RD Burman : A Case Study in Psychoprofessional Gravitation

Rahul Dev Burman would have turned 80 on 27 June, 2019 if he was still alive. A brilliant music composer who passed away before his time in January 1994, he still lives on, thanks to the awesome songs and evergreen hits he composed.

In this guest column for Filter Kaapi Live, Prof G Mohan dwells on whether Burman himself had to take a part of the blame for fewer opportunities and lack of success in his later years.

By G Mohan

June 27 was RD Burman’s birth anniversary. As one of the huge fans of RD, I have been listening to his songs for last several days on my Carvaan. Some of my music friends would know how much I adore him. I have nothing to add on his music.

As a fan, I write this piece to make sense of the pain he went through in the last few years of his life.

It is fairly well known that he died a rather unhappy man at a fairly young age,i.e, before he turned 55. The last 7-8 years of his career were very painful for him. Ijaazat in 1987 was his last big hit. Many of his later films did not do well (except his swansong 1942, A Love Story). He himself was a pale shadow of his former self.

Many commentators blame the industry for not giving RD his due. People blamed producers like Nasir Hussain for whom he gave so many hits from Teesri Manzil onwards. Nasir Hussain shifted to Anand Milind for QSQT. Ramesh Sippy and Subash Ghai went to Laxmikant Pyarelal after signing RD Burman.

After reading this fabulous article `Your Professional Decline is Coming ( Much) Sooner than you think’ by Arthur C Brooks, I realised that RD Burman himself needs to take a lot of the blame for his misery of the last 7-8 years of his life. It is unfair to blame the industry. People even blame some of his associates , including his wife Asha Bhosle for his misery of later years.

Let me explain. As per the article, the agony of professional oblivion is directly related to the height of professional prestige previously achieved, and to one’s emotional attachment to that prestige. But if you reach professional heights and are deeply invested in being high up, you can suffer mightily when you inevitably fall.

RD Burman’s case is similar to that of Charles Darwin, as mentioned in the article. RD achieved extraordinary success at a pretty young age. He composed ” sar jo tera chakraye’ for Pyaasa as a teenager. He got break as an independent music director in Chote Nawab when he was barely 22. His big hit Teesri Manzil happened when he was 27 years.

During the purple patch that he had collaborating with Kishore Kumar and Anand Bakshi for several Rajesh Khanna films in the 1970s, he was in his 30s. In that period , he was not only producing high quality music, he was prolific in his output too. Many years, he had 10-12 releases.

In the 1980s, call it bad judgement or bad luck many films for which he gave fabulous music they bombed badly at the box office. Yeh Vaada Raha and Bade Dil Wala, just to name a few. Bappi Lahiri and Laxmikant Pyarelal’s music and films became bigger hits. RD was seen as unlucky.

RD himself started losing his creativity. He started repeating himself. He was expecting that he would get the same success. Success further eluded him.The reality is that he had reached his level of psychoprofessional gravitation.

RD could have well accepted this as a professional decline and tried to reinvent himself or accepted it as a natural process of burn-out . But , psychologically, he was just a child. He did not have the maturity or any guidance to look at his career and life in a different light. The only thing he knew was to create music. It did not help that he had no real family. He was the only child of his parents. Though married to Asha, she used to live with her children separately. He did not have any children of his own. He used to eat, breathe, sleep with his musicians. But they also deserted him slowly when he stopped getting work.

If only RD had developed the maturity and come to terms with his professional decline he would have lived a lot longer and would have died a happier man. Someone who continues to give us so much joy 25 years after his death, deserved a lot more happiness. As a fanboy that lament will remain.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. Filter Kaapi Live does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.  

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