Priyanka, Deepika not knowing any RD Burman songs is heartbreaking

Look, I'll be honest. When neither Varun Dhawan nor Aliya Bhatt could name the president of India during their Season 4 appearance on Koffee With Karan, I felt a little appalled but I wasn't really surprised. The president doesn't show up as a Twitter trend too often and he is, after all, something of a figurehead. In fact, I was actually very relieved no one offered up Alok Nath as president.

But on Sunday, when neither Deepika Padukone nor Priyanka Chopra could sing a song by RD Burman, I was heartbroken.

Courtesy: Priyanka Chopra's Twitter account.

Courtesy: Priyanka Chopra's Twitter account.

Perhaps I'm supposed to take heart from the fact that neither of them yelled "Jai ho!" when asked to sing an AR Rahman song, but the blankness on both the actresses' faces when Karan Johar said, "Sing a song by RD Burman" showed how clueless Bollywood's finest are about their profession.

Chopra tuneless mumbled "ting ting" while miming something striking a glass. The fact that all Chopra could remember of Chura liya hai tumne jo dilko was the way the song was picturised — not even the chorus —made me want to roar "Off with her head!" Johar didn't rap their knuckles or even berate them. He was clearly a little taken aback but he moved on to the next question smoothly. Chopra and Padukone were asked to name a song by Rahman, which both of them managed without much trouble.

The two actresses' ignorance is appalling. We can only hope that Chopra and Padukone are not representative of their generation because if they are, then an age of bimbo-dom is looming before Bollywood.

Johar hadn't dangled a relatively-unfamous name before them. Burman is one of the most well-known names of Bollywood music partly because his compositions are that good and because a number of them have been picked for remixes ("Chura liya..." is one such song).

Coincidentally, this episode of KWK was aired on Burman's 20th death anniversary. When the beautiful, flawless faces of two of Bollywood's hottest actors revealed they didn't know any of Burman's songs, it seemed to be a painful reminder that Burman is indeed dead and gone, and not just physically. It seems incredible that anyone who claims to be attached to Bollywood, whether as an insider or a fan, would not know Burman. Yet here were two women, at the top of the Bollywood pile, who not only didn't know a single Burman composition but also found their ignorance giggle-worthy.

Let's not forget, Chopra is also a singer. Perhaps it's a good thing she doesn't know anything of Bollywood's musical past. This way, we can remove her from India's popular music culture without any guilty conscience and instead, catalogue her 'exotic' music as an example of the Pitbull legacy.

As for Padukone, her inability to even come up with the equivalent of "ting ting" confirmed that Padukone entered the film industry with no knowledge of either its history or past creativity. That leaves glamour, money and fame as the factors possibly motivating Padukone to stick with the acting program. How *deep*.

Here's why anyone who claims to be even mildly fond of Bollywood should know Rahul Dev Burman's music: he was something of a revolutionary in Bollywood and if it hadn't been for him, the music that is considered quintessentially Bollywood today wouldn't exist.

As the son of legendary singer, composer and music director SD Burman, the younger Burman inherited a magnificent legacy that could have been a burden. But even though he worked for years as his father's assistant, Burman was very much his own man musically. The music that he created was crackling, modern, whizzing with new ideas and nothing like his father's equally brilliant compositions.

Burman who brought in a fabulous mix of influences in his melodies. From disco to yodelling, Bengali folk and Hindustani classical, he could weave the most unexpected strains of musical tradition into his work. Hindi film music was rather sedate stuff until Burman came along and shook things up with his ability to simultaneously respect and break with tradition.

His tunes continue haunt the music of so many Bollywood composers to this day and Amit Trivedi is the closest we've come to a music director as versatile as Burman in the Hindi film industry. Whether Trivedi's songs will have the staying power that Burman's do remains to be seen. Despite being more than 30 years old on occasion, Burman's melodies and orchestral arrangement don't sound when we hear them now.

Listen to the lilting sweetness of Beeti na bitayi raina, the twanging guitar in Dum maro dum, the elegant structure of Jis gali mein tera ghar, the shimmying energy in Aaja aaja, the classical cadence of Raina beeti jaaye — one man composed all these songs. They're all sharply distinct and different from one another. The only things they have in common are Burman and Hindi cinema.

Burman composed music for more than 300 films in the course of his career. This meant hundreds of glorious tracks and fans will argue about which are his best compositions. Even if you like his father better or are a fan of any other music director, chances are you have a few RD Burman songs in your list of Bollywood favourites. If not anything else, you've heard the remixes.

But not Chopra and Padukone. They're too busy giggling and looking glamorous.


Published Date: Jan 07, 2014 06:35 pm | Updated Date: Jan 08, 2014 12:49 pm

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