Book Review – S.D.Burman – The Prince Musician by Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal

The past few years have seen a number of books on SD Burman, like Sun mere BandhuThe musical word of S.D. Burman by Sathya Saran or  S.D. Burman: The World of his music by Khagesh Dev Burman ( a relative of S.D. Burman – the original book being Sachin Kartar Gaaner Bhubhan).  I had been wanting to read these but I did not. Because, some time back, over a chat, Anirudha mentioned to me that he and Balaji Vittal were working on a book on SD Burman. I had thoroughly enjoyed the authors’ previous two books (R.D. Burman: the Man, the Music and Gaata rahe mera dil) and was looking forward to this new book.


And what a book it is! Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal have done it again.

S.D. Burman – The Prince-Musician is a thoroughly researched and extremely well-written work that traces the life of the ‘Prince- Musician’ from right from his childhood in Comilla to his days as a budding musician in Calcutta and then his glorious phase in Hindi cinema.

Time and again on this blog (and at the cost of repetition), I have written about how much of a fan of Sachin Dev Burman I am. I love his music starting from the early 1950s to up until say early 70s (Not too fan of his later films such as Mili (1975) or for that matter Jugnu (1973). Of course, there were good songs in these films as well, but in my opinion, these weren’t as memorable as his earlier scores)

However, I must admit I did not know much about his life; nothing more than the stuff that was learnt from profiles in various film magazines or some sites on the Internet .

What this book does does exceedingly well is to chart out his entire life and music, by providing a timeline. His childhood and early years are all sketched out in great detail – showing the evolution of the royal from Tripura into a complete musician. All his music – starting from the early Bengali scores are analysed from a technical musical perspective (not surprising as both the authors are trained in music, if I am to understand). But the technical analysis is less than what it was in their RDB book (one of my complaints as a reader and a Hindi movie buff with that book was exactly this. It was too “musical”- the technicalities and the analysis was too heavy for me, as a person who enjoys music but hasn’t studied it.) Thankfully that is not the case in this book. The technicalities are very much there but interspersed with many and some lesser known anecdotes/ back stories about the composition, the movies and the maestro’s life.

Like most composers who compose in different languages simultaneously, both the Burman father-son duo used their Bengali tunes in Hindi films. The book traces and mentions the Bengali equivalent of every Hindi composition (wherever applicable). Not that I know anything at all about Bengali music, but I found this trivia interesting. As I do that with Ilaiyaraja and AR Rahman’s music – that is trace the corresponding number in Tamil / Kannada/ Telugu music.

A fascinating portrait emerges of the prince who renounced royalty to become a King among musicians through quotes, stories and anecdotes still vivid in the memories of the people who had a chance to know SDB.

This is a must-read for music buffs and film lovers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s