Sachin Dev Burman was born on October 1, 1906, a scion of the royal family of Tripura—and a king in the world of Hindi film music. From his first major hit—Mera sundar sapna beet gaya (Do Bhai, 1947)—on, Burman made a name for himself with songs that ran the gamut from folk to Western, from hauntingly poignant to unbeatably seductive (remember Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam? Remember Kya ho phir jo din?) To celebrate Burman Da’s music, therefore, this post.
To narrow down my list of S D Burman favourites to a mere ten, I’ve had to resort to a few self-imposed restrictions. All of these songs are, as always, from the 50’s and 60’s, and from films that I’ve seen. In addition, they’re songs that don’t just sound good, but are wonderful in other ways too: songs that I value not just for the music, but also for the lyrics, the picturisation, the feel of the song. Enjoy!
These are in no particular order:
1. Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai (Pyaasa, 1957; Sung by: Mohammad Rafi; Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi): There are some songs that give me gooseflesh every time I listen to them. This is one. The cynicism of Sahir’s lyrics is palpable, and S D Burman’s music complements them perfectly. The song starts off very slow and soft (Rafi’s voice literally trails over the first few lines), then gradually gathers momentum, building up till the finale, when the dead-alive poet Vijay’s fury boils over in a thunderous denouncement of the world, with voice and music reaching a sudden peak.
2. Piya tose naina laage re (Guide, 1965; Sung by: Lata Mangeshkar and chorus; Lyrics: Shailendra): A very different song from the dark Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye, this one is lavish, a celebration of life and love that chronicles the rise to fame of the dancer Rosie/Nalini, and her simultaneously growing intimacy with Raju. Waheeda Rehman’s dancing is reason enough to admire this song; what I also like is that despite the length of the song—it’s over 8 minutes—it doesn’t get boring; Burman manages to introduce a slightly different touch in each stanza. The stanza about Holi, for instance, has a cute `squirty’ sound in the beginning very like pichkaaris! And the combination of tabla and paayals at various points is lovely. A feast for the eyes and the ears.
3. San san san woh chali hawa (Kaagaz ke Phool, 1959; Sung by: Mohammad Rafi, Asha Bhonsle and chorus; Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi): Kaagaz ke Phool had one breathtaking song after another, and choosing just one was a problem. I’ve solved it by saving one of my favourites for another post, and putting the other one here. I adore the sheer joie de vivre of this song: Waheeda Rehman’s hair streaming in the wind, the papers flying, the happy crowd (including Mehmood in a cameo) in the truck in front—and the song, of course. I like how everything in San san san woh chali hawa comes together: the whistling, the chorus singing in parts (or ooh-ing and aah-ing), even the musical `screeching’ of tires at the start.
4. Raat akeli hai bujh gaye diye (Jewel Thief, 1967; Sung by: Asha Bhonsle; Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri): I so love this song. I love Tanuja’s sparkling eyes and her irrepressible vivacity. I love Asha’s voice and the way it flows seductively through low notes and then powerfully through very high notes, seemingly without any effort (S D Burman had apparently told her to sing the song “as if she were going to whisper in somebody’s ear, and then decided to shout instead”!) And I love the music: soft, slow and enticing, then rising into a joyful crescendo—before dropping into a whisper again.
5. Khwaab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat (Teen Deviyaan, 1965; Sung by: Kishore Kumar and chorus; Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri): Another film of fabulous songs, also starring Dev Anand—here as the pianist at a party, singing in praise of—whom? The ethereal Simi Grewal, or the pretty Kalpana?
This is a wonderful song, and I especially like the way it starts: Kishore’s voice is beautiful by itself, without any musical instruments to support it. After that, in sharp contrast to the beginning, the song is a rollicking, fast-paced but still romantic tune. And I love the piano notes between the stanzas!
6. O re maanjhi (Bandini, 1963; Sung by: S D Burman; Lyrics: Gulzar): This song is a gooseflesh-inducing one, with Sachin Da’s wonderfully nasal and somewhat ‘raw’ voice blending superbly with the sweet notes of a flute and the seemingly incongruous sounds of a train’s piercing whistle and the sonorous boom of a boat’s foghorn.
Gulzar’s Shailendra’s lyrics are very poignant, and the combined effect—music, voice, words, the chance meeting between two separated lovers, now destined for different paths—never fails to give me a lump in the throat.
7. O nigaah-e-mastaana (Paying Guest, 1957; Sung by: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle; Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri): Paying Guest had a superb score, and this is my favourite song of them all. It’s fabulous to look at, with a handsome Dev Anand serenading a gorgeous Nutan with a wonderful song, romantic and playful at the same time. The tune in the background is subdued, rippling and lilting until it swells in a way that’s almost mischievous in its change from gentle to swift. The words are all sung by Kishore, with Asha’s humming used at strategic points. Very nice. And do listen till the end: O nigaah-e-mastaana fades gently out on a glorious combination of whistling and humming.
8. Dil se milaake dil pyaar kijiye (Taxi Driver, 1954; Sung by: Lata Mangeshkar; Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi): His score for Taxi Driver won S D Burman the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director. Though the most soulful—and well-known—of the film’s songs was Jaayein toh jaayein kahaan, I personally prefer the excellent `club’ songs featuring the stunning Sheila Ramani. This one is in a class by itself: a simple, uncluttered tune that stays true to its picturisation: the tiny ‘orchestra’ in this bar room consists of a piano, a guitar, a clarinet and maracas—and that’s just about all the music itself seems to comprise.
9. Chupke se mile pyaase-pyaase (Manzil, 1960; Sung by: Mohammad Rafi and Geeta Dutt; Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri): Not one of my favourite Dev Anand-Nutan films (I remember it as having an end I didn’t like), but with fantastic music—especially this romantic tune that combines humming, music, and vocals with sections half-recited, half-sung by Geeta. I love the way the two voices come together, then drift away, one humming while the other sings the words, and then blending back in again. Sublime.
10. Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le (Baazi, 1951; Sung by: Geeta Dutt; Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi): According to this informative site on Geeta Dutt, the singer listed this as one of her ten favourite songs from those she’d sung till 1957, when the list was compiled. It’s also the song that changed her from a singer (largely) of bhajans and classical tunes, to one who could handle Western tunes—a genre she was soon dominating. Not that Tadbeer se bigdi hui is strictly Western: the tabla and the general tone of the music is very Indian. But the guitar strummed between the stanzas? Genius. The combination: S D Burman’s music, Majrooh’s lyrics, Dev Anand, and the two Geetas—the luminous Geeta Bali onscreen, and her `voice’, Geeta Dutt (then Roy)—is unforgettably inspirational yet alluring.