Bollywood Legends - S.D. Burman
S.D. Burman's grip on Indian folklore, his sound classical base, his capacity to absorb from the scene around him made him the greatest all-rounder in Indian Film Music. And to think he never sat down on a harmonium to compose! His tunes would come to him in a flash on a long walk or a drive or even out fishing at sea!
Born in Tripura in 1906, the young Sachin Dev underwent classical training from his father, Sitar player and Dhrupad singer Nabadwipchandra Dev Burman. He later trained under Ustad Badal Khan and Bhishmadev Chattopadhyay. This classical training gave him a firm rooting for the music that he was to compose later in life.
He started his musical career in Bengal as a singer of folk and light classical music and also composed music for the radio, which bore prominent traces of East Bengali and north-eastern folk music, music that had inspired him early in life. Sachin Dev Burman's first singing assignment was a Nazrul Islam composition, which eventually resulted in a fruitful acquaintance with the writer and composer.
His first stint was for the film Yahudi Ki Ladki in 1933 but the songs of the film were scrapped and resung by someone else. The next film for which he did the playback was Sanjher Pidim in 1935. He even tried his hand at acting in the same year, with the film Bidrohi. He became a music director initially in Calcutta in the late 1930s before moving to Bombay in 1944.
In Bombay, he began with Filmistan's Eight Days, 1946 but his first major breakthrough came the following year with the company's Do Bhai, 1947. The song Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya sung by Geeta Dutt is remembered till today and was her breakthrough song into the film industry!
Shabnam, 1949 was his biggest hit with Filmistan with the multi-lingual song Yeh Duniya Roop ki Chor, sung by Shamshad Begum becoming the rage of the day. But disillusioned with the materialism of Bombay, he left the Ashok Kumar starrer Mashaal, 1950 incomplete and decided to board the first train back to Calcutta. Fortunately he was dissuaded from doing so.
He composed the music for Dev Anand's production company, Navketan's first film Afsar, 1950. With the success of their second film, Baazi in 1951 he made it to the top and a long association with Navketan and Dev Anand was on its way. Baazi's jazzy musical score revealed a new facet to singer Geeta Dutt's singing. Till then she was mainly known for sad songs and bhajans. The sex appeal in her voice and the ease with which she went western was marvellous to behold. While every song in the film was a raging hit, one stood out for special appeal - Tadbir se Bigdi Hui Taqdeer.
Burmanda could at once be a light and a serious in-depth composer. When Guru Dutt made comparatively light-weight films like Baazi and Jaal in 1952, he reflected their mood with compositions like Suno Gajar Kya Gaye or De Bhi Chuke Hum and when Guru Dutt made his somber masterpieces - Pyaasa in 1957 and Kaagaz ke Phool in 1959, he was right on target with Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind and Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Situm.
Failing health in the sixties resulted in his assistant Jaidev taking over Navketan's Hum Dono, but Burman came back with hits like Tere Ghar Ke Saamne and Bandini in 1963, Jewel Thief in 1967 and Aradhana in 1969 and showed that he could still dictate trends. Dev waited for months for SD to be well enough to compose for Guide, 1965. The result was a benchmark in film music.
As a singer, Burman also lent his sonorous voice to songs like Mere sajan hai us paar in Bandini, Wahan kaun hai tera musafir in Guide and Safal hogi teri aradhana, kahe ko roye in Aradhana.
As notable as his minimalism was his ability to pick the right musical instrument to elevate a song. Like the mouth organ in Hai apna dil toh awara from Solva Saal, 1958 and Mere sapno ki rani from Aradhana, 1969. Aradhana was a through-the-roof blockbuster that pushed S D Burman, Kishore Kumar and, of course, Rajesh Khanna firmly into the limelight.
Burman was 62, when he composed the score for Aradhana. Competing with son Rahul Dev Burman and other Westward looking music directors, S D Burman continued to enthrall audiences with Indian music in films. He had an astounding string of hits in the early 1970s like Sharmilee, Anuraag, Naya Zamana, Abhimaan, Jugnu and Prem Nagar.
S D Burman's death in 1975 marked the end of the last phase of the golden age of melody.