BIOGRAPHY OF SD BURMAN

by David Courtney working tools



SD Burman

Sachin Dev Burma was one of the great Bollywood music directors in the early days of India's film industry.  He was a much sought after composer from the 1940's up until his death in 1975.

SD Burman was born on October 1, 1906 in Comilla (now Bangladesh).  His mother's name was Nirmala Devi and his father's name was Nabadwipchandra Dev Burman.  His father was the second son of Ishanachandra Dev Burman, the Raja of Tripura; so SD Burman is descended from a royal family.  SD Burman was one of nine children and the youngest of five boys.

SD Burman with Parents

SD Burman with Parents

SD Burman's musical training was extensive.  Initially he learned under his father, who was an accomplished dhrupad singer and sitar player.  From 1925 to 1930 he underwents formal training under K.C. Dey; later he studied under Bishmadev Chattopadhaya, the sarangi maestro Kahifa Badal Khan, the great violin / sarod maestro Allaudin Khan, and even Kazi Nazrul Islam.

His professional career began in 1932, and progressed from there.  In 1932, he began singing for the Calcutta radio station.  It was there that he became famous for his performances of Bengali, Tripuri folk music, and light classical music.  It was also in this year that he released his first recording.  Over the next few years he released 131 Bengali songs.

It was during this period this his personal life was developing as well.  He constructed a residence in Calcutta.  Probably the most significant event of his personal life was when he started teaching a young music student by the name of Meera Dasgupta.  In the course of events they became romantically involved.  However there was the problem; although she was well educated and from a very respectable family, she did not represent nobility.  This created quite a stir in the family, and when S.D. Burman refused to leave her, he was forced to sever his ties with his family and forfeit his inheritance.  They married and from their union RD Burman was born in 1939.

SD Burman's career as a music composer began in the mid 1930's.  Initially he composed music for Bengali theatre.  His first compositions made their way into the films with "Rajgee" (1937), and his first hit movie as a film director came in "Nirbashan" (1940).  After that, he was the music director for a string of successful Bengali films.

In 1944, he moved to Bombay; this started a new chapter in his life.  He was brought by Sasadhar Mukherjee to Bombay to by work on two Ashok Kumar films, "Shikari" (1946) and "Aath Din" (1946).  From this, he began to give the music for more Hindi films.  Through much of this period he went go back and fourth between Bombay and Calcutta as he worked for both the Hindi as well as the Bengali cinema.

1949-1950 was a pivotal period for SD Burman.  He became disillusioned with the whole Hindi film business and left "Mashaal" (1950) midway through the project.  He resolved that he would leave the whole Bombay Hindi film scene, and return to Calcutta where he felt that there was more artistic integrity.  Had he done so, he probably would have spent the remainder of his days regarded as merely a regional music director, largely unknown to most of India.  However he was persuaded not to leave and stay in Bombay.  Thereafter he was the music director for a string of very successful and artistically highly regarded films such as "Kagaz Ka Phool" (1959), and "Devdas" (1955).

Bollywood is known for its professional differences and clashes of egos; S.D. Burman was no except.  The most noted clash came in 1957 with his falling out with Lata Mangeshkar.  Although the details of which are not quite clear, the generally held view is that Lata used to be quite a "diva" and throw her weight around.  This irritated most music directors, but commercial pressures forced most people to put up with her antics.  Apparently SD Burman just could not put up with it; so he refused to book her and instead used her sister, Asha Bhosle.  Years later, Asha would become his daughter-in-law.

Asha Bhosle, RD Burman, Meera Burman, and SD Burman

Asha Bhosle, RD Burman, Meera Burman, and SD Burman

SD Burman's had health problems in the 1960's, and this effected his work.  These problems were partly alleviated by the assistance of his son, RD Burman, who had already established his bona fides as a music director in his own right.  During this period he came out with some of his most memorable work.  His contributions to "Guide" (1965), seem particularly noteworthy.

SD Burman continued to work through the end of the 1960s and well into the 1970s.  "Abhiman" (1973), "Chupke Chupke" (1975), and "Mili" (1975), are a few works from this period which stand out.  However midway through his work on "Mili", he goes into a coma.  He died on October 31, 1975.

SD Burman commemorative stamp

SD Burman commemorative stamp


 

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© 1998 - 2017 David and Chandrakantha Courtney

For comments, corrections, and suggestions, kindly contact David Courtney at david@chandrakantha.com