My five favourite S. D. Burman sung songs
Either I am just too indecisive or I love all his songs, which makes a list of 10 favourite S. D. Burman songs so difficult. That is why I took the easy way out and went off to make a list of 10 favourite songs sung by him. That in turn would have been too easy, because I found only around 13 songs where he has lent his voice and only eleven of them were solos.
The first song sung by him for a Hindi film I found was for Eight Days . (Anu informed me later that he sang for the film Taj Mahal  under the baton of Madhavlal Damodar. The song was ek prem ki pyaari nishani.) After that it looks like he took a 12 years break and lent his voice to Dev Anand in Kala Pani  for the song dil laga ke kadar gayi pyaare. He sings dhin ta ta between the stanzas. The first Hindi solo of his after Eight Days is most probably sun mere bandhu re for Sujata . After this nearly all of his songs appear as background songs. Mere saajan hai us paar, although sung by a waysider, the camera stays on this character only at the beginning of the song, giving it a feeling of background song. While compiling this list, I realised the big impact this singer has left on us. He sang around ten solos in Hindi films and still one has at least five songs of him at the tip of the tongue.
Sun Mere Bandhu Re – Sujata 
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Bimal Roy opens the scene with Sujata and Adhir admitting their love to each other and in distance one hears the boatman singing. When Adhir starts to speak their track is silenced and the boatman’s song takes over. Even though they are exchanging sweet nothings, it is Sujata’s feelings and emotions (in the boatman’s voice) which colour the atmosphere. Lovely piece of direction! Though we hear the boatman singing we never see him. This gives the song the character of a background song.
Although I knew this song for a long time, it took me years to understand the lyrics. In my best gaane ka kachumbar tradition I had thought the line hota tu peepal me hoti… (if you were the peepal tree, I would be…) as tota tu peepal me hoti (you a parrot and I the peepal tree).
Mere Saajan Hai Us Paar – Bandini 
Kalyani caught in choice between Deven and Bikash. On one side she has the young lover, who is not only good-looking but also loyal and true to her. On the other side she feels bound to Bikash through love and her feelings. But Bikash babu is sick, ailing from tuberculosis. Choice between life in afflunce and poverty, health and sickness, beauty and love. Is the author or the director telling us something through the names of the characters? Kalyani (Auspiciousness) choosing between Deven (God) and Bikash (development)?
My earliest memory of the song is from Chhaya Geet on Bombay DD. I might have been eight or nine years old. I didn’t understand anything that was being sung. The plaintive voice, if I remember right, irritated me. But still I knew that this person was singing about a deep emotion and love, which though I couldn’t understand, knew that it was something fundamental.
There is something about this song which touches me at different levels of my existence. I think words are just not enough for that.
Wahan Kaun Hai Tera – Guide 
Raju released from the jail, has no destination in front of him any more. He used to be the guide in the city. He used to lead the tourists their destinations and now left with none for himself. The singing voice (his inner guide, his ego, his survival instinct) puts him on a path of self-realisation.
This never fails to move me to tears. S. D. Burman has composed it quite differently than many of the songs which he usually sang. There is no plaintiveness about it. Though the words of the song give a feeling of presenting facts, the way Burman sings it in staccato, it reflects the self-doubt of the character.
Piya Tune Kya Kiya – Zindagi Zindagi 
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Again a woman at cross roads. Unlike Kalyani who had to choose between two men, for her it is the fundamental question of to stay or to go away. She faces somewhat the same predicament like Hirabai in Teesri Kasam , but Meeta decides to stay.
The song though it has two stanzas, is carried by the refrain. Burmandada plays with the it, he changes it, he modulates it high and low, gives it a re at the end or takes it away, he even turns tune (you did) to maine (I did) and every time he gives it a different colour. The way he extends the last vocal in a line gives it a doleful effect.
I came across this song three years back and since then it has remained with me.
Doli Me Bithai Ke Kahaar – Amar Prem 
MD: R.D.Burman; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Pushpa married and thrown out of the house by her husband, pines to return back to him when she sees a bridal procession. Little does she know that she will soon be taken to a different world altogether.
This is the only song as far as I know, which Burmandada sang for another music director. The composition was not foreign to him, because although it was directed by his own son Rahul, it was his own melody, which he allowed his son to use.
So, do tell me of your favourite Burmandada songs. I think there must be at least few of them out there, which I don’t know about!