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Mohammed Rafi: Everyone’s Voice

This article is written by Rajiv Vijayakar for screen india (

Mohammed Rafi’s most extraordinary quality was the almost miraculous way in which his voice seemed to fit every actor who expressed diverse emotions through his songs.

Mohd RafiEven stars personally-inclined or commercially-identified with other singers, like Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan — never sounded vocally incongruous when Rafi’s voice was employed for them.

The icons of romance, the sultans of action, the czars of comedy, the emperors of emotions, parents, priests, buffoons or blackguards, Rafi suited them all.

On the legend’s 21st death anniversary, which was observed on July 31, Screen examines his vocal ties with 21 stars, listed in alphabetical order…

Amitabh Bachchan Amitabh Bachchan
Signature tune: ‘Patta patta…’ (Ek Nazar)
Last film: Desh Premee (1982)
Bachchan’s superstardom was dominated by Kishore, and yet Rafi did get to sing a host of lovelies for AB like ‘Tumse door rehke…’ (Adalat), ‘Oonchi oonchi baaton se…’, (Mr Natwarlal), ‘Mere dost qissa…’ (Dostana), ‘Teri bindiya re…’ (Abhimaan), the title track of Desh Premee and the many songs of Suhaag and Naseeb. Incidentally, Rafi was the first voice of Bachchan’s career in Pyar Ki Kahani. And careful listening of the post— Zanjeer Rafi numbers for him reveal a subtle, edgy and bottled-up modulation to them, as different from Rafi’s full-throated singing for others.

Bharat Bhushan Bharat Bhushan
Signature tune: ‘O duniya ke rakhwale…’ (Baiju Bawra)
Last film: Taqdeer (1967)
Bharat Bhushan personified saintly or melancholic love. And Rafi was at his spiritual best in timeless numbers in Baiju Bawra, Basant Bahar, Samrat Chandragupta, Barsaat Ki Raat and many other films.

Biswajeet Biswajeet
Signature tune: ‘Nazar na lag jaaye…’ (Night In London)
Last film: Kehte Hain Mujhko Raja (1976)
All the top chocolate heroes of the 60s and 70s were primarily ‘Rafi-ians’. In their candy-floss films or tear-jerkers, they usually had a variety of songs, from light duets to ghazals and from chhed-chaad numbers to those lamenting over the heroine’s bewafai. And Biswajeet, always lucky in getting great songs, got his cream with Rafi under a host of composers in Mere Sanam, Sagaai, Shehnai, Do Dil, Night In London, Jaal, Aasra, Pyar Ka Sapna, April Fool and many more.

Dev Anand Dev Anand
Signature tune: ‘Khoya khoya chand…’ (Kala Bazaar)
Last film: Manpasand (1980)
Like it or not, Dev Anand made most of his early musical reputation on Rafi’s very vocal support. It was Rafi more than Kishore who represented the young, suave, debonair Dev with his sexy puff. In fact, S.D.Burman developed a unique crooning style for Rafi especially for Dev Anand in songs like ‘Aise to na dekho…’ (Teen Deviyan) and ‘Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar…’ (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne), and also in Guide, Jewel Thief, Kala Pani, Kala Bazaar, Gambler and Baat Ek Raat Ki.

When Shankar-Jaikishan composed for Dev, it was Rafi all the way in hits like Asli Naqli and Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai. Other composers followed in C.I.D, Hum Dono and many others, with Laxmikant-Pyarelal (Jaaneman) and Kalyanji-Anandji (Mahal) choosing Rafi in the qawwalis they composed for him.

Dharmendra Dharmendra
Signature tune: ‘Main jat yamla…’ (Pratiggya)
Last film: Mera Karam Mera Dharam (1987)
‘Tough’ times came in for Hindi cinema when Dharmendra brought his unique blend of muscle and gentleness. Rafi sat on ‘garam-Dharam’ like the proverbial glove, elevating the comedy (‘Sa re ga ma…’/Chupke Chupke), the passion (‘Aaj mausam bada beimaan hain…’/Loafer) and the machismo (‘Arey maine tujhko chaha…’/Dharam-Veer).

