The Best of S.D. Burman – Part 2

[This post originally appeared here.]

In the post last week, I starting listing my top 20 picks of S.D. Burman film albums. 10 S.D. Burman films appeared in last week’s post. This is the second part of the tribute to S.D. Burman.

Bandini (1963)

“Bandini” was a significant film in many ways. The film was Bimal Roy’s last offering as director and significant for its strong, woman lead played by Nutan. The film was critically acclaimed and won several awards including those for best film, best director and best actress. The film was the debut of a lyricist who went be counted as one of the greatest ever – Gulzar. Finally, the film saw S.D. Burman and Lata Mangeshkar resolving their differences and coming together after a period of about six years. The film had several great songs by Shailendra, including “Mere Saajan Hain Us Paar” sung by S.D. Burman himself. Although a Shailendra song might be more representative of “Bandini”, my pick from the film is Gulzar’s debut song and Lata Mangeshkar’s first with S.D. Burman after six years – “Mora Gora Ang Laile”.

Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963)

“Tere Ghar Ke Samne” was one of the the only two films S.D. Burman did with lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri. “Tere Ghar Ke Samne” is an example of how symbiotic the relationship of S.D. Burman and Navketan was. S.D. Burman’s music was as important to Navketan Films as the studio’s film-making sensibilities were to Burman’s music. Nurtured by one of Indian films’ best song directors – Vijay Anand – and a star who oozed charm – Dev Anand, S.D. Burman’s songs blossomed on screen. In my pick from the film, “Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar”, Vijay Anand turns the tight spaces inside the Qutab Minar into a place of surreal beauty. Hasrat’s fluid lyrics and Rafi’s effortless singing make this song an easy listen. As a tribute to S.D. Burman, Amit Trivedi used the theka used in the mukhda of this song in the lovely “Sawar Loon” (“Lootera”, 2013).

Guide (1965)

“Guide” was Navketan’s most ambitious project and the grandeur of S.D. Burman’s music fulfilled the Anands’ vision for it. S.D. Burman outdid himself in “Guide”, if such a feat was possible. His score for “Guide” was rich, vivid and varied. Filled with as many as 10 songs, each a classic in its own right, “Guide” represents the best Hindi film music has to offer. The success of “Guide” must have been extra sweet for Dada Burman given that he had just recovered from a prolonged health issue. After his lackluster debut for “Chhote Nawab” (1961), R.D. Burman had stuck to assisting his father and, perhaps for the first time, we can see him beginning to emerge from his father’s rather imposing shadow in the arrangement of Guide’s music. Vijay Anand wove the songs into the film so artistically that the songs are as much a joy to see as they are to listen to. It’s worthwhile reading Vijay Anand’s interview with Nasreen Munni Kabir in which he shares fascinating insights on how he approached songs and choreography in his films. My pick from “Guide” – “Piya Tose Naina Laage Re”.

Teen Devian (1965)

While the film did have two superb Rafi songs, “Teen Devian” saw the return of Kishore Kumar as Dev Anand’s voice. The film had a light, mellow score and saw S.D. Burman making significant use of Western instruments and arrangements, perhaps a result of Pancham’s increasing influence in the recording studio. This may have been the film that set the stage for him to make a solo comeback with “Teesri Manzil” (1966) – a film that changed the course of his career. It is noteworthy that Pancham’s rise coincided with a lean period in S.D. Burman’s career – he did only two films in 1965 and none in 1966. My pick from “Teen Devian” is “Khwab Ho Tum Ya Koi Haqeeqat” with its lovely arrangement that included Pancham’s harmonica in one of the interludes and a fantastic chorus.

Jewel Thief (1967)

After a brief hiatus, S.D. Burman came back with a bang with “Jewel Thief”. Navketan wanted to repeat the team of “Guide” for the film but Shailendra, heart-broken after the failure of his film “Teesri Kasam” (1966), excused himself after penning the heart-rending “Rula Ke Gaya Sapna Mera” and Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote the remaining songs. My pick from the film is the effervescent “Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara” for which S.D. Burman was inspired by Colonel Bogey March theme from David Lean’s war classic “The Bridge On The River Kwai” (1957).

