Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai (2009)

This documentary on the late great RD Burman is a bit of a mixed bag (pun fully intended! sorry!!), but it is well worth watching. At its very best it is a primer for film music dilettantes (ie, me) in understanding Burman’s musical brilliance, and a rare chance to listen in on conversations of those involved in the industry then. Director Brahmanand Singh gives us insight into Burman as a man and a musician through lengthy interviews with his colleagues and peers (Manna Dey, Gulzar, Asha Bhosle, Shammi and Rishi Kapoor, and many others), and complements it with discussions on his long-term legacy from contemporary composers like Shantanu Moitra, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Vishal Bhardwaj.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t plumb the depths as well as it might have, remaining a tribute to Panchamda rather than a comprehensive study. There is plenty of discussion on how he used influences gained from western music, for instance, but no discussion on how he also lifted tunes wholesale on occasion (“Mehbooba Mehbooba” being a prime example) (and before you send me hate mail, please let me point out that I am not saying that in judgment, but a relevant debate would have been interesting and possibly even enlightening). Key events and controversies in his life are glossed over, as are hints at some darker aspects of his character (we all have them!). Art in any form is colored greatly by an artist’s experiences and personality; I was not looking for prurient gossip, but I would have liked to see a more three-dimensional picture of him emerge. The lack of it diminishes the film’s credibility somewhat, and since after a point nothing new is being said, it goes on too long.

But there is so little opportunity as it is to access the stories and knowledge of these people who contributed so much to Hindi cinema that I am tempted not to complain. I cherish the hope that we as Hindi cinema fans can do better by them than we have, and this is a good start.

Some of my favorite things:

Lots of Shammi! He talks at one point about how Pancham came to give him a hearing of the songs for Teesri Manzil, and started with “Deewana Mujhse Nahin.” Shammi recognized it as a Nepali folk tune and began to sing along, annoying Pancham so immensely that he got up from his harmonium:

Ha ha ha! Burman at that time of course was just starting out, and Shammi a huge star. But thank goodness Nasir (Hussain) soothed his ruffled feelings, and the rest of Pancham’s tunes enthralled Shammi as much as they have the rest of us since.

I found Gulzar’s memories of Pancham particularly poignant: they had a sometimes combative but extremely close association, and Gulzar speaks with such affection and nostalgia about him that it is very touching.

Other aspects of his personality come through as well. Kavita Krishnamurthy talks about his perfectionism: he knew exactly how he wanted his songs to be sung, but made sure the singer’s confidence was not undermined.

Pancham himself was a very good singer, and had a knack for phrasing that singers would simply copy. Manna Dey says about “Aao Twist Karein”:

He was also a generous collaborator: the musicians who worked with him talk about how he was totally open to their ideas and incorporated them on many occasions. They all recall fondly that working with Pancham was not like work at all. Bhupinder Singh describes Burman’s imitation of a Bharat Natyam dance: he would flail about in his lungi, sending them all into splits of laughter.

These and many other anecdotes of how Burman spent his days, how he interacted with his friends and colleagues, give us a glimpse of the mercurial, creative, funny, generous, impatient person Pancham was. It is really too bad that opportunities for a deeper examination of him personally and insight into more controversial issues go unexplored. I do wonder how much of my dissatisfaction with the film stems from the fact that I am not Indian, and did not grow up knowing everything that went on in his life and career (although if the assumption is made that the viewer did, then it’s a very self-limiting one).

There is not a lot of extra help for non-Indians or Hindi cinema newbies either: films are not identified along with the song clips, and there is no attempt to place Burman in context with other music director-composers. But hey: at least it is subtitled! Plus, the chance to spend an evening with all the talented people involved (including Panchamda himself) make it well worth seeing, especially if you love RD Burman’s music (and really, who doesn’t?).

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111 Comments to “Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai (2009)”

  1. I’ve been wondering about the subtitledness of the DVD, so that’s good to know. However, clips without attribution drive me crazy! I guess that’s waht puts the archivist in the anarchivist: I’m going to want to find these things, and it would help if I had something besides a snippet of lyrics to go on. Still, now that I now it’s subtitled, I’m definitely going to have to watch it…

    • Here’s a secret: I hadn’t bought this (it’s expensive, with the book and everything) because no site anywhere said whether it was subtitled! So I d/l it the other day and was happy to see that it is. Half the time people are speaking English (which is subtitled anyway) but enough of it is in Hindi that subs are necessary. It’s definitely worth watching, and I think I will go ahead and order a legit copy so that I can have the book too ;-)

  2. Oh yes!! Thank you so much for the review – I, too, was wavering because I wasn’t sure of the subtitles but now I know!

    You know, Asha told that story about Shammi during her concert – very, very funny! She did all the voices and everything. :)

    • You’d think they’d know that was important information! Oh these Indians…they just don’t think anyone else cares about their films ;-) Shammi told the story really well too, with input from Shailendra actually. So cute! I think I would have really liked Panchamda. He was a man of conviction!

  3. Like millions of his fans I am also crazy about RD’s music. Thank you so much for letting us know about this DVD. VVC gave RD a big chance in re-surrecting his career with 1942 Love Story – sadly RD passed away before the release of the music an movie to experience it being welcomed in the world. RD’s music was truly good in 1942. Apparently he was a dejected man during he last few years of his life having been ditched by many of the producers and few old associates willing to give him a chance again except VVC.

    Indeed many Indians are unaware that there are so many non indian fans of hindi films particularly in the West who would be interested in this stuff. They are aware of fans in the middle east and Afghanistan though.

  4. RD lifted many songs from other cultures and countries. Mil gaya hum ko saathi mil gaya from Hum Kisse Se Kam Nahin was a straight lift of an ABBA number. I think the melodious song from Great Gambler – Do Lafzon ki hai dil ki kahani is a famous Italilan number although to give him credit the song does begin with the original italian version. I am sure other readers will identify scores of other lifts!

