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Style and Substance

By Anonymous

Mohd Rafi, Firoz Khan

Mohd Rafi, Firoz Khan

500 years before the legendary Mohammed Rafi was born, William Shakespeare is reputed to have said that a rose is a rose is a rose. Even if called by any other name, it would smell as sweet.

This small piece of literary history came to fore so resonantly and how!. And it needed the somber reflection on the past of a good-looking actor called Feroze Khan, who lost his battle with cancer in Bengaluru the other day. All the talk has been about Rafisaab lending his mighty vocals for the frontline bigwigs like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and secondline poker-faced heroes like Joy Mukherjee, Biswajit, Bharat Bhushan and their ilk. The list is exhaustive (!) and endless.

Among the spectrum of stars who rose from relative obscurity to the portals of commercial fame was Feroze Khan. Now, no one had the slightest misgivings about Feroze’s prowess as an actor. Stylish nevertheless, the man who died in Bangalore the other day, knew fairly well about his musical instincts.

I had met the actor a couple of times fleetingly and never had the opportunity to talk to him on many of the songs that he crooned so evocatively during the sixties and early seventies, thanks mainly to Rafisaab as his equally stylish backup.

This of course, is not an article “Feroze Khan and Rafi” as a number of articles have appeared on this website with similar titles. Rather, through this little piece, I will endeavour to share with you all what transpired between Your’s Truly and the handsome actor with Rafisaab as the dominant common factor just a couple of years before.

It was because of one of those Press visits that I found myself in Amby Valley (a breath-takingly beautiful locale between Mumbai and Pune) on one sweaty afternoon. The event was occasioned to herald the crushing season of the wine festival.

In that crowd of influential people from Mumbai, I spotted Feroze Khan reclined against the railing, nursing a glass of South African wine. On an impulse, I left the conversation with some of them midstream and headed towards the robust Khan, who looked redder than the wine in his glass. For a second, he paused and then it registered. “Ah! Reporter Raju?” he said with a smile, happy to pun on the name of one of his earlier films. “I am not a reporter any more, I am the editor,” I shot back jovially.

Mohd Rafi, Firoz Khan

Mohd Rafi, Firoz Khan

As he put an affectionate arm around my shoulders, I started crooning the Rafisaab song from the same film, “Gussa fazool hai…” in his ears. But the irrepressible man that he was, he just put a hand on my mouth to shut me off and straightaway launched into his all-time favourite “Jaag dil-e diwana”. That set the tone of the conversation.

“Let’s talk about Rafisaab,” I said, grabbing the chance to know what he had to say about my greatest idol. “You know”, he told me with all the seriousness, “If people thought I looked handsome, it was because of the fabulous ebullience of Rafisaab. And the amazing part was he was such a simple man. If I was the chalk, he was the cheese. He was truly the real hero. If it were not for him, we all so called big actors would have been big ciphers,” he admitted with rare candour.

Just to test him a little, I asked him if he remembered a film called Mai Wohi Hoon. A little tipsy from his earlier bouts with wine, he looked a little offended. “Of course. Rafisaab sang two gorgeous songs for me in that film.” He was at pains to explain how “Aankhon pe palkon ke ghunghat” and Bahut haseen ho bahut jawan ho” were beautiful songs but his procilivities lay with the former. I agreed. Just because he echoed my musical understanding. It is another story that FK couldn’t remember in hell who had composed the music (Usha Khanna). As the quintessential hero that he was, it wasn’t surprising that he could remember his heroine Kum Kum. What really stunned me that he could recall every word and note of that song. And when I complimented him for his memory, he said with the wry sense of humour, “Blame it on Rafisaab. He sang that song bloody well.”

Chitragupt wasn’t so lucky either. But here too, Rafisaab was soulfully melodious in FK’s mind. “Wasn’t he the same man who composed for Onche Log?” he asked when reminded that Rafisaab sang so majestically (with Suman for company) in that 1962 film “Mai Shadi Karne Chala”? And when he repeated the lines “Chehre pe arzoo ki dheemi dheemi roshni…..” it was testimonial enough how Rafisaab shared a magical equation with him too. He just laughed his seven-storey laughter when told that the duet “Jabse hum tum, baharon mein..” was also recorded with Mukesh and Kamal Barot, and how Chitragupt had finally threw the dice in favour of the Rafisaab-Suman combo.

If FK was embarrassed with the kind of films he did then – one of them was Samson – he wasn’t so with a song in it. “Oh, how fabulously Rafisaab went on me with that song, as he went out of the way to tell me he remembered the duet with Lata so well. “Ek baat hai kehne ki aankhon se kehne do..”

The musical setting now complete. FK was in his element. He just went on and on with his films like Tarzan goes To India, Suhagan, Bahurani, Char Dervesh, Suhagan and Teesra Kaun. But one mention about Ek Sapera Ek Lutera and FK just kept gushing about the two solos Rafisaab sang for him: “Hum tumse juda hoke..” and “Tera bhi kisi pe dil aaye..”

