On the evening of 4th January 2009, Forever Pancham, a group of true Pancam lovers from Pune, had organized a function on the occasion unveiling of R.D. Burman Chowk on the 15th death anniversary of R.D. Burman. I have been reading the Pancham Yahoo Group for many years now and one of the organizers of the evening, Saiprasad Raut, who is part of Forever Pancham, had sent a post in the group inviting all Pancham lovers for the evening, mentioning venue and time of the function. Being a RD fan, I just had attend the function.
I reached North Avenue, Santa Cruz at around 4:45 p.m. well ahead of 5:00 p.m., which was the scheduled time of the function. The venue was near Maryland building, where Panchamda used to live, The medley of songs of RD were being played at full blast. What a bliss to hear only RD songs, one after another. I selected a good seat for myself and waited for the programme to begin. I looked around and it seemed the people who live in the locality too were invited, and most of them had come with their children. The ambiance was festive. While waiting and enjoying RD's songs, a local elderly person, sitting next to me, got friendly with me. He was surprised to know that I have come from Ulhasnagar. And asked me are you a relation of R.D. Burman? How I wish I was. I said no, I am no relation of RD, but just one of his numerous fans, I relate to his songs so maybe in a way I am his relative. Then he asked was RD a sindhi, like me, no I said he was a Bengali. May be the local persons did not seem to know that a genius music composers had lived among them for many years. Some people are just lucky, without knowing it.
Well the wait was over. At around 6:05 p.m., I spotted Asha Bhosle walking in, followed by other guests of the evening - Gulzarji, Amit Kumar, Bhupinder Singh, Shailendra Singh and Manohari Singh and many others. Ashaji got a standing ovation from all present. By now quite a lot of people have filled in all the available space. The compere of evening was Harish Bhimani. Harish welcomed us all and thanked profusely Mr Ashish Shelar, the local corporator, who was instrumental in getting the chowk named after RD, and called the Panch Pancam Premees, who are part of Forever Pancham group on the stage. One of them, Sanjeev Langarkande said that today's muic is like medicine which comes with an expiry date, while Pancham's music is for forever, timeless, and has no expiry date, like ayurveda medicine. It made me smile. No truer words were said before.
We were then shown a nine minutes edited version of Pancham Unmixed: Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai , which has been made by Mr Brahmanad Singh. Various contemporaries of Pancham talk about him. A few of them just stuck my mind like Manna Dey just said, I loved him, I just loved him. One can hear Mannada's voice full of emotion, and eyes moist. I also found my eyes moist too. I just could not wait to watch the whole documentary, which is about 2 hours long. Maybe it get released some day in a DVD or CD format.
Next Ashaji was invited to say few words about Pancham. This was the moment we all were waiting for. Ashaji looked frail, and said she has not been well for few days, but wanted to attend this ceremony, come what. She begun by saying that Mumbaikers should feel ashamed, what they could not thought or did, Pancham's fans from Pune had thought and got it done. She said the naming of chowk in his name has come 15 years late. ``... Agar aap sab ne isi tarah se Pancham ka haath 1992-93 main thaama hota, to aaj Pancham humaare saath hee hota'' She said Pancham had two passions in life music and cooking. She also said that she used get upset that Lata got all easy and romantic songs, while Pancham gave her all difficult and unusual songs. Pancham had replied to her that day she refused to sing such songs, he will stop composing them. Thanks Ashaji for not refusing Pancham. She also sang few lines from Mera Kuch Samaan.
Next Gulzarji was requested to say few words about Pancham. Gulzar, in his style and poetic way said that genius like Pancham cannot be described in moments (lamhon), Pancham brought a new era of sound, music and sur and that era ended with him. Pancham can only be compared with only one person and that person is Pancham. Gulzarji eneded with a couplet ``yohon nahin bante yeh sur ke rishte, saat sur lagte hain, us main ek pancham hai''.
Haresh Bhimani then said something very interesting. He said he was fortunate to interview Pancham a couple of times (lucky man) and on being asked what sets him apart from other composers, Pancham had replied simply that his job, like other muic composers is mechanical, but he always tries to do something new. This is why, humble person like me, who would have been tone deaf, had it not been for RD, invariably find something new in his compositions.
Harish then invited the other associates and contemporaries of Panchamda to say something. Lyricist Gulshan Bawara said he could not believe that Pancham is dead, he believes he is among us. He was happy that RD got first Filmfare award for movie for which lyrics were written by him. Music composer Uttam Singh said he was amazed how Pancham used to bring up something new almost every second day. On asking Pancham how he does it, Pancham had replied `bus ho jaata hai yaar'. Uttam Singh said that in his opinion just merely naming a chowk (square) in RD's name is not enough, Khar should be named as R.D. Burman Khar. Amit Kumar recalled how Pancham had told him to sing a song of Kishore Kumar and Amit had sung Main Hoi Jumro Jumoro, but very badly, as he was afraid to sing in front of RD. And next day Panchamda had called him and asked him to sing for his film. The song was Bade Aache Laagte Hain. Pancham had obviously spotted that Amit is a good singer.
Bhupinder Singh said he is still trying to find a wrong note in the compositions of RD, and have not found one in any RD song. How could the evening end without Manohari Singhji saying a few words about Pancham. Manohari Singhji said he has been with Pancham right from Chotte Nawab to his last film, 1942 a Love Story. He wished that in his next birth too he wish to be again with RD.
The unveiling ceremony was then performed by Ashaji. It was really
a memorable moment. Hope the chowk is maintained properly in the coming years. Well the ceremony was over and it was time to go home. But I thought I will have a closer look, and maybe shake hands with friends and associates of Panchamda, and may be, if I am lucky, shake hand or namaste to Ashaji. The fans of Pancham were requested to put their autograph on the billboard put up at the venue. I was among the first to put my name on the billboard. I spotted Ashaji surrounded by security persons walking by. Though I could not take a photograph of her or say namaste to her, I had a good close look at her. I was able to shake hands with Gulzarji, Bhupinderji, Amit Kumar and Shailendra Singh.
I thought now it was time to go home. Still I was clueless about location of Maryland, the home of RD. Suddenly I spotted a huge picture of RD at a building nearby. Yes, this is home of RD. The invited celebrities and media persons were having a get together in the lawn of the building and entry was restricted for ordinary persons like me. Sigh. I took a picture of it from outside and spent many moments nearby. I was feeling sublime. For Pancham fan like me, his home is like a temple. I had read somewhere that Ashaji has preserved it like a museum. Maybe some day it will be open for RD fans like me. But I was happy just to see it from outside.
Then I saw Manohari Singhji walking out. I immediately asked him can I take a picture of yours, he just similed and stopped. I was so glad to take his picture and shook his hand. I should have touched his feet, but don't know why I hesitated. Manoharida is still keeping the spirit of Pancham alive. May he live long.
Before leaving I thanked Saiprasad Raut, whom I had spoken yesterday, for organizing a wonderful evening and for keeping the memories of Pancham alive.
I spotted one fan had written the following on the billboard: Agar Tum Na Hote Pancam, To Yeh Zindagi Itani Musical No Hoti. Agreed. Totally.
Update: The video of the above function is available here.