You're browsing: Home / Web / Beginning of the Indian Film Music Downtrend?

Beginning of the Indian Film Music Downtrend?

Jaago sonewaalon! Rahul Dev Burman was great. But was supreme greatness thrust upon him? By P. Bhaskar Rao. This article was contributed by Mr. Mohan Flora.

It was during the making of Guide (1964) that its music director Sachin Dev Burman fell ill and was advised rest for four months. Several producers who had signed Dada had to switch over to other composers. But Dev Anand, who was producing Guide, refused to do so though only one song was recorded till then. Dada asked Dev to let R. D. Burman take over; Dev agreed that Pancham was good, but said that Guide would go with S.D. Burman only and will be released with just one song if SD could not complete it.

Comedian Mehmood was producing his film in 1961 and went to Dada with a handsome signing amount. But the latter told him that he didn’t work with any and everyone. It was only then that Mehmood could succeed in signing on son RD for Chhote Nawab.

The above instances do give us an idea of the character and respect the senior Burman commanded, but also show the initial travels of the junior to gain a foothold in the industry. Thus began the career of a trendsetter-to-be that is Rahul Dev Burman. It was 12 years back in the month of January that Hindi cinema music lost him, but the younger generation of today still adores him.

It is an undeniable fact that Pancham (Ashok Kumar nicknamed RD thus) was highly talented and gave excellent tunes in the pre-Aradhana (1969) era. Tunes like Ghar aaja ghir aayee (Chhote Nawab), Jaago sonewaalon (Bhoot Bangla), Sharabi mera naam ho gaya (Chandan Ka Palna) hit the pop charts, but films were hard to come by. Mainly depending on Rafi and Lata, it was not until 1967 that he brought in Asha in Teesra Kaun (Achcha sanam) and continued with her in a big way and in later years also married her. It was Teesri Manzil (1967) which established him as a new wave composer who brought about a certain freshness in Hindi cinema music. But what we intend to point out here is how this multi-talented, master experimentor lost touch with quality and melody in later years.

Having helped out his father along with veteran Jaidev in the 60s, including Guide, he had a large treasure of classical music tunes to his credit. But a decision to woo a later generation by getting trendy and using his beat-based, West-inspired jazzy fusion music seemed to cut short his creativity.

It was SD who patronised Kishore Kumar’s voice since the 50s when he got him to playback for Dev Anand (Jaal, 1954) and Dada’s use of Kishore perhaps stands a class above most of the RD presentations, contrary to belief! Starting from De bhi chuke hum dil nazrana (with Geeta Dutt) in Jaal there are scores of unforgettable Kishore melodies from the Senior Burman stable. Even the other composers who scored in Kishore-acted films, like C. Ramchandra (Ina meena deeka, Asha Bhosle, 1957), Shankar Jaikishan in Shararat (1957), .P. Nayyar in Naya Andaz, Ragini, Kabhi Andhera Kabhi Ujala, Madan Mohan in Bhai Bhai, Ladki, Chacha Zindabad, Lakshmikant Pyarelal in Mr X in Bombay and many more seem to have actually got better results from Kishore going by the number of films in which they used Kishore’s voice. It may be mentioned here that RD scored in about 340 movies and the number of songs he has given to Rafi, Manna Dey, Mukesh and other male singers put together may amount to hardly a hundred. The rest of the songs in male voice are those of Kishore. Given this fact, can any fan of RD pick a hundred Kishore songs of either quality or popularity from their Guru’s stables?

The millions of fans of RD had only gone overboard in glorifying their hero and have little realised that he could have done a far better job. There wasn’t a single instrument he couldn’t play. He played the mouth organ in his father’s Solva Saal (Hemant Kumar hit Hai apna dil to awaara) and in later years introduced the electric organ in haseena zulfonwaali (Teesri Manzil). A singer in his own right he provided different tunes for his own self. His association with Naseer Husain (Teesri Manzil, Baharon Ke Sapne, Pyar Ka Mausam, Caravan, Yadon Ki Baraat, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai), Shakti Samanta (Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Ajnabee) and Dev Anand (Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Heera Panna, etc) have opened the floodgates of his inherent talent to the other producers and didn’t look back right through the 70s. Yet, there is something we find missing from the Junior Burman. He held centrestage in the musical arena of that era, but the big question — did we have the best of songs then? Why is it widely believed that the decay in musical standards in Hindi cinema began from the 70s? The Hindustani classical music support to cinema music was on the wane and copying the West had become commonplace. RD had his own khazsana of classical talent and why did he have to copy or be lured by the tunes which would have a momentary phase? Numerous tunes have been lifted straight from the Western originals like his Aao twist karein (Chubby checker), Mil gaya hum ko saathi mil gaya (Mama mia, Abba). Many of SD’s tunes too have been reproduced straight or rehashed in several of his films.

