Milestone Songs of Rafi
This article is written by Mr. H.V.Guru Murthy
Till Mohammed Rafiji emerged, most of the earlier Singers were flat singers without much variation. After Rafi saab came on screen, the importance of diction, variation in voice for different actors, raising and lowering of voice, putting feeling into each word, etc. were noticed. As one of Rafi hero, Biswajeet opined that acting for Rafi songs was very easy, as Rafi took care of all the acting in his song putting feelings into the lyrics and the actor was just required to lip-sync.
Mohammed Rafi Saab has sung nearly 5000 songs and in fact, most of the songs can be considered as a Milestone in the history of Indian Film Music. Still, there are certain songs of Rafiji, which established the ‘Singer of the millennium’ as the most versatile singer as well as paved the way for similar songs in other movies. Some of these songs became rage of the Nation when they were released and were on the lips of the Nation. Personally I consider all these songs as ‘Milestone songs of Rafiji’.
The first song of any singer is a big milestone in the career of the person and by this stretch, “Soniye Heeriye” from the 1940 movie ‘Gul Baloch’ is the first landmark in Rafi’s career. The first Hindi song of Rafi “Hindusthan Ke Hum Hain” in the movie ‘Pehle Aap’ and songs of ‘Gaon Ki Gori’ released in 1944 introduced Rafiji to Hindi film music.
Similarly the song “Yahan Badla” from ‘Jugnu’ released in 1947 was perhaps the first major song in which the then great singer Noorjahan sang with Rafi. This perhaps was the first major duet of Rafi which became a big hit. “Tera Khilona Toota Balak” from the 1946 movie ‘Anmol Ghadi’ was the first solo of Rafi and hence, this song was a landmark in his career.
So far, the above songs were all first songs in those categories where Rafi had started showing his prowess, but the best was yet to come. Well, people were just coming out of the Saigal – Pankaj Mallick – KC Dey – Noorjehan era and Singers like Rafi, Lata, Mukesh, Talat, Hemant, Mannadey were just emerging. Came 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, Rajendra Krishna wrote the lyrics and Rafi reached every Indian house hold with “Bapu Ki Amar Kahani”. This song, few months after our Independence with people still high with their patriotism, established Rafi as a leading Singer of patriotic songs. The song was followed by a great number in Dilip Kumar starrer ‘Shaheed’ – “Watan Ki Raah Me”. 1948 ‘Mela’ song “Ye Zindagi Ke Mele” also helped Rafi to croon for the reigning star of that period Dilip Kumar. Rafi had heavy competition from Talat for play back to Dilip Kumar and by such wonderful songs became the voice of the thespian subsequently. The combo of Rafi, Dilip, Shakeel and Naushad gave memorable music in later days.
The year 1948 also saw Rafi’s first major serious pathos filled hit “Is Dilke Tukde Hazar Huye” from ‘Pyaar Ki Jeet’ picturised on Rehmaan. Subsequent years, Rafi came out with many such songs for heroes like Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Sunil Dutt, etc.
Perhaps the first major hit melodious romantic solo number from Rafi was “Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki” from ‘Dulari’ released in 1949, which proved Rafi’s credentials as ‘Singer par excellence’ of soft romantic numbers. No wonder later Rafi gave us many such wonderful numbers for various actors like Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Biswajeet, Joy Mukherjee, etc. The film ‘Dulari’ also perhaps gave the first hit Rafi-Lata duet “Raat Rangeeli Mast Nazare”, their first hit song in their journey of 450 odd duets.
The 1950 movie ‘Daastan’ had a peppy number “Tarari Tarari Tarari” a duet incidentally picturised on Raj Kapoor. This song perhaps proved that Rafiji could even carry out pop / western numbers with equal ease which subsequently he proved again in numbers from movie like Aansoon, Naya Daur, Leader, Love In Simla, Mr. X, Gumnaam and a host of other movies with two pop non filmy English numbers “ The she I love is a beautiful” and “All though we hail from” based on the two hit Hindi numbers “Hum Kale Hain To” and “Baharon Phool Barsao”.
