In Memoriam: Asha
on R D Burman
by Raju Bharatan
Yesterday was R D Burman's second death anniversary. Also yester- day, Asha Bhosle was in tune with R D Burman, while day before yesterday, she harmonised with O P Nayyar, and today, she is in sync with A R Rahman. Tell me, has there been a singer who has gone along with a trendsetter of the 50's, the 70's and now, the 90's?
What Asha, therefore, had to say of Pancham when he was living acquires an even deeper meaning --- now that R D Burman is no more.
``Do you know'', revealed Asha to me once, ``that Pancham would literally dance while recording a Khel Khel Main due like `Sapna mera toot gaya'. Even as Pancham danced, I got the flow of rhythm, the mood of the song and could add that bit more to the number as I watched this born composer foot tappingly express himself to the singer.
In this sense, Kishore and Pancham were made for each other.
``I remember Pancham rehearsing Kishore and me for S D Burman's Nau Do Gyrah duet, `Aankhon mein kya ji'. What I didn't know then was that the tune idea of `Aankhon mein ...' was RD's, not SD's! Likewise, I recall --- once again without knowing the original tune to be the son's --- Pancham coming to rehearse with me for Dada Burman's Teen Deviyan duet, `Arre yaar meri tum bhi ho gazab'.
When R D Burman finally became a music director himself, even after coming up with a truly inspiring tune like `Aa jaa aa jaa, main hoom pyar tera' for Teesri Manzil, Pancham had this habit of querying: `Do you think this song is good?'
``With my long experience of singing, I could feel it in my bones that `Aa jaa aa jaa' was going to make waves. But Pancham those days (mid '60s) lacked the gumption to assert his viewpoint.
``In fact, I had to take `Aa jaa aa jaa' to Lata didi for Pancham to be convinced that it was a beat-based tune without parallel in the annals of our music. Didi sat up with a jerk as I hummed the Pancham refrain, `Aa jaa, aa jaa, aa jaa, aa jaa, aa ja, aaa ...'. Didi told me I should not change a note, that I should give this part of the song to Pancham exactly as he wanted it ren- dered.
``I had asked Pancham for a day to make up my mind whether I wanted a change here --- I was then an established singer, he a rising composer. I mention this only to bring into focus Pancham's being needlessly conscious of his junior stature in the music world.
``I knew him to be set for big things from the moment I rendred `Maar daalega dard-e-jigar koi iski dawa kijiye' from Pati Patni.
I had discovered that even a seasoned singer like me, to be effective here, had to keep a careful count of the beat.
``It is this unusual beat of his that finally enabled Pancham to carve out a niche for himself. Pancham had picked up from his father the art of engaging Kishore and me in no end of verbal teasing. There always were those naughty Pancham `touches' in a duet by Kishore and me. How mentally nimble I had to be to ensure that Kishore did not steal the moment from me!
``But Pancham was always there to even out things. That's how we three --- Pancham, Kishore and I --- could come up with masti bhare duets like `Jaane-e-jaan dhoondhta hi raha' and `Agar saaz cheeda tarane banege' in Jawani Diwani' `Bhali bhali si ek soorat' in Buddha Mil Gaya; `Rekha o rekha jabse tumhen dekha' in Adhikar; and `Hawa ke saath saath' in Seeta Aur Geeta. With Panc- ham, there to even out things between Kishore and me, there was no limit to my sense of innovation under this flexible baton.
``It took me long, very long, to grasp the fact that Pancham was a composer first, a husband after. For instance, it didn't matter if he slept on the floor, but his recording system, his stereo, had to be immaculately kept in the place. Pancham lived, ate and slept music.
``You couldn't find a gentler husband, once you left him with his music --- in peace to create something out of this world like `Mera kuchch saaman tumhare paas pada hai' for Gulzar's Ijaazat. Look at the wildly irregular metre of this song lyric! Who, but Pancham could have so turned it as for it to fetch me the National Award as best Singer?''