It has become a ritual sort of that when Pancham aka R D Burman’s birthday is celebrated the tributes that are given to him are mostly through his songs that are chart-busters the popular songs, which continue to be played across various music channels, be it audio or video throughout the country. What is rarely analyzed however is the evolution of Pancham as a fusion music player par excellence after his association with Gulzar that gave Hindi music one of the most enigmatic eras of music that the world of Hindi cinema has ever witnessed, an era that was characterized by tapestry of poetry woven over imaginative usage of musical instruments.
This tribute to Pancham would be mostly with respect to the relationship that Pancham and Gulzar enjoyed throughout their life. When R.D. Burman used to compose music he had a visualization about the artist who would be giving voice to the song. But he as a music director also visualized music for Gulzar to put lyrics to and Gulzar holds the view that it is the ultimate compliment that a music director could pay to a writer. The songs of IJAAZAT are a musical tribute to this relationship.
How many of us are aware about the fact that the introduction song from the film IJAAZAT – Chhoti Si Kahani, was put in as a casting song as the songs of the film had been finalized, but Pancham created music factoring in the theme of IJAAZAT to which Gulzar added the lyrics and they worked throughout the night to create magic and such was the fusion that nobody could find a single jarring node when the song played out along with casting. One often wonders, if Pancham were alive today, what kind of treatment he would have given to the songs that have become a part of the Hindi cinema these days, songs in the end of film. He certainly would have given it a flavour of its own.
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After all, Pancham was a master cook who used to dish up his imaginative concoctions and used to try them out among his friends. He was particularly fond of chillies and used to cross pollinate them to whip up spicy combinations and used them as garnishes in his dishes. May be, the ability to manufacture imaginative variety of chillies also was a contributory factor the element of spice in his music as well.
Pancham being a big foodie, used to ask his friends to bring to him imaginative varieties of sauces, soups etc., which were not available in India during those days. Such was his commitment to music that when he composed a non-musical album DIL PADOSI HAI he created the whole album sitting at Asha Bhonsle’s house. He had termed it as the BEKAAR KA KAAM, but those who would have heard DIL PADOSI HAI would understand the genius of Pancham working in tandem with Gulzar to produce one of the finest non-musical albums ever produced in Hindi cinema.
Pancham also had the flair to pick up music from international arena and give it his own flavor; he never lifted the tunes, but gave them an Indian context. How many of us would be aware about the fact that the evergreen song from AANDHI, Tere Bina Zindagi se koi was in fact a Pooja song that Pancham had created- jete jete jete paaiji. Indeed, Pancham used to bring out a Pooja album every year and lots of songs composed by him as Hindi film music were off-shoots of the Pooja albums.
Pancham may be known for his imaginative fusion and as the man who was catalytic in instilling the notion and idea of Western music into the psyche of Indian music fans and firmly grounded it, it was the music that he created along with Gulzar which is a living tribute to his creative genius, about the mastery that he had with various kind of musical instruments, and above all his panache and flair for capturing imaginative sounds and using them evocatively in the interludes of his songs. May his music live forever.