A Letter to Raju Bharatan: On Rock â€™n Roll
from P. Haldar
Mohd Rafi and Jaikishan
I read your recent article â€œPancham Revisitedâ€ in Hindustan Times (January 4, 2008). The article starts with the following statements about Pancham:
â€œHe scored for 331 films in 32 years. How does his Kishore Kumar song-tally compare with Asha Bhosle’s? Where Kishore sang 558 songs for him (227 solo, 245 duets), Asha rendered 840 of his compositions (406 solo, 338 duets).â€
Considering that Kishore and Asha sang hundreds of songs under Panchamâ€™s baton and the fact that they were his favourite singers, I was expecting you to continue in that vein, probably offering insights into the qualitative differences between the two, and the chemistry that they shared with him. Unfortunately, however â€“ but somewhat along expected lines â€“ you bring in Rafi to the discussion, which was totally unnecessary. Reproduced below are some excerpts from your article:
"But I’d rehearsed Rafi so often for Dada that I could go along with him so far, no further. It was so tough to get Rafi to amend something you’d already taught him!
"Take my breakthrough Asha-Rafi Teesri Manzil duet â€“ Aa jaa aa jaa.
â€œRafi wasn’t able to grasp the nuances of Aa jaa aa jaa at all! How Rafi struggled as Asha so exemplarily stretched the crucial Aaha-ha aa jaa aaha-ha aa jaa notes. Give me Kishore any time â€“ he would’ve latched on to it in a trice.
"Only I know how I got Rafi to do Tum ne mujhe dekhaa!
"With OP, remember, Rafi was on his home Punjabi ground. I don’t agree I was more patient with Kishore, not so patient with Rafi. No matter how patient I was with Rafi, he slipped into the same vocal error – time and again.â€
Mr. Bharatan, why do you write such garbage? Do you have the interview on tape? If not, people might ignore what you write, thinking that you have become senile or hallucinatory. Or worse still, readers might think that you have problems telling the truth, that you adorn your articles with your jaundiced viewpoints to make a quick buck. Most Rafians actually feel that way, but what I was surprised to find is that several RDent fanatics feel the same way too.
Since you mentioned Panchamâ€™s experiences with Rafi in Aa jaa aa jaa, let me state a few facts. I have heard Rafi sing this trendsetting duet live on stage several times. And every time he sang, he would leave us breathless. He could sing such songs in his sleep.
Mohd rafi with R. D. Burman and Asha Bhosle
After Rafi passed away, Amin Sayani had interviewed Pancham and several other composers. This is what I recall what Pancham had said. He had approached Rafi a little apprehensively for singing the Yamma yamma duet for Shaan along with him: â€œRafi saab, aap hamare saath gaayenge?â€ Pancham was a little hesitant because he knew that Rafi would have to adapt to his scale, but Rafi immediately acquiesced. Pancham then went on to say something along the following lines: â€œLata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle â€“ har singer ka ek range hota hai â€“ lekin Rafi saab ka range kamaal thaâ€. Do you notice any mark of disrespect towards the legendary singer? Yes, Kishore was his favourite singer, but Pancham still recorded over 100 songs with Rafi. If Rafi had not passed away prematurely, the chances are that the number would have crossed 200.
If you are suffering from senility, let me request you listen to Yamma yamma yamma. No, I am not talking about the yummy duet from Shaan, which Rafi delivered so well with Pancham. The song I am talking about is from the period when Shakti Samanta used to travel to several exotic destinations on the wings of Rafiâ€™s voice, much before Dada blessed him with Safal hogi teri aradhana. This one happens to be set in Chinatown, with Asha on Helen and Rafi on Shammi. Listen to Shammi carefully, because you may not be able to recognise His Masterâ€™s Voice:
Yamma Yamma Yamma Tu Parwana Main Shamma
It is a well-known fact that Pancham shot into the big league on the back of Rafiâ€™s vocals in Teesri Manzil, his prior exploits with Lata in different raags notwithstanding. Aa jaa aa jaa main hoon pyar tera was not set in any raag, though some may claim that it was composed in raag pancham. Tell me one thing, Mr. Bharatan: Which other male singer could have delivered this song so effectively, with such punch? This song belongs to the rock â€™n roll genre, set on a fast pace. The only other male singer who could have done some justice to such songs was Pancham himself; that is what he did later in songs like Duniyan mein logon ko. And that is why when he had to share Yamma yamma with another male singer, he had to opt for Rafi.
What Asha has said in public â€“ not that I fully trust her â€“ about the Aa jaa aa jaa episode does not tally with what you have written. She said that Pancham was worried that she would not be able to match the â€œmale singerâ€ in the song. So she started practising the Aaha-ha aa jaa aaha-ha aa jaa notes in her car, much to the consternation of her chauffeur who thought that she was having some major physical problems!
Rock â€™n roll did not start in India with Teesri Manzil. The year Pancham ghost composed Sar jo tera chakraye for Pyaasa, Dadaâ€™s other assistant N. Dutta composed Lal lal gaal jaan pe hai lagu for Rafi, one of the pioneering rock â€™n roll numbers from Mr. X. And listen to Rafiâ€™s Jaan pehchaan ho from Gumnaam, a Shankar-Jaikishan composition which was recently featured in the American film Ghost World:
Jaan Pehechan Ho
Incidentally, Gumnaam was released a year before Teesri Manzil. See how Western audiences â€“ who know much more about rock â€™n roll than you and your fellow scribes put together â€“ love this song. See how Rafi can enthrall people so far from his Punjabi home ground. That was Rafi doing an Elvis. Do you want to see Rafi doing a Beatles? Here is Dekho ab to kisko nahin hai khabar from Janwar, which was also released a year before Teesri Manzil:
Dekho Ab To Kisko
Donâ€™t you think Rafiâ€™s voice rocks in this song? If Pancham had to work so hard to make Rafi amend what he had been taught â€“ by Pancham of all people â€“ I wonder how Shankar and Jaikishan must have felt making Rafi unlearn what he had been taught by the likes of Naushad, Roshan and Madan Mohan! All those compositions in Malkhaus, Piloo, Kafi, Yaman Kalyan, Kalavati and Darbari Kanada where Rafi must have had â€œslipped into the same vocal error time and again”! The truth is that composers like Shankar-Jaikishan, O. P. Nayyar, Ravi, N. Dutta and Usha Khanna had been using Rafi for rock â€™n roll numbers since the 50s and no singer understood the medium better than the King himself; here are some of his songs in black & white:
Dil Deke Dekho
Baar Baar Dekho
O Meri Baby Doll
Jai took note of chhote nawabâ€™s Aa jaa aa jaa and O haseena zulfowali impact on the masses. And the following year, he responded brilliantly with Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche, where Rafi makes Shammi rock:
Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar Ke Charche
Donâ€™t you just love the orchestration? By the way, that was Manohari Singh on the sax.
You mentioned Tum ne mujhe dekha in your article, too. In another article, Iâ€™ll showcase Jaiâ€™s response to this beautiful number (hint: itâ€™s in shivranjani, but on a faster tempo.) Till then, enjoy another rock and roll number, this time on a Bengali star:
Chhoti Si Mulaqaat Pyaar Ban Gayi
a diehard Rafian.