RD Burman Is the Big B of Hindi Film Music: Shankar Mahadevan
While talking about Rahul Dev Burman,the first thing that comes to mind is that he was quite ahead of his time. Hemade making music a thinking process, a process where he always attempted toimagine out of the box and made it a reality through great execution. Heexperimented a lot, and he did it without an ounce of inhibition.
He experimented with an array of newsounds, and brought a revolution quietly to Hindi film music. Imagine usingbottles, vessels, cups, saucers or the sound of gargle to make music. He madeall those sounds part of actual songs that went to become massively popular withthe audience. You have to have a special kind of brilliance in you to makethose things possible.
Hindi film music is forever indebted tohim because he exposed our music to Latin American, Arabic and many other elementsfrom different countries. Unlike many of his contemporaries, RD Burman is onecomposer who still has relevance today, and almost everyone making music todayis influenced by him.
If you hear some of the songs he hassung like ‘Mehbooba Mehbooba...’ in Sholayor ‘Yamma Yamma...’ in Shaan, you willnotice that he has a gruffly voice. In a normal scenario, anyone would raise aquestion on how someone could sing in that kind of unnatural voice. But he didit, without feeling self-conscious, and he made it work. That’s where theconfidence of a master lies. And those songs were not mere flukes; they canstill be heard in and around us.
The way he used to turn around therhythm or use the hook, it just made his songs so distinctively different fromthe rest. He could go all out with instrumentation, and be gregarious, and onthe other hand, he could be just purely minimalist in his approach to a song.He could sway between two extremes without any difficulty. A maestro.
The magic of RD is that when you hear‘Monica...’, you never feel it’s a dated song despite being an old one. You danceto its tunes because you feel it belongs to your generation. It’s thetimelessness of his music. It’s like Amitabh Bachchan in his films. Even youlook at Bachchan’s earlier performances now, you never feel he is out-of-date;it looks like they belong to the current scene. RD is of the same calibre. Heis compelling forever.
If you are a composer, it’s hard not toget influenced by him. Even if you don’t copy his tunes or his innovative useof sounds, you are still subconsciously influenced by him. After all, we allhave grown up on his music.
I have heard such lovely stories andanecdotes about his big heartedness, the way he used to entertain people, theway he loved to cook, and his life was like an open book with youthful spirit,as all his friends say. I have worked with Gulzar saab, and he has told me manytimes that if RD Burman would have been alive, he would have loved to meet me.And that’s a complement of great impact. I wish I could meet him, and tell himhow much I adore and admire him.
(As told to Ranjib Mazumder)
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and is being republished to mark RD Burman’s death anniversary.)