Why few people know it was SD Burman who made Asha Bhosle a youth icon

A tribute to the legendary music director on his 42nd death anniversary that fell on October 31.

 |  6-minute read |   03-11-2017
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What ifs, maybes and might-have-beens are replete in the Hindi film music industry. This is particularly so in the case of SD Burman.

What if the music of Mashaal had flopped and SD had packed his bags and left for Kolkata, would the music world have suffered immeasurably; what if the tiff between SD and Sahir Ludhianvi over "Tadbeer se bigdi hui" had not been resolved and they had parted, would the film's music have been poorer by the lack of their formidable collaboration?

What if SD and Sahir had not fought again and parted ways on whether the success of Pyaasa rode on the music or the lyrics, would there have been more "Pyaasas"; what if SD had not had a tiff with Shailendra during the making of Bandini, would Gulzar ever have been discovered?

What if there had been no misunderstanding between SD and Lata Mangeshkar, would Asha Bhosle ever have stepped into SD’s studios to the extent she did from 1957 to 1962; what if RD Burman had not become the music director of Chhote Nawab, which led to the reconciliation between SD and Lata, would SD and Lata ever have patched up and given us memorable songs?

What if SD had refused to change the tune of "Din dhal jaaye" as requested by Dev and Goldie Anand, would the original tune have been as moving as the tune that was changed; what if SD had consented to sing for other music directors (he only sang once for RD), would we have had more unique becalming, nasal songs to relish?

These questions are, of course, all moot. Whatever happened, happened for the best and we can’t imagine it any other way.

Whenever Asha’s songs are discussed, only two composers are mentioned – OP Nayyar and RD Burman. And rightly so. OP gave her self-confidence, made her realise her self-worth, smoothened her rough edges, trained her, removed her from out of the shadow of her sister; RD continued the journey forward.

He expanded her musical horizon, made her a youth icon, opened new territories, further developed her vocal line. However, SD’s contribution is never acknowledged. Once she entered his studios, even though she was not his number one choice, he groomed her, honed her skills and exploited the entire gamut of her singing range - the breezy, the mischievous, the pathos, the romantic. He, along with OP and RD, was also responsible for making her a complete singer.

Let’s consider her songs in this era.

Kali ghata chhaye mora jiya tadpaye, Sujata (1959)

Composed in raag Pilu, Asha surpassed herself with this gem of a song. SD had the uncanny capacity to create songs in different voices in the same film, each of which would be masterpieces - his own "Sun mere bandhu re", Talat Mahmood’s "Jalte hain jiske liye", Geeta Dutt’s "Nanhi kali sone chali" and this song of Asha’s.

Tum jiyo hazaron saal saal ke din ho pachas hazar, Sujata

From the same film, this evergreen song has become a staple in birthday greetings. I myself convey my greetings to friends and relatives by singing this nugget which everyone knows and loves.

Sach hue sapne tere jhoom le o man mere, Kaala Bazaar (1960)

Asha’ s singing to SD’s music makes your heart sway.

Dekhane mein bhola hai dil ka salona, Bambai Ka Babu (1960)

A gaggle of giggling girls teases a city-bred dandy. What a wonderful job Asha does in bringing in the element of harmless ragging and poking fun.

Koi aya dhadkan kehti hai, Lajwanti (1958)

An extraordinary song of wait and anticipation.

Chanda re chanda re chhupe rahna, Lajwanti

The same film had another outstanding Asha song - a melodious lori (lullaby).

Dil laga ke kadar gayi pyari, Kala Pani (1958)

One of the greatest mujra songs with beautiful picturisation. Dev Anand intersperses the courtesan’s song with bols of tabla (in the voice of SD himself).

Nazar lagi raja tore bangle par, Kala Pani

SD creates another iconic mujra song in the same film.

Ab ke baras bhej, Bandini (1963)

Even though Lata had returned to his fold, SD had room for two great song by Asha. "Ab ke baras bhej" is sung by the solitary female prisoner on the grinding wheel, singing this heart-rending song of hopelessness. SD asked Asha to imagine that she had not been allowed to visit her parents by her in-laws. As a result, he got just the emotions he was seeking. The song was also in raag Pilu. Asha by now had become an expert in this raag, having sung every song in this raag in Phagun, five years earlier, under OP’s baton.

O Pancchi pyare, Bandini

This song, from the same film, is by a group of female prisoners, engaged in a variety of chores - grinding, pounding, sowing, washing - to relieve the tedium. Real rice and real wheat, and a real "bamboo chaaja" were used to create the real word sound of grain sorting. This one is effusive on the surface, but melancholic under the surface. Presenting two contrasting songs by Asha is something only SD could have done.

The duets she sang with Rafi are unforgettable.

"Deewana mastana hua dil (Bambai ka Babu)"; "Chand sa mukhda kyun sharmaya (Jaag Utha Insaan)"; "Achha ji main hari chalo maan jayo (Kala Pani)"; "Kali ke roop mein chali ho dhoop mein (Nau do Gyarah)"; "Aaja panchhi akela hai (Nau do Gyarah)"; "Dil to hai deewana na (Manzil)"; "Dilwale ab teri gali tak aa pahunche (Kala Pani)"; "San san san woh chali hawa (Kaagaz ke Phool)".

Her duets with Kishore were no less memorable. Songs from Chalti ka Naam Gaadi - "Haal kaisa hai janaab ka", "Paanch rupaiya baara anna"; "Aankhon main kya ji (Nau do Gyarah)"; "Chhod do aanchal (Paying Guest)"; In "O nigaah-e-mastaana (Paying Guest)", Asha only hums at strategic points, but what a wonderful contribution she brings to the song.

After the return of Lata, SD made her his numero uno singer. Lata was after all his favourite singer. But he didn’t forget Asha.In "Raat akeli hai bujh gaye diye (Jewel Thief)", Asha’s voice flows seductively through low notes and then powerfully through very high notes, without any effort (SD had told her to sing the song as if she were going to whisper in somebody’s ear, but then decided to shout instead).

"Arey yaar meri tum bhee ho gazab (Teen Deviyan)" is a foot-tapping, upbeat song.

Asha, unfortunately, normally does not give any credit to OP. There is a personal animus involved, so she may think she is doing the right thing. It’s only RD as far as she is concerned. But her late father-in-law, whose 42nd death anniversary fell on October 31, also deserves a salute - at least a mention in dispatches, if not a full-fledged award.

Also read: When SD Burman paid his son Pancham the biggest compliment of his life

 

Writer

Ajay Mankotia Ajay Mankotia @ajaymankotia

The writer is an author, former revenue official and a music aficionado.

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