Besides his talent to sing and compose tunes instantly, the legendary Rahul Dev Burman (aka Pancham-Da) also had this fabulous flair for acting in comic roles and in playing pranks because he had a zany sense of humour.
At a ‘5-star’ filmi party, Pancham-Da pulled a fast one on me by offering me a pastry from the dessert section which had chili powder mixed with the red icing. By the time the pungent taste brought tears to my eyes, RDB disappeared. But two minutes later a production assistant offered me a glass of fruit juice saying, “Boss (that’s what RDB was fondly called) ne aapko dene ko bola hai – aur juice mein kuchh gadbad nahin hai.” Wearing a naughty smile, the prankster-composer emerged from the washroom then and gave me a thumbs-up, asking — are you okay?”
RD Burman with Chaitanya Padukone at Film Centre in July 1983
By nature, the genius composer of timeless chartbusters loved to make people laugh. He wove a music-mirth fusion in some iconic songs as well like Ek Chatur Naar (Padosan) and the evergreen Dekha Naa Haaye Rey (Bombay to Goa) where Kishore Kumar freaks out making all kinds of funny and weird noises.
RD Burman with Chaitanya Padukone
The legendary comedian Mehmood was super impressed with Pancham-Da’s comic calibre. Mehmood said, “Whenever we met, I observed that Pancham-Da loved to crack jokes. Sensing the funny actor in him, I got him to play the bumbling character ‘Stocky’ in my film Bhoot Bungla. We actually ‘tricked’ him into giving the first shot by drenching him and ‘continuity’ ka bahaana banaake we made him face the camera for the rest of the spooky scenes. Pancham-Da chhupa rustom niklaa and he proved to be better than me in comedy with his spot improvisations.”
RD Burman with Mehmood in Bhoot Bungla
RD Burman with Rajendra Nath in Pyar Ka Mausam
Four years later, showman director Nasir Hussain coaxed Pancham-Da to act in Pyar Ka Mausam as stalwart comedian Rajendra Nath’s sidekick. An initially reluctant Pancham-Da got so involved with his rib-tickling role that he proved to be the scene-stealer and even wore a girl’s swimsuit to hoodwink the villains.
RD Burman in his cameo role in Pyar Ka Mausam
RD Burman in Pyar Ka Mausam
RD Burman at rehearsals with musician Ranjeet
Off screen too, he was up to mischief. Just before recording rehearsals, Pancham-Da would creep upon an unsuspecting musician and tickle him from behind, giving everyone around a hearty laugh. Among his other amusing habits was his practice of fondly calling Gulzar saab “Safed kauwa” because the latter was always clad in starched white. And on the birthday of his wife, the iconic singer Asha Bhosle, hubby Pancham-Da sent her a gift-wrapped broom with a rose attached to it. That was his impish gesture of appreciation for Madame Bhosle’s fetish for cleanliness.
Chaitanya Padukone's book on RD Burman
(The above piece has been written by senior journalist Chaitanya Padukone who is a recipient of K A Abbas Memorial Gold Medal presented by Amitabh Bachchan and Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Award in 2012. The author-film journalist began his career with an interview of Burman, after the latter won his first Filmfare award. He is the author of RD Burmania: PanchaMemoirs)
(Source: PeepingMoon/Chaitanya Padukone)