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Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe

Written by P. Haldar

Mohd Rafi with Lata, Hasrat Jaipuri and Jaikishan shown to user

He did send a letter. But it was not an apology letter.  And it was not to her. It is the most celebrated prem patra that he delivered on Jai’s behalf, a year or so after they had stopped singing together. And it was at the height of their rift that he recorded Kaise kategi zindagi tere bagair, an unreleased song composed by Madan Mohan, recently released as part of an album by the composer’s son. The song was recorded in her voice too, but fortunately for her, it has been lost. Otherwise, just like what happened with Teri ankhon ke siva a few years later, she would have been out-spun on a turning wicket. Yet every article on Madan Mohan talks almost exclusively about her exquisite deliveries, ignoring his priceless oeuvre for this gem of a composer – at best, he is included as a footnote.

Mohd Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Madan Mohan

Last year, American football audiences were provided with a snippet of Jaan pehchan ho in Heineken’s Date commercial. The entire song was featured in the American film “Ghost Word” in 2001. This number beautifully delivered by the maestro in his own rocking style – at the height of the cold war – now captivates listeners who don’t know him or the language. Such is the universal appeal of his majestic voice and style.

Circa 1957. Dada has returned from his morning walk to Jet Bungalow when something catches his eye. The ivy on the side of the bungalow that he used to adore so much looks unkempt and unwieldy. He decides to trim it. With Goldie’s debut as a director in 9-2-11, Dada’s attention now turns to another bowler, whom he has rarely used in the past. The twin attacks come in Pyaasa where, along with Sahir, Dada and Guru Dutt, the tenor writes the copybook for playback singing. Four geniuses getting together for the first and last time to leave an everlasting impact on Hindi cinema. After the film’s release, Dada stops working with Sahir because of an ego tussle, and OP follows suit. In the meantime, Mrs. Hope’s naya daur on a tonga takes off at the pace of a Cadillac. And although Geeta enthralls the public with Mera naam chin chin choo, OP dumps her under the Howrah Bridge, responding instead to the siren call of Aaiye mehrbaan. A couple of years later, Dada does the same, leaving one of the most sensuous voices in Hindi cinema to hum in private Mera sundar sapna beet gaya.

If it was Naushad who established him as the leading male voice in the early fifties, in the mid fifties it is OP who makes sure that every actor who can move his lips on screen would do so in the master’s voice. Dada switches from Hemant and Kishore, Roshan from Mukesh and Talat, and Madan Mohan from Talat. And SJ, who have been using him on a regular basis since their debut, along with Mukesh and Manna, make a major strategic move by leaning much more heavily on him. She is still their main weapon. But things are about to change. As the decade comes to an end, SJ bring the two of them together under a moonlit sky for Dheere dheere chal chand gagan mein. Although each asks the other to proceed slowly before their impending love marriage, both try to outpace the other on this fast track. A discerning listener would notice the edge he has developed over her. His deliveries are not only faster but they have started moving beautifully in the air. And from now on, under SJ’s captaincy, she would be sharing the new ball with him.

Soon after the onset of the new decade, SJ pack them off to Darjeeling. And as the toy train winds its way up the hill, he takes a significant lead, sending her flat and shrill delivery to oblivion. She pleads with him in Ehsan tera hoga mujh par but he shows no mercy. A perfect gentleman off the field, he becomes the fiercest competitor on field. Among all the bowlers, it is he who has the maximum degrees of freedom, and several captains – most notably, SJ and OP – let him move the ball any way he wants to.

And one fine day, he walks into Salil’s den where the tigress is waiting. Salil provides her with the strategic depth against him, just as OP provides the depth for him. She is Salil’s raison d’être. To say that she resonates at Salil’s frequency would be an understatement. As he starts his run-up, Salil motions to him to stop, walks up to him and asks him to change his pitch – at the very last minute. He feels insulted. Salil cooks up a different story – that he was having problems with the delivery – and plants it in the press through his favourite chela: Raju Journalist. But the end result is there for everyone to see and hear – his delivery with rich overtones is as good, if not better, than hers; her voice doesn’t seem to have quite the charm as his in the high notes. In private, he rues Jangal mein mor nacha kisi na dekha. 

Right from the beginning of her career, she has surrounded herself with strong dadas for protection. After Anil da, Sachin da, Hemant da and Salil da, the fifth dada of film music is about to enter the scene, and like the other dadas, he wants her to play a major role. After five long years, she enters Jet Bungalow to meet him. Dada is waiting in a different room; she is anxious. Both are at a strategic disadvantage without the other; she needs Dada more than anyone else to stave off the threat from her fearsome rival, and Dada is wise enough to realise that he is no OP when it comes to using Asha; also, SJ are creating waves with their two lead bowlers. Back in Dada’s camp after an extended absence, she doesn’t disappoint, producing two stunning deliveries as Dada’s bandini. Dada is sensitive to her insecurity when bowling along with him, and asks him to tone down a little to preserve balance.

And so Dada joins SJ, Naushad, Roshan, Chitragupta and company in the stormy love fest between the two. The two are unstoppable; love is in the air and they produce one hit after another in Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Mere Mehboob, Professor, Asli Naqli, Dil Tera Deewana, Aarti, Taj Mahal, Main Chup Rahungi, Leader and Parasmani, among a host of other films. The lightning is about to strike, but they croon memorable duets like Awaaz deke hamein tum bulao, Tujhe jeevan ke dor se, Mujhe kitna pyar hai tumse, Jo wada kiya woh nibhana padega, Paon chhu lene do phulon ko inayat hogi, Aap ne yaad dilaya to mujhe yaad aaya, Yaad mein teri jag jag ke hum, Koyi bata de dil hai jnaha, Ik ghar banaoonga tere ghar ke samne and Woh jab yaad aaye bahut yaad aaye. And then there is the timeless masterpiece, Tere bin soone nain hamare. For six years, he has been the winning horse in Dada’s stable; she does a good job but still trails behind. She does full justice to the title song in Naushad’s Mere Mehboob, but any unbiased listener would observe that she is overshadowed by his andaz, harkatein and adayein. Insecurity starts creeping in; he tries to comfort her with Dekho rootha na karo. By her own admission, she had a habit of picking up fights, and she decides to pick the wrong one. It is a calculated move on her part – Maharani reckons that if she doesn’t sing with him, most of the music directors would turn to Mukesh or Mahendra Kapoor to sing with her in duets.

