S. D. Burman

Sachin Dev Burman (1 October 1906 – 31 October 1975) was an Indian music director and singer. A member of the Tripura royal family, he started his career with Bengali films in 1937. Later he began composing for Hindi movies, and became one of the most successful and influential Bollywood film music composers. S D Burman composed music for over 100 movies, including Hindi and Bengali films.[1] Apart from being a versatile composer, he also sang songs in light semi-classical and folk style of Bengal. His son Rahul Dev Burman was also a celebrated music composer for Bollywood films.

Sachin Dev Burman
Burman on a 2007 stamp of India
Background information
Also known asBurman da, Kumar Sachindra Dev Barman, Sachin Karta, S. D. Burman
Born(1906-10-01)1 October 1906
Comilla, Bengal Presidency, British India, (present-day Comilla, Bangladesh)
Died31 October 1975(1975-10-31) (aged 69)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India (present-day Mumbai)
  • Music director
  • Folk artist
  • Singer
  • Composer
  • Musician
Years active1932–1975

S.D. Burman's compositions have been sung by leading singers of the period including Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar, Asha Bhosle and Shamshad Begum. Mukesh and Talat Mahmood have also sung songs composed by him. He has himself sung about 14 Hindi and 13 Bengali film songs.[2]


Burman was born on 1 October 1906, in Comilla, Bengal Presidency (in present-day Bangladesh) to Rajkumari Nirmala Devi,[3] the royal princess of Manipur and Mahamanyabar Rajkumar Nabadwipchandra Dev Burman of Tripura, son of Maharaja Ishanachandra Manikya Dev Burman, Maharaja of Tripura. Sachin was the youngest of the five sons of his parents, who had nine children in all. His mother died when he was just two years of age.[4]


S D Burman's first school was at Kumar Boarding in Agartala, Tripura. It was a boarding school in the likes of Harrow and Eton for sons of the royalty and the very rich. SD Burman's father, Raja Nabadweepchandra Deb Burman noticed the teachers were more busy with pampering the sons of the nobility than educating them. S D Burman's father took him from Kumar Boarding and admitted him at Yusuf School in Comilla, before he was admitted in Class V in Comilla Zilla School. From Comilla Zilla School he completed his Matriculation in 1920 at the age of 14. He then got admitted at Victoria College, Comilla, which is presently Comilla Victoria Government College from where he passed his IA in 1922 and then BA in 1924. S D Burman left for Kolkata to start an MA in Calcutta University, which he did not finish as music got the better of him for good.[5][6] He started his formal music education by training under the musician K. C. Dey from 1925 to 1930; thereafter in 1932 he came under the tutelage of Bhishmadev Chattopadhyay, who was only three years his senior. This was followed by training from Khalifa Badal Khan, the sarangi maestro, and Ustad Allauddin Khan, the sarodist. He brought K.C. Dey, Khalifa Badal Khan and Allauddin Khan to Agartala. The noted Bengal poet laureate, Kazi Nazrul Islam also spent time in their family home in Comilla in the early '20s.


S D Burman started working as a radio singer on Calcutta Radio Station in the late '20s, when his work as a singer-composer was based on Bengali folk and light Hindustani classical music. Consequently, his compositions were mainly influenced by his huge repertoire of folk-tunes from present Bangladesh and later other parts of India and around the world. His first record was also released in 1932 (Hindustan Musical Product), with "Khamaj" (semi classical), "E Pathey Aaj Eso Priyo" on one side, and the folk "Dakle Kokil Roj Bihane" on the reverse side, on 78 rpm for Hindustan Records.[7] In the following decade, he reached his peak as a singer, cutting as many as 131 songs in Bengali, and also sang for composers like Himangsu Dutta (8), RC Boral (1), Nazrul Islam (4), Sailesh Das Gupta (2) and Subal Das Gupta (1).[8] He also sang for Madhavlal Master (1) and son RD Burman (1).