Though Rafi had started emerging as a versatile singer, still, it seems Rafi was disappointed that his songs did not become big hits like that of Talat, Mukesh, etc. Came 1952, Vijay Bhat made ‘Baiju Bawra’, an out and out musical about the story of a Singer Baiju during the period of Mughal Emperor Akbar. The hero was Bharat Bhushan and the heroine Meena Kumari, both comparative new comers. Naushad, the Music Director entrusted almost all the songs of this movie to Rafi and told him that he would become the craze of the nation after this movie. The movie had all types of songs, classical, bhazan, romantic, serious, duets, etc. Though all the songs in the movie were good and also big hits, still the song “O Duniya Ke Rakhwale” caught the imagination of the nation. Till then with the earlier Singers, the Music Directors had to limit the range up to certain level, because of the limitations of the Singers, but Rafi showed that his voice could go much farther and higher than the earlier ranges and also could be steady at very high pitch. The climax of the song “O Duniya Ke Rakhawale” established Rafi as perhaps the only Singer who could go higher and higher. It also proved Rafi’s credentials for classical singing. After this song, there was no looking back for Rafi. The film also established Rafi as the main playback Singer for Naushad, who in later years gave hits after hits with Rafi. How true was Naushad, after this movie Rafi became the voice of the nation.
Rafi and Asha have given more than 700 melodious and soulful duets, but their first major hit was “Nannhe Munnhe Bacche Teri” from ‘Boot Polish’ released in 1954. Though both had sung together earlier, but this song perhaps established them as leading duet singers and no wonder that this pair has sung the maximum number of duets in the history of Hindi film industry.
“Leke Pehla Pehla Pyaar” from ‘CID’ released in 1955 was the song which established Rafi – OP Nayyar combination. Though both of them had worked together earlier in movies like ‘Aar Paar’ and ‘Mr. & Mrs. 55’, still ‘CID’ was the movie which heralded the era of soft romantic songs of OPN with Rafi and Asha as the main Singers. In the next 10 years, we had this dream team in movies like Naya Daur, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hun, Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi, Mere Sanam, Humsaya, Kashmir Ki Kali, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, Sawan Ki Ghata, Phagoon, etc. etc.
Shankar Jaikishan in those days were at their peek, especially for RK Films. Raj Kapoor always had either Mannadey or Mukesh as his main playback Singer, though he always had at-least one song of Rafi in all his movies starting from Barsaat, Awaara, Boot Polish, Ab Dilli Door Nahin, Sangam, Mera Naam Joker, etc. But it was “Ramaiyya Vastavayya” from ‘Shree 420’ released in 1955 which became a super hit song and perhaps established the Rafi-SJ combination on a long run. Subsequently, under SJ, Rafi gave hit after hits for heroes like Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Dev Anand, etc. In fact, in the sixties Rafi was the main singer for SJ churning out hit after hits.
SD Burman was one Prince of Music Directors who specialized in folk tunes. He gave many hit songs with other Singers like Hemant, Talat, Kishore, etc. But the film ‘Pyaasa’ released in 1957 established the combination of Rafi and SDB on a firm footing. Though the film had wonderful music and hit songs, still the song “Ye Mehlo Ye Takto” was a class apart. A sort of revolutionary song, it was a difficult song to sing as the Singer had to bring out the disgust of the Poet towards the Society, had to build up the tempo and go full blast during the climax ‘Jalado Jalado’. Perhaps, only Rafi could have done full justice to this song, which to start with was almost in whispers but later towards the end, was full throated. This song heralded the beginning of Rafi and SDB combo which gave hit movies like Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, Talaash, Guide, Insaan Jaag Utha, Teen Deviyan, Aradhana, Jiddi, Kaise Kahun, etc. for the next one and a half decade.
The 1960 movie ‘Lal Quila’ established Rafi as a class Gazal singer as well, with two major hits of Bhahadur Sha Jafar’s gazals “Na Kisiki Aankh Ka Noor Hun” and “Lagta Nahin Hai Dil Mera”, throwing a real challenge to Gazal King Talat Mehammod. Significantly, both these gazals did not have any major musical instruments in the back-ground and it was only the voice of Rafi which carried them. Well, it may be a coincidence that Talat’s decline commenced from this period.
