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Listen, Bhatiyal Friend

A fine blending of fact, fiction, quotes, interviews, writings and a massive collection of newspaper and magazine clippings

Listen, Bhatiyal Friend
Sun Mere Bandhu Re—The Musical World Of S.D. Burman
By Sathya Saran
HarperCollins | Pages: 255 | Rs. 499

Several books have been written on the legendary music composer and singer Sachin Dev Burman. He also wrote an autobiography, Sargamer Nikhad, in Beng­ali. Pannalal Roy wrote a biography in Bengali called Sachin Karta in 2005. H.Q. Chowdhury’s Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman is reportedly a very good biography. The Film Society of Jodhpur, with the support of Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi, brought out Smarika, a publication to coincide with its six-day-long Smriti Samaroh on Sachin Dev Burman in April 2009. The brochure, edited by Mohan Swaroop Maheshwari, is a brilliant collection of writings on S.D. Burman, filmography, list of songs and their lyrics for both Bengali and Hindi films.

Therefore, despite her erudition and excellent track record as writer and editor, it was a formidable challenge for Sathya Saran. She breaks the conventional mode of a written biography—normally a chronological account of a creative artist’s life and work—and weaves a fine blending of fact, fiction, quotes, interviews, writings and a massive collection of newspaper and magazine clippings on S.D., given to her by Motilal Lalwani. As described in the inside jacket, “It is a kaleidoscope of montages on the inner and outer worlds he inhabited”.

Sun Mere Bandhu Re—The Musical World of S.D. Burman is a collage of memories and fictional projections of the subject’s life with his wife Meera till he passed away in 1975 after having been in coma for nearly a year. The book could be a pointer to a redefinition of the term ‘biography’. It offers a refreshing insight into the genre, but for readers hooked on biographies, this might take some time to warm up to.

Saran’s distinctive style of narrating S.D.’s career mixes fact and fiction, even using stream-of-consciousness.

The author states in her acknowledgements that she was inspired to use this form after having read Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter (1976), a novel said to be a fictionalised account of the last few months in the life of Buddy Bolden, known as the father of jazz who suffered from schizophrenia. Saran fashions a distinctive style of narrating the musical evolution of a composer, while also using the stream-of-consciousness technique.

Bypassing some errors in names, such as Sudipta Chanda spelt as Sudipta Chandra (p. 136) and some printer’s devils, Sun Mere Bandhu Re is encyclopaedic in the range of information it imparts on its subject. The fictionalised projections into the composer and singer’s intimate relationship with wife Meera tend to break into the smooth narrative style and detract somewhat from the core subject. S.D.’s relationship with the major filmmakers he worked with, from Guru Dutt through Bimal Roy, Vijay Anand and Dev Anand, is juxtaposed against films like Talaash and Yeh Gulistan Hamara that remain archived for his music rather than for being good films. One major drawback is the lack of a more detailed account of the composer’s work in Bengali cinema as composer and singer.

Sun Mere Bandhu Re is an excellent reference point for music researchers in the country and beyond. It would have been more so had it included a bibliography and an index at the end.

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