In 1934, he attended the All India Music Conference, at the invitation of Allahabad University, where he presented his Bengali Thumri, all to an illustrious audience, with the likes of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and the inimitable Abdul Karim Khan of Kirana Gharana. Later in the year, he was invited to Bengal Music Conference, Kolkata, which was inaugurated by Rabindranath Tagore, here again he sang his Thumri, and was awarded a Gold Medal.[8]

He built a house in Southend Park, Ballygunge, Kolkata. He married his student, Meera Das Gupta (1920–2007), the granddaughter of Magistrate Raibahadur Kamalnath Dasgupta from Dhaka on 10 February 1938 in Calcutta,[9][10] though according to some, having married a non-royal, created a furore within the royal family, and subsequently he severed ties with his family, and forfeited his inheritance.[11][12] According to some others, S.D. Burman severed ties with his royal family because he was frustrated with the unjust and unfair treatment meted out to his father and his brothers by the royal family of Tripura. The couple's only child, Rahul Dev Burman was born in 1939, and later, both Meera Devi and Rahul assisted S.D. Burman with some of the musical compositions.[13][14] S. D. Burman also did a singing role in the Urdu film Selima (1934) and another role in Dhiren Ganguli's film Bidrohi (1935)[15]

As a music composer, he started with the Bengali plays Sati Tirtha and Janani, and eventually gave his first score in the film Rajgee. In 1937, his second film Rajkumarer Nirbashan (1940) became a hit. He gave music in Bengali films such as Protishodh (1941), Abhoyer Biye (1942) and Chaddobeshi (1944) and only one Bengali film in 1969/70 after he permanently moved to Mumbai in 1946. He composed for over 20 Bengali films and 89 Hindi films in all.[8]

He made his film debut singing in Yahudi ki Ladki (1933) but the songs were scrapped and re-sung by Pahari Sanyal. His first film as a singer was finally Sanjher Pidim (1935).


In 1944, Burman moved to Mumbai, at the request of Sasadhar Mukherjee of Filmistan, who asked him to give score for two Ashok Kumar starrers, Shikari (1946) and Aath Din, but his first major breakthrough came the following year with the company's Do Bhai (1947). The song Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya sung by Geeta Dutt was his breakthrough song into the film industry. In 1949 came Shabnam, his biggest hit yet with Filmistan, especially noticeable for its multi-lingual hit song Yeh Duniya Roop ki Chor, by Shamshad Begum, which became a rage in those days.[16]


Disillusioned with the materialism of Mumbai, Burman left the Ashok Kumar starred Mashaal (1950) incomplete and decided to board the first train back to Calcutta. Fortunately, he was dissuaded from doing so.

In 1950s, Burman teamed up with Dev Anand's Nav Ketan Productions to create musical hits like Taxi Driver, Nau do Gyarah (1957) and Kala Paani (1958). In addition, he gave music for Munimji (1955) and Paying Guest (1957). The songs sung by Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar became popular. Burman composed the music for Dev Anand's production company Navketan's first film Afsar (1950). With the success of their second film Baazi (1951), he made it to the top and a long association with Navketan and Dev Anand was on its way. "Baazi"'s jazzy musical score revealed a new facet of singer Geeta Dutt, who was mainly known for melancholy songs and bhajans. While every song in the film was a hit, one stood out for special appeal – "Tadbir se Bigdi Hui Taqdeer", a ghazal that was occidentalised into a seductive song. The "jaal" song "Yeh raat yeh chandni" by Hemant Kumar is an all-time great classic. The song 'Thandi Hawain' from Naujawan (1951) sung by Lata Mangeshkar was one of his first major hits. It made Lata very famous as also poet Sahir.

He also wrote music for the Guru Dutt classics – Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). The soundtrack of Devdas (1955) was also composed by him. House No. 44 (1955), Funtoosh (1956), and Solva Saal (1958) were other S. D. Burman hits. In 1959 came Sujata, a masterpiece by Bimal Roy, and S. D. created magic again with "Jalte hai jiske liye" by Talat Mamood.

When Guru Dutt made comparatively light-weight films like Baazi and Jaal (1952), Burman reflected their mood with compositions like "Suno Gajar Kya Gaye" or "De Bhi Chuke Hum" and when Guru Dutt made his somber masterpieces – Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz ke Phool (1959), he was right on target with "Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind" and "Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam". In 2004, the soundtrack for Pyaasa was chosen as one of "The Best Music in Film" by Sight & Sound, the British Film Institute magazine.[17]

In 1957, S. D. Burman fell out with Lata Mangeshkar and adopted her younger sister Asha Bhosle as his lead female singer. The team of S. D. Burman, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle and lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri became popular for their duet songs. Thus, he was responsible along with O. P. Nayyar for shaping Asha Bhosle as a singer of repute, who became his daughter-in-law after she married Rahul Dev Burman.

