Sachin Dev Burman was a titan amongst composers and singers of songs for Indian films and outside of them. Born on October 01 1906 in Comilla, about 100 kilometers from Dhaka Bangladesh, Sachin Dev Burman was a scion of the princely family of Tripura, now a state of India. His noble lineage is reflected in the grace of his musical creations spanning a period of 43 years until his death in Bombay in 1975.
Known as "Sachin Karta" to the music connoisseurs of Kolkata, "Burman Dada" as fondly called by the musicians of Bombay, "Shochin Deb Bormon" by the radio listeners of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, "S.D. Burman" by the film cine goers or simply "SD" by his "jeans" filmi fans -- he created songs that bore the stamp of his inimitable genius, abounding in variety yet retaining the distinction of his style. Drawing from the vast store of folk music-forms and from the classical teachings, as the mood called for, he produced what is known as the Sachin Dev Burman music which is at once rotund, vibrant and unorthodox both in form and substance.
Burman Dada was the youngest of Nabadip Chandra Dev Burman's five sons (and four daughters). Nabadip Chandra was the direct heir to the kingdom of Tripura when "palace politics" forced him to stay aside. An adept in playing the sitar apart from excelling in drupad singing and sculpting, it was he and his fourth son Lt. Col. Kiran Kumar, who gave Burman Dada the inspiration to delve into music. Burman Dada's childhood gurus were two helping hands, the old Madhav who would sing passages from the Ramayana and the young Anwar his “sparring” partner in angling who would sing the Bhatialis (a type of Bangla folk song) with a "Dotara" (a folk stringed instrument).
Dada had his formal education in Comilla from where he passed his Matriculation (1920) and Intermediate (1922) examinations. After completing his B.A from Comilla Victoria College (1924) he left for Kolkata for his M.A. in English. But music was his destiny. He chose the legendry KC Dey (Manna Dey's uncle) as his first guru in Kolkata. The great exponents of classical music of the time notably Ustad Badal Khan, Ustad Allauddin Khan and Ustad Bishwadev Chatterjee were also to become his teachers. He first sang for All India Radio Kolkata around 1926/27 and cut his first disc as a singer cum composer in 1932. The H 11, 78 rpm disc from Hindoostan record which had a semi classical number on one side and a folk based song on the other was a super hit. A 'star' was born to give a new shape to the art of singing and composing, so much so, that he surpassed his contemporaries and exponents of Tagore songs, to become the highest paid singer when Bombay finally roped him in 1944.
Prior to his departure for Bombay, Burman Dada composed for a number of Bengali plays and films. His first film composition was in 1937 for "Rajgee". However, success as a composer of film songs did not quite come because of his style of music. His musical life in Kolkata was therefore more focused to the intellectuals and connoisseurs of music. No wonder his fans ranged from musical giants like Dilip Kumar Roy, Nazrul Islam, Dhurjyoti Prasad Mukherjee and then on to the next generation like Ravi Shankar, Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Salil Chowdhury, Tapan Sinha etc.
On stage, Dada performed with Ustads like Abdul Karim Khan, Ustad Fayyaz Khan, Girija Shankar Chakrabarty in major musical conferences in Allahabad and Kolkata. It is now a matter of history that Burman Dada was also an excellent flute and tabla player besides being an outstanding sportsman (specially tennis, football, volleybal) which he had to sacrifice for his first love -- music.
Dada married Meera, an accomplished singer cum dancer in 1938. Rahul Dev Burman aka Pancham was born the next year. Dada continued singing Bangla songs on a regular basis until 1971 when poor health forced him to retire. His Bangla songs continue to be a bench mark in the art of singing. Many of these songs were turned to film hits e.g. "Hum bekhudi mein tumko',"Pholon ke rang se", "Khai hai re humne kasam", "Tere bin soone", "Mehbooba tere tasvir", "Sach kahti hai duniya", "Neend chooraye", " Jaane kya tune kahi", "Pawane diwani " to mention a few.
Bombay had been calling Burman Dada for long, but Dada always preferred Kolkata. However, in 1944 at the request of Sasadhar Mukherjee of Filmistan, Burman finally decided to go with two films in hand Shikari ("Har din hain naya raat") and "Aath Din"("Ummed bhara panchi"). It is very likely that Dada chose to go to Bombay, as two of his best friends, Ajoy Bhattacharya, the lyricist and Himagsu Dutta, the composer had passed away.
But Bombay was no cake walk. Despite the musical success of Shikari and Aath Din and later on Do Bhai ("Mera Sundar sapna beet gaya"), Vidya ("Bahe na kabhi nain se neer",Shabnam ("Yeh duniya roop ki choor"), Dada was still not considered a force. Frustrated, Burman decided to pack up for Kolkata. It was at this point Ashok Kumar put his foot down. "Compose the music for Mashaal and then you are free". Dada took up the baton again. Mashaal was a super hit. The song " Upar gagan vishal", became a rage. It also launched Manna Dey in a new fold. The rest is history.