The film ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’ released in 1960 had catchy tunes by Roshan especially the romantic tile song “Zindagi Bhar Nahin”, but it also had the mother of all qawalis “Na To Caravan Ki Talaash Hai” sung by both Rafi and Mannadey apart from Asha Bhonsle. In fact, Rafi enters midway and Mannadey has admitted that when Rafi entered the song, he was so much engrossed in the singing of Rafi that he forgot that he was also part of the recording. Qawalis as compared to other songs were not that popular in Films but Rafi, Mannna and Asha gave some unforgettable filmy qawalis in movies like Qawali Ki Raat, Palki, Bahu Begum, Mahal, Amar Akbar Antony, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, Zanjeer, etc. and in fact were instrumental in popularizing qawalis in movies.
Rafi had been the main Singer for Shammi Kapoor singing some wonderful romantic numbers as well as foot tapping songs. But “Yahoo” of ‘Junglee’ in 1961 established a new trend of songs which were full throated and high pitch. In fact, the Yahoo type of image and songs became a permanent feature in most of Shammi films as well as in movies of other heroes like Jeetendra, Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee, etc. in movies like Waris (Ek Bechara), Farz (Mast Baharonka), Jigri Dost (Phool Hai), Pyaar Hi Pyaar (title song), Jab Jab Phool Khile (Oye Humko), Love In Tokyo (title song), etc.
The 1964 movie ‘Dosti’ made LP the Rafi Bhakts which remained till Rafi departed. Though Rafi had sung couple of very good and hit songs for LP earlier, still this film with perhaps “Chahunga Main Tuzhe” made LP to fully depend on Rafi for all their movies. The movie firmly established LP as one of the leading music directors of the time and Rafi-LP combo gave innumerable number of hits for the next 15 years. In fact, the mutual dependence was so strong that even during the so called lean period of Rafi during the early seventies, it was LP along with Madan Mohan and Usha Khanna who still came out with wonderful Rafi hits.
The sixties also gave three more wonderful romantic solos, “Chaudavin Ka Chaand Ho” (1960), “Teri Pyaari Pyaari Soorat Ko” from SASURAL (1961) and “Tere Mere Sapne” from GUIDE (1965). Though by then Rafi had clearly established his numeruno position for romantic numbers, still these three romantic songs became a big craze in the sixties.
‘Laila Majnu’ in 1976, though a patch on the earlier contribution of MM and Rafi combo, still perhaps re-established Rafi as the leading Singer. All the songs were hits. Rafi solos became big hits after a long time. After this movie, Rafi came back with a bang with hit songs in Dharam Veer, Shaan, Amar Akbar Antony, Sargam, Asha, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, Abdullah, Sajan Ki Saheli, etc. and showed that when it came to Hindi film music he is the KING. In fact, the movie also firmly established Rafi as the play back Singer of Rishi Kapoor, who had earlier tried with Shailendra Singh and KK. But the song “Kya Hua Tera Vada” picturised on Tariq in ‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin’ (1977) was a big hit and earned Rafi many awards like Film Fare, National, etc. as well as became the top most hit song of the year. This song though not a class song but still has to be counted for it firmly re-established Rafi at the VERY TOP.
In fact, most of the songs listed above from movies like Sasural, Chaudavin Ka Chand, Dosti, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, etc. won Rafi Saab awards, which in fact I would rather consider that these awards became prestigious after bestowing the same on Rafi Saab.
Similarly non Filmy Bhazans like “Tere Bharose He Nandalala” and “Paun Padun Tore Shyam” with music by Khayyam are two of the most popular Rafi Bhazans even today. Regarding non-filmy Gazals, Rafi Saab is still perhaps one of the most popular Gazal singers apart from Talat Mehamood and Jasjit Singh.
Rafi Fans may differ by the choice of songs listed above and may like to add / delete, but there is little doubt that the above songs proved the versatility of the Singer in singing different types of songs like classical, patriotic, bhazan, gazal, yahoo, pop / western, romantic, qawali, etc. and established a trend in Hindi film music. No wonder, all these songs are remembered even today and are trend setters. Any song we listen today perhaps can be traced back to one of Rafiji’s earlier songs. Rafiji’s songs have become bench-marks for any Singer.