Aradhana (1969)

As S.D. Burman’s health deteriorated, R.D. Burman’s involvement in recording his songs increased. He also became far less prolific than he had been in the past. The film music landscape had changed with the influx of a new generation of composers like Laxmikant – Pyarelalal and R.D. Burman. The last few years of Dada Burman’s career were all about overcoming these challenges to retain his position as a premiere music director. With songs like “Roop Tera Mastana” and “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani”, S.D. Burman showed that he was capable of giving what the new generation of filmgoers wanted. My pick from “Aradhana” is the song that gave the film its title – “Saphal Hogi Teri Aradhana”. Despite being one of Hindi films’ best composers ever, the first National Film Award S.D. Burman won was for this song for playback singing. He was given another National Film Award for music direction for “Zindagi Zindagi” (1972) but that was probably the NFA committee making amends for not giving him his due in the past.

Talash (1969)

This was possibly my most iffy pick in this list. The fact that I couldn’t include albums like “Mili” (1975), “Baazi” (1951), “Gambler” (1971) in the top 20 gives an indication of how deep S.D. Burman’s discography was. “Talash” is an underrated album that, in my opinion, scores very high on variety. My two favorites from the film are quintessential S.D. Burman – the delightful “Palkon Ke Peechhe Se” with its khopdi tarang motif and Manna Dey’s semi-cassical beauty “Tere Naina Talash Karen”. It was S.D. Burman who gave Manna Dey one of the finest raag-based songs in Hindi films – “Poochho Na Kaise Maine Rain Bitayi” (“Meri Surat Teri Ankhen”, 1963). “Tere Naina Talash Karen” – a Raag Chayanat beauty – is another winner from them.

Prem Pujari (1970)

“Prem Pujari” was S.D. Burman’s first outing with the poet-lyricist Neeraj. What set Neeraj apart from his contemporaries was the use of chaste Hindi in his songs. His lyrics added a dimension to S.D. Burman’s songs that had not been revealed before. My personal favourite from “Prem Pujari”, “Phoolon Ke Rang Se”, had lines like”itna madir itna madhur” and ”sapnon ki geetanjali tu” that were as musical as S.D. Burman’s tune. The original Bengali song, Borne Gandhe, is also worth a listen.

Sharmilee (1971)

The score of “Sharmilee” underscored a remarkable facet of S.D. Burman’s music – his ability to evolve while retaining the core strength of his music – melody. It is remarkable that at age 65, S.D. Burman composed a song as sexually explicit as “Reshmi Ujala Hai”. My pick from “Sharmilee”, the Rabindra sangeet inspired “Megha Chhaye Aadhi Raat”, is an example of how wonderfully S.D. Burman married the old and the new around a melodic core. The song’s introduction and interludes are Western influenced and use an electric guitar, an accordion and a bongo. The song’s transition into the antaras is breath-taking as it becomes a semi-classical ditty arranged using a sitar, flute, violin/sarangi and tabla. These transitions and how they fit in the film give us a sense of how S.D. Burman had mastered the medium – his music was not just an embellishment, it was an integral part of the film. “Sharmilee” saw Anil Mohile and Arun Paudwal (Anuradha Paudwal’s husband) coming in to help S.D. Burman along with his regular assistants Basu-Manohari-Maruti. With R.D. Burman’s career picking up, the Basu-Manohari-Maruti trio found themselves stretched between father and son. Eventually, S.D. Burman decided to let go of Basu-Manohari-Maruti, and started working with Anil – Arun.

Abhimaan (1973)

With a stellar score for “Abhimaan”, S.D. Burman signalled that he had no plans of hanging up his boots anytime soon. Each song from the film has stood the test of time and continues to be enjoyed to this date. S.D. Burman continued delivering when his contemporaries had either retired or were past their prime. His closest competitors for the 1973 Filmfare Award were R.D. Burman – his son – and Laxmikant – Pyarelal – thirty years his junior. He ended up winning the award that year for “Abhimaan”. My pick from the film is the “Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina” – one of the greatest duets ever in Hindi films. The fact that the song is the film’s climax is evidence of how much film-makers leaned on S.D. Burman’s songs. Perhaps Hrishikesh Mukherjee was emulating another great – his mentor Bimal Roy – who had used S.D. Burman’s “Tere Saajan Hain Us Paar” in a similarly stunning climax for “Bandini” (1963).

S.D. Burman passed away in 1976 during the making of “Mili”. Pancham ended up recording his compositions for “Mili” and continued the Burman legacy with his own music.

To explore S.D. Burman’s music further, look up his discography and a larger list of his most popular songs.