Rahul and Asha

Through a quarter century and more, so stand-out is the music that Asha Bhosle-R.D.Burman duo has made, with the one compositionally complementing the other to a T, that I felt it was time they were brought face to face, the one to speak on the other, interacting in a style that would prove tunefully rewarding to the reader.

In a manner of speaking, the relationship between this singer-composer team is a mere continuation of the process that RD’s father, S.D.Burman, had set in motion. Asha, remember, gave her vocal best to Sachin Dev Burman, before she came indelibly to be identified with Rahul Dev Burman for the uniquely infectious style in which she sang

Pancham’s tunes.


Strangely, as the two admit, they have never before been asked to assess each other as a long-standing vocal-compositional pair who have come together in real life too. Whenever their names have been mentioned in tandem, it has been to pick up some unsavoury tidbit, contributing to the two’s real common interest: music. Hence this idea of getting them to tune with each other. The idea so appealed to the duo that both Asha and RD cooperated enthusiastically to offer an insight into their evolution as a singer composer duo with a niche distinctly its own in the annals of our popular music.


As Asha and Pancham came together specifically for this interview in

R.D.Burman’s music-room, I shot my first question at the singer: “When did you first come to realize that dada Burman’s son, in his own way, is as gifted a composer as his father?”


“Why, Pancham used to rehearse me right from the time I came regularly

to sing for Dada Burman with ‘Nau do Gyarah’, some time in 1956, revealed Asha. “I remember demurring and telling Dada that it was with him, and not with his raw young son, that I wanted to rehearse ‘Aankhon mein kya ji’ for ‘Nau do Gyarah’, all the more so it was a duet with the impish Kishore Kumar. But Dada disarmed me by asserting that Pancham was every inch as good a music person as himself.”

About Pancham

Rahul Dev Burman (27 June 1939 4 January 1994) was an Indian film score composer,who is considered one of the seminal music directors of the Indian film industry.Nicknamed Pancham da, he was the only son of the illustrious composer Sachin Dev Burman. From the 1960s to the 1990s, RD Burman composed scores for 331 movies.He was mainly active in the Hindi film industry (Bollywood) as a composer, and also provided vocals for a few of compositions. RD Burman did major work with Asha Bhosle (his wife) and Kishore Kumar, and scored many of the songs that made these singers famous.

He served as a influence to the next generation of Indian music directors, and his songs continue to be popular in India even after his death. RD Burman was born in a Bengali family to the well-known Bollywood composer-singer Sachin Dev Burman and his lyricist wife Meera Dev Burman (née Dasgupta), in Calcutta. Initially, he was nicknamed Tublu by his maternal grandmother although he later became known by the nickname of Pancham. According to some stories, he was nicknamed as Pancham because, as a child, whenever he cried, it sounded in the fifth note (Pa) of the Indian musical scale. The word Pancham means five (or fifth) in Bengali. Another theory says that the baby was nicknamed Pancham because he could cry in five different notes. Yet another version is that when the veteran Indian actor Ashok Kumar saw a newborn Rahul uttering the syllable Pa repeatedly, he nicknamed the boy Pancham. RD Burman received his early education at the St Xaviers School in Kolkata. His father SD Burman was a noted music director in Bollywood, the Bombay based Hindi film industry. When he was nine years old, RD Burman composed his first song, Aye meri topi palat ke aa, which his father used in the film Funtoosh (1956). The tune of the song Sar jo tera chakraaye was also composed by him as a child; his father included it in the soundtrack of Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957). In Mumbai, RD Burman was trained by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod) and Samta Prasad (tabla). He also considered Salil Chowdhury as his guru. He served as an assistant to his father, and often played harmonica in his orchestras. Some of the notable films in which RD Burman is credited as the music assistant include Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Bandini (1963), Guide (1965) and Teen Devian (1965). RD Burman also played mouth organ for his fathers hit composition Hai Apna Dil to Aawara which was featured in the movie Solva Saal (1958). In 1959, RD Burman signed up as a music director for the film Raaz, directed by Guru Dutt’s assistant Niranjan. However, the film was never completed. The lyrics of this Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman starrer film were written by Shailendra. R D Burman recorded two songs for the film, before it was shelved. The first song was sung by Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle, and the second one had vocals by Shamshad Begum. RD Burmans first released film as an independent music director was Chhote Nawab (1961). When the noted Bollywood comedian Mehmood decided to produce Chhote Nawab, he first approached RD Burman’s father Sachin Dev Burman for the music. However, SD Burman turned down the offer, saying that he did not have any free dates. At this meeting, Mehmood noticed Rahul playing tabla, and signed him up as the music director for Chhote Nawab. RD Burman later developed a close association with Mehmood, and did a cameo (apart from composing the music) in Mehmood’s Bhoot Bangla (1965). RD Burmans first wife was Rita Patel, whom he had met in Darjeeling. Rita, a fan, had laid a bet with her friends that she would be able to get a movie-date with Burman. The two married in 1966, and got divorced in 1971. The song Musafir Hoon Yaaron (Im a Traveller) from Parichay (1972) was composed by him, when he was at a hotel after the separation. RD Burman married Asha Bhosle in 1980. Together, they recorded many hit songs and also staged many live performances. Burman had financial difficulties, particularly later in his life.