Who Gave RD Burman a Fever? Gulzar Opens Up About Pancham Da

Gulzar and RD Burman worked together on the most songs and fans still hum those melodies.

3 min read
Who Gave RD Burman a Fever? Gulzar Opens Up About Pancham Da

Gulzar – a poet, storyteller, lyricist, dialogue writer, director.

RD Burman – a singer, magical musician, football fanatic.

Every time the two came together, they created magic, casting a spell on the audience who listened with bated breath. The work they did together, the songs they made, are still on the lips of thousands, who will still hum them for an eternity.


Gulzar and Pancham – Musical Guarantee

Pancham, as RD was known, was the son of renowned singer Sachin Dev Burman. He first met Gulzar when the lyricist was penning down some songs for his father, SD Burman. Their friendship only grew from then on, so much so that Gulzar composed his highest number of songs with RD.

Reminiscing about Pancham da, Gulzar siad in an interview:

My relationship with Pancham was special. Working with him was fun and easy. He would start humming tunes in the car and start tapping them on the dashboard and asked me to pen the lyrics right then or else it would be lost. Once we would reach the studio, he would ask me to go and not disturb him when he was working. We were one person despite being two people.

RD and Gulzar made an entire movie together in 1972. The movie was Parichay. Looking back now, the name is serendipitous as it means ‘introduction’ or ‘familiarity’. All the film’s songs are quite memorable but one was particularly special to Pancham da – ‘Beti na betai rena’, which was his first song based on classical music.

What We Miss About Pancham

Gulzar always recalls how restless and impatient RD Burman was.

I haven’t seen any other composer like that. If hot tea was being served and it was hot, he would add some cold water to it and drink it. But despite his impatience, when it came to music, he was always calm and measured. 

The respect and affection Gulzar had for Pancham was reciprocated in equal measure. Often, Pancham would create a tune then ask his assistant to keep them aside, because he knew that only Gulzar’s words could do justice to his music.

Singer Shailender Singh, in the documentary on RD’s life Pancham Unmixed, says:

Once when I went to meet Pancham, he looked quite tense. I asked him what happened. He said, “I’m dead, man, every time he comes I get a fever; whenever I work on a song of his, I get a fever 10 days before it’s done and it stays for 10 days after, but the music turns out great.’ When I asked whom he was talking about, he said, ‘Gulzar’.

Remember Pancham

Gulzar wrote a beautiful poem for Pancham which is a treat to listen to, both in Gulzar’s own voice and with Bhupendra’s music and singing. Consider these short excerpts:

Yaad hai, Pancham
Wo pyaas nahi thi,
Jab tum music undel rahe the zindagi mein
Aur hum sab ooakh bardha kar maang rahe thay
Pyaas aab lagi hai,
Jab qatra-qatra tumhari aawaz ka jama kar raha hun
Kya tumhen pata tha Pancham
Ki tum chup ho jaoge
Aur tumhari aawaz dhundta phirunga

Do you remember, Pancham
This thirst wasn’t there
When you were pouring your music in life
And we all asked for it with our chalices held out.
I am thirsty now,
When I collect your voice drop by drop.
Did you know, Pancham,
That you will go silent
And I will wander about searching for your voice..

Or this:

Yaad hai, Pancham,
Jab bhee koi dhun bana kar bhejte thay
To saath keh diya karte thay,
“The ball is in your court”
Ye kaun sa ball mere court mein chhodh gaye ho tum,
..Pancham zindagi ka khel akele nahin khela jaata
Hamaari toh team hai
Aa jao, ya bula lo

Do you remember, Pancham
Whenever you would send me a tune
You would say,
“The ball is in your court.”
What ball have you left in my court now?
..Pancham, the game of life is not one to be played alone
We were a team,
Either come back or call me

Whether it’s “tujh se naaraz nahi zindagi” or “mera kuch saaman” or “Aajkal paon zameen par nahin padtey mere”, the duo of Gulzar and Pancham was one of the greatest in the history of Indian cinema.

(This article is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on Hindi Quint. It is being republished to mark the occasion of RD Burman’s birth anniversary.)

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