    • RD is less “guilty” (if you want to call it that) of it than some. He was genuinely inspired by music from other cultures—in one scene, musicians who worked with him are shown using an mbira (or “thumb piano”) which is an instrument I grew up with in Zimbabwe. The subject of plagiarism vs inspiration would have made an interesting topic for a discussion in the documentary for sure, but the participants/filmmaker just skated over the issue glibly without acknowledging it, even when talking in some detail about Mehbooba Mehbooba—which is one of his more direct “lifts.”

      They did spend some time on his angst over being forgotten and discarded towards the end of his career. It is very sad that he took it so to heart…

      • While I don’t condone the “lifting without attribution” entirely, I have another view of it particularly with the older music –50s, early 60s–when the world was bigger and jet travel expensive. I see it as a way to introduce, and expose Indian audiences to different kinds of music and to give them something different from the same old same old. The Great Gambler song mentioned is classic Italian, then there is the Mozart inspiration–Ithna na mujh se tu pyar bhara from Chhaya (Laxmi-Pyare). Anyone (who has been exposed to different cultures) would recognize these tunes right away and identify the original inspiration. Think of Bollywood copy as tributes, of a travelogue but done with music. Often the tributes were better than the original but that is another story.

        • I quite agree with Sophy’s choice (Always wanted to be able to say that! :-) ).

          Lots of oldtimers whom we revere as hardcore original composers drew their inspirations from a variety of sources, including even themselves (when composing in other languages)!

          A really quirky example is that of Salil Chaudhury who apparently composed a “Do Beegha Zameen” song based on a Russian soldiers’ marching song. Don’t remember exactly which one.

          RDB’s famous “Meri Bheegi Bheegi si” from Anamika (1973) was note by note his own Bengali non-filmy composition “Monay Porey Ruby Roy”.

          The King himself, Elvis, sang “It’s now or never” which was derived from “O Sole Mio”, the famous Italian song.

          So this thing does go way back.

          • It’s very easy for us non-musicians to accuse Indian music directors of lifting. But just think of the job they have to do. Musicians of other countries/ backgrounds, generally work in one genre. And they come up with ten to twenty records max at an average in a lifetime of work. While an Indian composer has to compose in a variety of genres- Qawwali, rock, pop, classical, marathi folk etc, at times in a sigle album. And they usually have to come up with ten to twenty albums in a single year.
            That said, having heard most of panchamda’s so called lifts, while the inspiration is absolutely undeniable, he spinned them his own way, taking another route altogether in the antaras

          • You are right Pawan :) Wouldn’t it be nice to see the musicians themselves talking about this kind of pressure, etc.—and how they view using other music as inspiration, what they do to make it their own. That was missing from this—granted, can’t cover everything, but the whole issue is part and parcel of Indian film music and RD himself had to deal with those accusations in his lifetime too.

            (PS now I know what an antara is, and a taal, which is reason enough to have watched this though :)

      • His sensitive, crustacean heart, you mean. That’s how I saw it. I’ve heard he lost heart after KK’s sudden death. I wish his close friends and supporters had encouraged him to go on. He was so experimental and never hesitated to try new voices. Kumar Sanu sang so well in 1942. In `Anand aur Anand,’ Pancham complements Abhijeet’s voice so perfectly at the end of `Main Awaara Hi Sahi.’ I’m also thinking of the bell-like clear voices of Sushma Shreshtha, that little child artiste in the Basera song, Chhup jaao, chhup jaao (Gurmeet?). Annette – his assistant and the Anglo-accented voice in many a song from Sun Sun Jeenewaale to Yeh duniya ghum rahi hai. Of course, Usha Uthup.
        When I listen to Lata going Arre hey in Bhai Battoor, I can imagine Pancham demonstrating it to her as they rehearsed the song. When she joins in in kahin karti hogi woh mera intezar, you just know with the `hey’ she begins that this ought to be an RDB song. Asha Bhonsle’s marvellous magical voice in the ’70s – we at home always see a touch of Pancham behind that.
        On this blog I stumbled upon a link where `inspired’ tunes were listed, but Pancham ne kitni khoobsurat chori ki, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, so what?

  5. Thanks for reviewing, memsaab! :)

    Like Filmi Girl, I just saw Asha ji in concert (and in fact just blogged about it ).

    I was disappointed with the “documentary”. It was more of a tribute and even then there was very little in terms of material that was new. I had heard most of it before. Of course I’ve been collecting RD songs and memorabilia for the last 16 years so maybe I am not the best person to judge.

    I any case I am still hoping for a definitive documentary.

    • Yes, that was my feeling too…the same stories seem to recycle through, over and over again (although RD calling Shammi a “devil” was new and welcome info!) ;-D But it’s nice to have all these people involved actually on film speaking.

  6. Wow! I’ve been wanting to see this since I first heard about it, being a big fan and all with almost his entire discography and about 200 DVDs and VCDs of the Hindi films he’s composed for. Although I was disappointed to read from certain sources that some of the most important people who have been associated with Panchamda (namely Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, and Lata Mangeshkar) were not included in the documentary at all. Is this true? If so, I’m sure they had a good reason not to be included, but I think a definitive documentary would have to contain some facts or anecdotes from those stalwarts of cinema.

    As far as the Kapoors go, how about the one who benefited the most from having RDs music in his films, Randhir? I hope he got some airtime in this film. For a guy who hasn’t made that many films to begin with, it’s surprising how many had fantastic music by Pancham.

    • No, those three are not there…maybe they just didn’t want to do it? Who knows. Randhir did have a little time to reminisce (mostly about how he and Pancham loved to eat and drink together!) :) It’s fun to watch as a tribute, for sure, but it’s not a definitive study of Burman by any means.

      • It’s a shame they refused considering the special milestones they reached with RD. I’m sure Brahmanand Singh tried hard to get an interview with them all though. They must have had their own reasons not to participate.