Dilip Kumar Dilip Kumar
Signature tune: ‘Madhuban mein Radhika…’ (Kohinoor)
Last film: Kranti (1981)
Dilip Kumar minus Rafi is about as imaginable as Hindi films minus songs. The devotional ‘Sukh ke sab saathi…’ (Gopi), the effervescent ‘Maang ke saath tumhara…’ (Naya Daur), the plaintive ‘Toote hue khwabon ne…’ (Madhumati) and the classical ‘Saawan aaye ya na aaye…’ (Dil Diya Dard Liya), Rafi was perfect for every genre of song that went on the man who ruled the screen for two decades.

Guru Dutt Guru Dutt
Signature tune: ‘Yeh mahalon yeh takhton…’ (Pyaasa)
Last film: Suhagan and Saanjh Aur Savera
The man who made a business to look at life tangentially was a Rafi-bhakt all the way. Even when he did not act in his own films (C.I.D., Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi) he gave Rafi classics. And for himself, Rafi was his prime choice for masterpieces like ‘Yeh mahalon yeh takhton…’ (Pyaasa), ‘Chaudhvin ka chand ho…’ (Chaudhvin Ka Chand), ‘Jaane kahan mera jigar…’ (Mr & Mrs 55) and ‘Tu mere saamne hai…’ (Suhagan).

Jeetender Jeetender
Signature tune: ‘Badi mastani hai meri mehbooba…’ (Jeene Ki Raah)
Last film: Madadgaar (1987)
Jumping Jack Jeetu and Rafi formed a perfect combination. In the more musical phase of Jeetu’s acrobatic romance, we had Rafi delights galore in Farz, Jigri Dost, Himmat, Humjoli, Roop Tera Mastana, Caravan, Waris, Aulad and Yaar Mera along with more sober songs in films like Mere Huzoor and Jeene Ki Raah. Post-1972, Kishore dominated, and yet Rafi did get to sing ‘Aisa na ho ke… (Aakhri Dao), ‘Badi door se chalkar aaye hai…’ (Jay-Vejay), ‘Pal do pal ka saath hamara…’ (The Burning Train) and the songs of Aasha.

Johnny Walker Johnny Walker
Signature tune: ‘Sar jo tera chakraaye…’ (Pyaasa)
Last film: Night In London (1967)
Despite the occasional song by another singer, Johnny’s oeuvre was lorded by Rafi, through classics like ‘Sar jo tera chakraaye…’ (Pyaasa), ‘Suno suno Miss Chaterjee…’ (Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi), ‘Yeh hai Bombai meri jaan…’ (C.I.D.) and ‘Main Bambai ka babu…’ (Naya Daur). As someone aptly put it, “Rafi would sound more like Johnny Walker than Johnny Walker himself!”

Joy Mukherji Joy Mukherji
Signature tune: ‘Dil ki awaz bhi sun…’ (Humsaya)
Last films: Aag Aur Daagh and Ummeed (1971)
Rafi’s voice was a ‘joy’ in this actor’s breezy songs in Humsaaya, Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Love In Tokyo, Shagird, Aao Pyar Karen, Ek Kali Muskayee, Ziddi, Love In Simla and Ishara.

Mehmood Mehmood
Signature tune: ‘Hum kaale hain to…’ (Gumnaam)
Last film: Ek Baap Chhe Bete (1978)
Though Manna Dey dominated the ‘Comedy King’, Rafi had memorabilia like Sanjh Aur Savera (‘Ajhu na aaye…’), Gumnaam (‘Hum kaale hain to…’), Sadhu Aur Shaitan (‘Mehbooba mehbooba…’ and ‘Kabhi aage kabhi peeche…’), Parvarish (‘Mama ho mama…’) and some other films.

Pradeep Kumar Pradeep Kumar
Signature tune: ‘Jo waada kiya…’ (Taj Mahal)
Last film: Noorjehan (1967)
Regal, aristocratic, poetic — that was Pradeep Kumar, the man who made a career out of wooden histrionics. And Rafi provided all the magnificent expression in his career in timeless marvels like ‘Jo waada kiya…’ (Taj Mahal), ‘Ab kya misaal doon…’ (Aarti), ‘Dil jo na keh saka…’ (Bheegi Raat), ‘Hum intezaar karenge…’ (Bahu Begum).

