Remembering Rafi-the person
The following article by Narender Kusnur is taken from Mid-day. Read what music-director Pyarelal of the great LP duo had to say about the persona of their favorite singer Mohammed Rafi – Mohanflora
When filmmaker Babubhai Mistry asked Laxmikant-Pyarelal to compose music for the low-budget costume drama Parasmani in 1963, the duo began thinking of which singers to choose. In his natural narrative style, Pyarelal recalls: â€œWe chose the singers on the basis of the song, instead of sticking to one singer. If we felt Mohammed Rafiâ€™s voice suited Woh Jab Yaad Aaye and Roshan Tumhi Se Duniya, we chose him. And if we thought Mukesh’s voice went well with Chori Chori Jo Tumse Mili, we chose him.â€
Parasmani, in fact, marked the beginning of a long association between Rafi and Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
The singer was to give L-P a major hit with Chahoonga Main Tujhe in Dosti. Over the years, heâ€™s rendered a string of hits for the music directors – including Beimaan Hai Bada (in Loafer), Na Tu Zameen Ke Liye (Dastaan), Aane Se Uske Aaye Bahar (Jeene Ki Raah), Chalkaaye Jaam and Hui Shyam Unka (Mere Humdum Mere Dost), Yeh Jo Chilman Hain and Itna To Yaad Hai Mujhe (Mehboob Ki Mehndi), the Patthar Ke Sanam title track, the Khilona title song, Jhilmil Sitaron Ka (with Lata Mangeshkar in Jeevan Mrityu), Parda Hai (Amar Akbar Anthony), Dafliwale (with Lata in Sargam), Dard-e-Dil (Karz) and scores of others. In fact, Rafiâ€™s last song Tu Kahin Aas Paas Hai Dost was recorded for L-P in the film Aas Paas.
Exactly 22 years after Rafiâ€™s death, his songs remain immortal. On July 31 every year, musicians and fans do their bit to remember their idol.
Naturally, memories of Rafi dominate our conversation with Pyarelal when we meet him at his Bandra flat. Willingly, the composer talks about Rafi the person. Relaxing on his sofa, the music director says: â€œRafi was like a farishta. No other word would be more appropriate to describe him.â€
Pyarelal spins back down the years. He recalls: â€œLaxmiji and I became music directors after a long period of struggle. But we had known Rafi because we had been musicians for many years. In our early days, Rafi had given me Rs 500, which was a big amount those days. I told him I wonâ€™t return it and he just smiled. Till today, I have kept that money.â€
According to Pyarelal, Rafi laughed a lot. â€œHe talked less and had a special style of nodding his head. He always looked down and talked, no matter whom he talked with. For him, everybody was the same, and he talked to everybody in the same tone,â€ he points out.
Rafi had a special habit of keeping his car spotless clean. â€œHe had a Fiat, and he would put together all these lights and bright-coloured objects. Even at home, he would insist on cleanliness. There was one room full of awards, and he took care of each award. Another thing he loved was good food. Heâ€™d have a lavish meal whenever he could,â€ he says.
Pyarelal, however, points out that Rafi rarely went to parties. â€œHe liked to stay in his own world, and concentrate on two things â€” namaz and riyaz. But he has come to my birthday party twice. They may be among the exceptions he made, but we were so close,â€ he adds.
The conversation naturally shifts to Rafiâ€™s approach towards singing. Says Pyarelal: â€œHe was God-gifted. He used to do so much riyaz that everything looked so simple. Then, he would modulate his voice to suit each hero, whether it was Dilip Kumar, Bharat Bhushan or Shammi Kapoor.â€
Pyarelal says Rafi was a strict disciplinarian when it came to work. He elaborates: â€œHe never cancelled any recording, even if he had a 102 degree temperature. In fact, he was the first singer to regularly go on foreign tours. He would go every year, first with his small orchestra, and later with a bigger group.â€
Was there anything that Rafi loved as much as singing? Pyarelal laughs: â€œYes, he loved whistling. He would whistle regularly, either in the form of a tune or just loudly when he was happy.â€
For Pyarelal, the tales would never cease. But then, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Rafi not only made some great music together, but shared a special bond too.