Mohd Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur

But events unfold in a way that Maharani had not quite expected. Music directors line up for the Badshah like never before and pair him with the talented Suman, who is content to let him bowl at his own speed, swinging the ball any way he wants to. No more tantrums at the other end, whether it’s Suman or Asha.  Suman’s fortunes skyrocket and Asha keeps gaining more and more ground. In film after film, music directors team up Suman or Asha with him to produce massive hits. With Asha, he already has had a terrific relationship but it gets even better. Suman successfully partners with him to produce memorable and popular duets like Parbaton ke pedon par sham ka basera hai, Ajahuna aaye balma sawan beeta jaye, Tujhe pyar karte hain karte rahenge, Baad muddat ke yeh ghadi aayi, Dil ek mandir hai, Tum ne pukara aur hum chale aaye, Thehriye hosh mein aa loon, Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche har zaban par and Dil ne phir yaad kiya (along with Mukesh). Even music directors like Madan Mohan, Roshan, Naushad and Khayyam – for whom Maharani is still the lead female voice – are forced to switch to Suman or Asha for duets in films such as Jahanara, Neela Akash, Saaz aur Awaaz, Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal, Shagoon, Bheegi Raat and Mamta.

The biggest threat for her, though, comes from SJ. In film after film – Dil ek Mandir, April Fool, Saanjh aur Savera, Suraj, Rajkumar, Chhoti si Mulaqat, Brahmachari – they include Suman along with him in hit duets.  And then there is Kashmir ki Kali, where OP uses his favourite pair brilliantly and surpasses even himself. The most prolific and explosive duo in film music creates two stunning beauties, with Deewana hua badal close on the heels of arguably the best duet ever, Abhi na jaao chhod kar, recorded by the two of them three years earlier.

In the Navketan camp, meanwhile, Dada is totally enamoured by his favourite bowler but Dev wants his buddy Kishore back in the team. And so in Teen Deviyan, after a eight-year gap, Dada brings back Kishore, who sets up a beautiful pace in Kwhab ho tum ya koi haqeeqat. At the opposite end, the Badshah releases an unplayable doosra with Kahin bekhayal hokar.

The music of Guide is to be recorded. Dev is putting increasing pressure on Dada to switch to Kishore but Dada does not relent. He would not let Dev make him do something that Bimal da had forced him to do six years earlier. His lead bowler will have the honour of delivering  the crown jewels. As Dev’s line, zindagi bhi ek nasha hai dost jab charta hai to poochho maat kya alam rahta hai, lekin jab utarta hai…   seamlessly transitions into aaah aahaah aah… din dhal jaaye hai raat na jaaye, the crooner reaches the deepest corners of his heart to pour out his dard in classic Dev andaz. And when he delivers Shailendra’s last stanza, Dil ke mere paas ho itne, phir bhi ho kitni door, tum mujhse mein dil se pareshan, dono hai majboor, aise mein kisko kaun manaye, din dhal jaaye haye raat na jaaye…, putting top spin on “pareshan” and breaking his voice in “hai”, cinema goers wonder if this may be the best playback they are witnessing on screen. Over the last eight years, he has carefully built Dev’s musical persona in black and white; now he makes his entry into colour even more colourful with three priceless aces.  Film buffs come up with an equation that is now well known:

Dev + Dada + x = magic

The irony is that, though the public knows the value of x, Dev could never quite bring himself to solve the equation. Maharani also produces three stunning deliveries in Guide, plus another hit duet with Kishore. For the first time in many years, she becomes the Badshah’s equal in Dada’s team.

The three upstarts, all aspiring to be the next SJ, have already entered the scene. LP mesmerises the nation with their soulful music in Dosti. The tenor taps into all the resources in his heart to deliver five beauties for two unknown street singers on screen, including the winner that was slated to be delivered by LP’s godmother. The two bluff masters produce a major hit in Jab Jab Phool Khile, with the Badshah’s Pardesiyon se na aankhiyan milana again overwhelming Maharani’s version. KA have no option but to use Suman with him in Na na karte pyar tumhi se kar baithe.  The following year, the fifth dada creates a different kind of sound, with the Badshah putting his signature on every single song. The songs catapult the son from the ground floor to the third floor. Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera and O haseena zulfowali rock the nation. In the saddest moment of his favourite actor’s life, the tenor uses his multi-layered voice to deliver an absolute beauty, Tum ne mujhe dekha.

The following year, Jai releases the farishta from the heavens to come down to earth and Shankar makes him hum Raat ke humsafar beautifully with Asha along the Seine. In a deadly toe-breaking yorker, the sultan of high pitch makes the skies over Paris scream in ecstasy for a full 15 seconds. Messrs. Shankar and Jaikishan have done it again, goading their number one bowler to go at breakneck speed and unleash an array of lethal deliveries on the tracks of Paris.

Mohd Rafi with Shankar Jaikishen shown to user

The nightingale is feeling the heat. So comprehensively has he dominated her in the three years of their rift and so quickly has Suman risen, that she decides it is time to dispatch her blue-eyed boy – the boy wonder of film music – to try to patch up things. The humble and down-to-earth person that he is, he agrees. Many of his fans, including me, wish that he had not patched up and, instead, continued his successful partnership with Suman, who had played such a wonderful supporting innings. On stage the Badshah and Maharani come together in Dada’s presence and woo one another with Dil pukare aare aare, but it is all pretence; the relationship is over. His hand would never rest on her again. On the field, they continue to bowl in tandem as beautifully as ever, pretending as if nothing had ever happened. She continues to be stunningly beautiful in Dada’s hands, like the Kanchanjunga viewed during sunrise from Tiger Hill – the ultimate, you think, till you tilt your head to the left and, on a clear day, are lucky enough to spot the peak of the majestic Everest.

Mohd Rafi with Lata Mangeshkar, S.D.Burman and crew shown to user

On the golden anniversary of their rift, in an interview published in a major Indian newspaper, the nightingale gives a different version of what had actually happened. The question many people are asking is why she would stoop so low and rake up unpleasant memories that were buried a long time ago, especially when the other person is long gone and never uttered a single word about the incident. Isn’t that totally unbecoming of a Bharat Ratna? Well, to really understand why she said what she said, you will have to first understand human psychology. And also recognise that this was a battle she lost – lost very badly. That is why she desperately wants to rewrite her legacy. To all those third-rate journalists who keep publishing such interviews in the guise of veteran film critics, here’s a simple piece of advice: do your homework. Ask a follow-up question, Do you have the letter? Or better still, ask yourself, What was the need for him to apologise when he was ruling the music world like an Emperor?