        I know he had to record a ton of footage in order to make this documentary. I hope maybe we can get another volume eventually, or maybe some choice outtakes as an extra feature… wishful thinking, I know!

        If there is another part made would like to see them explore the lifting in detail. Was it an inspiration from something RD heard, or his assistants, or was it asked of him by a producer or director? In the case of Mehbooba from Sholay, for example, I heard various stories of how that tune was kind of pushed onto RDB on the request of the director (or his wife) after they heard the tune on a trip to London or some other city in Europe… the accounts I’ve read always differ on who and when for some reason. It would be good to hear something straight from the mouth of Ramesh Sippy himself or those closely involved in the making of the film. Same goes for other lifts like Chura Liya (If It’s Tuesday…), Tumse Milke (When I Need You), Mil Gaya (Mamma Mia), etc.

        • I don’t know that they refused…I only know that they aren’t there, for whatever reason :)

          • In UNMIXED PANCHAM doc by Brahmanand Siingh, somewhere on his site he mentions that Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna, Lata Mageshkar and Ramesh Sippy refused to be interviewed. Good doc and strong buy/see recommendation for whoever loves RD Burman

            On the note of inspiration and plagiarism, I read somewhere a story how a junior orchestra player working for Kalyanji-Anandji ran to them saying how this other-big-music director copied their tune and they should sue him. K-A laughed and said, we ourselves got it from this other-big-music-product.

            We all know MAGNIFICIANT SEVEN was inspired by SEVEN SAMURAI (Kurosawa’s) but that does not make MAG SEVEN and less a great movie. Even Bergmen was inspired by some of Kurosawa’s work and in one of his interviews (after getting little angry) mentioned it is unavoidable by artists to not to be inspired by other great art and artist’s body of work. Also, some of Shakesppeares work was inspired by some Lord Thornton (?).

  7. Hmm, The Third Man just asked me to do a review of the docu for Upperstall. Maybe I should ask him to ask you, what? :)

    Well, Indians have no sense of history. Really. Except when it suits them, as in inciting political unrest, or squashing down love affairs.

    • Suits us, I ought to have said. :)

    • Well, there is always an “us” and a “them” even when generalizing :D I have noticed the lack of an interest in preservation, anyway (all film fans have!), even if the sense of history is there. It drives me insane (I have actually wept inside museums in India in frustration) but maybe there is nothing wrong with it. It’s a different way of being. I know for sure that the western preservation of history is very flawed too—skewed and not at all comprehensive or accurate at the best of times.

      I think TTM wants YOU to do the review, and I would love to read your take on it. So have at it Banno!

  8. I have decided that no topic in the world could possibly be complete without a mandatory clip of VVC calling somebody names. It makes life more bearable to see someone with rage issues express all the things that were vaguely bothering you in a forthright manner that makes you automatically regard yourself as a much more reasonable person that you had thought previously. Hooray for VVC! :D

    That story about RD getting all huffy when Shammi recognizes the tune is hilarious. I share your view of the matter – there is a world of difference (mostly) between how RD composed his tunes and the straight up lifting that goes on these days. If I remember correctly, his father had the same habit of traveling the country, recording folk tunes and adapting them to the big screen. I personally always thought of it as a way to preserve local culture.

    I’m not saying either of the Burmans or any of their contemporaries in the industry were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts but in a country where film music drowns out all other types, this is how it works.

    I see Kailash Kher doing this today. And Indian Ocean used to do it too except I think theirs was a more artistic endeavor – and they were rewarded for it by practically vanishing from the scene. :( Boo!

    • I am dying—DYING—to meet VVC. I don’t think he has rage issues, I think he just has way less patience or tolerance for social niceties than most, and it makes me love him. Hooray for VVC indeed! People (esp. at work) tell me constantly (not always truthfully) that they “appreciate” my honesty and that they always know exactly what I think—and I always respond that no, they don’t: I am editing all the time! VVC just doesn’t bother to edit that much. He tells a funny story about his initial hearing of a song Pancham had composed for 1942 and how he hated it, was trying to be polite about it, but when Pancham prodded him to be honest he let him have it :) But the result was that Pancham came up with what we all now know as the music for 1942 and it’s lovely!

      In any case, RD did straight up lift some western music too—and I would have loved to see what all these musicians and lyricists thought about it, and whether he himself acknowledged it freely (at least behind the scenes). That would have been interesting: let’s talk about the elephant in the room! As it is though, it’s just another bland—if well done—tribute :)

  9. Film Buff, recently an insipration post over at dustedoff led to a discussion of the sort you are mentioning. You might like to read it.

    There is a site deovted to listing and commenting about all Indian music directors with these kind of songs.

    But RD was put out many, many original tunes which were brilliant and with some excitiing orchestration.

    • It’s a great site, very thoughtful and funny too:

      RD was no doubt an excellent musician and brilliant composer; but some of his “inspirations” were more direct than others. If we can discuss it here, why couldn’t they do it in the documentary?! :)

    • Thank you Bawa. I think I have read that post and even sent a comment to dustedoff.

      Inspirations do lead to a lot of melodious songs enjoyed by all especially the ones listed by dustedoff. For eg – songs in Chori-2 – we enjoy them even today.Sophy has made a valid point about Indians in the 50s to 70s enjoying inspirational tunes which they would otherwise not heard about. BTW, this is true of other cultures too. I remember a very hit thai song in the late 80s played on every street corner and us foreigners also singing along all the time. It happened to be a straight lift of a 70s Indonesian love song. My Indonesian friends brought me the original song tape – unfortunately i can’t find it now.

      RD indeed composed some beautiful original tunes. I particularly liked the way he introduced the sounds of an actual train in motion in the song “Hum Dono Do Premi” in Ajnabi. I read some where (i think a film personality recollecting) that RD like his dad SD had this habit of recording natural sound and folk tunes during his travels across the country. The result being millions of indians (and non indians) got to enjoy different folk tunes via hindi films which we would have missed out otherwise. Salil Chaudry would also come into this category.

