Born on June 27, 1939, "RD" was the only child of the famous singer-music director, Sachin Dev Burman. He was brought up in Calcutta. Popularly known as Pancham (the nickname given to him by Ashok Kumar when he found him only singing pa...pa..pa from the "sargam") he scored music for more than 350 films.
After coming to Bombay on completing his matriculation, RD learnt the sarod under Ustad Ali Akbar Khan And later Ashish Khan. He began to assist his father in music-direction. The first film he signed as an independent music director was "Bhoot Bangla" though his first release was "Chhote Nawab" for the same producer. His rise to fame was slow but steady. And in the early seventies, he had few competitors.
Dev Anand ("Hare Rama Hare Krishna," "Heera Panna"), Shakti Samanta ("Amar Prem," "Kati Patang"), Ramesh Sippy ("Sholay," "Seeta aur Geeta"), Ramesh Behl ("Jawaani Diwaani"), Vinod Chopra ("Parinda," "1942 - A Love Story"), Nazir Hussain ("Teesri Manzil," "Caravan," "Hum kisi se kam nahin," "Zamane ko dikhana hai") and Gulzar ("Parichay," "Ijaazat," "Kinara," "Khushboo," "Aandhi") were staunch RD loyalists.
RD bagged two filmfare awards for "Sanam Teri Kasam" in 1982 and "Masoom" in 1983. The MP govt. conferred on him with the Lata Mageshkar award for 1992-1993 for his "outstanding achievements and long-time devotion to music." The award carries a cash-prize of Rs. 1 lakh and a citation.
His last years were not too happy. When "Sagar" failed at the box office, he found himself being sidelined. The only two to stand by him were Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna. He was shattered when he lost "Ram Lakhan," which Shubash Ghai had promised him, to Laxmikant Pyarelal, the duo who had played in his orchestra.
Following a heart attack in 1988, he underwent a bypass surgery abroad the next year. While recuperating he is said to have composed over 2,000 tunes which he kept in his memory bank. He often said that his best tunes came to him in his dreams and that he had to be in happy frame of mind even while composing sad tunes. "When I am down, I end up making a mess of things," he is reported to have said.
The music-maestro also composed non-film music. His two most notable attempts in this field were the international album "Pantera" which he brought out in collaboration with the Latin American composer, Jose Flores, and "Dil Padosi hai" sung by Asha Bhonsle with lyrics by Gulzar.
Rahul Dev married Rita in 1960 but they were divorced in 1974. He then married Asha Bhonsle for whom he had composed many a memorable song in 1980. Indeed, the RD-Asha duo delighted audiences the world over with their "live" performances, with RD's showmanship and Asha's natural exuberance making them the perfect pair. It was only fitting that Asha was there at his bedside when RD breathed his last (on January 4, 1994).
(Excerpted from an article by Meera Joshi in The Times of India, New Delhi)
"I don't say that I am a knowledgeable man when it comes to raags.
I don't say I tried to do so and so song in Raag Darbari or attempted
some difficult raag in another song. Whatever comes to my head I compose."
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