Coincidentally, and perhaps unfortunately, the 70s saw a number of senior composers and melody makers retiring or quitting the scene and lyricists not finding favour with the listening public thanks to the rot that had set in. Good lyrics gave way to foot-tapping and over instrumentation. Composers like Shankar- Jaikishan, Naushad, Roshan, C. Ramchandra, Madan Mohan, Jaidev, Ravi and .P. Nayyar had seen and given their best by then. It was only Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji who could just manage to walk that extra mile.

It may be recalled that this sub-standardism that crept in had given rise to the Ghazal craze in the 80s and we saw the likes of Mehndi Hasan, Ghulam Ali from Pakistan suddenly growing popular especially in the Hindi heartland, followed by a host of their desi counterparts.

As a result the 80s drew almost a blank with hardly any mentionable film songs. So can we conclude that the post-Aradhana scenario in Hindi cinema music had gone from bad to worse? And thanks to the likes of RD and Bappi Lahiri? And when some semblance of quality began to be restored by the 90s, composers like Nadeem-Shravan and Ismail Durbar, we find a miserable dearth of singers. When RD himself resurrected Kishore, the giant of a Rafi was overshadowed, and names and songs of Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey, Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor and Suman Kalyanpur were lost in the R.D. Burman-led 70s musical din.

Proclaim your love for Rafi Sahab on twitter

Post your Comment on this Blog

If your comments hit the moderation queue, comments will be moderated within 7 days.

24 Blog Comments to “Beginning of the Indian Film Music Downtrend?”

  1. Anon says:

    I believe RD ‘composed’ excellent music as long as SD was around. I believe SD did most of the work (SD was a composer who by his mere tweaking could make even crap sound ethereal) on RD’s tunes. RD added his tupenny bits like clinking glasses and dropping pots and pans and playing them back in reverse. Soon after SD’s departure, RD’s music went for a toss, barring some flash-in-the pans. Heck! If I composed for 340 films, 10 of them would also be hits. Rafi was consistently good till the end. Kishore of the 80s (again barring a few numbers) was horrendous. Perhaps, he too flourished under SD’s phantom baton.

  2. Joy Oravan says:

    Mohd Rafi is even today unparallel. He was versetile. He indeed is a saint whatever his name is. Koshore kumar is only 70% of Rafi. With Kishore from 70s Indian music lost the indianess and the divine.

    I request the Indian Govt. to honour Mohmmed Rai with Bharat Ratna posthumously. It will give better consolation to his hurt soul. Rafi is the right person to be honoured with Baratratna, because he was a real barat Ratna. Rafi is much much better singer than Lata, Asha, Kishore or yesudas.

    God bless Rafi

  3. monu says:

    please dont discuss abi\out that ass rd burman….and that tail kk………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..rafi shab truly said tum mujhe yun bhoola na paoege….he is the best,better than the rst…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………kishore kumar is not a great singer .hmmm let me rate him and rafi sahab

    voice quality kk rafi sahb
    10 99
    melody 4.5 99.5
    overall 0 1000000000000000001

    so what if kk was untrained ……………………even iam untrained ..dont tell me if i start singing u ll like me more than rafi sahab..just because i am a untrained singer…ppl face the reality ….mohdrafi saab is the best