      I think songs are plagiarised outright these days and the truly guilty party seem to be Anu Mallick and Pritam. Who knows if it is a survival tactic in the rat race of commercial cinema. I am sure Anu Mallick must be having some talent being the son of Sardar Mallick (hope i am spelling the surname right otherwise i do seek readers indulgence!)

      • I don’t have any objection at all to “borrowing”—it’s just nicer if it’s credited appropriately :)

        The documentary went into some detail about how RD incorporated everyday sounds into his music—Asha says at one point that no sound of any kind escaped his notice :) Lovely!

  10. I WANT TO HAVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. RDs lifting/borrowing/whatever you want to call it; it’s essentially the equivalent of sampling, isn’t it. He never stole wholesale (well, hardly ever), he always adapted it into something that was pretty much uniquely him.

    Has anyone actually seen the accompanying book? Just pictures and stuff, or does it contain stuff like filmographies/doscographies etc.?

  12. I have this at home, but haven’t gotten around to watching it because friends who have seen it made the same assessment you did – it’s more of a fan’s tribute than a serious analysis of RDB’s music and career.

    I of course love RDB’s music but an anecdote my husband (he got to meet him!!!) related to me, convinced me that I would have loved the man too. One day in the early 90s, K saw RDB on the street (they lived in the same neighborhood) in Bombay and introduced himself to Panchamda by saying, “Hi I’m K and a huge fan of your father!” RDB, eyes twinkling, replied “What? Not mine?!” And then burst out laughing as K turned red with mortification.8-D Panchamda then invited him to come along with him to the recording studio to observe a song recording!

    • That is awesome, and very in keeping with the picture of him that comes out in this…I was left at the end wishing that he were still around and I could meet him :(

  13. Wonder how much of the RD-Asha collaboration was mentioned. Theirs must have been such a fun household.

    • Surprisingly not very much. Asha talked about him, but nothing very personal or new. And Lata was only mentioned by Vishal Bharadwaj (I think) who thinks that RD got her best work out of her.

  14. So much writing, and the few available documentaries on Hindi film, seem to be at kind of a fan magazine level, with lots of nostalgia and repetition of a few stories. A new wave of academics are starting to write the pointless, jargon-filled, self-serving analyses of Indian cinema that already jam library shelves on Hollywood and other cinemas. Where are the writers and documentarians who can blend respectful curiosity and passion with insight and historical perspective, melding these two forms? Besides you Memsaab. Just asking.

    Not that we aren’t grateful for every scrap of information on our obsessions.

    • Ha ha besides me :D But yes, fan magazine kind of sums it all up, and fan magazines are the ONLY source for quite a lot of information—not the most reliable maybe, but usually just about all you can get. I was glad to see Gulshan Bawra and Shakti Samanta in this, who died within the past year. Argghhh! It makes my heart hurt :(

      • well Manohari Singh (great Saxophonist) who worked with RD-God and is in the documentary also passed away in july 2010

    • RD-God was so huge with his body of work since mid-60’s thru 94 and the fact that not much is available to us current information (images, text, videao’s) hungry people that anything that came out would be falling short. This UNMIXED PANCHAM documentary is an initial and fair-attempt scraping some of that era. Here the creator has made a genuine attempt to produce a product which will at least put forth some of the greatness of RD.

      I just loved the fact of existence of such a film and its accessibility and I see it more of an emotional-nostalgic-layers-peeling experience more than anything else

  15. Here’s a nice link to an RD interview in a 1984 Filmfare where, among other things, you can read about his own recollection of that meeting with Shammi Kapoor for Teesri Manzil.

    Some nice rare pix as well.

    Click to access thatsmytune.pdf

  16. Memsaab, I would agree totally with you if I were to watch it. I think so little is done to preserve the history of Indian cinema (and many other things) and opportunities to something really meaningful are wasted.

    • Yeah…sigh. But this is really much better than nothing at all, so that’s a good thing! There are so many rabid fans of Hindi cinema out there, but so much information that is available is contradictory or inaccurate, and so much just plain ISN’T available. I just don’t know what I can do about it…

  17. Indeed a great effort from Mr Singh, but fails to impress me.
    I agree to the point that its great listening about Pancham from the Golden era artists, but it certainly lacks a lot of things that would have made the documentary WAYYYYYY more interesting.

    Things that people spoke about Pancham were already heard (or read) by me in his interviews and newspaper articles etc.
    What I wanted to see in the documentary was the “behind the scene” stuff. Like say, Pancham actually composing! Rare footage from his music seatings, his recording sessions, some of his own talks etc. I also wanted to see his actual house and music room. Now thaaaaaat kinda stuff would make it reallyyyy “Masaledaar” (Spicy). How much I want Mr Singh to read this and come out with a PANCHAM UNMIXED # 2 which includes all of the aforementioned stuff.
    Anyone with me???

    Good luck :)


    • I did read somewhere that Mr. Singh chose not to use film footage that was available because it was in such poor condition. Another BIG SIGH. And there are lots of photos there which are nice to see. But I wish the content had delved a little deeper for sure. The thing that makes a great interviewer is that ability to draw more out of his or her subjects and interviewees than they might have planned (and I don’t mean in a gossipy and tabloid-esque way) with insightful questions and a different angle than others have used. It is not an easy thing, and great interviewers are rare—but especially it seems when it comes to Indian film journalism there is an unwillingness to stray from the path already well-trodden.

      • The footage! YES!

        Alright, so I understand that the camcorders werent so popular back in the day but hey who cares! I actually like that little lossy quality of videos. Gives it a different feel. Kinda like an imperfectly tied bow tie that gives it its own flair.
        Yes, the coffee table book IS interesting. Those pictures and little stories :) Indeed an eye candy.

