Rafi – The Innovator
In the worlds of business today innovation is a great differentiator. It can make or break a business. But Rafi sahib is the personification of innovation in playback singing starting in the 1950’s. he had a great voice, but he honed it to perfection as any artist will do. But to make an impact you need to innovate and stand out from the others. Rafi sahib was the first person to create a style for each of his heroes, by imbibing essential features of the hero and bringing out in his song presentation.
The high pitch for an exuberant Shammi Kapoor, a low soft tones for DevAnand. It is amazing that with the huge number of songs he sang for various heroes, he maintained the tonal quality very distinct for the hero. You can always imagine Rajendra kumar when you hear “baharon phool barsaao “ or “pehle mile they sapnon mein” in front of you or Dilip Kumar in “aaj purani raahon ..” or the romantic Guru Dutt “chaudhvin ka chand..”
As actor Biswajit remarked, “when rafi sahib sings you don’t need to know how to act, His voice does it all”. So what where his innovative practices.
- Modulate the voice to match the hero so that people can visualize him and the picture as compared to only listening to the singer
- Use your own initiatives in the song to bring nuances. Listen to the multiple variations in the word “achchaa..” in the song “yeh zulf agar khulke bikar jaaye to achchaa..” from the film Kaajal.
- Bring out the emotion of the song by immersing yourself in the song. Listen to the break in the voice while rendering “babul ki dhuaen lethi jaa..” or “phir who bhoolisi yaad aati …”
- Accommodate wide variety of songs classical, semi classical, high pitch, low pitch, fast, slow, gazal, qawwali so that any music director will always find your skills useable. For the sheer variety in the types of songs no one can match Rafi sahib.
- Be ready to learn from anybody. Is said that the legendary south Indian actor Sivaji Ganesan, while shooting outdoors, was waiting for his shot and observed a lame beggar hopping on a leg on the road outside and practiced the walk, adopted it for swaggering walk in the sand for a movie “Thiruvilayadal”. Similarly as many know it was Shammi Kapoor who suggested the shout “Taarif karoon kya uski..” in the hit from “Kashmir ki kali” and it readily appealed to the singer, and used it in two variations in the song .
- Adopt and accommodate to the changing times, but never let go of lasting values. Throughout the 4 decades of singing Rafi sahib always adopted to the new styles from classical Naushad, folksy SD Burman, to lilting OP Nayyar to fast paced RD Burman. He sang with wide variety of other playback singers, and lifted the duet to greater heights whenever it was found sagging. His duets with Sharada, Suman Kalyanpur, are all remembered for the variations he brought in without overshadowing them. He has sang for free, lifted struggling music composers,” remember parasmani….” Which gave us Laxmikant Pyarelal. “Street singer”.. Sapan Jagmohan. “mahua..” Sonik-Omi. His adaptability made him a darling of the filmdom.
Indeed we can conclude by saying that he alone made playback singing as “play front …” by enriching the film, the song and the lyrics to give a great experience to the audience.