  4. H.V.GURU MURTHY says:

    The songs of 50s had great lyrics, superb singers and MDs. Came sixties, deterioration started, and in 70s, lyrics were written as if they are writing some prose (Accha to hum chalte hai, phir kab miloge). Less said the better about 80s. All the great singers like Rafi, Talat, Hemant, Mukesh, Geetha Dutt, even Kishore in the mid-eighties had gone. Other good singers and MDs like Mahendra Kapoor, Suman Kalyanpur, Naushad, O.P. Nayyar, were ignored. Lyrics became awful. I think if some body asks me to name five good songs of eighties, I would struggle as I hardly remeber any good songs of that period. On the otherhand, even if I am asked to select 100 good songs of earlier decades, I would again struggle as I will not be able to restrict good songs to just 100 in those periods. Well, we were lucky that our generation enjoyed good Hindi film music during the sixties and to certain extent in seventies, I just pity that the present generation has to be satisfied with the remakes which are no where near the Originals. Another interesting fact, recently three movies were released based on Shahid Bhagat Singh. How many of their songs are remebered? But the songs of old Shahid of Manoj Kumar are still popular. I understand the makers of MK’s Shahid released the casettes at the same time as the new Shahids, but only the old Shahid songs made brisk business. Can any body now tune in or sing songs like Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna, Mera Rangde Basanti, Lut Gaya Maal, Ae Watan Ae Watan.

  5. monu says:

    in simple words ….Rd was a chakka and kk was hijda ……………………………………………………..rafisahab is , was and will remain the best

  6. Anmol Singh says:

    Hello Venkat,

    Perhaps Talat Mehmood was very popular among the Bangla film makers as Tapan Kumar. He sang in the name of Tapan Kumar in many Bangla films.

    The song ‘Jalti Hai Jees Ke Leeye’ is one best works of Talat. Possibly the output could have been far superior and refined if Rafi Saab could have delivered the same song, but Talat was no less.

    Probably Madan Mohan make one the best use of Talat Mehmood. He fought for Talat with the film maker to delivery ‘Fir Wohi Sham’ in Jahan Araa who wanted Rafi to sing the song. Another master performance by Talat Mehmood.

  7. altaf hussain says:



    First of all thanks a million for getting back to me with your stupendous comments concerning the video footage of the Master, which I have followed and carried out by sending off the original vhs to a proper professional service centre. I’m hoping that they will give me a fast response relating to the quality of the contents on the cassette, as it’s already been through many battles over the last 25 years or so.

    The only reason that I have taken these steps is that your comments hit me right on the nail like a hammer, after all since I am advertising the dvd for sale… so let’s go further by improving and enhancing the picture and sound quality. Could you imagine me offering it to anyone and then having to receive complaints over a botched up cowboy job, and after all it will save me from all those criticisms in the future.

    The actual concert footage is over 2 hours

    It kicks off with ‘Bari Door Se Aaye Hain’ and ends with ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Piyar Tera’

    Muhammad Rafi is wearing a white suit on stage

    I leave you now with peace and prosperity for the future!


  8. venkat_brahma says:


    RDB was overrated? Of course, he was!

    RDB, unlike all the greats before him including his great father, did not worship Rafi Saab! And, believe me, friends, all the great MDs of 50’s and 60’s did not do anything but worship Rafi Saab.

    SDB was composing music for Sujata and Bimal Roy, like many other Bengalis (pardon me!), was a little averse to Rafi Saab and wanted SDB to try Talat Mehmood. SDB was reluctant and argued with Bimal Roy for Rafi Saab. Finally, even when Talat was called in, SDB would keep on telling Talat things like “Yeh Badhiya Tune Hai, Is ko Kharab Nahi karega Naa?”

    I am a fan of Talat too and rate him also as a very good singer! But, what I am trying to get at is that SDB did not have confidence even in such a good singer, in comparision with the all-time-great Rafi Saab! It is a different issue that Sujata’s songs came out nicely even with Talat.

    RDB, like his favorite singer, had in any case shone only during the non-glorious era of HFM, post 1970.


  9. U0012087 says:

    Thanks for the information Altaf saab

    Khalid Rashid

  10. altaf hussain says:


    Muhammad Rafi was an outstanding singer and one of the most influential playback singers that our part of the world has ever produced, a voice which captured millions of heart’s and whose songs touched all generations.

