The Nikhad of the Sargam. Autobiography of SD Burman. Translation: Asrar Chowdhury. Chapter 3

Cover Photo: The Nikhad of the Sargam by Anowar Hossain
Cover Photo: The Nikhad of the Sargam by Anowar Hossain


NOTE: Any unauthorized use of this translation is a criminal offense
Translated in October 2015. Uploaded: Nov 10, 2015

BY SD Burman and Salil Ghosh. Translation: Asrar Chowdhury


It was Sri Hemen Roy who first introduced me to professional theatres in Kolkata. I have mentioned earlier that it was his penned lyrics that lead to my first recording. At his initiative, I composed music for two dramas, Sati Teertha and Janani. My compositions received acclamation by the listeners. The newspapers and magazines highly praised my compositions. In the Kolkata stage, Srimati Niharbala was one of the leading singers. I taught her music. She also sang some of my compositions.

There were nine songs in Sati Teertha. I composed all of them. Those who were around at that time in Kolkata will recall these songs. Chokher Jole Bhijiye Dilam Golar Belar Mala; Chol Rahi Tui Ratanpure; Jouban Aaj Duliye Dile, and others.

During my association with the Kolkata Stage, I came into close contact with many famous artistes and litterateurs. They all loved to listen to me sing and also liked my music compositions. Durgadas Bandyapadhyay, Monilal Ganguli, Jogesh Chowdhury, Noresh Mitra, Ahindra Chowdhury, and of course Shishir Bhaduri were among these luminaries. I revered all of them with utmost respect. They liked to listen to me sing and listen to my songs. During this time I started to become close to the Stage. There was not one new production in the Kolkata Stage I would not watch. Later I became close friends with Chhobi Biswas, and Jahar Ganguli. Jahar Ganguli and I were both football fanatics. However, he was a supporter of Mohan Bagan, and I of East Bengal. When Mohan Bagan lost, he would be silent with me for some time. Likewise, when East Bengal would lose, the two of us would be equally at it.

Today, as I recall all these Pundit people in the evening of my life, I feel a loss. Many of them are no more. But, that was a time of creativity. Everybody was happy in creating. Although all of us had to go through struggle there was endless fun in the creative activities. If only those days would come back!

During this time, I met the famous movie producer and director Sri Madhu Basu. Whenever there was a play or a cinema under his direction, I would be present. I taught music to his wife, Srimati Sadhana. I have mentioned before that I sang in Madhu Basu’s cinema Selima in the role of a beggar. I do not think it would be out of context if I mention here what Madhu Babu wrote in his autobiography, Amar Jeeban.

‘I rented a flat beside where Roxy Cinema is located today at Chowringhee Place. I started life afresh in the beginning of 1933 … Sadhana started learning music again. In those days, there were frequent and regular music Jalshas in our house. Among those who frequently attended those Jalshas, I specially recall Mihir Babu (Mihir Kiran Bhattacharya, elder brother of Timir Boron), Sachin Deb Burman, and Himu (Himanshu Datta, Sur Sagar). Sachin showed keen interest when I requested if he would teach Sadhana music. Needless to mention, he did not ask for remuneration.

Baba left the material world on April 27, 1924. Against my will, I had to go to Kolkata to finish the shooting of Selima … A famous music director of today acted in a small role in Selima. The role was that of a beggar. This music director had just started to make a name. He was also teaching music to Sadhana. During a conversation one day, I mentioned to him there is a role of a beggar in the movie. There is not much to do. Just sit and sing a song. He was shocked the moment he heard. “What are you saying, Mr Bose? Me, act in a film? You do know my family. If I start acting in a film, they shall certainly boycott me. Just because I sing, many in my family say many things”. I put his mind to rest. “Don’t worry. We’ll do such a make-up with a moustache and a beard that nobody will be able to recognize you”. In the end, he gave in. He sang the song excellently. That gentleman is today’s famous music director, Kumar Sachin Debburman’.

