Not everything in Life can be explained. It’s inscrutability is what makes Life interesting.
Last evening a few of us friends got together and sang songs late into the night. Among them were some songs composed by the legendary Rahul Dev Burman (1939~1994). As we sang “Musafir Hoon Yaaron, Na Ghar Hai Na Tikhana, Bas Chalte Jaana Hai…” (Parichay, Gulzar, 1972, Kishore Kumar), one of us recalled that RD composed this song, dripping wet after a shower, because he was inspired by his friend strumming a guitar in his room while he was in the bath! Everyone agreed wholesomely that RD was an unparalled genius. Someone then pointed out that it was RD’s death anniversary! It was on January 4, 1994, that RD had passed away. It was indeed a tragic, premature end to a glorious, prodigal Life!
Starting with “Aye Meri Topi Palat Ke Aa” (his father SD Burman used this song in Funtoosh in 1956) which he composed when he was just nine years old, RD ruled Bollywood through the 1960s, 1970s and the early 1980s. He composed music for over 300 films and practically every next generation, which followed him, musician in the industry had worked with RD, learning at his feet, at some point or the other. During 1984~1994, RD’s career flopped miserably. He is believed to have gone from studio to studio, asking film-makers for work. But no one wanted to touch him even with a barge pole. The disco generation had arrived and Bappi Lahiri’s music was scorching the charts. Not that RD had stopped making good music. In fact, what is ironical is that some of the music that RD scored in the 1984~1994 decade, including films like Manzil Manzil, Zabardast, Izzazat and Parinda, is considered “genius stuff” today, long after he is gone. In a fan mail to RD in today’s Hindu, Bishwanath Ghosh (who calls himself RD’s greatest fan), writes: “People are usually forgotten after they die; it happens to the best of people — at the most, they are perfunctorily remembered on their birth and death anniversaries. But you made a stupendous comeback after your death. When you died, you were R.D. Burman, the composer. When you returned, you were R.D. Burman, the brand. A mortal resurrected as a magician. Today, every young composer wants to be you.” Interestingly, RD never won a National Award in his entire career, and won only three Filmfare Awards – one of them for 1942: A Love Story, posthumously! Today, RD is revered in Bollywood. People truly worship his music and his legacy. India Post, in May 2013, even released a postage stamp in his honor!
Yet, some unanswerable questions haunt us! Why did his career flop in that painful decade? Why did film-makers who had made their millions on his music like Nasir Hussain (who had used RD for each of his films starting with Teesri Manzil in 1966, but did not use him for Qayammat Se Qayammat Tak in 1988) dump him? How is it that the music of his “flopped” films in that decade are now treated as priceless gems – a testimony to his wizadry with sounds and instruments in a non-techno era?
The answer to all these questions – and more – is only one: Such is Life! No one can ever be on top always. What goes up, has to come down. Talent, sincerity and integrity cut no favor – in fact, they offer no guarantee whatsoever – with what hand Life deals you. Even so, despite its mystical quality, Life is beautiful. Not knowing what will happen next makes this lifetime interesting and fills it with adventure. The best way to live Life, therefore, is to go with the flow – not get carried away by success nor get beaten by failure – savoring both the highs and lows!
The bigger tragedy of RD’s last years was he became bitter about the way Life had dealt with him. He died a heart-broken man, hurt that he had been ignored and shunned by the same people who had once celebrated him! RD’s story offers us this invaluable lesson: the only option we have is to live with whatever Life gives us. If we take this approach to Life, we will be better from each experience that we go through.