If the royal palace of Agartala is all lit, it has every reason to. It is celebrating the 100th birthday of its musical genius, S.D. Burman, the man who gave us songs to die for.

Throughout his composing career, Bhatiali, Dhamail and other forms of folk tunes have left their footprints.

Young Sachin Dev absorbed the carefree tunes of the roving minstrels and the evocative refrains of the boatmen of his childhood Bengal. He found his roots in those enduring melodies. Later, as a composer, he had invoked the entire repertoire of folk music of eastern and northeastern India into the cauldron of Hindi films. And it was here that he created new sound. Throughout his composing career spanning three decades, Bhatiali, Dhamail and other forms of folk tunes have unfailingly left their footprints. And S.D. swathed the rustic tunes with his own sophistication. The élan was so subtle and urbane, that sometimes one could even miss the folk root of a melody. As in the metropolitan background of Chupke Chupke, where folk wafts in through Ab Ke Sajan Sawan Me. Elsewhere, it is without pretension. S.D. Burman still remains quintessential in Ore Majhi Mere Sajan Hai Uspaar.

Tinkering with the voice

S.D.'s own voice had the nasal tone and a rare bardic resonance. Be it Wahan Kaun Hai Tera or Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana, his renderings are haunting at their best. He was a master who experimented and transformed the voice of his singers. He metamorphosed Geeta Dutt from her sad-sentimental reckoning to the seductive appeal in Tadbir Se Bigdi Hui Taqdeer.S.D. singularly edified the romantic quality of Hemant Kumar's voice with a string of never-to-die scores like Na Tum Hame Jano, Hai Apna Dil to Awara and Jane Woh Kaise Log The. He exploited the classical background of Manna Dey in the elemental Pucho Na Kaise. The rich tremolo of Talat Mahmood found its sublime expression in the likes of Jalte Hain Jiske Liye. S.D. composed innumerable hits for Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. But perhaps his boldest moves had been using a young, untested Kishore Kumar under the dazzle of Mohammed Rafi. He provided Kishore Kumar with important breaks throughout Kishore's career. Starting from Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si, Dukhi Man Mere, Mana Janaab Ne. Voyaging through Jeeven Ke Safar Me Rahi and the sheer poetic Phoolon Ke Rang Se. In his own dying moments, S.D. crowned Kishore Kumar as the unquestionable king of the Bollywood voice, in Aradhana. SD's tinkering did not stop with the voice alone. He played around with the grammar of songs as well. In Kaaton Se Khinch Ke Ye Aanchal, the song starts from the middle (antara), and the beginning (mukhda) Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai is rendered as the fifth line. S.D. Burman varied his compositions with ease and flair. His repertoire was so vast that he would easily switch from folk to cabaret, pop to classical to soft romantic cadence. He suited temperaments as diverse as Dev Anand and Guru Dutt. Who can ever forget the tragic romantic scores of Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool that epitomise the psyche of Guru Dutt. And then the delightful scores for Hishikesh Mukherjee's urban classics of Chupke Chupke, Abhiman and Mili, or the Bimal Roy masterpieces of Devdas, Sujata and Bandini. And yet, each of his songs, as varied as can be, carries the unmistakable S.D. touch.

Zest for Life

When it came to naming his bungalow in Juhu, Mumbai, the frail old man called it - Jet. And no one was surprised. At least not those who knew Burman Dada. Ask Manna Dey who had to accompany "Sachin Karta" to cheer his favourite football and hockey teams whenever they played in Mumbai. S.D. loved the outdoors. Remarkably, most of his tunes came out while on a long walk, a drive or while angling out at sea. His mind, ever young, tossed and tapped at the ebullient rhythm of Prem Pujari and Teen Deviyan. And when most had written him off as an aging out-dated composer, S.D. Burman bounced back with the snappy lilt of Aradhana. Never to say die, S.D. passed away in 1975. But before his last breath, for the film Mili, he composed his last song from his hospital bed - Maine Kaha Phulo Se, Haso To Yoh Khil Khilake Hans Diye.