        The interviewer, IMHO, did not do a good job. People like Gulzar and Asha Bhosle did add warmth by talking straight from their heart about their dear Pancham but what about the rest. Some of them were really stingy when it came to words of praise and approval. Also, some of the present day composers who spoke about Pancham really do not live up to talking about him. They are highly commercialized, talentless people (Sorry for the strong criticism, I do not wish to offend anyone) who have no single melody that can be remembered in the coming decades! I was like, why are they even in this documentary.

        Just the way Pyarelal spoke about Pancham, I really wanted them to interview Anandji too. Sorry to say, they left out on some great people who were associated with Pancham and are still alive today.

        I gotta come up with my own documentary it seems =D I am too much of a critic.


        • DO IT! I will help ;-) since I am being so critical myself!

          I think Vishal Bhardwaj is a genius, personally—he makes unbelievable and original films, and I love his music too. I have liked a lot of Shantanu Moitra’s music too, and think he is very talented. Plus, he particularly was good at breaking down different elements in RD’s music and explaining his innovations, I learned a lot from what he said.

    • Harshi:

      I would agree with you…a sequel to PANCHAM UNMIXED is needed. I in fact emailed to Brahmanand Siingh day after I saw his superb DVD and the book, but have not got any reply yet.

      On other topics in this blog on copying tones, thats such a small factor compared to the huge body of RD’s work and his amalgamation of stuff (music, tones, beats, etc.). People seem to be shallow and get stuck on copying-matter when it is almost a cliche’ the world knows Shakespere copied a bunch from a Lord-somebody. That does not diminish his work in any way.

      • I believe that the “shallow” people here mostly agree with you, if you actually read what is said. “Influence” is one thing, but stealing other people’s work wholesale without credit is something different. Not being able to acknowledge THAT is shallow.

  18. Hi memsaab

    Great post and I appreciate the comment on PC’s blog…..unfortunately the similarities (between Parveen Babi and I) end with our names and star signs. If only I had the talent and sex appeal too, LOL!

    • Well, I know what you mean—my name is Greta and a common nickname for me of course is Garbo (I wasn’t named after her, but still she is the most famous Greta)…sadly I do not come even close to matching her in beauty and accomplishments :D

  19. I absolutely love pancham!
    I would have just liked to be near him, when he composed music. Listne to his conversations with Gulzar.
    Just to be able to feel this creative energy.
    Nobody could capture the emotion of freedom like him. Some might say freedom is no emotion. What is it then, that one feels in songs like jai jai shiv shankar or hum dono do premi or his songs for films of nasir husain or his songs in Jawani Deewani?
    I don’t understand much about the mechanisms of music, but people say he could compose very complex tunes and experiment with voices. A often sited example is that of Asha’s in Jaane jaan dhundta phir raha.
    His songs have a quality, which transfers me to a totally different sphere. Some thing which he shares with Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s renditions and Maria Callas, though the spheres are totally different. ;-)
    Will put it on my list for India.

    • What I really liked about this particularly was that it did explain well for laymen the music theory behind Burman’s compositions and it was lovely to hear both his collaborators and music directors of today talk about musical influences and how he used them. Plus, his musicians did give insight into his creative process, and Manna, Asha and Kavita particularly discussed his influence on how they sang his songs. I am more ignorant musically than many people who would watch this might be, especially about Indian music, so am not sure how much of that was really new either but it was interesting for me.

      But although mention was made of his collaborative nature, there were not a lot of examples given on bits and pieces of his music actually created by others—I would have liked to hear about that. His main (and long-time) assistant Swapan Chakraborty was not part of the film, and he was basically vilified for trying to take credit for Burman’s previous success when Burman went through his bad patch at the end of his life. Maybe what he did was really awful (I don’t know the details) but I tend to think that most issues like that have two sides and it would have been interesting to hear Chakraborty’s. After all, he did work with Pancham for many years and doubtless did contribute to his success. But he was dismissed by the people in the film as a bad person whom Burman trusted mistakenly…seemed very glib.

      • I had similar issues with the film. It might be true that some wrong was done to the man, but to simply paint a Swapan Chakraborty or a Subhash Ghai as plain black (or ‘swine’ as VVC prefers) and the tendency to selectively add sentimental tones turned this into a mere fanboy film. It happens all the time… everyone goes though a downturn. But to give it a flavour of victimization or gross injustice is a bit too much.

        • Yes…it just made the whole thing very one-dimensional, which doesn’t do full justice to Burman himself either in my opinion. People clearly genuinely loved him, that was clear and wonderful, but nobody is perfect and I personally sometimes love people more for their imperfections.

      • I agree with you. It is always good to hear both sides of the sotry, rather than one. And I hardly think it would hurt anybody of the stature of Pancham to hear other facets of his personality. And as in Hindi people say it needs two hands to clap!
        There has always been much ado about Subhash Ghai promising RD a film and not keeping it. But Ghai always collaborated with L-P and they gave good music together. And one can’t really blame people for not taking on RD after he delivered duds like ‘Mardoon wali baat’. Is it mentioned when he started having his heart problems?
        Did they also interview Usha Uthup?

  20. I have to watch this! And just on this note: I grew up in the same neighbourhood in Kolkata (Calcutta) where SD Burman used to live before he left for Bollywood, and where RD used to go to school. Of course, I knew nothing of it as a child, but then one day in my late teens, as I was getting home through the quiet street behind our apartment building, I stopped short in front of a modest white house. The nameplate on the gate-post read ‘S.D. BURMAN’. I was so thrilled at this discovery that I ran home and told my father. He replied (quite nonchalantly) that it’s common news. I asked him if there was any chance of seeing RD Burman there. He said that the house doesn’t belong to them anymore, and hence, no. Needless to say, that made me quite sad.