    This is the second time that I am going to comment about the master, who I had the privilege as a child to watch on stage at Bradford’s St George’s Hall, West Yorkshire [UK]. I actually grew up listening to his melodious voice as it soared all around me, whether I was watching a movie or listening to the radio set.

    There came a time in my life when I was just ten years old, that I got the chance of watching Muhammad Rafi [The Legend] live on stage and in person performing live to a captivated audience. I had to be forced to go by one of my family friends who had bought 2 tickets for us both, so he literally had to twist my arm into going with him.

    However whilst attending the gig I was totally baffled at what I had just experienced on stage, he was right ahead of me… yes Muhammad Rafi Sahab singing live. He kicked off the show with ‘Bari Door Se Aaye Hain’, followed by many of his recent hits and past famous songs such as ‘Hum Bekhudi Main Sanam’, ‘Parda Hai Parda’, ‘Hum To Chale Pardes’, ‘Kiya Hua Tera Vaada’, ‘Sar Par Topi Lal Rumal’, ‘O Duniya Ke Rakhwale’, ‘Punjabi track’, and some other hits.

    It’s been a long time now and for a ten year old it’s very hard to remember, but I never ever forgot that memorable night as some of it’s contents were captured onto one of those old movie cameras. Which were later distributed onto vhs tapes in the 80’s and sold for ridiculous high prices to anyone interested in buying a copy.

    My dear father bought himself a copy of that recording which I’ve watched innumerable times over the last 25 years or so, but my vhs tape is failing me now in 2007. So I am going to have it’s contents transferred onto dvd format, once I manage to grab myself a good machine… it’s been over 2 months now since my last post in December 2006, but would you believe it – I’m still looking for one.

    Once it’s been transferred entirely all onto dvd quality format, I can then distribute it by offering it to any buyers who will be interested in buying themselves a rare recording of the legendary Muhammad Rafi live in concert. Before all that I would like to put some clips on you tube first, just to give you a small little taste of what’s to come in the near future.

    You may email me whenever you have the time

  11. unknow1 says:

    Sir Anmol Singh,
    I agree with u that RD is not the best composer for Kishore. As I think RD was better for Mohd Rafi than KK,If u go for RD films in late 70’s u will see some great songs singed by mohd rafi for RD.
    Sir P. Haldar,
    I agree with that Mohd Rafi true success rested on five pillars: Naushad, SD, SJ, OP and Madan Mohan BUT if u take Mohd Rafi voice out from there(greatest composer)music they have nothing in there music.Who want listen the great Naushand without Mohd Rafi and why Naushand use someone else if he has a great human and singer in same time and same with other composers.
    some time I think Mohd Rafi was human as we and there can be singer like Mohd Rafi and maybe be better than Mohd rafi but when i listen to Mohd Rafi I change my mind and say noway.

  12. unknow1 says:

    Sir P. Haldar jest five names with Mohd Rafi as u think Mohd Rafi had best with them!!!!!!!!where RAVI,Salil Chowdhary,Usha Khanna,RoshanRavindra Jain and many more,what about Laxmikant Pyarelal who was at top in 1970’s?whould u please sir give me one composer name who used Mohd Rafi voice and he has no hit song with Mohd Rafi?sir as said by dear shambu As I think the word singer is a very small word for him,because any body sings we call him a singer,but he was above that level”‘
    dear friends please listen to Mohd Rafi songs was singed for SD and RD u will see that no one else than Mohd rafi can sing that songs.offourse Talat,mukesh,Manny dey and KK was good singers

  13. loverafi says:

    Rafi sahab gave his beautiful voice to S.D.Burman and to R.D.Burman. Very frenkly telling that, the songs which Rafi sahab had sung for them No other singer could even dare to sing, like kya hua tera wada, maine poocha chand se, for the movies chote nawab, pyaar ka mausam, raaton ka raaja, zamaane ko dikhana hai,teesri manzil, mujrim for RD Burman and for SD Burman movies like Benazir, Tere Ghar ke saamne.Kaala bazaar, ziddi,kagaz ke phool, Pyaasa. They might had played a big role in Kishore kumar’s career but Rafi sahab had played a great role in RD Burman’s and SD Burman’s career. And he better matched his voice to Rajesh Khanna Amitabh Bacchan and Dev Anand.
    His talent and his voice was matchless.

