Today, Rahul Dev Burman is regarded as a Music Genius, Music Maverick and Music director par excellence but the bitter truth is that when R.D. Burman was around in the film industry, he was never given his due place. He was ignored, overlooked and even ridiculed for lifting western album tunes and shamefully labeled as a plagiarist
Agreed that there is a long list of songs that were truly lifted by R.D. Burman like Churaa Liya Hai Tum Ne (Yaadon Ki Baraat, 1973) inspired from “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (Bojoura, 1969) or Mehbooba Mehbooba (Sholay) lifted from Demis Roussos’s ‘Say You Love Me‘) or Dilbar Mere Kab Tak Mujhe (Satta Pe Satta, 1982) from “Zigeunerjunge” (Alexandra, 1967) or Tum Se Milke (Parinda, 1989) from “When I Need You” (Leo Sayer, 1977) or the melodious song O Hansini (Zehreela Insaan, 1974) was taken from the James Bond Goldfinger theme song but the truth is R.D. Burman was an original composer and had mastery over Hindustani classical ragas, however, film producers forced him to copy and he flowed their diktats to survive in the film industry.
This proved fatal to R.D. Burman as his image was tarnished by music critics and he never got the status that he rightly deserved. The bitter truth can be proved from the fact that though he was nominated 15 times for Filmfare award but declined the honor. He was just awarded three times viz Sanam Teri Kasam (1983), Masoom (1983) and 1942: A Love Story (1995). What is most agonizing is that some of his career’s Best Musical films were tragically not even nominated!
Who can forget R.D. Burman‘s most popular musical blockbuster like Tesri Manzil, Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Andhi, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Jawani Diwani, Pyar Ka Mausam, Buddha Mil Gaya, Parichay, Parinda … the list is long!! What is most depressing is that each of the film mentioned has path-breaking songs that brought revolution in the Indian film industry for instance in Tesri Manzil in introduced the fast and jazzy music. Songs like Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera, O Haseena Zulfonwali Jaane Jahan…. Later such songs became a trendsetter and made R.D. Burman a popular music director.
In the movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna, he started the trend of rock music with the trendsetter song Dum Maro Dum…. Interestingly the song is still foot tapping and a favorite among today’s generation. Other films that were a success solely on its music included Pyar Ka Mausam, Caravan, Jawani Diwani, Khel Khel Mein, Love Story, Sanam Teri Kasam, etc.
In fact, R.D. Burman played a key role in making Rajesh Khanna a superstar because most of his films were a success at the box-office due to the films excellent music like Kati Patang(1970), Amar Prem (1972), Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972), Apna Desh (1972), Namak Haraam (1973), Aap Ki Kasam (1974), Ajanabee (1974), Mehbooba (1976) etc.
In the late ’80s, R.D. Burman was a deserted man! In frustration, he took to liquor and spent lonely hours with his musical instruments with no films on hand. Eventually, Vidhu Vinod Chopra brought him out from depression by offering him 1942: A Love Story (1994). An elated R.D. Burman thanked Vidhu Vinod Chopra and promised to give his career-best music! He put his heart and soul in the creation of the music of 1942: A Love Story (1994) and emerged triumphantly! Even his hardcore critics were left stunned by the mind lowing music! The film was released on 15 April 1994 and its music became a national craze.
The film won Filmfare Best Music Award but alas R.D. Burman was not alive to watch the laurels and honor!!! 4 months before the release of the film on January 4, 1994, Pancham bid adieu from the world!