To celebrate RD Burman’s 84th birth anniversary, Pancham Fan Club Delhi showcased a bouquet of songs composed by the legendary composer, a man who was way ahead of his times. Titled Beeti Na Beetai Raina — Hits & Misses of RD Burman, the musical event included presentation of a mix of both popular hits and also some hidden gems which did not become so popular. Surajit Roy, who scripted and anchored the event, recounts the experience.
It all started sometime in end March, with an idea to mount a programme on Rahul Dev Burman and help get the Pancham Fan Club back on track after the COVID disruption.
We could have possibly scheduled it sometime towards the end of May but then the idea of doing this around the birth anniversary of Panchamda was too appealing to ignore. Moreover, the summer heat and vacation time, where even our singers were not available, was another dampener. So, we zeroed in on the 30th of June, the Friday nearest to the 84th birth anniversary of RD Burman which falls on the 27th of June.
We chose the Civil Services Officers Institute (CSOI), Chanakyapuri, New Delhi as the venue as we knew the club had a ready audience there for any RD Burman concert. Just like us, there are many retired and serving senior civil servants who love RD’s music. Besides, the auditorium is large enough to accommodate invited guests.
At that point of time June end seemed quite far away. But there was a lot of ground to cover. And for each event presented by the Pancham Fan Club Delhi, certain things are integral.
First, the conceptualisation. As the founding member, the one thing I have been very clear about right from the beginning is that for each of our events, we need to bring to the fore different facets of RD Burman’s music. Also, we give a lot of importance on the selection of the songs. We try to not include songs that became so hugely popular that they are sung in almost every programme of RD’s. Their novelty factor has somewhat got lost, leaving nothing much that is fresh about them that the audience can really enjoy.
Keeping both these factors in mind, we started shortlisting the songs for the event. They had to be a mix of his popular numbers, (leaving aside the very very popular ones), and some that could not become so popular owing to two basic reasons — either they came in the 70’s and got drowned in the flood of RD Burman superhits or they came in the 80s during which time despite RD Burman’s excellent music in many films, none of them clicked. As a result, the songs from these films remained less heard-even though they were fantastic pieces. And then there had to be a balance in mood — we did not want too many on the heavy side and not all on the lighter side either.
I actually went through ALL the songs composed by him and shortlisted about 50. From these, depending on the preferences of the singers, about 25 were finalised. My underlying criteria was that whatever we include, the audience must be able to enjoy the song. Even while we practised, I was alive to this factor, and therefore, we had to substitute three songs just a couple of days before the event because I felt these three were too much on the heavier side, weighing the programme down.
The writing of script, i.e. the narration, is another special facet of all events presented by the Pancham Fan Club, Delhi. We make sure that a lot is shared by way of anecdotes, facts and around the context of each song. This is what connects with the audience and makes our events different from the run of the mill. Substantial research is done before the script is readied and then modified again, again and again to get it right. Even the sequence of songs is finalised very thoughtfully — the main criteria being keeping the audience engaged and interested. And ‘Beeti Na Beetai Raina’ was no exception. I had the script ready from the time we had zeroed in on the songs. This gave me time to refine and improve upon it as we went along. And then it had to keep changing as we juggled around with the sequencing of the songs and also when we substituted three songs at the last moment.
The event began with a tribute to Pancham’s illustrious father, the legendary SD Burman
Another very important aspect I would like to share here about our programmes is that barring one or two, our singers are not professionals. Singing is our passion and passion has to be a fun thing. Hence, very consciously we do not want to take ourselves seriously to the extent that the event becomes an exercise in one upmanship as this invariably takes away the fun factor. And we always have one or two singers who are performing at this level for the first time.
Having said this, it is not that we compromise on quality. We practice and practice hard and all together, to bring alive the spirit within the group. We encourage the newcomers and help them in getting the nuances right during the rehearsals. We are deeply conscious that the quality of singing needs to be at a level where the audience remain not just interested but glued to their seats and this is the reason that we intentionally keep the format of our shows to be earthy and informal so that the audience can connect with us, can feel that we are a part of them only.
Financing such programmes is always an issue since we don’t have funds. To make things easier, we could always go with the idea of doing a karaoke-based event. But somehow, we don’t find it interesting enough; we always find it good to have a live orchestra playing with us, with whom we can relate. Moreover, the “sounds” of RD Burman need to be shared with the audience in any RD event and this is not possible in a karaoke format. So, as we usually do, we began looking around for some grants for this event.
Rishab on the keyboard and Deepak on the drums and percussion recreate the mesmerising sounds of Pancham
The moment one of my friends from school, Alok Sriram, agreed to give some funding from out of his personal savings, we went for the orchestra option, albeit a two-piece orchestra. I was very confident of Rishab on the keyboard — he has played with us earlier and is brilliant. And he knows the standards I like. When he got in his partner Deepak as the percussionist, I knew he would be good, and he was. But since an orchestra, (and the rehearsals we need with them), is a fairly expensive proposition, we had to self-fund the remaining amount. In all, the event with no frills attached cost us INR 85K, almost half of which came from my friend Alok. It could have been more had not another ardent music lover and his wife, graciously agreed to host the rehearsals. In fact, thanks to them, our rehearsals were a lot of fun with interesting food coming in all the time!
It was nice to see all of this fall in place at the event and it was particularly gratifying to see that right from the start and till the end, the auditorium was chock-a-block full with RD Burman fans. They enjoyed every moment of it and noticed and were particularly happy with the narration, the selection of songs, some of which many of them had not even heard earlier, and the overall presentation, all aspects which differentiate our events from most others.
Manohar Pokhriyal sings Kuchh to log kahenge (Amar Prem, 1972)
I must add here that we feel inspired by RD Burman’s music and are hopelessly devoted to him & other than his compositions. We like to stick to songs of the 60s and 70s as we grew up on them and they are all so wonderful. But whichever event we do, you will find an earthiness in them and something special about them, which your heart will be able to connect with.
I have heard, read and now, thanks to the social media, seen enough to believe, that this is exactly the way Pancham himself approached his music and rehearsed for his compositions. He made it a fun thing without ever compromising on quality. And RD always came across as earthy and informal, never taking himself too seriously inspite of being a reservoir of talent. Also, he was not all about himself — he even played for some other music composers who were his contemporaries and friends & always had good things to say about them.
Surajit Roy sings Kiska rasta dekhe (Joshila, 1973)
As we move on and prepare for our next event in mid-September, happy in our hearts that ‘Beeti Na Beetai Raina’, our tribute to RD Burman, was very well received, we are introspecting on the areas of improvement and there are many, (and to improve is always a good thing). I am already finalising the list of songs so that each of the facets touched upon in this article, which are hallmarks of any event organised by us, are given due attention and the quality of the event which invariably takes about three months to come alive is not compromised in any manner.
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