Pancham- The Supernova
By: Karan Dhall UG’22
“Diye jalte hain, phool khilte hain,
Badi mushkil se magar,
Duniya mein dost,
Fate and fame are fickle friends which bring about other fair-weather friends in the carefully weeded nexus of Bollywood. The silver-screen has predominantly belonged to the silver-spooned. And amidst the biz-buzz of the Khans, Khannas and Kapoors, the so-called superstars, we have supernovas like Sushant Singh Rajput. Sushant was an ordinary, a nobody, so to speak, in the film industry. He aimed for the moon (all puns intended) and got a few stars in his bucket.
But just think about a young prince born to a Bollywood music legend. Life would be easy, right? Wrong.
Pancham’s life is an ironic transition from ruling turntables, churning out hit after hit, and then watching the tables turn, as a helpless, hapless, friendless soul. A man who was, at one time, offered film after film, sans daddy SD’s aegis, was left to rot like a crumbling, fumbling, insecure composer–like a mutilated Mozart. And people say that the biggies gate-keep just the actors. What made me tear up watching his documentary was the fall of this heroic composer, sans hubris; his only hamartia being so naive to the tactics of the big-bad world of Bollywood. But alive he was in spirit, and alive he is in his music. From his heydays of the seventies to early eighties and a solid smackdown in the mid-eighties, Burman Jr. rose from the ashes, only to be one with them.
You can call it a privilege, nepotism, favouritism, whatnot. But Pancham was a different ball-game altogether. People associate Abhishek Bachchan with Amitabh Bachchan, they associate Aamir Khan with the Hussains, they associate all the “strugglers” with their parents. But people, or more correctly, the younger lot associates S. D. Burman with R. D. Burman–”Oh! So he is R. D. Burman’s dad!” That’s the legacy Bollywood’s wannabe stars need now. That’s a legacy to remember, for time to embalm you with memories for a lifetime.
“Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahi,
Tera bina zindagi bhi lekin…zindagi, to nahi…zindagi nahi, zindagi nahi…”
Pancham would have been 81 today. But he’s still here. In movies as well as music. Jhankaar Beats (most notable for the college fest-friendly “Tu Aashiqui Hai”) is essentially a tribute to Burman Jr., a man who made everyone from schoolchildren to genial old folk, vibe to his beats. From “Aao Twist Karen” to “Piya Tu Ab to Aaja”, this man had it all. From “Musafir Hoon Yaaron” to “O Maanjhi Re”, he had the sensitivity. From “Lakdi Ki Kaathi” to “Mehbooba Mehbooba” this man’s music is a guide to my childhood, and to my present years where I have developed a certain affinity to mimicking him. I know I can’t perfect it; nobody can except him (and Sudesh Bhosle, perhaps?).
But that’s that and here we are. Left to where Pancham had lost himself. Left to modular music compositions. Left to hyper-mechanisation of music, an art which no one has perfected except perhaps the likes of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Rahman and Amit Trivedi. Nowadays its all rehashing, ripping off old music. No doubt Pancham da did it quite often, but he did so inconspicuously, not in the cheap ostentatious manner of modern Bollywood music. I may sound like a harsh critic of today’s music but as a Bollywood fan, I am eagerly waiting for the next wave of Hindi cinema music. A wave, of R. D.’s proportions, a wave, creating an all-encompassing global synergy.
To connect the dots, Pancham was something of a supernova himself. Alas, that star died as elegantly as a phoenix unveils the fire within and without.
“Kuch na kaho, kuch bhi na kaho…”