In 1958, S. D. Burman gave music for Kishore Kumar's house production Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, the same year he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Music direction of Sujata and remains the only music director to have won the prestigious award.[18] S. D. Burman often took inspiration from folk music, Hindustani classical music as well as the more mundane day to day sounds of life. For example: in a later interview, he discussed how he had composed the Kaala Pani tune for the Majrooh Sultanpuri / Md. Rafi / Dev Anand song "Hum bekhudi mein tum" based upon the Hindustani Raga "Raag Chayyanat" and the Muslim Muezzin's call for prayers that one hears daily near a mosque.[19]


Early on in his career, Burman refused to allow his voice to be lip-synced on film by actors,[8] as a result, even later on, in Hindi cinema, his thin yet powerful voice was often used as bardic commentary to haunting results, as in "Ore Majhi Mere Sajan Hai Us Paar" from Bandini (1963), "Wahaan Kaun hai Tera" from Guide (1965) and finally "Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana" from Aradhana (1969),[20] for which he received the National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the year, 1970 .

Ill health caused a slump in his career in the early 1960s, but he gave many hit films in the late 1960s. In 1961, S. D. Burman and Lata Mangeshkar came together during the recording of R.D. Burman's first song for the movie Chhote Nawab (1961). They reconciled their differences and started working again in 1962.

The Dev Anand-S. D. Burman partnership, under the Navketan banner, continued to churn out musical hits like Bombai Ka Baboo (1960), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Guide (1965) and Jewel Thief (1967). In 1963, he composed songs for Meri Surat Teri Aankhen and Manna Dey sang the song "Poocho Na Kaise Maine" in raga Ahir Bhairav. This song was inspired by the song "Arun kanti ke go yogi", a masterpiece that was created by Bidhrohi Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam and a Ustad Mushtaq Hussain Khan's Khayal which was based on raga Ahir bhairav (morning ragaa). That movie also had a song "Nache Mon Mora Magan", sung by Mohammad Rafi and these became landmarks in Hindi film songs.

Other S. D. Burman hits from this period were Bandini (1963), Ziddi (1964).Teen Devian (1965). In Bandini, Sampooran Singh (well known as Gulzar), made his debut as a lyricist with the song "Mora Gora Ang lai le, mohe shaam rang daai de", although other songs were written by Shailendra. Guide (1965) starring Dev Anand, was probably the best of his work during the time with all the songs super-hits as well as the film; but unfortunately it did not receive the Filmfare Award in best music director category for that year, which remained always a discussion among the Bollywood film pandits.

Aradhana (1969) is considered another landmark score in the Bollywood history. The music of the movie shaped the careers of singer Kishore Kumar, lyricist Anand Bakshi and filmmaker Shakti Samanta. S. D. Burman wrote the music for all the songs of Aradhana, but fell ill soon after and handed over the task of composing the background music for the film to his young upcoming talented son R. D. Burman.[21] For the song "Mere Sapno ki raani", Sachin Dev made R. D. play the mouth organ. Dev Anand and S. D. Burman continued their musical partnership in Prem Pujari (1969).

S. D. Burman had a strong sense of self-pride and was very professional in his work.


Tere Mere Sapne (1971), Sharmeelee (1971), Abhimaan (1973), Prem Nagar (1974), Sagina (1974), Chupke Chupke (1975), and Mili (1975) are other classics from this period.

S. D. Burman went into a coma soon after rehearsing the song "Badi sooni sooni" (sung by Kishore Kumar) for the film Mili. He died on 31 October 1975 in Mumbai.

On 1 October 2007, marking his 101st birth anniversary, India postal department released a commemorative postage stamp, in Agartala, where an exhibition on his life and work was also inaugurated; the state government of Tripura also confers the yearly "Sachin Dev Burman Memorial Award" in music.[22][23]

Relationship with Kishore Kumar

Sachin was the only composer who had used both Rafi and Kishore in an almost equal number of songs. He regarded Kishore as his second son. Kishore confessed that it was Sachin Da, who had given him the first chance. Even after the rehearsal of "Badi Sooni Sooni" from Milli, when Sachin had a stroke, Kishore went up to the hospital and said to him "Dada, Please don't worry, your recording is after three days, you just see how well it goes." The song is considered one of the best of Kishore Kumar. Sachin also used to telephone Kishore in the dead of night, and on the telephone, he would start to sing the new tunes which he composed and ask Kishore to sing with him.