In closing, I want to pose the following quiz question: How many duets did Maharani get to sing with other male singers under SJ’s baton during the cold war? The answer will shock you.

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73 Blog Comments to “Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe”

  1. Zaheer says:

    Lata was a filthy person, always jealous of our Rafi sahab. Lata supporter, please spare us the torture and go elsewhere.

  2. Kapil says:

    हलदर जी, आपको भी नव वर्ष कि हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं| हिंदी भाषा में इसिलए लिख रहा हूँ क्योंकि अभी अभी मैंने एक लेख में हिंदी में टिप्प्णी की तो वह तुरंत प्रकाशित हो गयी जबकि इस लेख में मेरे द्वारा की गयी टिप्प्णी अभी तक प्रकाशित नही हुई है| आपके द्वारा बनायीं गयी २० गीतों को सूची अती उत्तम है, और इस बाबत मैं अपने विचार सांझा कर चुका हूँ जो आप तब पढ़ पाएंगे जब मॉडरेटर जी उन्हें प्रकाशित करेंगे! धन्यवाद!

  3. Kapil says:

    Posting it again, I hope it goes through this time 🙂
    Dear Haldar Ji,

    A very happy new year to you as well. You have compiled a wonderful Rafi list. These songs have Rafi written all over them and, as you pointed out in your article as well that Rafi wrote the copybook for playback singing in the late 50s, I do believe that Rafi was excellent and very melodious in latter half of the 50s. However, being the first choice of S-J to C Ramchandra to SD to Hemant to Anil B to Naushad to Roshan to MM to Salil to Chitragupt to Vasant Desai to S.N. Tripathi and to all other small-time and big-time genius MDs, the decade of the 1950s was truly ruled by Lata followed by Rafi. As for why I rate him over Talat, who also sang countless mind blowing songs in the 50s, I can’t imagine Talat singing “Yun to humne laakh haseen dekhe hain”, “Dekhi zamane ki yaari”, “Achha ji main haari chalo maan jao na”, “Baat chalat nayi chunari rang dari”, “Sar jo tera chakraye” and scores of others; on the other hand Rafi was as good in “Tujhe kya sunau main dilruba” as Talat was in “Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni” 🙂

    Thanks for bringing up “Chal udd ja re panchhi”, it’s my father’s favorite, Chitragupt was full of melody. Thanks to youtube that I can listen to most of his melodies. Enjoy this Rafi-Manna-Anuradha quawali from the late 70s composed by Chitragupt:

    Best Regards!

  4. Kapil says:

    Dear Moderator, my comment is awaiting moderation for 2 days, while you have published some comments last night, I guess you have missed to review and publish mine. If it’s good enough to be published, please publish it soon. You can delete this message now. Best Regards!

  5. Asif says:

    Not only in range, but also in gaayaki Rafi reigns supreme. Listen to Rafi’s ecstatic sublimity in the title songs of film ‘Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai’and ‘Dil Tera Deewana’. Lata has sung the same songs- the 1st one as a tandem and the 2nd one as a duet with Rafi. Lata simply falters in comparison to Rafi. Same with the ‘Ishara’ song “Dil bekarar sa hai”.The ‘Junglee’song “Ehsan tera hoga mujh par” is a monumental example of how inferior Lata’s singing was as compared to Rafi’s. If we take into consideration other songs sung by both separately,the Rafi versions have shot up in popularity while Lata versions faded into obscurity,e.g.”Tum mujhe yoon bhula na paaoge”,”Mere mehboob tujhe”.Rafi did not need to apologize to his inferior singer and that too when commercially also he dominated the scene. Rafi was not at all egoistic. But about only one person he had harboured egoism and that was Lata. If it had been Usha mangeshkar Rafi might have for a moment shown his generosity by initiating the patch-up. But to Lata? No way!

  6. Kapil says:

    Dear Haldar Ji,

    A very happy new year to you as well. You have compiled a wonderful Rafi list. These songs have Rafi written all over them and, as you pointed out in your article as well that Rafi wrote the copybook for playback singing in the late 50s, I do believe that Rafi was excellent and very melodious in latter half of the 50s. However, being the first choice of S-J to C Ramchandra to SD to Hemant to Anil B to Naushad to Roshan to MM to Salil to Chitragupt to Vasant Desai to S.N. Tripathi and to all other small-time and big-time genius MDs, the decade of the 1950s was truly ruled by Lata followed by Rafi. As for why I rate him over Talat, who also sang countless mind blowing songs in the 50s, I can’t imagine Talat singing “Yun to humne laakh haseen dekhe hain”, “Dekhi zamane ki yaari”, “Achha ji main haari chalo maan jao na”, “Baat chalat nayi chunari rang dari”, “Sar jo tera chakraye” and scores of others; on the other hand Rafi was as good in “Tujhe kya sunau main dilruba” as Talat was in “Ye hawa ye raat ye chandni” 🙂

    Thanks for bringing up “Chal udd ja re panchhi”, it’s my father’s favorite, Chitragupt was full of melody. Thanks to youtube that I can listen to most of his melodies. Enjoy this Rafi-Manna-Anuradha quawali from the late 70s composed by Chitragupt:

    Best Regards!

  7. Zaheer says:

    Haldar Saab,

    Great article sir! Kaabil e Tareef Andaaz e Bayan hai aapka.

    Lata fan(Kapil) – Lata is a pygmy in front of Rafi Saab! The more you defend her, the funnier it gets.