Raaj Kumar Raaj Kumar
Signature tune: ‘Chhoo lene do nazuk…’ (Kaajal)
Last film: Chambal Ki Kasam (1980)
The eccentric Jaani found Rafi at his throat in dozens of films. ‘Chhoo lene do nazuk honthon ko…’ (Kaajal) set the pattern for many future hits in films like Heer Ranjha, Vaasna, Neel Kamal, Pakeezah, Chambal Ki Kasam.

Rajendra Kumar Rajendra Kumar
Signature tune: ‘Baharon phool barsao… (Suraj)
Last film: Saajan Ki Saheli (1981)
The Jubilee Kumar’s long relationship with Rafi was replete with dozens of Rafi memorabilia, mainly under composers Shankar-Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Naushad. One of the most tuneful singer-star associations of Hindi films, the team gave us musical brilliance in films like Dil Ek Mandir, Sasural, Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan, Suraj, Anjaana, Mere Mehboob, Palki, Geet, Goonj Uthi Shehnai, Talash and Sangam.

Rajesh Khanna Rajesh Khanna
Signature tune: ‘Yeh reshmi zulfein…’ (Do Raaste)
Last films: Suraag and Dharam Kanta (1982)
In the Kishore Kumar wave after Aradhana and Do Raaste, everyone seemed to forget that Rafi had sung two major hits each for the phenomenon in these two films. Rafi also contributed to Rajesh’s hit parade in films like Saccha Jhutha, Doli, Raaz, Aan Milo Sajana, Mehboob Ki Mehndi, Choti Bahu, Humshakal and Shehzada.

Rishi Kapoor Rishi Kapoor
Signature tune: ‘Parda hai parda… (Amar Akbar Anthony)
Last film: Deedar-e-Yaar (1982)
Madan Mohan first used Rafi for Rishi Kapoor in Laila Majnu. But it was after Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s Amar Akbar Anthony that Rafi emerged as a perfect-match for Rishi even under R.D.Burman in Hum Kisise Kum Naheen and Zamaane Ko Dikhaana Hai. L-P also delivered the mega-hit Sargam, and the fabulous numbers from Karz, Naseeb, Badaltey Rishtey and Deedaar-e-Yaar.

Sanjay Khan Sanjay Khan
Signature tune: ‘Waadiyan mera daaman…’ (Abhilasha)
Last film: Abdullah (1980)
Chocolate romances were also the forte of future TV mogul Sanjay Khan. And Rafi provided due romantic confections in films like Ek Phool Do Mali, Intequam, Abhilasha, Abdullah, Shart, Haseenon Ka Devta, Milan Ki Raat, Woh Din Yaad Karo, Upaasna, Beti and other films.

Sanjeev Kumar Sanjeev Kumar
Signature tune: ‘Khilona jaan kar…’ (Khilona)
Last film: Biwi O Biwi (1981)
‘Khilona jaan kar…’ and ‘Khush rahe tu sadaa…’ (Khilona), ‘Aaya re khilonewala…’ (Bachpan), ‘Joode mein gajra mat baandho…’ (Dhoop Chhaon), ‘Tere naam ka diwana…’ (Suraj Aur Chanda), ‘Tumse kahoon ek baat…’ (Dastak), ‘Main wohi wohi baat…’ (Naya Din Nayi Raat) apart from the many duets in various films, Rafi has a specially sweet ‘solo’ relationship with the actor. Maybe both are making sweet music together in another world today.

Shammi Kapoor Shammi Kapoor
Signature tune: ‘Yahoo, chahe koi…’ (Junglee)
Last film: Shalimar (1978)
Shammi Kapoor and Rafi were like two sides of a coin — inconceivable without each other. Along with primarily Shankar-Jaikishan, but also many other composers, Rafi and Shammi unleashed an orgy of melody that ranged from the boisterous ‘Yahoo…’ and ‘Aiyiya karoon main kya…’ in Junglee to the raag-based ‘Tum mujhe yoon bhula na paaoge…’ (Pagla Kahin Ka). The banquet spread also encompassed Rajkumar, Janwar, Dil Tera Deewana, Laat Sahab, Brahmchari, An Evening In Paris, Tumse Accha Kaun Hai, Prince, Jawan Mohabbat, Sacchai, Andaz and Jaane Anjaane all under S-J, and China Town, Kashmir Ki Kali, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Dil Dekho Dekho, Bluff Master, Preet Na Jaane Reet and Teesri Manzil with others.