British singer of South Asian heritage Najma Akhtar, recorded a Shanachie Records CD of Burman's work, Forbidden Kiss: The Music of S.D. Burman, an album of covers of Burman compositions.

The Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was named after the composer by Sachin's grandfather, who was an ardent fan of Burman.

The singer and mimicry artist Sudesh Bhonsle frequently parodies the nasal high-pitched voice and quixotic singing style of S. D. Burman.

Burman paired with tabla maestro late Brajen Biswas for his Bengali songs. The beats or "thekas" created by Brajen Babu for these songs are unique and no one in the world can sing these songs in the original "thekas". All the "thekas" are according to the mood of the songs. But recently, painter, sculptor and singer Ramita Bhaduri sang the tough songs of Burman such as "Ami chhinu aka", "Rangeela", "Aankhi Duti Jhare" etc. in the original "theka" on the taleem of Brajen Biswas. The CD from "Raga Music" (Symphony) was released at Kolkata Press Club. The CDs are available in M. Biswas & Symphony.

Burman had a unique style of composing film songs. While most of the composers used a harmonium or piano to compose the tune, he composed tunes using rhythm such as clapping hands. He was very fond of "Paan" which was specially made by his wife with a piece of dried orange peel and "kevda" flower (Odoratissimus flower) for flavour and taste. In addition, there were his chosen paanwalas (paan vendors) near Khar Station, his bungalow "The Jet" and Bharati Vidya Bhavan from where he could get paans to his liking. That was the reason that he would not share his paan with anyone as he will run short of his paans. He would carry only few extra paana which he would give as a reward to the one whom he appreciated for his work.

SD Burman's first biography in English is "Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman". Written by HQ Chowdhury. It was published by Toitoomber from Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Awards and recognitions


  1. "Sachin Dev Burman: Epitomising the East Bengali lilt". The Daily Star. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 29 May 2015.
  2. DelhiOctober 1, India Today Web Desk New; October 1, 2016UPDATED; Ist, 2018 10:49. "Remembering SD Burman: 10 lesser-known facts about Sachin Dev Burman". India Today. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  3. Sarma, Ramya (2 September 2013). "The magic in the music". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  4. Mathur, Megha (October 2015). "Give me Lata and a Harmonium, I'll make Music: S.D. Burman". The Quint. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  5. Tripura Genealogy at Queensland Univ Archived 21 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Bhattacharjee, Anirudha (2018). S.D.Burman: The Prince Musician. Chennai: Westland Publications. pp. 10–13. ISBN 9789387578180.
  7. Soul composer... The Times of India, 1 October 2006.
  8. HQ Chowdhury. Sachin Karta. sdburman.net
  9. S.D. Burman’s wife dead The Hindu, 17 October 2007.
  10. S.D. Burman's wife Meera dead 'Music India OnLine'. Archived 15 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. How Tripura lost an icon The Daily Telegraph, 24 February 2005.
  12. Sachin Karta by Pannalal Roy tripurainfo.com. Archived 18 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Bondhu rangila re – a tribute to S D Burman theemusic magazine, 31 October 2002.
  14. The minimilistic melody of Sachin Dev Burman – Biography Rediff.com.
  15. SD Burman "filmreference.com".
  16. SD Burman Upperstall.com.
  17. Olivier Assayas (September 2004). "The Best Music in Film". Sight & Sound. Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  18. Music Direction Sangeet Natak Akademi Award Official listing. Archived 16 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  19. Bharatan, Raju. "The Aradhna Syndrome". Rediff. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  20. Agartala palace is lit – Centenary celebrations The Hindu, 28 July 2006. Archived 22 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  21. Chowdhury, H.Q. (1 January 2011). Incomparable Sachin Dev Burman (First ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Toitomboor. ISBN 978-9848869154.
  22. 2007 stamps Indian Postal Service Official website. Archived 31 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  23. Postage stamp brought out on Sachin Karta's birth anniversary Outlook, 1 October 2008.
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