  8. P. Haldar says:

    Dear Kapil,

    Happy New Year to you and all Rafians. I’d like to compliment you for the wonderful Lata list you’ve compiled. As you correctly guessed, they are also my favourite songs. Now here’s my list of 20 Rafi songs from the 50s; look forward to hearing your views:

    1. Meri kahani bhoolne wale (Deedar 1951 Shakeel-Naushad)
    2. Man tarpat hari darshan (Baiju Bawra 1952 Shakeel-Naushad)
    3. O duniya ke raakhwale (Baiju Bawra 1952 Shakeel-Naushad)
    4. O dur ke musafir (Uran Khatola 1953 Shakeel-Naushad)
    5. Kahan ja rahe hai (Seema 1955 Shailendra-SJ)
    6. Hum laye hai toofan (Jagriti 1955 Pradeep-Hemant Kumar)
    7. Aaye bahar banke (Rajhaat 1956 Hasrat-SJ)
    8. Duniya na bhaye (Basant Bahar 1956 Shailendra-SJ)
    9. Main ne chand aur sitaron (Chandrakanta 1956 Sahir-N. Dutta)
    10. Chal ud ja re paanchhi (Bhaabi 1957 Rajinder Krishan-Chitragupt)
    11. Jawaaniyan yeh mast mast (Tum sa nahin dekha 1957 Majrooh-OP)
    12. Jinhe naaz hai Hind par (Pyaasa 1957 Sahir-SD)
    13. Yeh mahalon yeh takhton (Pyaasa 1957 Sahir-SD)
    14. Mohabbat zinda rehti hai (Chengiz Khan 1957 Q. Jalabadi-Hans Raj Behl)
    15. Hai kali kali ke lab par (Lala Rookh 1958 Kaifi-Khayyam)
    16. Tujhe kya sunawoon (Aakhri Dao 1958 Majrooh-Madan Mohan)
    17. Tute huwe khwabon ne (Madhumati 1958 Shailendra-Salil)
    18. Hum bekhudi mein (Kala Pani 1958 Majrooh-SD)
    19. Kahe do koyi na (Goonj uthi shehnahi 1959 Bharat Vyas-Vasant Desai)
    20. Dekhi zamane ki yaari (Kagaaz ke phool 1959 Kaifi-SD)

  9. Kapil says:

    Dear Haldar Ji,

    Thanks for your response! May be I am pretty much biased towards Dastak that’s why I am not able to see beyond it as far as MM’s best album from the 70s is concerned. Its lyrics also move me more than other MM songs, though Kaifi has been excellent in “Ye dunia ye mehfil” and “Tum jo mil gaye ho” beyond any doubt, I believe Majrooh has done better job in three Lata solos from Dastak which makes them sound even more melodious … “Dhalegi Chunaria tann se, hasengi re chooriya khann se” ….. “Pee ki dagar mein baithe maila hua ri mora aachra” … these lines are simply unbeatable. By the same yardstick, in my opinion, Pakeezah stands tallest of all in the 70s not just because of its great music but with its excellent poetry it topples the likes of “Heer Ranjha”, “Amar Prem” and all other great albums we can possibly think of. By the way, these are my top 10 MM songs from the 70s:

    1. Mai ri main kase kahun peer(Datstak)
    2. Baiyan na dharo(Dastak)
    3. Tum jo mil gaye ho(Haste Zakhm)
    4. Raag Mala(Dil ki Raahen)
    5. Ye Dunia Ye Mehfil(Heer Raanjha)
    6. Tum bin jeevan kaisa jeevan(Bawarchi)
    7. Betaab dil ki tamanna(Haste Zakhm)
    8. Meri Dunia mein tum aayi(Heer Raanjha)
    9. Rasm-e-ulfat(Dil ki raahen)
    10. Bhor aayi gaya andhiyara(Bawarchi)

    With regard to the 60s, there is no doubt that Rafi was more complete as a singer and hence had an edge over Lata; but my point is that like Rafi Lata has also sung innumerable finest songs of the 60s. Also, in the prime of her career, she never got dislodged by anyone from the position of leading female voice and that benefited her in the 60s as well. You may disagree with me but impact wise one Mugl-e-Azam can topple many albums put together both in terms of quality and popularity (likewise one Anarkali from early 50s can counter many albums of that decade). Moreover, take Hemant-Lata combo for instance, isn’t the song “O bekarar dil” or “Kuch dil ne Kaha” one of the artistic pinnacles of the 60s. And there are countless such songs in Lata’s repertoire as far as the 60s go which place her pretty much there on the top. Having said that, I do agree that it was Rafi who with his incredible versatility and phenomenal success ruled the 60s. No other singer male or female surpassed him in this decade and in general as well.

    Regarding 1950s, please correct me if I am wrong but it was Lata who ruled most part of the 50s. Primarily from 1950 – 56, she outnumbered all other singers in terms of hit and melodious solos and duets. In case of Rafi, there was an absence of level-playing field which benefited Lata a lot. Also, to be honest, from 1950 – 56 I enjoy Talat Mehmood more than Rafi. Though overall Rafi and Lata are my most favorites and Talat is my second most favorite. By 1957 Rafi had overtaken Talat and other male singers and from 1957 – 59, in my opinion, Rafi and Lata were equally effective. We should also notice the fact that CR who along with Naushad and S-J was one of the superstar MDs of the early and Mid 50s churned out melodies after melodies for Lata which were very popular as well. Lata’s association with CR is pretty much similar to that of OP’s with Rafi. These associations gave us the songs which were not only melodious but ragingly popular as well. In both associations, composer and singer broke-up later and it was the composer in both cases who suffered due to that. The only difference is that Rafi being a gentle soul patched up with OP while Lata left no stone unturned to degrade CR.

    As for my top Lata songs from the 50s, the list is countless and it keeps shuffling, but these 20 songs are on the top of my mind at the moment. I am sure these songs are in your playlist too 🙂

    -Mera dil ye pukare aaja(Naagin)
    -Chaad phir nikla(Paying Guest)
    -Ab wo raaten kahan(Yasmin)
    -So gayi chandni(Aakash)
    -Manmohana bade jhoote(Seema)
    -Mohe bhool gaye sawariya(Baiju Bawra)
    -Garjat barsat bheejat(Malhar)
    -Ye sham ki tanhaiyan(Aah)
    -Ye zindagi usi ki hai(Anarkali)
    -Na bole na bole re(Azad)
    -Ulfat ka saaz chhedo(Aurat)
    -Ghar aaya mera pardesi(Aawara)
    -Hum pyar mein jalne walo ko(Jailor)
    -Yun hasraton ke daag (Adalat)
    -Jaana tha humse door(Adalat)
    -Aaja kahin se aaja(Samunder)
    -Kaise bhaye sakhi rut sawan ki(Pehli Jhalak)
    -Jee chahta hai ab to(Jhanjhar)
    -Rasik Balma(Chori Chori)
    -Aaja re pardesi(Madhumati)

    Best Regards!

