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And now there is silence...
Part 1: THE MAN IN THE MUSICIAN
We knew each other from the moment we were hopefuls. We were assistants-he to his father and I to Bimal Roy. When SD would come with his compositions, his s on would come carrying a "dagga". He'd be wearing shorts the way kids wear Bermud as today.
My first lyric for Sachinda was "Mora gora ang lai le". Pancham would be there. Shailendra did the other lyrics for BANDINI. And Pancham would encourage me-go meet baba, go and talk to him. He'd invite me to their apartment in the one-storey building, 'Jet', on Linking Road. Today there's a tall building over that one-storey structure. I don't know who stays there now, Sachinda was there till his end.
Pancham was three-four years younger than me. He was always a kid, he remained one. He was fond of pranks, of colorful clothes and especially of the color red. He had a nickname for me--'safed kavva'. He'd phone, if I wasn't at home he'd leave a message.
His sense of humor was his very own. He knew Asha Bhonsle was very particular about keeping the house clean; so he sent her a gift-two big brooms in bright wrapping paper.
One of his passions, besides music, was cooking. He grew chillies in his terrace garden-as many as 40 varieties, cross-breeding them to get new exotic tastes. Ashaji now wonders, "Who'll look after his plants? He's gone."
If a friend was going abroad, he'd ask him to get back some soup packets. Like he asked Rahi Sabarwal of Air India to bring him some soup packets which you can only find in Hong Kong...Pancham even sent him a telegram, "Don't forget my soup." The telegram was signed Soup Lover.
As young men in our 20s, we shared many common interests-- interests in home-cooked food and in sports. He was a soccer fanatic, he was a true Mohan Baganian, he'd get into heated arguments with (director) Gogi Anand over soccer. Yet Gogi remained Pancham's friend till the end.
Pancham married Jyoti. It was a love marriage, but I think it didn't work out because they were two very different people. He was immersed into films and music; he'd spend long hours away from home in the recording studio of Film Centre. He was so obsessed with his work that he had little time for any other love in his life.
Pancham was a terrific mouth-organ player; he played the organ in his father's orchestra. And he was an outstanding sarod player too...he had trained under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.
Pancham would have his differences with his father. But he was Sachinda's only child, he was the pampered one. And he could get pretty possessive about his father. They hailed from a royal family; for them it was a matter of pride that they had carved out their own little kingdoms with their music.
There'd be good-natured bantering between them. "Baba," Pancham would pout, "you don't give me enough pocket money." And Sachinda would laugh back, "Oi Pancham, when are you going to contribute to the kitchen expenses?" Whenever the son would try to shuffle out quietly from the music room, Sachinda would say, "Jao jao, I know you want to smoke a cigarette."
Pancham would frequently compose his tunes in the course of car drives. He'd hum, we'd reach Film Centre and he'd say, "OK, you go home now, I've got the tune in my head. I'll try it out with the musicians." If he was especially excited about a tune, he'd scream with joy. He never kept his happiness within himself; he shared the moments of ecstasy with others.
Pancham would keep the actor's face in mind while working on a composition. He'd tell me that, at times, he thought of my face while conjuring a tune-which I thought was a great compliment.
Part 2: GULZAR, RD & ASHA: THE WINNING COMBINATION
We first worked together on PARICHAY. It was important for me to sit with him on the music sessions. He inspired certain moments which I picturised later, his music was that visual...I went to Raj kamal studio where he was recording a background score for another film. I gave him the mukhDa- 'Musafir hun yaaro/Na ghar he na thikaana'-and I left. That night he woke me up at 1 a.m. and said, "Come, come down with me to the car." He'd recorded the tune on a cassette already. He started driving through the empty streets of Bandra, he played the beat on the dashboard. It was my first song as a director with him.
By the time he composed 'Saare ke saare', he had shifted from home--he was in the process of acquiring a new flat--to Caesar's Palace Hotel. The most beautiful song in the film--'Beeti na bitaai raina'--was also composed in the hotel room. It was based on a classical 'bandish'; it fetched Lata and Bhupendra National Awards for best playback singers.
In all, we did eight films together, as a composer-director team. Besides PARICHAY, there were: KHUSHBOO, KINARA, AANDHI, KITAAB, NAMKEEN, LIBAAS and IJAAZAT. How did 'Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin' (AANDHI) come about? He was recording Bengali songs for Durga puja around that time. The lyrics were by the renowned Gauri Shanker. I liked the tune that Pancham was composing; I filled it up with Hindi words and said, "Look, I'm going to use this for AANDHI."
As for 'Is moD pe jaate haiN, kuCH sust qadam raste', I gave him the words from one of my poems. He composed the tune instantly. He never took time. Spontaneity was his specialty. If he struggled over a song, he would prefer to abandon it. For instance, 'Ek hi khwab kai baar yuhi dekha hai maine' (KINARA) exasperated him. He found that metre a bit difficult, but two months later I put it before him again. He caught the scanning, and the song was finally recorded.
When I gave him 'Mera kuCH saamaaan tumhare paas paDa hai' (IJAA- ZAT), he waved the lyric aside and said, "Huh, tomorrow you'll bring me the front page of *The Times of India* and expect me to compose a tune around it. What is this blank verse you're giving me!" Ashaji was sitting there, she started humming the phrase, "Mujhe lauta do." He grasped it immediately; from that one phrase he developed the song, which was quite a feat! This time Ashaji and I got National Awards. Poor fellow, he did all the work and we enjoyed the 'kheer'.
Ashaji's and his was a superb creative companionship. He used the potential in her voice to maximum effect. No other composer ever placed Ashaji's voice above his music the way he did. We recorded the non-film album DIL PADOSI HAI, and the variations from semi- classical and ghazal to pop and jazz, were a valuable experience for each one of us. There was a three-way harmony of voice, music and lyrics.
After his heart ailment, Pancham did feel that producers were sidelining him. He did feel hurt. He would laugh, with a touch of bitterness, at the new music composers who copy his tunes and make a mess of them. They would even imitate his singing style which was unmistakably his. 'Mehbooba mehbooba' (SHOLAY) and 'Dhanno ki aankhon meiN' (KITAAB) were his creations, but others tried to clone his style, only to sound like amateurs.
My last meeting with Pancham was on December 30 . He went to Sahara recording studio in Goregaon. Ashaji was recording a song for G.V. Iyer's VIVEKANANDA. Salil Chowdhry had composed the music. Pancham and I had gone along with Ashaji. At the end of the evening, he said in his customary manner, "Milte hain."
We never did.
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