Legendary music composer SD Burman was one of the pioneers of Hindi film music industry who introduced listeners to evergreen numbers that are still on our minds and lips. With films like Baazi, CID, Pyaasa, Bandini, Guide among many others, Sachin Dev Burman’s compositions were a big part of the golden era of Hindi cinema. While Sachin Dada, as he was fondly called, gave his life to his music, his last moments were also surrounded by the sound of his last film composition Mili.
In 1975, SD Burman was recording the songs for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Mili. On one such day, he was rehearsing the song “Badi Sooni Sooni Hai” with singer Kishore Kumar at his residence but soon after he was hospitalised. Kishore Kumar narrated the incident in his own words on Ameen Sayani’s radio program and a recording of the same program is available on Geetmala Ki Chhaon Mein collection.
Kishore shared that as they were rehearsing the song, Sachin Dada was starting to fall sick. “I kept rehearsing but his eyes looked sad, empty. He kept looking at me, quietly, listening to the song,” he shared. Soon after the rehearsal was done, Kishore left the house, and about 25 minutes later, SD Burman collapsed on the floor. A doctor was called immediately and he suggested that the composer should be rushed to a hospital but Dada wouldn’t go.
Kishore said, “He insisted that he won’t go to the hospital since Kishore has to record this song tomorrow. He said, ‘You can take me wherever you want after the recording is done’.” His son RD Burman, lovingly known as Pancham, rushed to Kishore’s house and urged him to come up with some excuse so they could rush to the hospital. “Pancham said ‘Kishore, come and make him understand. Recording can happen later also’,” he recalled.
Upon reaching Sachin Dada’s house, Kishore saw his frail body that needed medical assistance and intentionally spoke in a coarse voice. He pretended to have a sore throat so Dada would not insist on recording the song. “I said ‘Dada, listen to my voice, it’s so bad right now. Let’s postpone the recording for a few days. You go to the hospital and by the time you come back, my voice will be fine, and then we will record’.” But even in this condition, SD Burman was a perfectionist. “Sachin Dada said, ‘Kishore, the song should be good. Record only when your voice gets better. And in case I can’t come to the recording, think that I am standing right in front of you. And sing like how I would have wanted you to sing’,” recalled Kishore.
Sachin Dada went to the hospital but as suspected, he could not come for the recording. Even though he was not present physically, Kishore thought of him as he sang. Later, Pancham took the tape with the recording to the hospital so his father could listen to it and Kishore shared that it left him teary-eyed. “After listening to the song, he had tears in his eyes. He quietly muttered, ‘Pancham, I knew this is how Kishore would sing’.”
Shortly after this, SD Burman went into a coma. He passed away on October 31, 1975, at the age of 69.