Joined: 12 January 2006
For Bengalis who grew up with his music, RD's passing away marks the end of youth
by Abhijit Dasgupta
A good thing about India is that it lives in it's music. And perhaps the best thing about us is that most if us die with our music too. A part of us died at 3.30 am on January 4; the music that we had lived for all these years passed into eternity at precisely that hour, with the death of Rahul Dev Burman.
We grew up with four persons: Sunil Gavaskar, Amitabh Bachchan, Kishore Kumar and Rahul Dev Burman. The decade aws the seventies. Innocence had still not taken a back seat: playing truant in schools was still great fun, queuing up outside Loretto was the highest form of pleasure and tuning into the radio early in the morning to hear Gavaskar walk off in a huff at Melbourne was still the source of final excitement. And, of course, waiting for Amitabh Bachchan. And Kishore Kumar. And Rahul Dev Burman. We simply did not have any time for Indira Gandhi.
For quite a few of us, Rahul or RD was the last word. And when he teamed up with Kishore, our joy knew no bounds. For my friends, Bachchan and Gavaskar were the leaders: the sneers were preserved for those who were still clutching on to the coat-tails of a former phenomenon called Rajesh Khanna. We waited patiently for the Pujas: not because of the gifts but for RD's special numbers with Kishore and Asha Bhonsle. Later, when all these songs found their way into hindi films, we used to compare notes. With rare exceptions, the concensus was that the puja numbers were vastly superior: the ever-present Bengali tradition of parochialism was mannest even at that early stage of youth.
Earlier, much earlier, there was the Lata number sung in Bengali to RD's music: Amar madhabilata. It was the mid-sixties and one of the first Bengali hits of the nightingale. Latabai may have sung countless Bengali hits after that: most of them under Salil Choudhury's baton, but for me, that remains her best Bengali song yet. Incidentally, perhaps because it still remains one of my most-loved RD favourites; the composer did not allow Bollywood to borrow it.
The other day, while listening to the Jaipur se delhi chale number from Gurudev, one of RD's last films. I was struck by the way he had incorporated srains of a famous Bengali Asha number of yesteryears: Mohuaye jomeche Not that the man had burnt out with nothing to offer. Both the Gurudev songs (the other one being: Aana re aana re) had climbed up the charts in Superhit Muqabla: obviously the man knew exactly what to take from where. Never being a Bappi Lahiri or Annu Malik on the way. The only song worth comparing would be Salil Choudhury's Madhumati number by Mukesh, Dil tadap tadap ke where one instrumental interlude is a deft lift from one of the composer's own Bengali numbers.
One reason RD never lived up to his promise(which, is a superficial perception )was because he gave great music to films which were doomed from the muharat. Has anyone heard the music of Trimurti, a Sanjay Khan starrer of the early seventies? Or perhaps Deven Verma's Bada Kabutar? Both the films sank without a trace: some of RD's best numbers went with them.
Typical of the man and unlike his contemporaries Laxmikant and Pyarelal (LP), RD gave his best for every film. But by then LP-his only rival, talentwise-had forged ahead, picking and choosing on the way.
An editor in Delhi had once grandly announced that LP was the best simply because they had been at the top for so long. And a lot of us had kept quiet then waiting for the Gurudev to happen.
Freud said that a man becomes an adult when his father dies. When Gavaskar took his last guard, when Kishore died, when Bachchan announced his retirement, the younger generation of Indians slowly lost it's youth. With RD's death, we have suddenly come of age.
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