Lata Mangeshkar remembers RD Burman on his 71st birthday
As far as female playback legends go, Lata Mangeshkar had the honour of having sung for both the Burman maestros -- father Sachin Dev Burman and son Rahul Dev Burman.
She recalls her initial encounters with RD. "I knew him from the time he would run around in his shorts. He was very naughty. When he came to me with his first song Ghar aaja ghir aaye badra in Mehmood's Chote Nawab, I couldn't believe he had grown up."
The 80 year-old legend recalls her first meeting with Panchamda. "He thrust his autograph book at me when I was recording for his father. Do you know what I wrote in the autograph book? 'Pancham badmashi chhod do' (Stop being naughty) He laughed and ran away. After that, I didn't see him for a long time. He didn't stay much with Burman Dada. He loved his naani and stayed with her more. "
While inviting Lata to sing his first composition, RD also managed to mend relations between her and his father SD Burman. "Yes, Burman Dada and I were not on talking terms. Out of the blue Burman Dada called and said, 'Kya hua tumko? Kyon naraaz ho?' I later came to know Pancham told his father not to fight with me because no one else could sing in the style that he wanted.
Comparing the son to the illustrious father Burman, Mangeshkar observes, "If he wanted, Pancham could've easily followed his father's style. But he followed a unique path. He observed the music and rhythms of African American musicians. He loved ghetto music."
Would it be right to say RD gave all the strong Indian melodies to Lata and the westernised songs to Asha?
"Pancham always gave the right song to both of us. He'd tell me, 'Whatever I compose for you, I can never let Asha sing, and vice versa. Therefore, a Raina Beeti Jaye or a Beeti Na Beetayi Raina came to me. And why just the classical numbers? RD gave me Bahon Mein Chale Aao, which I consider his career's best."
Recalling her special bond with RD, Lataji says, " He called me Didi. But I treated him like my son. When he got married to Rita, he told me to gift him a hand-written letter. He kept it all his life. When he had his first heart attack while recording a song, I was told about it by his associate Sapan Chakravarty. I broke down.
When Pancham heard about my reaction, he told me not to worry. When he had a heart surgery in London, I happened to be there. He sent me a message saying he wanted to meet me before surgery. I went to meet him in the hospital. He told me, 'I don't know what will happen to me. I wanted to meet you before surgery'."
Her rapport with RD remained unaltered even when he married Asha. "Pancham and I didn't expect anything from one another. He used to tell me things that he didn't share with anyone else." Mangeshkar sang both, RD's first and last tracks.
"The last I heard from him was when he asked me to sing Kuch Na Kaho in 1942: A Love Story. I was in Delhi when he passed away. I couldn't sing Kuch Na Kaho during his lifetime. I felt terrible when I recorded it without Pancham."