With ‘Dum maro dum’, the seminal rock number from Hare Rama Hare Krishna (’71), Rahul Dev Burman initiated the pop blitzkrieg of Hindi film music. But even as Burman provoked a sonic revolution, he stunned the audiences by composing, in the same year, a classical gem like `Raina beeti jaaye’ for Amar Prem (’71).
Rahul’s father, music director S D Burman, nicknamed him Pancham because even as a child, he would cry in all the five notes. Not surprisingly, Pancham grew up to become passionate about music. Along with his mother, he assisted S D Burman in the 50s, even coming up with an occasional independent tune like `Sar jo tera chakraye’ (Pyaasa).
Mehmood says he gave his friend, Rahul, his break as a music director in Chhote Nawab (’61) because he got tired of Rahul denting his car with the persistent drumming of his fingers. In Chhote Nawab, Rahul got Lata to sing the exquisite `Ghar aaja ghir aayee’, and consequently became instrumental in mending fences between Lata and S D Burman. But it took Rahul almost five more years before he got his next film, Mehmood’s Bhoot Bangla (’65). Mehmood cast Rahul in a comic role in Bhoot BangIa and even offered him Padosan (’68). But Rahul declined as he had promised his father that he would not embarrass the family by acting. So Burman’s contribution to Padosan remained a riotous score headed by the sidesplitting ‘Arrey dekhi teri chaturai’. Later, an embittered Mehmood watched friend Rahul shift focus to bigger banners like Nasir Husain which helped Rahul catapult into the big league.
In the early 70s, Burman junior reached his pinnacle with a slew of Kishore Kumar songs in Rajesh Khanna starrers like Kati Patang, Amar Prem and Namak Haram. Even the Aradhana chartbuster ‘Mere sapno ki rani’, though credited to S D Burman, was rumoured to have been son Rahul’s creation. But then, the father and son had always shared a relationship of mutual understanding. If the father felt the son was not doing justice to the Amar Prem song `Bada natkhat hai’, he did not think twice before reworking it himself.
Even as Hare Rama Hare Krishna and Jawani Diwani made Rahul a pop icon, he teamed up with Gulzar to produce such evocative refrains as ‘Tum aa gaye ho’ (Aandhi) and `Naam ghum jayega’ (Kinara). Mega hits like Sholay, Deewaar; Hum Kisise Kum Nahin kept him saleable throughout the 70s. Even in the early 80s, he was the first choice for teenage love stories like Love Story, Rocky and Betaab.
But later, Saagar or Ijazat could not stem the decline. As his wife, Asha Bhosle pointed out, “With the coming of Bappi Lahiri, his producers disappeared. If they get a plagiarised tune at a lower cost, why would they come to the original?”
Unfortunately, 1942, A Love Story which showed that Rahul was still capable of great compositions like `Ek ladki ko dekha’ came after his demise. His fans who groove even today to bootleg versions of `Chura liya hai’ or `Dum maro dum’ lament his early death. But then, as consolation, Burman has left in his dazzling repertoire, many a ready fix for RD junkies.