Rafi Sahab the super star of all stars: when Amitabh Bachan lost his sleep and the script of Abhiman fell on its knees
By Salim K
Rafi sahab is probably the only singer whose voice would suit all actors and stars irrespective of the decade and their age. Even though Raaj kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Amitabh Bachan and Rajesh Khanna were considered synonymous with Mukesh, Mahendra and Kishore , the songs Rafi Sahab has sung for them occupy a special place in the careers of these actors and HFM in general. For example who can forget eternal melodies like “baazi kisene Pyar ki sung for RK in film Nazarana”, “ Bhari Duniya mein Akhir Dil” sung for Manoj Kumar in Do Badan and “Teri Bindiya Re” sung for AB in Abhiman. There are many more such beauties that Rafisahab has sung for these stars. Needless to say all these stars had and have the greatest love, respect and admiration for Rafi Sahab.
Example, Raaj Kapoor was also very fond of Mukesh and was very particular to have the best songs for his films. Sangam was one such film that had great melodies many of which have become immortal. Mukesh has wonderful songs in the film and Rajendra Kumar had 2 songs one a duet sung by Mahendra and a monumental rendition by Rafi sahab, Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padkar. This was the last song recorded in the film and RK was already celebrating about the beautiful songs SJ had composed picturised on him until he heard Rafi Sahib’s rendition and the thespian could not put himself back and sources say RK echoed his sentiments when he said “yeh gaana tho sab gaanon par bhari hai”. He kissed Rafi sahab and told him that this song would live forever, how true. In fact Rafi Sahab always had a special song in most RK produced movies including the mesmerizing Sadke Heer tujpe from Mera Naam Joker picturised on RK himself.
However in this article, there are 2 very interesting facts that I like to share with you that involves Rafisahab and the star of 70’s, and 80’s, Amithabh Bachhan.
The first one is the recording of the song “Chal Mere Bhai” from Naseeb where AB sings with Rafi Sahab. In this song Rafi Sahab play backed for Rishi as most of us know. A day prior to the recording, Laxmikant-Pyarelal the music directors had told AB that the recording was scheduled for 1 o’clock and asked him to come on time as Rafi Sahab was very punctual. So much so that the musicians even set their watches correctly based on the time when Rafi Sahab entered the studio. Next day, Rafi Sahab and AB reached the studio almost at the same time at 12.30 in the afternoon. Rafi Sahab saw that AB was appearing shaky and nervous and his eyes were bloodshot. Rafi Sahab asked him the reason for this. AB said, “Rafi Sahab, I have been listening to your songs since I was ten. Today when I have got the opportunity to sing with you, I have not been able to sleep the entire night.” Rafi Sahab smiled in his customary style and said, “Dost, sleep has left me as well because today I have to sing with a much big superstar.” Hearing this, AB fell to Rafi Sahib’s feet. Rafi Sahab was and is indeed the Super Star of all stars.
In an interview conducted much later after July 1980, when asked about Rafisahab, this is what AB says: (the expression on his face when speaking and the tone of his voice when speaking about Rafisahab was of genuine admiration and respect.
AB said: “I have never come across a person of such excellence, grace, dignity and warmth. He stops and says, I need to tell you about an incident.
“We were on a tour with Rafi Sahab and others and Rafi Sahab was the key attraction of this international tour. The tour was for 2 days and Rafisahab had to sing on the first day and another singer was due to sing on day 2.
‘Rafisahab sang on day 1 and left for the airport when we got the news that the other singer was not coming anymore. We were very nervous and shocked as that would disrupt the show so we ran to the airport only to know that Rafisahab had already entered the plane. We requested for the plane not to take off and the permission to speak to Rafisahab for a few seconds”
“We went in the plane and told him about the situation. (AB stops…) “Rafisahab after hearing it, did not say a word, simply got up and walked out of the plane, not an iota of fuss, no question, such was the grace and persona of Rafisahab”
Indeed Rafi sahab was unique and high in everything he did, truly the Super Star of all Stars.
The other incredible incident is linked with another Amithab film, Abhiman that was released in the early 70’s. As we all know the script was about AB and Jaya who are both singers in the film and obviously this would demand having one playback singer’s voice for each for them. The music director was Dada Burman who in 70’s used Kishore extensively just like in 60’s he used Rafi sahab.
All male songs were to be sung by Kishore and Lata had to do playback for all songs picturised on Jaya Bhaduri for it would look weird to have different singers when the script demands otherwise.
The script was demanded a dialogue from the actor David after the song (tere bindiya re)ended that “ the character of Jaya was a better singer than the character played by AB. OOPs!!!!!
Kishore gracefully declined to take up the song saying that it would not suit him. One cannot blame him for doing so especially after such a dialogue. SD Burman approached Rafi sahab to sing it and the gentle and simple giant without even thinking of the script agreed to sing although sources close to Rafi Sahab also told him to give this song a miss. Rafi Sahab was unique in all ways and above any such fears and apprehension. Also this demonstrated the admiration and respect Rafi sahab had for Dada Burman.
People have heard this song that mesmerizes us even today and even the most ardent fans of Lata have accepted with grace that although Lata sang well as she usually did, she is a distant second in the song that Rafi Sahab absolutely nailed.
I feel for Lata and the Hrishi da, many told Hrishida to change the dialogue after the song but he thought these dialogues were essential for the script although they sounded weak and out of place especially after what people heard after the song was recorded.
Rafi Sahab was and is still the Super Star in every aspect. Sources have told that Mukesh was called to sing after Kishore declined to sing the song. Mukesh was to sing 2 songs including the duet that Manhar sang in the end as Mukesh was on a tour and could not arrive on time for the recordings. The fact that 3 male voices were used proves the fact the SB Burman and the film makers wanted to avoid all embarrassment and controversy. Simply incredible!!!!!!
However all this makes us arrive to only conclusion and is Rafi sahab was the most genuine and the greatest Super Star we have seen. Whether it was the 40’s or the 50’s or the 60’s or the 70’s or even the 80’s or any other era, his voice and persona reigns supreme and unmatched. Where no singer would dare to go, Rafi Sahab fearlessly marched with full confidence, where no singer would dare to dwell, he went with a smile, conquered and ruled. Truly a true emperor, a true Super Star of all stars.
NAA FANKAAR TUJH SA TERE BAAD AAYAA
MOHAMMED RAFI TUU BAHOT YAAD AAYA.
This tribute that was sung by Mohammed Aziz was picturised on none other than Amitabh Bachan proves the unmatched and magnificent status of Rafi Sahab.