The dashing actor made no secret of his unabashed respect and adoration for Rafisaab. “They don’t make men like him anymore. I hope he is happy up there,” he said, looking at Heavens misty-eyed. But beyond the honest admiration also lay a biting lament. “In the sixties, even third-rate films had first rate songs. Today, it’s just the opposite. They have the best of technical know-how. But what use it is if there is no Rafisaab around,” he asked bluntly. And I could just nod dumbly. As I reminisce those moments gone by, I can hear how Rafisaab negotiated those words that seem so apt today:

Aa mere dil, ab khwabon se mooh mod le
Beeti huyi sab raatein yehi chhod de
Tere to din raat hai ab, aankhon mein deedar ke…

With FK, another star who owed his existence in the Bollywood galaxy to the almighty Rafisaab gone, this last meeting unspooled before me and I thought I must share this with all the Rafisaab admirers out there.

In all the speculations, conjectures, hearsays, personal biases, self-evolved opinions that I usually see on this website – and I don’t mean to demean any of them – I have scrupulously adhered to the word that I have heard with my own ears and expressions that I have witnessed with my own eyes. With a little wisdom and discretion, one can make out who is true and who is not. So let’s not waste too much time on issues like whether RDB deliberately sidelined or not Rafisaab or whether Anil Biswas actually humiliated him or whether Dilip Kumar really acknowledged his contribution to his career. I am aware there are thousands of such issues where people will go overboard. Many times peppering their arguments/opinions with unsubstantiated ‘facts’ or based on either what they feel or what they have been fed – often by people who prefer to remain undercover for reasons that can be suspect.

A whole lot of injustice is done when motives are attributed to people just because of our idiosyncracies. As far as Rafisaab is concerned, it is true there were people who were jealous of his success. That is bound to happen in an industry where the rising sun is worshipped and where commercial success is the defining word. But not one ever foul-mouthed him.

Just look at FK. The man who changed tack from the seventies, hardly had any brush with Rafisaab with honourable exceptions like “Kya dekhte ho surat tumhari..” Now that FK is history, I will say to his credit that he looked at Rafisaab’s seerat and not surat. I don’t think he had come with glycerine in his eyes when I saw that drop of tear stranded on his cheek, as he kept repeating how lucky he was to be born in the same generation as Rafisaab.

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57 Blog Comments to “Style and Substance”

  1. Dr V R Chitguppi says:

    I have been a great fan of Md Rafi saheb since childhood, i.e. for last nearly sixty years.His earliest song I remember to have heard is ‘Ek dil ke tukde hajaar hue …..’.I must be of about 4 years then.
    His song ‘Leke pahila pahila pyar …..'(CID) was a rage.
    So was ‘Ramaya vastavaya….'(Shree 420).In this song the ease with which he sings the aalaap in high pitch (taara saptaka) is phenomenal and is possible only by his vocal cords.Even at that high pitch his voice remains sweet.
    His songs of ‘Baiju Baavra’,’Mother India’ are legendary.
    As a boy I saw the film Hatim tai from which I remember Rafi saheb’s song :’Parawar digaare aalam tera hi hai sahara’. A great song with devotion dripping from every word he sings.
    Equally moving song full of devotion is his ‘Mere man hai Ram mere tan me hai Ram’ from Pavanputra Hanuman.
    His later masterpieces that captured my heart are ‘Ehsaan tera hoga muz par’ (Junglee) and ‘Awaaj deke hame tum bullvo’ (Professor).In these songs his
    voice manifests incredible softness while being strong even in high pitch.
    The lyricists and music directors also were of high quality those days.
    Hence Rafi saheb’s talent could find fulfilment in singing those songs.
    Dr V R Chitguppi, Dombivli East

  2. nageshsidhanti says:

    Hello Mr.Anonymous,

    I am certain you are not a female, so here I take the risk of addressing you
    Mr. I like the intriguing ways of yours…that you wouldn’t want to put a name to a write up….demonstrating that you write for Rafi sab’s sake and that fact alone makes your write up already profound. And the contents and presentation is laajawaab.

    You have pressed the button on my heart and it is playing ‘jaag dil-e-
    diwaana’ already. Wah wah whaaat a soft low note romantic melody of FK. Your personal experience with FK has been noted by me with great interest.

    I have a name :-))

    Nagesh Sidhanti

  3. mira says:

    ss jee

    are you the renowned Rafi fan suhana safar, please state

  4. Imran Rustam says:

    Good write up,

    Feroz Khan, Rafi Sb and song Jaag Dil-e-Diwana Rut Jaagi what great combinition.

    Feroz Khan was very stylish and great actor.

    May His soul rest in peace


  5. Nasreen says:

    Yusuf (ref. 51)

    I am touched by the fact that in spite of being from a later generation (I mean you were born after Rafi died!) you display so much sensitivity in understanding the miracle of the voice of the great maestro.

  6. Nasreen says:

    Brothers H V Guru Murthyji (Post 29) MV Devrajji (ref.30) and Anwar Ul Haque (31)

    Thank you all so much for giving me the information I asked for re the song “Na Jhatko”. Much appreciated: Anwar Bhai thanks for attaching the link to see the scene. Yes, they did a good job, but I could not help trying to imagine Dilip and Madhubala.

  7. yusuf says:

    I think its the purity in the personality of Rafi saab that everybody feels warmth for him from the core of the heart. Whenever I think about him and listen to his songs tears drop down from my eyes…… he died even before my birth but still this love and respect exists, because the fragrance of his personality is still around us and will remain there in coming times as well.

    RAFI RULES!!!!

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