    We left that neighbourhood in 1999, and I don’t know if the house still stands or if it has been demolished by real-estate developers.

    • Ha ha! That’s funny :) Hopefully it hasn’t been torn down. Would make a nice little museum, perhaps?

      • A museum? I wouldn’t expect that if I were you. Last I heard, the house in Calcutta where Mirza Ghalib lived for some time is now a scrap-iron factory or something of that sort.

        • I know…it was more of a “hint hint” than an actual hope.

        • Ghalib lived in Delhi, not in Calcutta. And it was in shambles till a few years ago, but has now been restored and converted in to a muesuem. Though just this year, there were some allegations of private parties being hosted there:)
          Also while the house of his birth was converted into a girls school in ninteenth centuy itself, the room where he was born has been preserved.

  21. Actually, Mirza Ghalib did stay in Calcutta for a couple of years, when he made an ultimately unsuccessful trip there to petition the East India Company to restore his pension.

    He also spent some time in Benares on the way.

    Some of his compositions were created in these 2 places, especially the famous impromptu 10-verse set about the humble betel nut.

    • Ah yes. The seat of the Raj…they cut off Ghalib’s pension?!

      • Long story short: Ghalib was a major spendthrift, and his father’s pension wasn’t enough, and then it was stopped. He wanted the pension restored, and in fact doubled!

        He spent most of his life in this fruitless endeavour.

        Funny thing was, he had a greatly favourable impression of the large sprawling clean streets of Calcutta as compared to the dingy crowded lanes of the “Old” Delhi that he was accustomed to. Of course, many would consider modern reality to be quite different. :-)

        • Guess you are right. Didn’t remember these calcutta visits. There is a mirza ghalib street in Cal. Is that where he stayed?

  22. I have not watched this video so I cannot pass my judgement on it. I thought of downloading it, but I am a novice when it comes to downloading such stuff. (Hint , hint !) . One hopes to get some new information from such videos. If it is just a rehash of earlier informations already known to everyone then it would be disappointing.

    R D Burman was the biggest influence of Bollywood music lovers during my formative years. The way R D Burman (and Kishore Kumar) swept away other music director and singers in late 1960s and early 1970s was a stuff of legends. R D Burman’s biography makes for interesting reading, from the little I know about him. I hope this vide will add to my knowledge as and when I get to watch it.

    • re: downloading–if I can figure it out, you can too (plus I am happy to help if you tell me what you need :)

      You will enjoy the video I think, there’s nothing not to enjoy (except that it could have been so much better….) :D

  23. I am surprised that our favorite actress Asha Parekh wasn’t part of this documentary, since Pancham did compose 7 of her films(Teesri Manzil (1966), Baharon Ke Sapne (1967), Pyar Ka Mausam (1969), Kati Patang (1970) for which she won the Filmfare Best Actress Award, Caravan (1971), Raakhi Aur Hathkadi (1972), and Samadhi (1972)). He even acted with her in “Pyar Ka Mausam”. Pancham continued to compose for some of her films even after she became a supporting actress, with songs picturized on her in Kaalia (1980) and Bulandi (1981).
    This is what she said about him from an article on mid-day website, which has since expired: “Actually I consider myself lucky that Panchamda was my co-star as a funster in Pyar Ka Mausam. He had a perfect sense of timing for slapstick comedy and even off-screen he was a lively, jovial man. This is evident in his hilarious composition Ek Chatur Naar from Padosan. Nobody can replace Panchamda — he was ages ahead of his time. It really hurts to see how his classy songs are being badly tampered with and then it’s so embarrassing to watch some of the visuals.”

    • I don’t know if Singh wanted to focus more on the music itself and so kept most of the interviews to other musicians with only a few actors. That’s a great quote from Asha (I love her so!!), thank you for sharing it :) Someone really needs to do a proper documentary about HER.

  24. You asked me years back, to start my own blog. It took its effect day before yesterday.
    The address is:
    The film is Baazi (1951)
    Would love to hear about your opinion!

  25. Super Star Rajesh Khanna formed a brilliant combination with Music Director RD Burman and ‘his voice’ with singer Kishore Kumar resulting in such films like Kati Patang, Amar Prem etc.the Super Star Rajesh Khanna phenomenon swept Bollywood off its feet and the hysteria he generated was unlike anything seen before and after. As superhit followed superhit and women all over the country swooned over him, Rajesh Khanna admitted feeling ‘next to God.’

    RD Burman’s Filmography as Music Director with Super Star Rajesh Khanna.

    Dushman (1990)
    Anokha Rishta (1986)
    Alag Alag (1985)
    Ram Tere Kitne Nam (1985)
    Awaaz (1984)
    Agar Tum Na Hote (1983)
    Ashanti (1982)
    Kudrat (1981)
    Red Rose (1980)
    Aanchal (1980)
    Phir Wohi Raat (1980)
    Naukri (1978)
    Bhola Bhala (1978)
    Chalta Purza (1977)
    Karm (1977)
    Bundal Baaz (1976)
    Maha Chor (1976)
    Mehbooba (1976)
    Aap Ki Kasam (1974)
    Ajanabee (1974)
    Humshakal (1974)
    Namak Haraam (1973)
    Raja Rani (1973)
    Apna Desh (1972)
    Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972)
    Shehzada (1972)
    The Train (1970)

    • Dushman was not released in 1990, but in 1971. Secondly, its music was composed by Laxmikanth-Pyarelal. It was Meena Kumari’s penultimate film.

  26. I love this: “Where most people are swines.” So succinct! Such a throwaway delivery! LOL I should watch this, since I don’t think I even deserve the title of dilettante when it comes to filmi music.

