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10 timeless love songs by RD Burman – Birth anniversary special

For the music composer’s 79th birth anniversary today (27 June), we look back at his everlasting romantic songs from Teesri Manzil (1966) to 1942: A Love Story (1994).

Sonal Pandya

Rahul Dev (RD) Burman was the rare composer who could do it all. The master of new music sounds in Hindi film music, Burman had a weight of expectations when he began, being the son of Sachin Dev (SD) Burman.

Slowly but surely, he established his own stamp in the industry and bought his own identity to his music. The Hindu newspaper, in an article dated August 2015, wrote of the composer, “RD entertained his fans with a brand that was his own.” From ballads to cabarets, qawwali to club songs, RD brought them all alive. This time around, we revisit some of RD Burman’s all-time timeless love songs.

1) ‘O Mera Sona Re Sona Re’ — Teesri Manzil (1966)

Nasir Husain's hit musical was only RD Burman's fifth film as a music composer. His genre-bending music for Teesri Manzil made him a name to reckon with after the film's release. In the film, Rocky (Shammi Kapoor) and Sunita (Asha Parekh) start off on the wrong foot, with Sunita thinking the worst of him. In the song ‘O Mera Sona Re Sona Re’ by lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sunita tries to win him back in this charming duet by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi by the countryside.  

Authors Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal, in their book, RD Burman: The Man, The Music, write, “Teesri Manzil, according to musicians, was an instrumentalist’s dream. From the violin to the cello, from the vibraphone to the chime, from the sax to the trumpet, from the drums to the conga, and percussion like the triangle and castanet, it had everything, arranged with a perfection that other musicians would only strive to achieve in the years to come.”

2) ‘Ni Sultana Re’ — Pyar Ka Mausam (1969)

The team of RD Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri emerge as the highlights of this Nasir Husain romantic musical which celebrated a silver jubilee. Featuring Shashi Kapoor and Asha Parekh Pyar Ka Mausam's (1969) songs added to Kapoor's status as the dashing hero of the 1960s.

The duet ‘Ni Sultana Re’ sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeskhar could be called a quintessential song from that decade. However, it is the particular RD touch with the percussion and melody that elevates this song from the rest. RD also had a small role in the film as the assistant of Rajendra Nath’s Jhatpat Singh. In one memorable scene, they both dressed up in drag.

3) ‘Yeh Shyam Mastani’ — Kati Patang (1970)

Shakti Samanta’s Kati Patang (1970) and its music album had a lot of wistfulness and hoping. Asha Parekh’s Madhu and Rajesh Khanna’s Kamal are secretly in love with one another, but circumstances constantly force them apart. The Anand Bakshi song ‘Yeh Shyam Mastani’ picturised on them is a reflection of that. Their hidden feelings emerge only through the songs.

Interestingly, while Kishore Kumar sang all the songs for Khanna on the album, Mukesh took up the melancholy ‘Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar’ for Burman. Many critics have rightly pointed the slight that RD was never even nominated for his wonderful score on the film.

4) ‘Jaane Jaan Dhoondta Phir Raha’ — Jawani Diwani (1972)

The Narender Bedi film featured Randhir Kapoor and Jaya Bachchan (then Bhaduri), a new pairing, whose characters are opposites but eventually fall for each other. The music of this 1972 film has outlived it. Its name evokes several hit songs from 'Samne Yeh Kaun Aaya' to the title song.

But the breakout hit was 'Jaane Jaan Dhoondta Phir Raha' which reached as far high as number 26 on the Binaca Geetmala countdown. A superb rendition by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar (changing their range several times in the number) seals the song as an all-time classic. Written by Anand Bakshi, he brings alive the thrill of new love.

5) ‘Chura Liya Hai’ — Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973)

The classic ‘Chura Liya Hai’ picturised on Zeenat Aman begins with a clink of two glasses. Burman was a big proponent of using ordinary items to create music in his songs. The image of Aman strumming a guitar in the song is one of the most popular memories from the film. Late musician Ravi Sundaram is the man behind the guitar in this song.

Aman’s Sunita is bold in her declaration of love to Vijay Arora’s character Vijay. Being a Nasir Husain film, the film’s music had to include Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics. This song, a duet by Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi, is a huge reason why for those who grew up in the 1970s, the songs of RD Burman remain etched in their memories.

6) ‘Humne Tumko Dekha’ — Khel Khel Mein (1975)

Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor (then Singh) were first cast together in Zehreela Insaan (1974). The real-life couple has remained a favourite of Hindi film audiences till today. The romantic thriller Khel Khel Mein (1975) is fondly remembered today for its music picturised on the duo.

There are several love songs to choose from in the film from ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’ and ‘Khullam Khulla Pyar Karenga’, but ‘Humne Tumko Dekha’, a musical performance in the fictional college in the film, is a standout. The energy of both Rishi and Neetu is infectious. Shailendra Singh sings for Rishi once more in this song written by Gulshan Bawra.

7) ‘Aap Ki Aankhon Mein’ — Ghar (1978)

The Manik Chatterjee film which remains a landmark in actress Rekha’s career is also known for its simple, but effective soundtrack. Ghar (1978) focuses on the before and after in the lives of a married couple who lives change after the wife, Aarti (Rekha) is raped.

The songs, with beautiful lyrics by Gulzar, represent the before and after in their lives. ‘Aap Ki Aankhon Mein’ is a playful repartee between them, ably reproduced in the song by singers Lata Mangeshkar and Lata Mangeshkar.

8) 'Yeh Vaada Raha' — Yeh Vaada Raha (1982)

RD Burman continued giving hit music into the 1980s, even though he had more flops than hits than the previous decades. Kapil Kapoor’s Yeh Vaada Raha was an unusual love triangle, where Rishi Kapoor romances two heroines — Poonam Dhillon and Tina Munim (now Ambani) — who happen to be the same person.

The title song of the film, written by Gulshan Bawra, becomes a theme in the film for the Vikram (Kapoor) and Sunita’s (Dhillon and Munim) love story. It is a memory for the both of them and romantic number, though less recognised in Burman’s oeuvre, richly sung by Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar can still be heard on radio stations today.

9) ‘Dilbar Mere’ — Satte Pe Satta (1982)

Raj N Sippy's Satte Pe Satta (1982) is clearly inspired by Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954). A report states that the Hindi film "belonged to two people: Bachchan and music composer RD Burman."

That much is true. Bachchan, as eldest brother, dominates the screen and takes up the film with a double role both as a villain and a family man. But he is clearly aided by Burman's melodious music. In 'Dilbar Mere', he woos Hema Malini's character by showing how he has fallen for her by changing his look and demeanour. Sung by Kishore Kumar and Annette Pinto, a backup vocalist, the romantic number is written by Gulshan Bawra.

10) ‘Kuch Na Kaho’ — 1942 A Love Story (1994)

The soundtrack to Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s film is a fitting endnote to RD Burman’s musical career. The film released posthumously and it remains one of his best. With songs like ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To’ and ‘Pyar Hua Chupke Se’, the focus was split on actor Anil Kapoor and actress Manisha Koirala as they express their individual love onscreen. With ‘Kuch Na Kaho’, the focus turns to the couple with beautiful results. Burman, at his Chopra's request, took inspiration from his father's music for this song written by Javed Akhtar. The song’s opening notes are something SD Burman could have composed himself.