  10. P. Haldar says:

    Dear Kapil,

    I knew you’d bring up Dastak. “Baiyan na dharo” is a classic; there’s no question about that. MM’s composition is brilliant, but if you listen to the song carefully, you’d be able to figure out that a singer of the calibre of Lata, Rafi or Manna would sing this song with relative ease. I’d rate Rafi’s “Tum se kahoon ek baat paron se” second after that, ahead of Lata’s other solos. He literally whispers this song, with absolute control over his voice and beautiful modulation. Contrast this song with another songs from the same year, “Yeh duniya yeh mehfil”, where he sings in an open-throated style with such force that the ground shakes under your feet. I consider Rafi’s “Tum jo mil gaye ho” to be his best song of the 70s; when it was released, it got drowned in the Rajesh Khanna-Kishore Kumar wave. But look at its enduring appeal. Forty years later, it stands tall among the best songs of that decade. Based on his songs in Heer Ranjha, Hanste Zakhma and Laila Majnu, I’d give him a slight edge over Lata in the 70s as far as MM is concerned.

    You may not like the term “distant second” but it was not a “close second” either for Lata in the 60s. He dominated her in every genre (pop, rock, ghazal, bhajan, naat, qawaali, desh-bhakti), with the probable exception of lori. And he dominated her in every single year of that decade. I have this pet theory; give me any three years in the 60s, and his output would be enough to outclass any male singer the hindi flim music industry has ever produced.

    But let’s go back to the 50’s when MM’s favourite male singer was Talat. In 1957, he composed a beautiful Rafi-Lata duet “Do ghadi woh jo paas aa baithe”:

    Tell me if she has an edge over him in this song. It’s just that when Rafi was competing with Talat, Mukesh, Manna and Hemant, Lata was having an open field. And although I am willing to concede that she had an edge over him, I don’t think in terms of overall impact, his was any less than hers in the 50s.

    I’d request you to post the top 20 Lata solos from the 50s. Your taste is very good and I know you’d come up with some great numbers. But I’ll do my best to counter your list with my top 20 Rafi list.

    P. Haldar

  11. Kapil says:

    Hi Haldar Ji, yes I am the same guy and thanks for your response. I agree that Lata did not face any competition in 50s, her best friend Madam Noorjehan could have given her some sort of competition- but she migrated. If she had not migrated, she could have been her worst foe.

    I would also like to echo the point you have made in your post that it was OP who made others switch to Rafi. What the superstar MD Naushad could not do in early fifties OP did in the latter half. OP was truly the magician!

    Then of course Rafi ruled the next decade. It’s hard to believe that the same singer rendered divine “mann re tu kahne ne” and sensual “Aaja re aa zara”. This proves his superiority over Lata. But I would not say she was a distant second, she was rather a close second as far as the quality music goes. Coming back to 50s, you have mentioned some great Rafi albums from 1950s, I love Baiju Baawra and Pyaasa, however, what Lata’s top 3 MDs – CR, SJ and MM – composed for her throughout the decade can counter the effect of albums you have mentioned. And as you put it that she surrounded herself with strong Dadas, so if we add HK, SD, AB and SC to that mix it gives Lata an edge over others(Please note that I did not mention Naushad and Roshan)

    With regard to 1970s, I would really like to know why do you think MM gave his best tunes to Rafi, though I would also have rated the melodies “Ye Dunia Ye Mehfil” and “Tum Jo mil gaye go” higher had it not been for Dastak(1970). Three Lata solos from Dastak are best tunes MM composed in that decade. There is an excellent Rafi Solo as well form the same album but composition wise Lata solos are “slightly” better. Then of course there are “Rasm-e-ulfat”, “Betaab dil ki tamanna”, “Aaj socha to aasu bhar aaye”and others. Please note that it’s just the quality of the songs I am referring to, by the same token I rate Khayyam’s “Kahin ek masoom nazuk si ladki” higher than his “Kabhi Kabhi mere dil mein” – no matter how good and iconic the latter is, the former is definitely better in all aspects and this song refreshes the memory of golden Rafi of previous decades. I wonder why RD-KA-LP failed to bring forth this voice of Rafi in 1970s… They do have excellent songs with Rafi in 1970’s but not of this sort..

    Best Regards! 🙂

  12. P. Haldar says:

    Dear Kapil,

    If you are my young friend (XXX), welcome back to the forum. You have posted some very interesting questions, and I’ll try to answer them as best as I can. I’ll take off the hat of a Rafi fan and try to address your questions as objectively as I can.

    If you read my article carefully, you’ll find that I have noted that many major music directors started switching to Rafi in a big way in the mid and late 50s. But that doesn’t mean they were not pro-Rafi. SJ had been using Rafi regularly since their debut, but being so versatile, they could easily churn out hits with Mukesh and Manna as well. But as I’ve noted, in the 50’s, Lata was their main weapon In the late 40s and early 50’s, there were many pro-Rafi MD’s like Naushad, Husanlal Bhagatram, Pt. Govindram, Khayyam and Hansraj Behl. And then came OP and SD. But I’m willing to concede that Lata had an edge in the 50s, though when you are talking about impact, you have to also remember that the decade witnessed Baiju Bawra, Pyaasa, Kagaz ke Phool and Kala Pani, among others. Also note that while Rafi was competing with the likes of Talat, Manna, Mukesh and Hemant, Lata hardly faced any competition.

    The late 50s and early 60s spawned a new generation of MD’s like Ravi and Usha Khanna who swore by Rafi. Rafi note only decimated the competition from his male peers, but left Lata in a distant second position. In the early 60s, he was the top singer for SJ, SD, Naushad, OP, Jaidev and Ravi. That’s what started her insecurity. In her life, she had waged three major battles: against SD, against Rafi and against SJ. The first one was a draw, the second she lost and the third she won. She destroyed SJ — unlike the first two, this battle hasn’t been covered much in the press but it is this one that brings her vindictive and ruthless nature to the fore. The obvious explanation is that she wanted to vent her anger against Shankar for his dalliance with Sharda, but she couldn’t have been too happy with the way the SJ-Rafi combo was churning out one hit after another, totally overshadowing her output with the duo. She started propping up LP; in her 25th anniversary list of top-10 songs, she included one LP song but not a single song by SJ or SD! Shows her true class. The two sisters share one quality — lack of loyalty or gratitude to anyone. Contrast this with Rafi’s heartfelt tribute to SD after his death, and also his deep respect for Roshan, Jaikishan and Madan Mohan.