  27. I have let out Baharon Ke Sapne – 1967 RD Burman’s which first film for Super Star Rajesh Khanna music score.

  28. Memsaab- Thanks for the review -I just received this from Nehaflix
    and am looking forward to viewing it. I have been a fan of Bhupinder
    Singh since around 1995, when I first started collecting his CDs
    (mostly Ghazals with Mitalee). I have never seen him on video before
    but only know him thru his songs (very beautiful) and as a playback
    singer, who seemed to on the fringe of that profession.

    • Bhupinder Singh is known as a singer, but he was a guitar player par excellence too. He worked as a guitarist with several music directors viz Madan Mohan, R D Burman etc. for several years.

  29. Have you seen my post on Aakhri Khat? He was in that and there’s a screencap of him…and he sings one of my favorite songs in it. He is in the documentary a lot :)

  30. Hace not seen it yet but I will check it out later.

  31. This review made my day! I am more than happy to take in anything on RD :) It is but fitting that this review should receive so many comments.

    I see that the subject of getting inspired by or lifting tunes from other sources has been discussed at length. I do remember RD alluding to this indirectly in an interview – he had pointed out that it was not uncommon for several muscians to use the same musical meter and then giving it different treatment. To illustrate this point he gave the example of Rahe na Rahe Hum composed by Roshan (from Ashirwad) which sounded like SD Burman’s Thandi Hawayein and in turn RD Burman’s own Saagar Kinare from Saagar.

    Reading what Shalini had to say reminded me of another episode that I had read about. His father SD ‘Dada’ Burman was not given to praising him openly even after RD had become fairly successful. One day Dada came rushing to RD and told him that he was very proud of him. Upon prompting, he (SD) mentioned that during his morning walk, onlookers would always point out and say “Dada Burman is passing by!”. That day, they pointed out and said “Look, RD Burman’s dad is passing by!”

  32. Hi Memsaab:

    Question for you: Who are you? You seem to have broad range of knowledge and informative stuff. I ended up via Googling some disparate Bollywood topics which ended up with reading your comments which turned out to be the best. Are you an individual or a group of people?

    • You can read my “Memsaab’s Story” page in the sidebar for more info. I am usually an individual although some days it feels like there are a lot of people living in my head too, ha ha.

  33. hi i have watched this tribute from a fan point of view its great..also i would like totell something about the various inspirations of Panchamda’s songs…RD Burman Himselfin many interviews has acknowledged and said about the source of His inspirations..sometimes just a basic idea or only the first line of the original tunes have been used and further elaborated into completely new the movie they said He used tolisten to every prominent and exciting musician and band of that time and ofcourse inspirations of various culture can be found in His music…RD’s music pratically introduced Indian moviegoers to the music of the rest of the world fusioned with an Indian touch….i have received so much happiness from the music of RD Burman….

    • Pranay:

      I have same feelings about RD-God’s music. The work he did over the years for all types of music is just mind blowing. Kishor Kumar, Asha and Lata’s partnership was also key to his success. He was so in crave for Kishor’s voice that when sometimes he had to use male singer other thatn Kishor Kumar (eg MASOOM, 1942 LOVE STORY, etc.) he would make them sing like Kishor Kumar!

      All the global tunes he brought to Indian music were so well enhanced and improved by the great voices and taken to a higher level.

  34. That’s an interesting review. I liked the subtitled screenshots – like comic book panels :) I wish the film could do something to rebuild this fan’s trust. Up to about 5 years back I too thought RDB was the greatest musician ever – a true genius. His tunes amazed me in their originality and variety as did his continued relevance as “the most remixed music director”. Almost by accident I came across the itwofs site that documents plagiarism in bollywood music. Even though I had known there were a few songs RDB was “inspired” by, I put the number at 3 or 4 songs, maybe under film producers’ instructions who insisted on including a contemporary/westernised piece. Shockingly, what I found under RDB’s name was a list of almost fifty songs, most of his hits. I listened to the originals on the web to confirm for myself and found it to be true. The sheer scale of the lifting was mind boggling and it was critical mass enough to make a doubter out of me. Now every song is suspect until proven original. This song “Deewana Mujhsa Nahin” is a case in point (it is not listed on the itwofs website). The Nepali folksong it was lifted from is “Ae Kanchha” probably from a popular 1962 recording by Aruna Lama and Jitendra Bardewa.
    I celebrated the youth-anthemic Kasme Vaade song “Kal Kya Hoga” for its wacky-genius creativity (pancham’s own voice made it sound all the more a personal creation ) but seeing Afric Simone singing “hafanana” in grainy black and white on youtube made me feel guilt for my part in duping these unheard and uncelebrated artists out of their due (atleast in India).
    I don’t buy the “introducing India to world music” explanation because the originals were never properly acknowledged. Regarding the “time pressure that music directors work under”, one can’t condone the theft of another musician’s creative work as an excuse to keep your job. Even putting morality aside, such an attitude is more akin to a factory worker than a “genius”. A more apt epithet may be “music arranger who always met his deadlines”.
    I find my fondness evaporating with my trust. Is there anyone else who feels the same way?

    • I would say that if you put a person on too high a pedestal, he is bound to come tumbling off of it at some point :) You have to admit that he created a lot of stunning music, and most of it was not just note-for-note “ripped off”. And he did change the face of Hindi film music by incorporating sounds from the world over, and with ideas that were uniquely his own. He influenced generations of music makers, and if he was influenced himself by other musicians that makes him no different from any other artist. Are there some more direct “lifts” than others in his work? Yes, and I wish the originals had been credited. But he deserves a lot of credit himself :)

      • Well put Ms. Memsaab.

        So many great Indian music directors from 40’s and 50’s also did that and got inspired. SD Burman made trips around the country and picked up basic folk tunes and made ornates for filmi music. RD scanned globally. Both did it with great flair. These would however make small % of their entire body of work. The greatness of RD in my mind is beyond any doubt.

        Also, there are noticiable contemporary US-artists who get inspired from say Queens (from 70’s) and create products which todays 20-year old’s love as much with no knowledge of such past. Also I think there is a recent J-Lo song which is making waves, clearly based on a very popular 50’s tone.

