Article Hindi

10 iconic songs in SD Burman's own voice – Death anniversary special

Apart from being a prince and a master composer, SD Burman was gifted with a unique voice that was as lilting as any other singer working under his baton. On his 42nd death anniversary, we revisit 10 iconic songs in the master's voice.

Shriram Iyengar

Sachin Dev Burman's legacy as composer and musician in India is untouched. Of noble lineage, his regal touch elevated the quality of his music over a period of 43 years till his death in Bombay on 31 October 1975.

Sachinda to friends, SD Burman was trained by the creme-de-la-creme of Hindustani music like KC Dey, Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Badal Khan and Ustad Bishwadev Chatterjee. While he is praised for the tonal quality of his musical compositions, Burman started out as a singer. He cut a song for All India Radio in 1926-27 before turning composer and singer in Bengali for Rabindranath Tagore's compositions.

It was in 1944 that Burman first arrived in Bombay and it was in this city that he created his most magical compositions and became a legend. On the maestro's 42nd death anniversary today (31 October), we revisit 10 compositions that he sang himself. 

'Ummeed Bhara Pancchi' — Eight Days (1946)

One of his early works was for a rare film written by Saadat Hassan Manto, starring Ashok Kumar and Veera, and directed by Dattaram Pai. While the film itself has been lost, it was among the early instances of SD Burman delivering a wonderful melody in his own symphonic voice. The song, an ode to hope, captures the lilting tune of the composer who would soon be counted among the greatest in the history of Indian cinema.

'Sun Mere Bandhu Re' — Sujata (1960)

Burman's genius lay in his understanding of a film's scene and the setting of the song. This serene number from Sujata is both a background song and a boat song. Picturized on the romancing Sunil Dutt and Nutan, the song provides the atmospheric magic that only an SD Burman composition could create.

'O Re Majhi' — Bandini (1963)

Speaking of boat songs, this composition, too, is set on a riverbank with a steamer about to depart, and evocatively captures the struggle of Kalyani (Nutan) to choose between the ailing love of her life (Ashok Kumar) and the young doctor who loves her and could give her a comfortable life (Dharmendra). Bimal Roy's last directorial captured the sensitive tale of people caught in the intertwining webs of love and hate, and the choices that they are led to make.

A landmark of 1960s Hindi cinema, the film contained several moving songs that encapsulated Burman's ouevre of slow, melodious rhythms shaped by folk tradition.

'Wahan Kaun Hai Tera' — Guide (1965) 

As someone who started out by singing Rabindra sangeet, SD Burman's control of classical and popular rhythms finds the perfect combination in Dev Anand's iconic Guide (1965). The opening song, written by Shailendra, captures the philosophy of RK Narayan's book as well as Vijay Anand's film. The song is one of several opening songs that the composer performed himself. 

'Allah Megh De Paani De' — Guide (1965) 

The great composer sang two songs for the iconic film of the 1960s, the second being this Hindi remake of a popular East Bengal folk song. Burman often borrowed from traditional folk music and remade the tunes to popular tastes. He manages to express the empathy, struggle, and optimism of the people in this wonderful song. The composer's warbling voice only adds to the very natural rhythm of his composition.

'Kaahe Ko Roye' — Aradhana (1969)

Shakti Samanta's film turned Rajesh Khanna into a phenomenon, Hindi cinema's first superstar, but it also hit the right notes in its music. The compositions by SD Burman included some of the most popular numbers of the time like 'Mere Sapnon Ki Rani' and 'Roop Tera Mastana'. But, as always, the composer left his signature on the film's opening song. However, he was pipped to the Filmfare award for Best Music Director by the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal for Jeene Ki Raah (1969).

'Meri Duniya Hai Maa' — Talash (1969)

The unique nature of the composer's voice meant that he used it sparingly. It would never suit the fast-paced rhythmic songs that made up most of the popular songs in Hindi cinema. Hence, he would often use it to sing an emotional or sentimental song that set the tone for the film. This wonderful song from the 1969 Rajendra Kumar starrer, Talash, is but one example.

'Prem Ke Pujari Hum Hai' — Prem Pujari (1970)

Another Dev Anand film, another wonderful opening song. Prem Pujari saw SD Burman set the theme for Anand's film set during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965. While the film had several chartbusters, including 'Rangeela Re' and 'Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye', it is this humble opening song that the composer chose to lend his voice to. 

'Zindagi Ae Zindagi' — Zindagi Zindagi (1972)

Tapan Sinha's Zindagi Zindagi was a remake of his own Bengali film, Khoniker Atithi. The film dealt with the topical social issue of casteism, and had the understated acting talents of Sunil Dutt and Waheeda Rehman at its disposal. The magic, however, lay in the compositions of SD Burman that underlined Sinha's film. It fetched the legendary composer a National award for Best Music Direction. 

'Doli Mein Bithaaye Ke' — Amar Prem (1972)

By the 1970s, the great composer had taken a back seat in terms of composition and singing. He returned to focus on traditional folk songs and composing in Bengali. One of his last works was this serene track for son Rahul Dev Burman's landmark, Amar Prem (1972). The film's music went on to become one of the most iconic albums of all time in Hindi cinema, and a watershed moment in the young composer's career. It also marked the moment when the baton passed from father to son.