  14. Anmol Singh says:

    I don’t think RD is the best composer for Kishore. Comparitivily LP have given far superior songs to Kishore. LP have given Kishore a totally different direction compared to any music composer. RD made for Kishore is more a hipe by his fans and the media.

    It would be surprising to know why Kishore sang more songs for Bhappi Lahri compared to RD in 80s. Bhappi is a substandard composer compared to RD. When Rafi was not there in 80s then why was RD compelled to take singers other then Kishore. Logically with no Rafi all RD should have been sung by Kishore only. But this was not the case.

    What other composers and singers experienced in early 70s due RD, RD experienced the taste of his own medicine in 80s due to Bhappi Lahri. Indeed RD was to quiet an extend responsible for detoriation of music in early 70s which back fired on him later in 80s due Bhappi Lahri Kishore combo.

  15. P. Haldar says:

    I agree with the general sentiment in the article “Jaago sonewaalon” by P. Bhaskar Rao that R. D. Burman, given his innate talent, could have produced much better music. But I disagree with the author’s contention that RD did not use Kishore effectively. Other than his father, I cannot think of anyone else who has used Kishore’s voice so well. Despite the success of Aradhana’s songs, I doubt that S. D. Burman would have switched fully to Kishore if it were not for what RD did with Kishore in Amar Prem, Kati Patang and a host of other films in the 70s. Kishore and RD were made for one another and without the latter’s help, there was no way Kishore could have dethroned the phenomenon that was Rafi. Whenever I compare SD and RD, I use a simple equation:

    SD – RD = Rafi

    SD and Rafi together perfected the art of playback singing in that memorable song from Pyaasa, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai, and they proved again in Kagaaz ke Phool (Dekhi zamane ke yaari) that it was only they who were destined to scale, if not surpass, those lofty heights. The younger Burman, who reportedly composed Sar jo zara takraye for his dad in Pyaasa and played the tabla in Hum bekhudi mein tumko pukare chale gaye, never developed a strong liking for Rafi, even after that singer had launched him into the big league with Teesri Manzil.

    As many readers on this forum have pointed out, Rafi produced gems for all music directors. But his true success rested on five pillars: Naushad, SD, SJ, OP and Madan Mohan. It is difficult to pinpoint who among these five contributed the most toward Rafi’s success. But if success is measured on both popularity and quality, SD would probably rank at the top, followed by SJ.

  16. Harvinder says:

    Thanks Kalyani,
    You have worded it perfectly. I was more conservative in mentioning market strategy of Asha Bhonsle and co. I heard Amin Sayani mention Shankar Jaikishan’s name as the most popular MD in most of 60’s in Binaca Geet Mala – which for people of ages 40 – 60 today will acknowledge. Given the comparison between 60’s and now radio/TV programming, Binaca Geet Mala enjoyed more intensity to me. Today’s music revolves around half clad girls with sadistic gestures only. Most of remixes are of RD Burman’s tunes and Asha ji promotes this to some extent.

  17. kalyani says:


  18. shambu says:

    dear friends,

    Apne Nainon Ko Samjha De Rafi-Lata “Maa Aur Mamta / Gulshan-Gulshan Pyar Ki Baten Hain -Rafi-Lata from film “Do Ladkiyan/ and zindagi ke safar mein akele the hum from nartika, could any body email these songs to me on pls. thankx .

  19. shambu says:

    As I think the word singer is a very small word for him,because any body sings we call him a singer,but he was above that level.His voice, his style, his laghing,his crying,his shouting,his advising,his hating,his romancing,his co-operating,the way he spell the each word was amazing. I dont know if there is a word in this world which will describe him.

