It’s hard nowadays to keep up with the day of the day themes. What began as a gentle lull of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day has now turned into a veritable flood of days. It’s enough to make one lose one’s calendar—or be forever busy on social media, depending on your dispensation.
But the fourth of August takes the cake. It’s Friendship Day, so it’s time to start posting the copied content from someone else’s forward on everyone else’s timelines. But it’s also the birthday of a genius who, through his own sneakily crafted image and towering talent, defied definition or boundaries. If he could tap out a Fred Astaire move as easily as he could negotiate any tune, he could, with equal ease, ride the tourbillion of madcap comedies or wield the megaphone for sombre black-and-white dramas. If he could compose all-rounder soundtracks, he could, in the next breath, pen lyrics and screenplays, as if possessed by multiple personalities of top-notch talent. All of these topped with his long-time partnerships with composers that ensured his voice never ever went out of fashion, until he was recalled elsewhere.
And Kishore Kumar‘s friendship with composer Rahul Dev Burman (Pancham) is now the stuff of urban legends. And how apt that the singer’s special day falls on a day that’s the Hallmark of greeting cards-company initiated gimmickry, later on revived thanks to the cuteness power of Winnie the Pooh. But that’s not the point of this appraisal. In what is a grim pointer to Pancham’s discerning and marketing skills, his soundtrack for a god-awful venture was pure gold. The 1972 released Double Cross had the magnificent director-turned-unperturbed-by-his-own-act-actor Vijay Anand in a dual role that was simply a double-reminder of why he ought to have stuck behind the camera for the most part.
But Pancham got together Kishore Kumar and his guitar player-cum-smoky-voiced Bhupinder Singh to playback for the Vijay Anands onscreen. And whatever else you may think of the upholstery-draped Anand, the song that RD came up remains an absolute, zippy zinger. Opening with the echoes of a nostalgic throwback, as is the wont of long-lasting-but-not-in-touch friends, Pancham uses Kishore’s royal, echoing vocals to connect to the past. But just for half-a-minute. Post that, he launches his trumpets to swing into the same tune and into the past when the friendship (that the florally-adorned Anand reminisces about) was its own high. The keyboards that come in are all bouncy, and when Kishore Kumar leads the mukhda, it’s as if his voice throws a carpet of joy on the green scenery all around. And Bhupinder in close tow, isn’t a roll-over, either.
Pancham’s sassy brass section rules the first interlude, and he gives them breathing space, but just so that the violins and keyboards prep for the antara; and what a foot-tapping, melodic one it is, with Bhupinder doing the honors of inaugurating it. But that’s not all. Pancham (and Bhupinder) prove that the singer is a mean yoo-hoo-odler himself (as they did the same year for that complex, beautifully layered double-voiced number, Ye Zindagi from another box-office cropper, Savera—and that’s another appraisal altogether). Kishore echoes his yodeling, that’s also the cross-over to the mukhda—not many numbers can actually boast of this achievement. The second interlude is a nifty tango between the keyboards and the percussion before Pancham makes Kishore and Bhupinder harmonize stunningly. And again, the latter opens the antara before making way for the birthday boy.
As in the visuals, one-half of the friendship boarded the train to immortality much too soon, and earlier. And it wasn’t too long before his composer friend was handed a ticket as well. On Kishore Kumar’s birthday, on this Friendship day, and on Pancham day (which happens to be every day), it’s time to toast and cut the cake. Hang on!— Pancham, with his usual panache, has taken the baked delight all for himself. But what he and his friend left behind is a store-full of imperishables that’s for us to savor for now and for the rest of our listening lives. And somewhere in the zest and joy, be grateful for all the friendships they’ve gotten us and helped us celebrate them.
All images owned by the producers.