  35. You’re right expectations are coffin nails in any relationship and one fan-consumer’s expectation from a celebrity-composer is a little unfair :)
    Of his output, my favourite is the pancham-gulzar collab which remains unblemished so far except maybe some hindustani classical inspiration. There is certainly a lot to be thankful for :)

  36. I am a fan of loRD and I absolutely loved the documentary.
    To be fair, I do not agree with your criticism. I think the theme that he was accused of copying was explored in the movie for many minutes and it was explained that he was merely inspired and always brought something of his own, rather than copying blatantly. Surely, a song by song analysis will make it unnecessarily large?

    “Chura Liya hai” can at best be considered a mild case of sampling, in no way can it be considered plagiarism.

    I never found the Italian version of “do lafzon ki” . Is there even such a thing ? If yes, please tell me the name.
    Even if there was, Asha definitely sings it in a different way than the italian and surely, the antara is RD’s original?

    “mehbooba mehbooba” or “tera mujhse hai pehle” are both originally based on folk songs from cyprus and USA respectively. Folk songs don’t have copyrights. Mehbooba was apparently asked by the producer according the book “making of sholay”. “tera mujh se” is highly improvised.

    For “mil gaya mujhko saathi” RD explained that he only took 8 bars from ABBA, which he does not consider evil. This also raises the philosophical question of where do you draw the line – 5 bars? 10 bars? 15 bars? Music is finite, so a few bars can match by pure chance.

    I still feel that he is the best musician ever. None of his classical, jazzy or ‘crazy’ songs that I love are copied. He also said that more than 90% of songs came to him either spontaneously or in his dreams. A man who can dream songs like “kanchi re” etc easily goes up in my book.

    Copying is not stealing, it’s a businessman’s way of saying it. Giving credit is one thing, but normally you also have to pay a big royalty, and I think that’s where the problem lies – in paying money , not in giving credit.

    I suppose you are not an Indian? Which country are you from? It is nice to see that people outside know about RD.

    • I’m an American :) And I think lots of non-Indians (although not as many as SHOULD) are familiar with RD. He was a genius indeed.

      • I am glad that you agree.
        Yes, I hope more people get to hear him.
        America is so far away, do you understand hindi? I can see that you at least understand 1 word- memsaab, but probably not that much because you were asking for subtitles?

        I want to add something – he always used to say the work of a musician is much more than just coming up with the tune. I think we have to challenge the basic assumption that a raw tune is everything. How a tune is presented is just as important.

        • I understand more than I can speak, but subtitles are pretty much of a must unless it’s an action film. I’m trying to learn it properly, but it’s hard when you don’t use it on a daily basis, at least it is for me :)

          • So, it’s slow but steady progress! :)

            Well, it’s hard to be an RD fan, but not be a fan of Rajesh kaka. Not only was the rajesh, kishore, pancham combination super-hit, but they were also good friends in real life.
            So, I was pretty sad when I heard the news of his death a few days ago. I finally consoled myself with the last line of Anand “Anand mara nahin hai, Anand marte nahin”. People like him do not die because they will always be remembered.

            I hope you have watched Anand already, Otherwise, you are missing out on something big.
            In case you haven’t – below is a youtube version of the film. Horrible transltion, but this is the best I could find on youtube

            This film also reminds me of another genius music director Salil Chowdhury, who gave the music for this film. He was actually one of RD’s many teachers and taught him for a few years .

            I rate him very highly. He was also Lata’s favourite.
            Here are some Bengali Puja songs by Salil da. I can’t confirm, but I think only the first one has a hindi version. The first 3 songs are by Lata and the last one is by Mukesh

            I don’t know if you have already heard, but please listen once – I think you might like them.

  37. Did you listen to the 4 puja songs by salilda?

  38. Memsaab, I am actually getting more and suspicious of the claim that “do lafzon ki hai” is based on a popular Italian melody. Do you have any idea about from where such claims originate? I am asking because you seem to have a lot of knowledge about Indian films and you have probably watched more Hindi films than I ever did staying here in India.

    There are several reasons for my suspicions:
    1> I could not find any such song myself after extensive searching on internet.

    2>Here, apparently a native Italian says that he has never heard such a thing either.

    3>This song is actually based on one of RD’s Bengali puja song which released 3 years before the film released. While it is true that some of RD’s songs are “heavily inspired” – they are all Hindi Film Songs. I have never known any Bengali song of RD that is heavily inspired. So, the fact that this is a remake of a Bengali song makes me even more suspicious of the claim.

    However, one small thing still bothers me – even the Bengali song starts with the same Italian line! (although the italian portion is lesser in the Bengali version) If it wasn’t for this fact, I would have kicked out that claim already. But I think it is entirely possible that original Bengali lyricist was studying some Italian poetry or possibly trying his won hand at writing some Italian poem.

    One thing is for certain – if an italian song like that even exists, it is definitely not very popular – it is RD who made it into a very popular song – so a lot of credit goes to him.

  39. Thank you Memsaab for this review. Like million others, I love RDB’s music but was not aware of this dvd. As you note, it is by no means complete and by the end of it, there is a little too much repetition. Also there seems to be some of RDB’s major work that was not addressed. Yes, Rajesh Khanna’s absence is too noticable since there have been articles/references after RK’s death to his long friendship with RD, but not to reference that makes the movie incomplete IMHO. But I am happy with this effort, something is always better than nothing :)

  40. @Sophy: The music of the song “Itna Na Mujhse Tu Pyaar Badha, Ke Main Ik Baadal Awaara” was given by Salil Chaudhri, not R. D Burman

  41. An absolute must-read for ANY Pancham admirer – Anirudha Bhattacharjee’s “R.D. Burman: The Man, The Music” (, an extremely well-researched, in-depth look at almost every bit of music the man ever created!

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