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RD Burman: 10 unforgettable numbers

It’s been 23 years since the maestro departed on 4 January 1994. We remember him with a selection of some of our favourite Pancham songs.

Sonal Pandya

1. 'Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyar Tera' – Teesri Manzil (1966)

RD Burman ushered new sound into Hindi film music with the soundtrack of Nasir Husain’s Teesri Manzil. Each of the film’s six songs, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, is unique, from the romantic number ‘O Mere Sona Re’ to the club song ‘Aaja Aaja’. This particular song, sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle, was Panchamda's personal favourite and picturized on Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh as they danced away at the Rock and Roll Club. The song had a 14-second guitar lead which was later used as an audition piece by Burman's second wife Asha Bhosle for guitarists who wanted to work with her.

2. 'Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein' – Padosan (1968)

Two years later, RD Burman composed a hit soundtrack for Jyoti Swaroop’s Padosan giving a comic touch to songs like the famous duelling duet ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ by Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar, and ‘Meri Pyari Bindu’ penned by the film’s screenwriter Rajinder Krishan. The romantic number sung by Kishore Kumar, ‘Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein’, also slyly poked fun at the Indian system of playback singing. Kishore Kumar, who played the singer Vidyapati, helps Bhola (Sunil Dutt) win over his beautiful neighbour Bindu (Saira Banu). He sings the actual song while Bhola merely lip-syncs.

3. 'Yeh Shaam Mastani' – Kati Patang (1970)

The combination of actor Rajesh Khanna with singer Kishore Kumar and music composer RD Burman was a winning formula in the 1970s. One of the early hits of the trio was this romantic song, ‘Yeh Shaam Mastani’, written by Anand Bakshi. In the film, Khanna’s character Kamal tries to woo a reluctant Asha Parekh who plays Madhu.

4. 'Chura Liya Hai Tumne' – Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973)

Zeenat Aman strumming the guitar in ‘Chura Liya’ became an instant icon of the music of the 1970s. RD Burman’s score was nominated for a Filmfare award, but he lost out to his father, the legendary SD Burman, for Abhimaan (1973). The film’s six songs are evergreen classics, each evoking a memory of director Nasir Husain’s lost-and-found story of three brothers. Interestingly, the song is ‘inspired’ by the title song from the Hollywood film, If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) sung by JP Rags. But the duet sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri far surpasses the original.

5. 'Mehbooba Mehbooba' – Sholay (1975)

RD Burman turned singer with this catchy campfire number from Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975). Picturized on Jalal Agha and Helen and written by Anand Bakshi, RD’s rendition of ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba’ was nominated for a Filmfare award for Best Male Playback Singer. Kishore Kumar’s soulful title number from Amanush (1975) was the eventual winner. According to authors Balaji Vittal and Anirudha Bhattacharjee in their National award-winning book, RD Burman – The Man, The Music, Pancham is unfairly accused of plagiarizing from Greek singer Demis Roussos’s ‘Say You Love Me’ for this composition. Actually, it was director Ramesh Sippy who heard the Roussos number at his brother Ajit’s place in London and wanted it for his film. And what a fantastic choice it proved to be.

6. 'Tere Bina Zindagi Se' – Aandhi (1975)

The same year as Sholay, RD Burman composed the soundtrack for Gulzar’s Aandhi (1975). Gulzar and Puncham had a long association; Burman first worked on Gulzar’s Parichay (1972) and the poet-turned-director was often the first to hear his melodies. But here, Gulzar wrote the lyrics for ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se’ after hearing a Durga Puja song, ‘Jete Jete Potho Holo Tere’ which Burman then turned into the timeless refrain of lost love and regret with the voices of Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
7. 'Bachna Ae Haseeno' – Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977)

RD Burman produced some of his best compositions for filmmaker Nasir Husain and Hum Kisise Kum Naheen was no exception. The film featured many occasions for its characters to perform on stage and the results are there to see in the songs from ‘Mil Gaya Hum Ko Saathi’ to ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’. The soundtrack remains popular even in the new millenium. For Yash Raj Films’ Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008) starring Rishi Kapoor’s son Ranbir, a remixed version of ‘Bachna Ae Haseeno’ played in the opening credits.

8. 'Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi' (male) – Masoom (1982)

Astonishingly, Burman won only his second Filmfare award for Best Music Director for his score on the Shekhar Kapur film, Masoom (1982). All the songs were written by Gulzar, adding extra pathos to the story of a family man who suddenly discovers the existence of an illegitimate son in his well-controlled life. Gulzar, too, was honoured with the Filmfare Best Lyricist award for the song. Burman introduced Anup Ghosal, a well-known Bengali singer on films like Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1969) and Hirak Rajar Deshe (1980), to Hindi listeners. As Ghosal wasn’t a household name, an additional female version sung by Lata Mangeshkar was added to the soundtrack before the release of the film.

9. 'Mera Kuch Saamaan' – Ijaazat (1987)

Asha Bhosle has famously referred to this song being "like my life". Written by Gulzar and simply but ably composed by RD Burman, ‘Mera Kuch Saamaan’ has been hailed by critics and fans alike as ahead of its time. When Gulzar first made him hear the song, Puncham complained that Gulzar would have him compose music for The Times of India newspaper's headlines next! Sadly, both Gulzar and Asha were honoured with National awards for their lyrics and singing respectively, but Burman was shut out as the song’s composer.

10. 'Ek Ladki Ko Dekha' – 1942 A Love Story (1994)

Before the release of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1942 A Love Story, RD Burman was largely written off with more flops than hits in the last stage of his career. This soundtrack was supposed to be his comeback but became his swansong instead: the great man died of a heart attack a few months before the film's release. The melodious soundtrack heralded a return to the glory days of Hindi film music in the 1950s and 1960s. Burman won his third Filmfare award posthumously for his compositions. Both the lyricist, Javed Akhtar, and the song’s male singer, Kumar Sanu, walked away with Filmfare honours for their work on ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha’.