Looking back at R D Burman melodious journey with Asha Bhosle

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R D Burman Death anniversary 2024: Intrinsically talented, both Burman and Asha Bhosle, separately and jointly, gave a new direction to Hindi film music. But to achieve this, Asha Bhosle and Rahul Dev Burman had to surmount a major `hurdle` — creating a new identity distinct from their illustrious and established kin: elder sibling Lata Mangeshkar and father Sachin Dev Burman. And both succeeded — with a combination of luck, support, their own undeniable virtuosity, and above all, their first joint effort. 

`Chhote Nawab` (1961) was R.D. Burman`s first solo movie and though it did not make waves, he was a music composer in his own right. His hour would strike with `Teesri Manzil` (1966) — for which hero Shammi Kapoor, producer Naseer Hussain and director Vijay Anand sought to take the credit for his selection, though Burman himself said that it was lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri who had recommended him. 

And of the film`s soundtrack, the duets `O haseena zulfonwali jaan-e-jahan`, `O mere sona re` and `Aaja aaja, main hoon pyar tera` showcased Asha ably complementing Rafi — and female partners (Helen in the first and heroine Asha Parekh in the last two), who could shimmy as energetically as `Swinging Shammi`. 

It was also the first successful collaboration between Asha and R.D. Burman and laid the ground for their later melodic milestones — `Piya tu ab to aaja` (`Caravan`, 1971), the evergreen hedonistic youth anthem `Dum maro dum` (`Hare Rama Hare Krishna`, 1971), the uninhibited `Duniya mein`, with Burman himself singing (`Apna Desh`, 1972), `Bhali bhali si ek soorat` (`Buddha Mil Gaya`, 1971), that eternal romantic ballad `Chura liya hai tumne` (`Yaadon Ki Baaraat`, 1973) and the bold qawwali `Hai agar dushman` (`Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin`, 1977).

Asha and R.D. capped their successful 1970s by marrying in 1980 — the second time for both of them. But it was not always happily ever after for them — as Asha moved from her cabaret/love numbers to more nuanced stuff, such as the ghazals of `Umrao Jaan` (1981), with the composer Khayyam convincing her to lower her voice by half a note to create magic, R.D. Burman could not as easily jettison his westernised image, where younger competitors like Bappi Lahiri were gaining ground.

And a rift started emerging as Asha was too professional not to sing for Lahiri — the solos `Jawaani jaan-e-man` and `Raat baaki, baat baaki` and the duet `Aaj rapat jaye` from `Namak Halal` (1982) were a prime example. Later In the 1980s, R.D. Burman and Asha woould reinvent themselves with more subtle numbers like `Mera kuch saaman`, `Khaali haath shaam aayi hai` and `Katra Katra` (`Ijazat`, 1987), times had changed for both.  

R.D. Burman grew increasingly disillusioned as he was not getting much work after some films with his music bombed, Asha also had an enforced sabbatical as new filmamkers chose new singers, notably Alka Yagnik and Kavita Krishnamurthy. `1942: A Love Story` (1994) showed R.D. Burman still had some spark left, but, sadly, it was a posthumous achievement. And tellingly, he did not use Asha in what would turn out to be his swan song!

Yet, Asha gained a fresh lease as emerging maestro A.R. Rehman chose her to sing for Urmila Matondkar in `Rangeela` (1995) and at 62, she did full justice for the 21-year-old actress. She continued to make a mark — take `Taal` (1999) and `Lagaan` (2001), for instance — and as the years progressed, she did not stop diversifying her repertoire.

(With inputs IANS)

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