The creator of the National Award-winning Pancham Unmixed is now making a web series on the music legend who was as much about his seminal work as his extraordinary character
RD Burman created the music score for over 331 films. Siingh says this was because he was a genial task master and disciplined with time
Brahmanand Siingh says veteran radio jockey Amin Sayani's comments on All India Radio about RD Burman were his introduction to the legendary composer's work. "Every time he listed out the cast, it would be actors like Amitabh, or Rajesh Khanna, but the music was always by Pancham," says the filmmaker, who has spent a large part of his life creating works around Burman's work and times.
In 2008, he released a two-hour film, Pancham Unmixed, which won the National Award, and followed it up with Knowing Pancham in 2015, which had extra five-hour material surrounding the film. Burman is regarded as one of Bollywood's finest music directors, with almost 331 movies to his credit, including Saagar, Masoom, Sholay, Shaan, Teesri Manzil and 1942: A Love Story. "My granduncle and father once said in a conversation that it seemed like Amar Prem's music was made by SD [Pancham's father]. But that wasn't the case. Gradually, I got obsessed with Pancham's music, and started discovering the layers in it," says the 55-year-old, who was a fan of the Beatles when he was 15, but by the time he turned 20, realised that it was Hindi film music that encompassed it all—classical, Western and pop.
This time too, he is looking at Burman for inspiration, but for a web series. "There is so much to say about him. In the movie, I had to edit content into small vignettes, but with a web series, I can address every detail across various episodes."
The Pancham Legacy, a six-part series, will deal with how Burman has influenced the music directors of today, including why his work ethics can be a lesson for corporates. "Pancham was an inspiration for the best human qualities—creativity, man management, and emotional intelligence. He was a master in life lessons. His approach to work made him a great mentor. He never shouted at those he worked with. It was always about explaining in a genial way."
Siingh recalls meeting accordion player Jackie, who made his debut with the Ijaazat (1986) song, Choti si kahani se. "So, he was initially only supposed to play the portion in the beginning but after RD heard him, he increased his bits. Jackie got nervous. Pancham came up to him and asked why he was worried. 'I am here. I have your back', he told him," Siingh narrates. Along with being a worthy mentor, Pancham has inspired contemporary musicians with his time management and talent. "People like Salim Suleiman, Shankar Ehsaan Loy and Pritam are all fans. Shankar and I were recalling the years between 1971 and '81, where he did almost 17 films, and Shankar exclaimed, 'we do four movies a year and find ourselves busy'. Pancham maintained quality despite the volume of work he put out. This was also because he treated people well. Everyone was willing to go the extra mile to make sure Pancham got what he wanted. Now, celebrity culture has overtaken good work practices."
Siingh says each time he screens his work, viewers love Pancham's music of course, but also admire his personality." Out of the "500 and more " anecdotes he has in his kitty about the legend, Siingh's favourite is about one Diwali when Pancham was bursting crackers. A middle-aged woman from the neighbourhood shouted at him for wasting money when the poor were going hungry. "It turns out that the lady used to feed beggars. Pancham apologised, went and bought biryani plates, and joined her at home to feed the poor. He then went back and continued bursting crackers. He didn't give up what he liked, but he was sensitive to everyone's needs."
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