Pancham Unmixed is a homage to R.D. Burman by film-maker, Brahmanand Singh, the key word being “homage”. It is not a documentary or biography but an unabashed tribute offered by the filmmaker to his hero.
The 2-hour film is a compilation of interviews with people who knew and/or worked with Pancham and also with a few people who didn’t. The former works, the latter works only partially. The latter set of people consists of present day musicians like Shantanu Moitra, Shankar – Ehsaan – Loy and Vishal Bhardwaj, who look up to Pancham and have been influenced by his work. The views of these musicians add great value to the film. The latter set of people also consists of die-hard Pancham fans and in my opinion, the filmmaker wastes about 5 minutes of the viewers’ time talking to them. Compared to the other heavy-hitters in the DVD, the sections with the fans are banal and add no new perspective.
The real substance of the film is formed by the interviews with R.D. Burman’s contemporaries. These individuals offer us insights into Pancham’s life and work and through their voices emerges a picture of a creative, musical genius who changed Hindi film music forever. For most Pancham lovers, there are probably no new revelations but it’s still pretty cool to hear giants like Gulzar, Shammi Kapoor and Asha Bhosle talk about R.D. Burman, his creativity, his ability to marry melody and rhythm, his willingness to experiment and his knack of getting the best out of his singers.
The other really impactful set of conversations in the film is with people from Pancham’s team – Manohari Singh, Bhanu Gupta, Kersi Lord, etc. The tenderness with which they speak about R.D. Burman is touching and shows that Pancham was not just a great musician but also a very nice human being.
The film left me with a lump in my throat. I will probably watch sections of it again (Gulzar, Shammi Kapoor, Bhupinder, Asha Bhosle, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Bhanu Gupta being my favorite ones) but that’s probably because I am a Pancham fan to begin with. This DVD is really a fan collectible and people wanting to get to know Pancham and his work better will find more value in the National Award-winning book, R.D. Burman – The Man, The Music.
The product I bought from Flipkart (link below) had two DVDs – one had the film and the other had a collection of 30 R.D. Burman songs. – and a coffee table book. If you have the option of purchasing only the film’s DVD, go for that. I’m not sure who picked them but the choice of songs in the extra DVD is quirky at best. I also found the coffee table book wanting in quality in terms of the content as well as the design.
[Update: Pancham Unmixed is now available on YouTube. You can try before you buy.]