    In the 70s, she was in the ascendancy not because of what she scored vis-a-vis Rafi, but because of Kishore. “Geet” heralded the new decade; listen to both voices and tell me if she is any better. But the irony is that it’s KA, much more than RD, who turned away from Rafi. But they are not Bengalis, so they cannot be the villains; blame it all on the natkhat son. Can you recall any Kishore song composed by KA during the 60s? So in the 70s, she waged a proxy war against Rafi by hiding behind Kishore. LP fought hard with their pitri-saman Rafi, but it was an uphill task fighting the powerful Kishore-RD-Asha-KA-Lata axis. She had much better songs with SD than Rafi in the 70s, but that’s not because she sang any better than him, but because he hardly got any opportunities. When he did, the result is there for everyone to hear: Teri bindiya re. But I’ll concede that the SD-Lata combo shakes my belief like no other, and if someone gives that combo an edge over the SD-Rafi combo, I’m not going to argue with him/her. Keep this in perspective, though — she was his lead singer for 20 singers, and he for around 9 years.

    I’d disagree with you on one point of yours, that Madan Mohan’s compositions for Lata were better than those for Rafi in the 70s. In fact, I strongly believe that he had the edge over her with respect to Madan Mohan in that decade.

    Lata sang 700+ songs for LP, and Rafi sang 300+. Try to list Lata’s top 20 songs for LP and try to do the same for Rafi. And I’m talking about top-class songs here, not mere hits. If I’m not mistaken, you’ll find the first task much harder.

    With warmest regards,
    P. Haldar

  13. Kapil says:

    Hi Haldar Ji,

    A very well written and informative article, however, would you agree with me that Lata has more impact in the decades of 50’s and 70’s? I think she sang better songs in these decades. If we take a look at early and mid 50’s the great composers then were not really pro-Rafi(Except Naushad), not even S-J, on the other other hand all of them were composing their heart out for Lata. C. Ramchandra in particular composed mind blowing songs for Lata. My heart goes out to C. Ramchandra, Lata has been very unfair to him. What Lata did to CR, Asha did the same to OP later 🙂

    Likewsie, in early 70’s, what Burmans, Madan Mohan and Gulam Muhammed(Pakeezah) composed for Lata was the best music of the decade. So if we look at the overall picture, I don’t see Lata at loss even if she lost few duets to Suman during her rift with Rafi. The fact is that all great composers, except OP, were pro-Lata but unfortunately there was a lot of great composers which was not pro-Rafi..

    Anyway, based on what I have observed, I have come up with this equation:

    Rafi = Lata + Asha

    Imagine if “Raat Akeli Hai” had been rendered by Lata and “Naino mein badra chhaye” by Asha. They could have sung it but couldn’t have expressed it. On the other hand, Rafi Sahab could sing and express both genres extremely well!

  14. shammi says:

    I really hate to bring religion into the equation because I know especially when it comes to the great Mohd Rafi hatred of anything is impossible but when we talk about Lata I have to sit back and wonder how much of her resentment towards the great loveable giant was due to religion and how much was due to jealousy because of his success. Unlike her I am not making these accusations without any proof after all there were pictures of her touching Bal Thackerys feet and we all knew what he stood for.

  15. Audrey says:

    Halderji has written a very enjoyable and informative article. The best one I have read so far. I wish this articlle is never removed from this web. The Maharani and her Bharat Ratna will continue to create controversies. But Rafi Sahab will always command respect both as a person and as the best playback singer . He is unbeatable.

  16. Fahad says:

    Just one song is enough for comparison: Dil Tera Deewana Hey Sanam
    Listen to each and every word pronunciation, harkaat and emotions. Maharaani is far far behind of King of Indian Musin. She is even not able to say DIL the way Rafi sab hay pronounced.

  17. Faiz says:

    Halder dada, let me use this bangla phrase “fatiye dilen guru”. I would not comment toally in Bangla as the moderator might find it difficult to understand.
    Generally, I dont comment on articles although I come here regularly, at least for the radio while I am working, but this article deserves a thousand comments.

    The most amazing article. Yes, you attacked and you were biased. But then, we should have a bias between right and wrong and we should attack whatever wrong is happening lest we are as bad as the miscreant. What an informative corroboration of the bias you have shown! I wish I could just meet to say thank you by shaking your hands.

    There are many people going after Rafi sahab, firstly because Rafians are generally decent people who dont stoop low to counter attack and secondly, ’cause the master is not here anymore. I wonder, has he been here, would he be answering either. Proud to be a Rafian.

    Please dont stop writing dada. You are a master and your knowledge is second to none.

    On a sidenote, Manna da is no more and yes, he would have been the best singer for me, had not been for the master himself. What a singer, what a man. I remember his last interview in Anandabazar, when asked to rate singers, he said, “eke obossoi great Rafi”.

    Love and respect

  18. vikram says:

    Great piece Hardar sahab. One of the best article I have ever come across on Rafi sahab. I would be happy even if I had ten percent of your writing skills.

  19. rajnish says:


  20. shammi says:

    I’ve never known so many peers and artists to respect any one in the way the great Mohd Rafi was respected, Mukesh’s son had said that among his contempories his father liked Mohd Rafi the best, we all know how inspired and how much respect Mahendra Kapoor had for Mohd Rafi, Manna Dey didn’t begrudge Mohd Rafi his fame or success as he said he deserved it. This is not to mention all the music directors of the time who apart from RD burman really made good use of the amazing versatality of Mohd Rafi. In an industry where competition and back stabbing is rife the lovely nature of the great man made him appeal to nearly everyone.

  21. Ahamed Kutty says:

    Dear Haldar ji,
    We have to find still a bad word for this Raju.Once he has written
    “POOR RAFI” he is forced to sing the song “Tum bin Jaoon “.
    Rafi Saab is not poor in anything and in fact he is rich in every-
    thing.That is why people are making temple on him,keeping the
    soil of the birth place of Rafi Saab in their homes.Poor peoples
    conducting “Rafi Nights”on every 31st July and keeping always
    his name with them.Can anybody even the so called Lata ji even
    dream about such a way fans respect her?

