By Charudutta Panigrahi

Dear Pancham Da !

You were succor to the dreams and the romances of the middle class in an India that was very different from what t is now. Without TV, without much of hype, you were the most famous of composers, coming out with tunes which we all felt we knew, which resonated with our moods. They were so stylish, and yet so moving, so fresh, so close to our hearts, our aspirations, our inner beats. First, there was mono and then came stereo and you ruled with your exceptional sound sense which is a rage now in Dolby.

That’s you. Timeless.

RD Burman ( courtesy: )
RD Burman ( courtesy: )

It was much later that we came to know that for Chura liya… you used spoons with glass or for Bus mere yaar (Sagar) you even used comb etc. But when the music was made, it took us there, to the spot, the scene, the sequence. The picturisation then was not very realistic or sophisticated as it is today, but the music certainly was much ahead of its times: beyond the humdrum of everyday existence.

In many ways, you brought global sophistication to our living rooms. At least in my case, it was an initiation to westernization in a completely Indian context. Your association with Gulzar was a phase, which was remarkable for its authenticity and, I would say, depth in research and creativity. You did almost everything in filmi and non-filmy music. The Dil padosi Hai album is a treat and to date remains unprecedented and inimitable.

So were your Bengali Pujo numbers. Tumi Kato Je Dure.. is simply global, tremendously swanky and entirely contemporary. That’s why many did not understand you where you made your music. It was your mistake to be so progressive, so creative, so original and straddling over genres. It is safe to hail mediocrity.

Your use of saxophone, or the strums of guitar winding their ways, be it in ‘dhano ki ankhon mein’ (kitab) or ‘Hum kisise kum Nahin’, even today gives me goosebumps. At the same gusto, you could make a ‘beeti na bitaye raina’ with Lata and Bhupinder.

You had no range. You were actually rangeless, seamless, borderless. From ‘Aaja aaja, main hun pyaar tera” (Teesri Manzil) to thumri “Hamen tumse pyar kitna, ye hum nahin jaante” (Kudrat) to “Ek chatur naar, badi hoshiyar” (Padosan) and the once-in-a-lifetime “Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin” (Aandhi), you could do anything. Yet the same we, eulogizing you today, rendered you jobless because some of your music didn’t do well.

Panchamda, towards the end, you were unhappy. But do not lose heart. Your music has to be earned by us. We did not deserve your high quality, ethereal music. We were happy with’ Oh Taki Oh Taki’.

I am possessive about you. When in a group people discuss your music, I somehow feel that I should keep quiet. There is a strange sense of arrogance that I think I know or understand your music much better than anyone else. Many of RD fans, I realized later, think the same way, I am not alone. I remember being in a lathi-charged mob in Cuttack to see you in Barabati stadium. I even managed to meet you for about two and half minutes. But it was like time stood still. I was meeting my Icon. I have heard others also saying the same thing about their meetings with you. I had so many questions but couldn’t utter words coherently. I saw Manoharji with you on his gleaming saxophone and I was almost perspiring.

We lived on your music. All my romance was born out of your strains, created by you and produced by the legends – Lata, Kishore, Asha, Rafi and others. Your compositions were so close to my imagination that I felt as if it was I who did the work, almost. Probably this identification makes icons like you, because you carry all our energies, all our dreams, all our realms. It seems once to got the sound of raindrops, you spent the whole rainy night in your house balcony recording the sound you wanted. There are so many stories like this about you.

As Gulzar has rightly said, you were as good a craftsman as a musician.

You are God’s gift. Keep making music wherever you are, they deserve it…

54 was no age to bid adieu. It is only now that we know who you are? A brilliant, sparkling, unfading galaxy on a Pancham refrain.

There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen….Rumi

Dear Pancham Da, we miss you so very badly !!!

Charudutta Panigrahi
(living on your music…)

*Gurgaon-based Mr Panigrahi is the chairman of not-for-profit organisation FIDR