My wife recently went to a classical music gathering. She was invited by her friend who was part of the musical group. It was a small gathering and some "Guru" from Pune was on a tour to the US. She sat through about 3 hours of that program, listening to songs but mostly observing how deeply involved all the 'jaankar' public there was.
I have seen and known these people (there are some in my extended family). They are extremely committed folks. It's like it's their faith. Their mission. They are purists. For people who 'understand' music and sur and taal etc (and hence are jaankar of that subject), Classical is *the* real deal. Rest all is, well.. crap.
Since I don't pretend to understand Music and Art to any intellectual level, I give these invites a pass in general. Being a lesser mortal I fall back on good old Hindi movie songs, that I have got accustomed over many years.
If Music as an art is hard to get, there should be some agent who can create Music that is easier to get along for the non-purists (or masses if you will).
That brings me to Pancham a.k.a R.D Burman.
The state of West Bengal has given us an awesome battery of stalwarts over the years in the field of Arts/Music/Cinema. But Pancham happens to be my favorite Bengali. He was the King. He connected to every layer, to every stratum, to masses and classes alike, with equal ease.
Right from Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahi to 1942, A Love Story (which I thought was below par compared to his own work), no other music director and his music has caught nation's imagination to such an extent.
70s and 80s was his golden era of course.It was when he created his magic. My personal RD favorites are the ones he created with Gulzar. RD and Gulzar individually were super brilliant, but together they were compelling.
An Intoxication called Gulzar
Pancham not only transcended age, he transcended generations. No wonder all these copy cat remixes we get to hear these days have their roots in RD's songs. (Speaks volumes of his 'scalable' music)
He was a 'kalakar' to the core, so to speak. The man had such a massive talent ingrained in his DNA, he probably never bothered to game the system. Which is why, he was sort of a Fakir. And this Fakir created probably India's best music till date.
I mean, the song from Khoobsoorat - "Piya Bawari.." is an intoxicating fusion of classical and contemporary. He easily re-packaged a classical theme into a more digestible and easy to go along, simple presentation. Or the great use of folk-instruments in "Raha pe rehete hai.." from Namkeen which was nothing short of brilliant.
Music is an art form. And R.D Burman was it's proponent. And in many ways, he helped, lump of masses, help appreciate the beauty of this art form. And there in lies his genius.
There's a song in the movie Parinda - "Pyar ke mode pe..". Observe how the sound of flute and Asha Bhonsale's voice camouflages, so much so that it's hard to figure where the flute begins and where Bhonsale ends. Asha Bhonsale should be credited for bringing a mesmerizing effect to it, but there's no denying Pancham's genius in setting it up. Singularly brilliant..
Of all the pop culture icons of India of any generation, for me Rahul Dev Burman stands out as the greatest. I know the Gen-X and A.R Rahmans of the world have won Oscars and what not. And no one's taking away anything from their greatness. But for me, a kid from 80s, Pancham Da was real deal.
He was... the Badshah.