Whenever music maestro Rahul Dev Burman’s professional as well as personal associations are talked about, Asha Bhosle finds her name at the top, her sister Lata Mangeshkar gets a mention much later in the list. And why not? After all, Asha and Pancham made for one of the most formidable musical duos in the history of Indian cinema and Burman gave her some of her best songs. But that does not take away from the fact that the music composer had a special relationship with Lata, whom he, like others, used to call ‘Didi’.
With classics like “Tere Bina Zindagi Se”, “Is Mod Se Jaatein Hain”, “Naam Gum Jayega” and “Tere Bina Jiya Jaye”, their professional tuning was solid, but not much was known or talked about what they shared personally. Something, which Lata spoke about in Chaitanya Padukone’s novel, RD Burmania.
Sharing an anecdote from the time of Burman’s first marriage, Lata, in a way, revealed the mutual admiration and respect that the duo shared. “When Pancham got married, he told me, ‘Didi, I don’t want any expensive gift from you. Instead, write me a ‘counselling’ letter on the do’s and don’ts of life and how to lead a blissful married life.’ I did so, and I believe he carefully preserved that letter in his locker,” she said.
People, who are closest to us, are not only a part and many times the source of our happiness, but also become a part of our biggest regrets. The same happened with Lata and Pancham and it goes on to show that despite having been silent about their equation, they formed a huge space in each other’s lives. As Lata spoke, “One of the biggest regrets of my singing career is that when I recorded my track of ‘Kuchh Na Kaho’ (1942: A Love Story), Pancham had already passed away. Had Rahul been alive, I am sure he would have made some extempore changes and perhaps made it sound even better.”
Burman died aged 54, in January 1994. The loss will always be felt as the melody queen put it, “Unfortunately, Pancham left us abruptly at such a young age, but his evergreen songs will always keep his memory alive.” Her words can’t get truer than this, as we hear his superhit tune of “Yamma Yamma” (Shaan, 1980 film) making way in the title track of an upcoming Bollywood film, Mubarakan. Happy 74th birthday, ‘evergreen’ Burman.