  22. Dinesh Patel says:

    Paji, thoroughly enjoyed your article.
    Voldermort would have been more
    befitting to Maharani! Apart from
    being the greatest singer, Rafi Saab
    was a great egoless human being.
    Long live the King!
    Also, my condolence to Manna Dey’s
    family. A high capable but under used
    singer, his songs will remain

  23. Anonymous says:

    Paji, your cricket analogy & sarcasm
    about maharani (Voldermort is more
    fitting) put a huge smile on my
    face. Apart from being the greatest
    singer, Rafi Saab was a model egoless
    human. Long live the King!
    Also, my condolence go to Manna
    Dey’s family. Unfortunately, he was
    under used in Bollywood but the songs
    he did sing were great & will remain
    memorable forever.

  24. P. Haldar says:

    Dear friends,

    Thank you all for your kind words. I’m fortunate enough to have seen him perform live on several occasions, but could never get close enough to touch his feet (there was always a police cordon around him). For me and his fans in Calcutta, just getting his darshan was enough; he was divinity personified. When a giant like Manna da used to weep in private listening to his songs, I realise that I am not alone. Hope the two close friends meet again — one who was fortunate enough not to be isolated from his family when artificial lines were drawn in the sand, and the other who had to leave behind his parents and siblings on the other side and settle in an unknown city with a conviction that one day he would make it to the top.

    Over the years, I have seen how the press-wallahs have gone after him. The leader of the pack of scoundrels is Raju Journalist. Rafians should never take these things lying down — they should expose these liars so that they will think twice before publishing such falsehoods.

    With best regards,
    P. Haldar

  25. Ahamed Kutty says:

    See the last photo showed in this article.The appearance
    and the body language of Rafi Saab is very attractive and
    at the same time see the appearance of and face of Lata ji.
    Her face shows some sort of displeasure.She can be a
    singing pair for Rafi Saab but as a human being she cannot.

  26. salim k says:

    and the cricket analogy is mind blowing. This article is a piece of art.

  27. salim k says:

    RIP, Mana Da, you were like a brother to Rafisaab, great singer and a great human both of them.

  28. salim k says:

    Rafisahab was and is a winner in all aspects of his life, this so called maharani is not even wroth mentioning along with his name.

    what a wonderful article brother.

    There are instances she sabotaged the recording with Rafisaab as she was never confident of here ability to match with the Emperor.

    One milk man told me once , all singers compared to rafi bhai are like “paani kum -chai”

  29. P. Haldar says:

    Dear friends,

    Manna da is no more. His passing away marks the end of the golden era of male voices. I doubt Rafi saab admired any singer more than Manna da, and Manna da considered Rafi saab to be the greatest ever. What mutual admiration between these two greats!

    Manna da, rest in peace. We Rafians love and admire you.

    P. Haldar

  30. Anwar-ul-Haque says:

    Dear Haldar ji,

    What a great article; with mesmerizing expression and wonderful cricket analogy! Congratulations for such a gorgeous piece of writing.

    Alas for Manna Day’s demise! a great singer, a great human being.



  31. shammi says:

    Souvikji, it is indeed a sad loss to the world of music to loose another great giant in the form of Manna Dey and yes in articles I have read both artists had a lot of admiration and respect for one another. In fact Manna Dey said he couldn’t compete with the great mohd Rafi as far as popularity went but he also said that Mohd Rafi deserved all the success he achieved as no one could render songs in the way Mohd Rafi could.

    May god bless their souls and let them rest in peace.

  32. VEERANKOYA C says:

    Liked the songs of our great master M.Rafi Shib

  33. P. Haldar says:

    Dear Souvik,

    It’s indeed a sad day for all music lovers. The great Manna da is no more. For you, me and other Bengalis, in addition to his Hindi songs, we have his treasure trove of Bengali songs. You are absolutely right that the singer Rafi saab admired the most was Manna da. Their association goes back to the mid 40s, when Manna da was assisting his famous uncle, Krishna Chandra Dey, the blind singer from Bengal. There’s a picture of a young Rafi getting up from a platform and K. C. Dey looking towards him fondly with a smile in his eyes. That picture is worth a thousand words!

    Mannna da worked with so many great music directors — Vasant Desai, C. Ramchandra, Anil Biswas, S. D. Burman, Roshan, Ravi, R. D. Burman, Kalyanji Anandji — but my favourites are Shankar-Jaikishsan and Salil. What Shankar and Salil created for Manna Dey is absolutely top class! When I get the time, I’ll write about their associations.

    I’ll say something that some of you may not agree with. If someone were to compile the greatest 100 songs of all time, I don’t think any singer, other than Rafi and Lata, would have as many songs as Manna Dey. As a tribute to this great singer, I’m listing 10 songs of his, which I’m quite sure Rafi saab used to listen in private:

    1. Aye mere pyare watan (Salil)
    2. Dharti kahe pukar ke (Salil)
    3. Sur na saaje (SJ)
    4. Tu pyar ka sagar hai (SJ)
    5. Puchho na kaise (SD)
    6. Laga chunri mein daag (Roshan)
    7. Jaanewalo sipahi se puchho (Salil)
    8. Kaun aya mere man ke dware (MM)
    9. Aye mere zohra zabeen (Ravi)
    10. Zindagi kaise hai paheli (Salil)

    Rest in peace, Manna da. We Rafians love you!

  34. Makarand Saraf says:

    A really really superbly written article.I fall short of words for commenting on this beautifully written article.Shows what a gentleman our great Rafi sahab was. Hats off to his Genius again.

  35. Dr. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Dear Halderji,
    An interesting article.
    Today it is a very sad day for music.
    The great Manna Dey is no more.
    If a real music expert would have rated bollywood music in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the man that Rafisahab himself admired the most was Manna Dey. The man Manna Deyji praised the most was Rafisahab.
    There were huge number of duets between the two and the brilliant composers like Roshanlal Nagrath who experimented with qawallies like “na to karwanki talash hai” in Barsaat Ki Raat, could do the experiment because giants like Rafisahab and Manna Sahab adorned the firmanent of music. There were fastastic qawallis in Bahu Begum as well and it was 50 50 affair again Rafisahab is to Manna Sahab. May the departed soul of Manna Dey Sahab rest in peace.