Shashi Kapoor Shashi Kapoor
Signature tune: ‘Pardesiyon se na…’ (Jab Jab Phool Khile)
Last film: Shaan (1980)
Rafi was no less a fixture with Shashi Kapoor as with bade bhai Shammi, even if Kishore Kumar had the edge in the mid-70s due to obvious reasons. Kalyanji-Anandji’s gossamer melodies from Jab Jab Phool Khile, Aamne Saamne, Haseena Maan Jayegi, Ek Shreeman Ek Shrimati and Raja Saab were supplemented by other composers in Pyar Kiye Jaa, Suhana Safar, Naach Uthe Sansar, Prem Kahani, Kali Ghata, Kanyadaan, Jahan Pyar Miley, Patanga, Chor Machaye Shor, Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhare, Shaan, Pyar Ka Mausam, My Love and others.

Sunil Dutt Sunil Dutt
Signature tune: ‘Ehsaan mere dil pe…’ (Gaban)
Last film: Yaadon Ki Zanjeer (1987)
Sunil Dutt’s songs with Rafi included ‘Aap ke pehlu… (Mera Saaya), ‘Rang aur noor ki…’ (Ghazal), ‘Itni haseen itni jawaan raat…’ (Aaj Aur Kal), ‘Ehsaan mere dil pe…’ (Gaban), and ‘Yeh khamoshiyaan… (Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke).

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10 Blog Comments to “Mohammed Rafi: Everyone’s Voice”

  1. preetha srini says:

    superb work.still i would like to say these were not the only guys for whom raafi saabs voice suited. It was apt for all.There are many more wonderful songs left out.any way you ve done a thorough study.keep it up

  2. Norina says:

    Some absolutely fabulous songs of Rafi saab were filmed on Feroz Khan and little known actors from films in the 1970’s

  3. M.Saleem says:

    Good work Rajeev. I am listing a few more, even then the list or definitions dont get completed for Rafi is eternal.

    The pathani/pashtooni style song from Kabuli Waala sung for Balraj Sahni. O Saba kahna mere dildar ko – dil tadaptha hai tere deedar ko. or Din ho ya raath hum rahe tere saath yeh hamare marzi and Aaja ke intezaar mein – jaane ko hai bahaar bhi – from Rajhat for Ajit, tere bin soone naen hamaare – from tere soorath meri aankhen for Ashok Kumar, and many songs for Bharat Bhooshan, Qawwalis and what not.

    I did not understand why he was not picked up for fizzy songs. I remember he has rendered excellent songs like, jahaan bhi main dekhoon waheeen thoo hi thoo hai, or teesri manzil, bhooth bangla etc

  4. Anubhav says:

    “Rafi has a specially sweet ‘solo’ relationship with the actor [Sanjeev Kumar]. Maybe both are making sweet music together in another world today.”

    Can someone elaborate what this means? I wasn’t aware of any special associations between these two (except some blockbuster songs like Shaadi Ke Liya Razamund, Khilona, etc.).

    Second question – is the article correct to imply that Rafi did not sing much songs for Jeetendra after 1972 except for a few albums like Aasha? My understanding is that Rafi sang the MAXIMUM for Jeetendra, even for the period of 1972-1980 (overall).

  5. Shivendra says:

    The “MAN WITH A GOLDEN VOICE” for one and all, young or old, he made everyone to dance, to rejoice, to romance & to cry. “Hats off” to this great man.

  6. hem chandra tewari says:

    Withour RAFI ji one cannot think about of those great bollywood hits he was the man behind such great hits

  7. Iqbal Hosany says:

    Loads of actors comes to my mind – which are not listed above. It seems to me that ppl just only manage to scrape only the surface concerning mohd rafi. But i suppose it takes a lifetime to fully appreciate the singer. But good try nevertheless.

  8. Sagar says:

    Fantastic work done……………

    Long live RAFI SAHAB

  9. mohanflora says:

    Well documented and knowledgeable article! Good research.
    Wish there were more such articles. Thanks!

  10. Very nice article. I like this. I read this again and again.


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