Evergreen Burmans, a tribute by Amit Kumar to the father-son duo who remain the most compelling forces of Hindi film music, was charged with the spirit of the times
It was like watching a period film; but if anything defied the character of a “period” film it was Amit Kumar as he reconstructed the golden era of Hindi film music, right before us, in flesh and spirit. The whole story was woven around the incredible Burmans — but with them, Amit who became the voice of several stars of Hindi filmdom, brought a whole galaxy of extraordinary singers and instrumentalists, who breathed life into their rich imagination. This concert, the Evergreen Burmans, organised by Maam Entertainment, was an unforgettable one; Amit in his inimitable way, made it clear that those great melodies weren't magically made, but behind them was a set of people deeply involved in music, night and day.
Amit is a treasure trove of stories, and it's hard to believe that there could be a chronicler better than him of Kishore Kumar's life and career. It's true of the Burmans as well. He has the dates and details intact, and with it he comes alive with gestures, gait, intonation. After having sat through this fantastic evening for over three hours, it is impossible to think of S.D. Burman without his characteristic Bengali babu gait with a corner of his white dhoti clutched in hand, or to think of Pancham without his funny faces. Amit is unbelievably spontaneous as an actor, and an equally instinctive singer. He made up his own ‘welcome' song with a distinct Pancham signature and within a few seconds he had taken the overflowing audience into the late sixties and seventies world of melodies. With a voice still oozing vitality and freshness and spirits soaring high, it was impossible to believe that the singer is pushing 60.
One of the early songs of the concert was Kishore's “Jeevan Ke Safar Mein Raahi”. Amit, was Kishore, and in “Khilte Hain Gul Yahan”, he was more. What made the concert more authentic was Pancham's favourite musicians were on the orchestra – Franco Vaz on the drums, Raj and Kishore Sodha on trumpet, saxophone and metallic flute. The musicians shared a fantastic rapport with Amit and they relived every moment of not only what Amit was singing, but also narrating. Listen to this story. Sachinda apparently was constantly worried about Kishore's voice. In fact, he obsessively monitored it. Once, at the dead of the night, when Kishore was fast asleep, the telephone started to ring. Kishore, startled out of his sleep, picked the phone and babbled a ‘hello' and it was Sachinda at the other end. “Kishore, so raha thaa kya…?” and hangs up. “What else does one do at two in the morning, why did he call, why did he hang up…?” an irritated Kishore called him back. “Kya hain dada, why are you calling at this hour?!” “I was just checking the condition of your voice,” and hangs up again. “My father was livid, because the recording was a good month away!” Nothing else but their music mattered to them, Amit recalls the several rehearsal sessions. As he narrated the making of the song “Roop tera mastana”, he brought alive SD's idiosyncrasies. SD was so happy to see Kishore arrive on time for the rehearsal, “Aagaya Kishore!” he greeted him from the window, and forgot to open the door for him. Kishore waited at the door, while SD happily rehearsed with his orchestra!
Kishore and Raj Sodha are phenomenal musicians from Pancham's original group – Kishore stormed one's senses with his magnificent rendition of “Gulabi Ankhen” on the sax and Raj Sodha moved you with his lilting “Khoya Khoya Chand”.
The surprise of the evening was Sromona, Amit's sister who sang some lovely duets with him — “Tere mere Milan ki ye raina”, and the poignant Gulzar song “Roz roz ankhon taley”, sung by Amit and Asha. Sromona was passionate and uninhibited in her rendering, what was even more touching was how the brother-sister duo came alive on the stage, with Sromona constantly locking her hands into Amit's, and he constantly guiding her. Sumit, the youngest of Kishore's children, who Amit introduced as “thirty years younger than me, and I have adopted him as my son”, rocked with his high-energy numbers “Samundar Mein Nahake” and “Bachna E Haseeno”.
The highlight of the evening was definitely “Ek chatur naar” from “Padosan”; Amit summoned a chair to render this extremely difficult song of many parts and oh, what a striking presentation! Even with all this, what continues to haunt is “Aanewala pal” and “Bade achche lagte ho”, for its lingering plaintiveness and soft emotions.
“I used to miss my father so much when I was in Kolkata. I used to long to see him. When I moved to Mumbai, I had the opportunity to see him from up close, not just as a father, but as one of the greatest singers. I am lucky to bring the Burmans, my father and the other legends on one stage today,” said Amit, who is a great combination of his father's genius and his talented mother Ruma Guha, who was a singer in her own right.
How does one express one's gratitude to all these wonderful musicians who constantly replenish our emotional reserves and to Amit who brought them to us in “touch and feel” distance?