  36. bashirahmed says:

    most important artical published on this site. total back ground and history came to know after the death of the legend md. rafisahab.after 33 years.

  37. Mohit Bhatnagar says:

    In a radio interview to Ameen Sayani,she admitted that on the issue of royalty,in the meeting called by her,Rafi Saheb said-“Mujh se kya poochte hai,maharani se poochiye.”She said,”Aap mujhe maharani kyon kah rahe hain?”Rafi saheb said,”To phir aur kya kahoon,jab aap kaa rawaiya hee aisa hai”
    Three things stand out clearly-(i)The issue was personal;(why Rafi Saheb addressed her as Maharani) and not royalty related,as made out to be(ii)if apology letter was indeed given by Rafi saheb,it only goes to prove his greatness(iii)in a subtle way,Rafi saheb showed to the world that she indeed thinks herself maharani who would not be pacified unless apology letter is given to her

  38. Mohammed Irfan says:

    What a masterpiece.Kudos Haldar saab.I have no words to exclaim your article. This article needs to be amongst the top most articles in this site .
    With Best Regards,
    Mohammed Irfan.

  39. Ahamed Kutty says:

    One of the best articles ever published here.

    Expect more from you Haldar Saab.

    It is a well known fact that the same songs rendered by both,
    Rafi Saab’s version are super hits and in everything he is far
    ahead of Lata ji.

    With Best Regards,

    Ahamed Kutty

  40. sivanandam says:

    Dear Halder ji,
    Great write-up–it has been a long time since we saw you in this forum. You have come back with a bang!! Expecting more such gems from you.

    Today morning woke up to hear the sad news of the last male legend of the golden era passing away..Manna Da has left us to join Mukesh bhai, Rafi sahab, Talat sahab , Kishore da , Hemant da, Mahendra Kapoor. We mortals miss all these legends and the Gods in heaven must be having a great musical treat. This year also saw the passing away of legends from South ‘s golden era–T M Sounderarajan & P B Sreenivas….Music of those years will ever remain fresh in our memories that were enriched by all these masters….

  41. shammi says:

    What a beautiful article and I agree Mohd Rafi should have never patched up with that awful woman some refer to her as having a voice like a nightingale but she has no morals and will do anything to undermine others. Her age can never be an excuse for her disgusting behaviour, she really needs to grow old gracefully and not disgracefully. Also an apology from her end wouldn’t go amiss. However, the upset and distress she has caused Mohd Rafi’s family and fans will never be forgotten.

    Mohd Rafi was so talented and gifted he certainly didn’t need her and I wish he had stayed clear of any reconcilation with her, but like this article clearly and correctly says her need was greater than his and she obviously instigated it.

    Thank you for a lovely read up.

  42. K P Hassan says:

    Dear Haldarji,
    Thanks for your excellent article. Hope we all the rafians can learn more untold stories about our Rafi Sahab in future also.
    Best wishes.


    I could not believed when Lataji talked about a letter which was never written. It is well known that she has been insecure through out Rafi life. She sang many songs after Rafi departed … but still she does not come closer to his stature … Getting awards is fully political affairs in India… people often lobby for it. Rafi is above all the award including Bharat Ratna …
    Recently CNNIBN after a survey declared rafi best singer of film industry …. she was at number 3 and Kishore da was at 2….

    We all love you Rafi sahab

  44. u.k.achan says:

    It is en lighting to know the details behind the sad scenes;but Rafi saab is too talented a person to be really affected by such extremely low level bickering !
    We Rafi fans continue to be overawed by the creations greatest singer.

  45. What a piece of writing, Sir!!!!

    Mesmerizing without losing focus on the story, the narration flows as smoothly as the music rendered by the maestro himself.

    This is one of the best articles that I have read on this forum, and I feel that the author has effortlessly conveyed the story of this tumultuous relationship in the most telling manner.

    Kudos to you, sir! Haldar Sahab, look forward to more such gems from you.

    warm regards

    Achal Rangaswamy

  46. Lt Col Javed Sayyed(Veteran) says:

    Xlnt piece of poetry flowing seamlessly interwoven with right nuances, anecdotes and much more. Thanks for such a good article. And very rightly, the advice to the journalists of today who do not adhere to their professionalism in the need to meet deadlines & the trend to create controversies to generate TRPs!!!
    Keep up d good work.
    Felt real good.

  47. SalRafi says:

    Good write up. It made even proud to be a Rafi bakht. Keep up the good writing.
    And give me the answer of your question at the end please. Thank you.

  48. bimanbaruah says:

    Respected Halder Ji

    Great Article . Thanks for the real facts in your article. From the rift, Our Badshash was not real sufferer. He got more duets with Suman Ji, Sharda Ji…………………

    Best regards to Rafi Lovers.

    Biman Baruah

  49. J.K. Bhagchandani says:

    Dear Mr. P. Haldar saab,
    In the comments column of one of the articles you had indicated that you are in the process of writing an article on Rafi saab with focus on Rafi-Lata’s 50 years old which somehow was brought to surface again by the queen. That was long ago, may be around a year. I thought either you forgot or the paucity of time is not allowing you to write. And finally you have come up with this master-piece. The wait for your write-up has been most worthwhile.

    A thoroughly enjoyable write-up with witty inferences to cricketing analogy, hats off to you. Your last poser to the queen was the real googly from you.

    I hope the article is read by one and all, most importantly by the two sisters. At 83 and 80 age (respectively) that they have reached, one expects them to be realize that digging up buried issues is the job of politicians not artists.

    -J.K. Bhagchandani

  50. khaja Aliuddin,MD says:

    Haldar Sahab, Salaam,
    Bahut Khoob, a beautiful tribute to our legend.

    “Jagaya aap ne duniya me who aawaz ka jadoo
    hua bas aapka har shaqs girwedah Rafi Sahab ”

    ” Tumhari bartari hai , aaj bhi qhayam zamane mein
    Qhyamath tak bajega aap ka danka Rafi sahib”

    ” Zameen par rah ke bhi tum ne farishton si sifath paai
    Diya Rab ne tumhein yeh martaba aala Rafi Sahab ”

    ” Dua hai khabar ho teri munawwar noor yezdan se
    Ke ho waan bhi tumhara martaba aala Rafi Sahab”

    With regards to all Rafi lovers,
    Dr. Khaja Aliuddin

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