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August - September 2005


The Legend called Rafi - Part II

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

Intro-Mohd.Rafi learned classical music from masters and took pains to sharpen his skills. He was able to emote and ‘act’ with voice and yet retained purity of ‘Sur’ (note). Still he experienced a brief lull in his career. But soon he regained the position he was destined to- the Top

From Pheroz Nizami, Anil Biswas, Sajjad Husain to R. D. Burman, Rajesh Roshan, Rafi worked with three generations of music directors, and gave voice to three generations of heroes, side heroes, character actors; and some times, to villains too. Soon after independence, particularly after 1949, many music directors, such as Naushad, Roshan, switched to Rafi, as their first choice for hero’s voice.

Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, to Jumping Jack Jeetendra, everybody expressed hero’s feelings through Rafi’s voice. We can say that 50’s to 70’s belonged to Rafi. Talat was slowly pushed back into oblivion, Mukesh; Manna Dey sung mainly for Raj Kapoor, Kishor Kumar had very limited work. This was the time Rafi really ruled.

The secret of Rafi’s supremacy lays in the fact, that he had the ability to mould his voice to suit the actor on the screen. When you listen to ‘Tere mere sapane ab ek rang hain,’ (Guide) you think only of Dev Anand, when it is ‘Koi Saager dil ko behalaata nahin’ (Dil Diya Dard Liya), it can’t be anybody but Dilip Kumar. Rafi and Shammi Kapoor is a duo, which created havoc in the filmdom. Nasir Husain, wellknown producer-director once said, ‘Rafi gave special sound effects for Shammi Kapoor’. ‘Taarif Karoon Kya uski’ from Kashmir Ki Kali’ is one such example of duo’s excellent partnership. That is why, when Shammi Kapoor heard of Rafi’s death, Shammi said, ‘I felt like half of my persona is dead.’

Comedians like Jhony Walker and Mehmood also opted for Rafi’s voice. One can judge Rafi’s flexibility and adaptability from the film ‘Pyaasa’. Emotional Guru Dutt renders ‘Yeh mahalon, ye takhton, Yeh tajon ki duniya’ and Johny Walker brings down the roof with ‘Sar jo tera chakaraye’, both songs sung by Rafi

Rafi’s voice could ‘fit’ any face, because he took pains for it. He always insisted for rehearsals, even when he was at the top. He used to perform ‘Riyaaz’ (exercise) every day. He used to inquire about the actor who is going to perform on the screen, scenes before and after the song, why particular words are used in a song, all this interested him. His thinking about every song made him a perfect singer. Expression comes from such thinking; only sweet mellifluous voice is no enough. His ghazals, both filmi and private are immortal because of his expressive quality.

The Setback and ‘Comeback’
Around 1970 ‘Araadhana’ was released and Kishor Kumar suddenly came to fame. Rafi gave two beautiful songs in this film. ‘Baago main bahaar hai’. and ‘Gun guna rahen hain bhanware’, But Kishor wave had started and Rafi also was swept aside. Dilip Kumar to Jeetendra to Rishi Kapoor everybody switched over to Kishor. This was a very bad phase in Rafi’s life. He could survive because he believed in God. Staunch supporters like Laxmikant-Pyarelal did not desert him. But few songs of Rafi could be heard. ‘Aaj Mausam’ (Loafer) is one such beautiful song. This patch in Rafi’s life is a subject of a long article itself.

In 1976 came two films, one was a major hit ‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin’ and another ‘Laila Majnu’ this got good response in Hindi speaking belt. In the former film R. D. Burman returned to Rafi for two soulful songs. ‘Chand Mera Dil’ and ‘Kya Hua Tera Wada’ besides a ‘Kawwali’ ‘Hum Kissise Kum Nahin’. All these songs were super hit. Kishor’s songs were overshadowed by Rafi’s voice. ‘Laila Majnu’ was one of the last film of Madanmohan, another great composer. Rafi-Madanmohan’s association started from later’s first film ‘Aankhen’, and it survived till the composer breathed his last. ‘Tere Dar pe aaya hoon’ and ‘Barbaad mohabbt ki dua’ and other songs (which were composed by Jaidev, due to Madan Mohan’s death.) required a typical Punjabi, forceful voice, and only Rafi could put the right emotion with right force. With these two films Rafi returned to the throne. He bagged a Filmfare award again for ‘Hum Kissise.....’ It was ‘Laila-Majnu’ in 1945 which gave him a big push and it was ‘Laila Majnu’ (1976) again which made him No. One again.

A singer and a gentleman
A bad patch in the career can be seen in any artist’s life. But after a bad phase, return to the top position is something unique, and Rafi, just did that. He was popular among the crores of listeners, even when this bad phase was going in, only his assignments had decreased. His comeback was facilitated, not only because of his singing talent, but his gentle personality also helped him.

Many producers, music directors have gone on record to tell us how Rafi helped them. On many occasions Rafi sang for nothing, or rather, ‘just for a song’, literally. If it is a first film or a song of any music director, Rafi had returned the fees or gave any gift to new comers. From the very beginning he respected music directors, old and new alike. In his career of nearly four decades, not a single word or gossip was written or said about Rafi. A miracle in the show biz. He was not involved in any controversy, but once there was a dispute between Rafi and Lata about the question of singer’s royalty. Rafi was satisfied with what a singer gets as fees. This dispute led to a point, when Rafi and Lata stopped working together.

Fortunately for all of us music lovers, after a few years, Lata and Rafi did come together. This duo has given many memorable duets like, ‘Do sitaron ka jameen par hai’ (Kohinoor) ‘Dil Pukaare aare’ (Jewel Thief) ‘Yeh dil tum bin kahin (Izzat) and hundreds more. Rafi’s duets with Asha Bhonsale are also beautiful, particularly when they sang for O. P. Nayyar, R. D. Burman, etc. For instance,’O Haseena Zulfon Wali’ and other songs from ‘Teesari Manzil’ or ‘Main pyar ka rahi hoon’. (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena) and many more to list.

Rock, Jaz, Pop, Ghazals, Religious, Folk.... Rafi had sung nearly every possible musical style. Apart from film songs, he has a very large number of ‘private records’. People like Khayyam compsoed special tunes for such private records. Rafi has sung in Punjabi, Marathi, Konkani and English too. He used to cut a special disc every year in ‘Durga Pooja’. When he died on 31st July 1980, he was rehearsing for one such record. Thousands of songs and records are on his account. But mere number does not make anybody great. Quality rather than quantity, makes a person great, memorable.

Rafi’s voice appeals to everyone, from childhood to death, every emotion on every stage a human being passes through, is expressed by Rafi. He was a great Artist and a great Craftsman too. He never forgot that he is singing for some other person, words of a poet are more important than the singer. His sense of words and ability to express even the hidden meaning, made him the ‘Only One’.

In the last twenty five years many imitations came and have gone, but nobody could reach even near the level of Rafi, forget replacing him. Rafi filled the void created by K. L. Saigal’s death. But void created by Rafi’s death is still unfilled, and it will remain so for many years. Rafi will be remembered for generations to come.

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