S.D. Burman was
singer, musician, composer and teacher all at once - a trailblazer in the
truest sense of the term. He was a prince who lived a commoner’s life, a singer
who created tunes instead, a classically trained musician who composed for the
lay listener. His incredible career in Hindi cinema spanned three decades -
through all the years of which his spirit was as fresh and young as when he
started. His compositions were filmed on succeeding generations of stars to
unflaggingly wonderful effect.
This chronicle of the life of S.D. Burman tells his story through a kaleidoscope of montages
from the inner and outer worlds he inhabited. Fragmented memoirs of his days in
the sylvan surroundings of Comilla, interviews, press
clippings and archival material piece together the story of the man who created
some of Hindi cinema’s most enduring songs. Facts and records are knitted into
a multidimensional narrative that carries the reader into the little-known
world of a man whose contradictions made him unique and gave him a place all
his own in music.
Sun Mere Bandhu Re: The
Musical World of S.D. Burman is a biography unlike
any you have read before.
Back of the Book
When Hrishikesh Mukherjee was making Abhimaan
with Iaya and myself, we
spent memorable afternoons at Burman dada’s home
where he would sing and render the possible tunes that would form the music of
the film. The songs of Abhimaan have been tested
through the years and through time without ever seeming outdated or even
forgotten. Burman dada gave some of the most
melodious songs to our film industry, but the music of Abhimaan
shall always remain special. We were never able to replicate to its fullest the
originals sung by him. They were in a league of their own ... A simple man,
with the most simple habits, in the simplest of
environs. His passion was music and it came from his heart!
About the Author
Sathya Saran is one of India’s
best- known journalists and editors. As editor, she made Femina
the most successful fashion and lifestyle magazine in India. She is author of
the critically acclaimed and bestselling biography Tell Years with Guru Dutt: Abrar Aids Journey. She is
currently working on a number of books in her capacity as consulting editor
with HarperCollins India.
One thing usually leads to another. The thread
of destiny unravels in surprising ways, sometimes telescoping the past and
present into a concrete moment.
I have never met S.D. Burman.
I know his songs of course, have grown up singing them
to myself. I had seen the rare picture of him somewhere, and held the
impression of a calm, spartan face that could have
been etched in solitude by a calligraphist’s pen.
Beyond a chance second-hand encounter with the
composer through Abrar Alvi
while researching my book on Guru Dutt, I knew
nothing about S.D. Burman. And Alvi
revealed him only as a gentle soul, possessive about his paan
and careful with his money - not much to build an image from.
But one thing led to another. A young man who
worked in the same building I used as an office for a while came up to say that
his father had read my book on Guru Dutt. He wanted
to know if I would take on the writing of a biography of S.D. Burman. His father, the young man continued, was a huge fan
of the music director, and had collected clippings published about him for the
past few decades, which he was willing to hand over to me.
And so it was that I met Moti
Lalwani who came bearing his treasure trove. A meeting that resulted in two bulging files in my custody.
This was followed up by a series of interviews
that had been conducted for the four fan-page web sites he administered, and an
offer to continue to do interviews of prominent players in S.D. Burman’s musical world. Of course, I gratefully accepted.
For almost four months after this, I refused to
look at the material on hand. Material that kept coming in, in the form of
fresh interviews, and relentlessly stared at me from my inbox everytime I logged on. When I finally began to read, it was
like entering a labyrinth. I could so easily be lost in this uncharted
territory, where voices spoke from every direction; some echoing, some
contradicting one another. Despite so many voices speaking about him, I could
find S.D. Burman nowhere. The man was missing.
Adding to my confusion was a package that
landed on my table one morning. From Bangladesh. A book on S.D. Burman by a venerable
researcher of the composer’s work, H.Q. Chowdhury.
My heart sank. Was I heading to a dead end? Was
there place for a second book? What could I say that was new about a man I had
never met or known?
It was S.D. Burman
himself who came to my rescue. His slim autobiographical note, Sargamer Nikhad, written with
simplicity and a charming lack of self-consciousness was the first real insight
into the person I had been looking for. His stories of his youth, his
description of his interactions with those who mattered to him in his musical
journey through life gave me the clue on how to shape his story.
I put aside everything I had read as notes and
interviews. I listened to the songs, I let myself
listen to the world around me as someone who heard only the music in every
And the book began to take shape in my mind. I
listened to the music of the birds, to the beat of a butterfly’s wings as it
flitted past my window. The rat-a-tat of the local train, the shouted cadences
of the fruit seller’s voice, the spoon hitting the side of the pot in the
kitchen ... I imagined a musician listening to them and capturing the music
inherent in every sound.
And destiny took me back to the days when I
walked barefoot in the grass, chasing dragonflies, or lay in the shade of a
spreading rain tree watching alternately the clouds or the brown tufts at the
ends of the leaves of grass waving in the breeze while far away a man selling
mud violins played a tune I knew the words of.
It was easy then to blend the real with the
almost real. To let imagination colour the calligraphist’s
portrait in the shades of music.
By the time this book went into edits, another
book on S.D. Burman had come out, this time by an
Indian, by someone who shared the surname. But by now I was no longer worried
about the content. Another book wasn’t going to make a difference because I had
decided on a new approach to the narrative altogether.
This narration of S.D. Burman’s
life follows his journey through it and through his music faithfully. There is
nothing in the book that has not been documented elsewhere in print or recorded
through interviews for this book. It is only in the telling of the story that I
have, like the subject of this book, let myself roam free. Just as he would
take the seven notes of music and spin out of them an endless fabric of songs,
I have tried to take the many facts and milestones of his life and weave a
tapestry that reveals in its intricacies the genius of a man whose life was
simply dictated by music.
In doing this, I hope to present S.D. Burman’s amazing story not just to those who have thrilled
to his songs, but to a generation that can learn the blessings of a way of life
dedicated so passionately to excellence. A passion that never
waned and so touched the hearts of at least two generations of moviegoers.
On learning I was writing this book, a friend asked me
why I chose to write on dead people. I replied that I seem to be so chosen. And
take it on gladly because I could then try, through my writing, to make them
come alive again.
Part One: Beginnings
Part Two: Calcutta
Part Three: Bombay
Sachin Dev Burman:
The Man behind the Legend by Moti Lalwani
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