye Meri topi palat ke aa, which his father used in the film Funtoosh (1956). The tune of the song Sar jo tera chakraaye was also composed by him as a child; his father included it in the soundtrack of Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957).
In Mumbai, Burman was trained by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod) and Samta Prasad (tabla). He also considered Salil Chowdhury his guru. He served as an assistant to his father and often played harmonica in his orchestras.
Burman’s first released film as an independent music director was Chhote Nawab (1961). When the noted Bollywood comedian Mehmood decided to produce Chhote Nawab, he first approached Burman’s father Sachin Dev Burman for the music. However, S. D. Burman declined the offer, advising he was unavailable. At this meeting, Mehmood noticed Rahul playing tabla, and signed him as the music director for Chhote Nawab.Burman later developed a close association with Mehmood, and made a cameo in Mehmood’s Bhoot Bangla (1965).
Burman’s first hit film as a film music director was Teesri Manzil (1966). Burman gave credit to lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri for recommending him to Nasir Hussain, the producer, and writer of the film. Nasir Hussain went on to sign Burman and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri for six of his films including Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) and Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973). Burman’s score for Padosan (1968) was well received. Meanwhile, he continued to work as his father’s assistant for films including Jewel Thief (1967) and Prem Pujari (1970). He has given many hits during that period and is still remembered by his fans even now. His versatility in music and Hindi cinema has earned huge success in his career.
Burman has been credited with revolutionizing Bollywood music.He incorporated a wide range of influences from several genres in his scores. Burman’s career coincided with the rise of Rajesh Khanna-starrer youth love stories. He made electronic rock popular in these popular love stories.He often mixed disco and rock elements with Bengali folk music.He also used jazz elements, which had been introduced to him by the studio pianist Kersi Lord.
Burman was influenced by Western, Latin, Oriental and Arabic music, and incorporated elements from these in his own music.He also experimented with different musical sounds produced from methods such as rubbing sandpaper and knocking bamboo sticks together.He blew into beer bottles to produce the opening beats of “Mehbooba, Mehbooba”. Similarly, he used cups and saucers to create the tinkling sound for the song “Chura Liya Hai” from the film Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973).For Satte Pe Satta (1982), he made the singer Annette Pinto gargle to produce a background sound.He also rubbed a comb on a rough surface to produce a whooshing sound in the song “Meri Samne Wali Khidki Main” from the film Padosan (1968)
Burman sometimes used Western dance music as a source of inspiration for his compositions. As was common in Bollywood, some of his songs featured the tunes of popular foreign songs. Often, the filmmakers forced him to copy these tunes for the soundtracks, resulting in allegations of plagiarism. For example, Ramesh Sippy insisted that the tune of the traditional Cyprus song “Say You Love Me” (arranged and sung by Demis Roussos) be used for “Mehbooba Mehbooba” (Sholay, 1975), and Nasir Hussain wanted to use ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” for Mil Gaya hum ko sathi. Other examples of Burman songs inspired by foreign songs including “Aao twist karein” from Bhoot Bangla (Chubby Checker’s “Let’s twist again”), “Tumse Milke” (Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You”), and “Zindagi Milke bitaayenge” (Paul Anka’s “The Longest Day”) and “Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar hai” and “Dilbar mere”
1983 – Best Music Director – Sanam Teri Kasam
1984 – Best Music Director – Masoom
1995 – Best Music Director – 1942: A Love Story
Out of Burman’s 331 released film scores, 292 were in Hindi, 31 in Bengali, 3 in Telugu, 2 each in Tamil and Oriya, and 1 in Marathi. Burman also composed for 5 TV Serials in Hindi and Marathi.
Pancham’s non-film music comprises a few albums, including Pantera (1987), a Latin Rock album produced by Pete Gavankar The album was an international collaboration, for which Burman partnered with Jose Flores in San Francisco. In 1987, Burman, Gulzar and Asha Bhosle, his wife worked on an album titled Dil Padosi Hai, which was released on 8 September 1987.