RD Burman in hospital
R D Burman after surgery with Dr Mukesh Hariawala

R D Burman, who died this day 22 years ago in 1994, is often remembered for heralding the era of fast tracks in Hindi films, which is both factually incorrect and a gross injustice to his calibre and versatility. 

For instance, the semi-classical number "Hame tumse se pyaar kitna" from the movie "Kudrat" starring Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini would easily compete with similar compositions of stalwarts such as Naushad, Madan Mohan and his own father S D Burman. Here is how Parveen Sultana, who sang the melodious song, shared with this reporter her experience with R D Burman, fondly called Pancham.

"R D Burman (music director of "Qudrat") and my husband-guru Dilshaad Khan were close friends. One day, he called my husband and said he wanted me to sing a semi-classical number for the movie. I agreed after listening to the lyrics (by Majrooh Sultanpuri) and the tune. It was a wonderful experience, singing amid 100 violinists, 50 percussionists and other musicians. The song was recorded in a single take," she said.

It wasn't the only song that had a semi-classical touch. Movie buffs would recall "Raina beeti jaaye, shyam na aaye" from the hit film "Amar Prem" starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore.

Starting his carrer at a time when the Hindi film industry was dominated by ace music composers such as Naushad, Madan Mohan, Ravi, O P Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan and S D Burman,  R D Burman got his break in the film "Chhote Nawab" in 1961.

His first major success was in 1966 with the Shammi Kapoor-Asha Parekh-Helen-starrer "Teesri Manzil", the songs for which were written by lyricist-poet Majrooh Sultanpuri. Many of the songs from the movie, "Deewana mujhsa nahin, is ambar ke neeche", "Oh haseena zulfon wali jaane jahan", "Tumne mujhe dekha, hokar meherban" became so popular that the lyricist-composer teamed up for many Hindi films later on — "Yaadon ki baarat", "Hum kisi se kam nahin", "Anamika" and "Pyaar ka Mausam".   

R D Burman married Asha Bhosle, sister of singer Lata Mangeshkar.

In an illustrious career spanning about four decades, from the late 1950s to 1994, he worked with a range of lyricists, from Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Gulzaar, to Gulshan Bawra, Anand Bakshi and Javed Akhtar. All established singers of the era — Lata, Asha, Kishore, Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh — sang for him.

Here is a list of some select songs for which R D Burman composed music:

  • Tera bina zindagi se koi, shikwa toh nahi   (Andhi)
  • Tume aa gaye ho, noor aa gaya hai (Andhi)
  • Musafir hoon yaaron, na ghar hai, na thikana (Parichay)
  • O maajhi re (Khushboo)
  • Tujhse naaraz nahi zindagi, hairaan hoon main (Masoom)
  • Jeevan ke har mod par, mil jaayenge humsafar (Jhutha Kahin Ka)
  • Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo maqam (Aap ki Kasam)
  • Maine poocha chand se ke dekha hai kahin (Abdullah)
  • Chand mera dil, chandni ho tum (Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin)
  • Aap ke kamre mein koi rehta hai (Yaadon ki Baarat)
  • Hame tumse pyaar kitna (Qudrat)
  • Chingaari koi bhadke (Amar Prem)
  • Mera kuch saman tumhare paas pada hai (Ijazat)
  • Naam gum jaayega, chehra yeh badal jaayega (Kinara)
  • Kehna hai, kehna hai (Padosan)
  • Ek chatur naar, kar ke singar (Padosan)

R D Burman left us more than 20 years ago, but his compositions continue to be remembered by movie buffs, who still love songs of his era — songs that would seem out of date these days when shor-e-badtameezi, or noise pollution, passes off for songs.