Bahar ("Qusoor aap ka"), Naujawan ("Dil ka dard na jane"), Buzdil ("Rote rote guzar gayi"), Baazi ("Aaj ki raat piya"), Taxi Driver ("Dil jale to jale"), Jaal ("Chori Chori meri gali"), Devdas ("Jise tu kabool"), House No 44("Phaili huyi hain"), Munimjee ("Jeevan Ke safar mein"), Funtoosh ("Woh dekhen to unki"), Nau Do Gyarah ("Ankhon mein kya ji"),Paying Guest ("Chand phir nikla"),Pyaasa ("Jaane kya tune kahi "), Kala Paani ("Hum bekhudi mein), Solva Saal ("Yeh bhi koi ruthne ka"),Kagaz Ke Phool ("Waqt ne kiya kya"), Sujata ("Kali ghata chhaye"), Bombai Ka Babu ( " chal ri sajni"), Kala Bazaar ("Khoya khoya chand"),Dr. Vidya ("Pawan Diwaani"), Meri surat teri aanhken (Tere bin soone"), Bandini ("Mera gora ang"), Benazir ("Husn ki baharen liye"), Kaise Kahoon ("Man mohan man mein ho tumhi") Guide("Mose chal kiye jaye")), Jewel Thief ("Roola ke gaya), Aradhana ("Roop tera mastana, Talaash ("Tere naina"), Prem Pujari ("Shokiyon mein ghola jaye"), Gambler ("Mera man tera pyaasa"), Tere Mere Sapney ( "Mera aantar ek mandir") Sharmili ("Megha Chaya aadhi raat"), Abhiman ("Piya bina piya bina"), Mili ("Badi sooni sooni hai") are all "Dada" compositions. The same list of movies can be repeated a few more times with a different set of songs, as Dada till date, has the maximum number of hit songs per film.
Dada struck a balance with most poets/lyricists including Kaifi Azmi (Kagaz Ke Phool), Sahir Ludhianvi (Pyaasa), Majrooh Sultanpuri (Nau Do Gyarah), Shailendra (Guide), Hasrat Jaipuri (Ziddi), Neeraj (Prem Pujari), Shakil Badayuni (Kaise Kahoon), Anand Bakshi(Aradhana). He reigned supreme throughout his Bombay career with his wide range of compositions working with top of the line film makers like Dev Anand (he was a father figure at Navketan), Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Shakti Samanta, Promod Chakraborty, NC Sippy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee etc. Be it a classical number or one with a folksy touch, or a cabaret piece, Dada excelled in all to become the most versatile composer of his time. As a class singer himself, Dada knew the weaknesses of all great singers and therefore could draw the best out of them; as such he gave turning points to the careers of Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhonsle, and Suman Kalyanpur. His music was sometimes art and sometimes craft.
The hallmark of Burman dada's composition was a simple tune with a simple orchestra thereby emphasizing more on its melodic content. He never took many assignments at a time. He knew his limitations?. When the theme of a film was not suited to his composing range, he would recommend his colleagues to the producers, as he did for " Madhumati(Salil Chowdhury), Shiv Bhakti (?) (Chitragupta) etc. He never depended on any particular artist and kept changing his singers in accordance with his/her voice quality. He tolerated no "nonsense" with his music and as a hard core professional,never allowed any of his assistants (Madan Mohan, Jaidev, Pancham, N Dutta, Meera) to make "his music". He would always have his last say before a product was out. A perfectionist and a hard taskmaster, he recorded a song only after sufficient rehearsals. Also, he would postpone recording until his requirements were met. Classic examples have been the postponement of the recording of "Nache mora manwa magan tikta dhighi dhighi" in Meri Surat Teri Aakhen until the arrival of Pandit Samta Prasad from Beneras or the drum from Sikkim for "Honto pe aisi baath" in Jewel Thief.
There was a time in Bombay when the lyrics were set to tune by the music directors. Dada changed the theory. The tune first, the lyrics later. Today nine out of ten songs are composed in this manner. Also for every song sequence Dada had many alternative tunes thus giving the producers a wide choice. Dada believed that the best judge of his music were the inmates of a house including the servants.
A low profile man, Dada had a profound sense of humour and wit he exposed only to his close ones. The innumerable duets he composed will give a reflection of this part of his nature. Despite his royal background, Dada led a life of austerity and simplicity. He never boasted or showed off but was always proud of his music. He was a great lover of sports and even offered to compose music for a hockey match!! Dada refereed many a game of football, volleyball in his Bombay and Agartala/ Comilla days. It is said that in his young days he was good enough to represent India in lawn tennis!! His other passion was angling!
Dada received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award and the Padmashree for his contribution to music apart from many other awards including a national award for singing in 1969. Earlier in 1934 in Kolkata, Dada was awarded a gold medal in All Bengal Classical Music Conference in which Ustad Fayyaz Khan, Ustad Allauddin Khan, Bishwadev Chatterjee participated. In Agartala, a bridge has been dedicated in his memory. SD Burman awards are given from Agartala every year to upcoming artists.And in Bombay Sur Singar Samsad Academy presents SD Burman awards to musicians involved in films.
Dada left for heavenly abode on October 31, 1975 after a paralytic stroke felled him a year earlier. There was a time when the royal family of Tripura criticized him for making a living out of music as it brought down the image of royalty. Dada was hurt and slowly he snapped his ties with Tripura. Today, the Tripura royal family is known for Sachin Dev Burman !!