  20. dawood says:

    In my opinion, the songs that had been rendered by Rafi cannot be compared with any other singer. You can associate Kishore with RD but Rafi was so versatile that he had given hit songs in all categories and under almost all the music directors. He was a God gifted singer and you can find his hit songs with all maestros starting from Naushad, S.D. Burman, Madan Mohan, Shanker Jaikishan, C. Ramchander, Chitergupt, Laxmicant Pyarelal, Hansraj Behl, Husnlal Bhagat Ram, Roshan, Jai Dev, C. Arjun, S.N. Teripathi, Sonik-Omi, OP Nayyar, Ravinder Jain, Sardar Malik, Ghulam Mohd., Iqbal Qureshi, S. Mohinder, Sapan Jag Mohan, K. Dutta, Dattaram, N. Dutta, Shyaam Sunder, G.S. Kohlee Kalyangi Anandji, Naashad, Ravi, R.D Burman till Rajesh Roshan, Annu Malik and many more, you name it you will have it; whereas no other singer can demonstrate these stats. Had Rafi’s voice been used by RD in mid 70s we would have had different songs, who knows, in better format like Kya Huva Tera wada & Chand Mera Dil from ‘Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin’ and Dard-e-dil Dard-e-jigar from LP in ‘Qarz’ among other songs from Qarz this very song has its impact far better than other songsof the same film. Now you wont find any singer singing the lyrics in the start of the song because that requires TARUNUM that nobody can produce except Rafi himself and now with the passage of time Lata’s comments keeps on resounding my mind that a singer like Rafi born in centuries.

  21. Hussein Sheikh says:

    The great Rafi Saab sang melodious songs for R D Burman such as in Teesri Manzil, Caravan, Pyar Ka Mausam to mention a few…… Rafi Saheb was comfortable with all music directors. Rafi Saheb gave expressions to each and every song he sang what composers expected from our Rafi Saheb.

  22. unknow1 says:

    Dear friends,
    as Rd said that his first songs was with Mohd rafi and he said after making the song,the great way singed by Mohd rafi he said that he was thinging that is not his music but it is greatness of Mohd rafi voice.
    Some said that RD besl film is Aradhana but I think Teesri Manzil is the best,how many hit films RD has in 1970’s?!!!LP and Madan Mohan they have many hit films with Mohd rafi in 1970’s,in late 1970’s RD back 2 Mohd Rafi,How can give me one not hit song which is singed by Mohd Rafi on Mr Bachchan when mr Bachchan was at top?SD used Mohd Rafi in Pyaasa without music,who can sing it else than Mohd rafi.
    I think RD bigest mistake was that he didn’t use Mohd Rafi in 1970’s as he used KK,he back to Mohd Rafi in late 70’s but there was no Mohd rafi after 1980.many said that if Mohd Rafi was more five years maybe RD was at top.

  23. unknow1 says:

    Dear friends,
    as Rd said that his first songs was with Mohd rafi and he said after making the song,the great way singed by Mohd rafi he said that he was thinging that is not his music but it is greatness of Mohd rafi voice.
    Some said that RD besl film is Aradhana but I think Teesri Manzil is the best,how many hit films RD has in 1970’s?!!!LP and Madan Mohan they have many hit films with Mohd rafi in 1970’s,in late 1970’s RD back 2 Mohd Rafi,How can give me one not hit song which is singed by Mohd Rafi on Mr Bachchan when mr Bachchan was at top?SD used Mohd Rafi in Pyaasa without music,who can sing it else than Mohd rafi.
    I think RD bigest mistake was that he didn’t use Mohd Rafi in 1970’s as he used KK,he back to Mohd Rafi in late 70’s but there was no Mohd rafi after 1980.many said that if Mohd Rafi was more five years maybe RD was at top.

  24. Harvinder says:

    With due regards to R.D.Burman, I have always believed that Jr Burman was an over rated MD, primarily for

    AA) He changed from melody to trendy kind of numbers.
    BB) Kishore da complimented Pancham and vice versa.
    CC) Both rode a wave.
    DD) Pancham marketed himself extremely well – His last wife Asha Bhonsle is making sure that they cash in on yester years when the youth of 70’s and 80’s are kept in mind. With supreme Lata now retired, it is time for Asha to now expel that second fiddle role to her elder sister Lata.
    EE) Son of legend SD Burman.

    RD Burman may have made more money, but the melody of SJ, Madan Mohan and even OP Nayyar and LP is more lasting for me.

Post your Comment on Facebook

Receive updates in your inbox. Enter your email address:

Other Writeups

Social Collaboration