I had the privilege of knowing Kazi Nazrul Islam closely for a long time. He used to love me a lot. I am an artiste blessed by his love. Many times I have listened to Kazi Da’ read out his writings and songs, and recite his poems. He also liked my songs and compositions. He would visit my house and enchant us with his poems and songs. Whenever I rendered one of my own compositions, he would encourage me with no bounds and would shower me with praise. He even instructed me to record a few of his compositions. He composed them especially for me. I listened to Kazi Da’ and recorded them. Thanks to Kazi Da’s genius, all of the songs became popular. Many have heard my rendition of Chokh Gelo, Chokh Gelo, Keno Dakish ReChokh Gelo Pakhi Re. Within four to five minutes Kazi Da’ penned the lyrics and came up with the composition. I requested Kazi Da’ to give me a ‘ticklish’ tune. Kazi Da’ almost instantly gave the tune. My association with Kazi Da’ is one of the most important events of my life.

It was during this time that I first recorded my songs for Hindusthan Products. I mentioned before that Sri Hemendra Kumar Ray was the lyricist of one of my first two recorded songs in Bangla. The first line was Dakle Koli Roj Bihone Mather Baate Jai. The first line of the other song was Ei Pothe Aj Esho Priyo, Koro Na Ar Bhul. Sri Shailen Ray was the lyricist of this song. There I was, listening to my own song in my own voice. In the beginning that was very thrilling to me. After this, Hindustan Company recorded some more of my songs, most of which were in Bangla. There were a few Hindi songs too. Most probably, I started recording for HMV in 1947. In the beginning, Hemendra Ray used to write lyrics for me. Later Sudhirendra Sanyal and Shailen Ray also wrote lyrics for me.

I wrote to Sri Ajay Bhattacharya to come to Kolkata and write songs for me. Ajay came to Kolkata with no delay. After he arrived, Ajay wrote the lyrics of all my songs. When Ajay left us prematurely, then Sri Gauriprasanna Majumder and Sri Robi Guhamajumder wrote lyrics for me. I have recorded quite a few of their songs.

All type of the arts has always attracted me; painting, dance, stage acting and all others. In 1935 I saw Srimati Bala Saraswati’s Bharat Natyam dance for the first time in Kolkata. I was enchanted by this artiste’s dance and acting. Uday Shankar was my favourite dance artiste. I would be present at his programmes whenever he would perform in Kolkata. I was also thrilled after seeing the Guru Ji of Uday Shankar, Sri Nambudi’s dance. I would not miss a single good programme in Kolkata. Many times I have seen dance dramas of students from Shanti Niketan under the Supervision of Kobi Guru.

Besides this, I would like to mention the Chhou dance of Seraikela, and the dances of Sri Achhon Maharaj of Lucknow and Sri Shambu Maharaj. The Thumris of Shambu Maharaj and their Bols have always fascinated me. Our Agartala was one of the prominent centres for Monipuri dance. I had the privilege of enjoying the Monipuri dance of many leading artistes at Agartala. In Kolkata I have watched the Western dance of Anna Pavlova. Later on, I have watched Ballet, Opera, Musicals Dances in Moscow, Leningrad, Helsinki, London, Paris and other cities. At Helsinki and Moscow, I had the opportunity to listen to the folk music and classical music of various countries of the world.

Although music is my first love, dance, painting, and sculptures have equally attracted me. I have to mention the famous Sri Debi Prasad Roychowdhury. His niece is my eldest sister-in-law. He did a wonderful sketch on the cover of one of my song notebooks. It was based on Surer Puja. The notebook is still with me and preserved carefully. Debi Prasad Babu left and settled in Madras (Chennai). He joined the Art College there. I found myself in Bombay during the middle of World War II. With it the Third World War of my life started.


Sargamer Nikhad, Biography of Sachin Deb Burman narrated to Salil Ghosh. Published in the Desh Magazine during 24 Magh to 21 Chaitra, 1376 BE, 1969 circa. This translation is based on Sachin Kortar Gaaner Bhuban by Khagesh Deb Burman, published by Prantik, Kolkata, Third Edition, 2011, PP 223-252.


Asrar Chowdhury. He teaches in the Department of Economics at Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Email:


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