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The mammoth myth about Mohammed Rafi

I came across this old article,by Rajiv Vijaykar, from a link provided by Anon in the comments page of the Rafi-Kishore saga on this site. As is well known, Rafisaab had gone into a self-imposed shell in the early 1970’s before returning to the music scene big-time in 1977 and ruled again till his passing away in 1980.The article provides a peek into some of the many good/popular songs of the singer during that early seventies period known as the “lean” phase then, but considered CLASSIC today! – Mohanflora

A legend, an inimitable singer and an exemplary human being. Mohd. Rafi was all this and more. July 31 marks his death anniversary and an occasion to go down memeory lane with his memorable songs… 1969 November. Aradhana sweeps the nation. So, separately, or together do Rajesh Khanna, Kishore Kumar and S.D. Burman. A half-year later, R.D. Burman rides piggyback on Mohammed Rafi for his final breakthrough, The Train. He signs a glut of films that have Kishore dominating the inlays.

By mid-1971, Rafi is sidelined in the Kishore wave. Kalyanji-Anandji shift Kishore Kumar-wards, Shanker-Jaikishan are forced to. Especially after Jaikishan’s death, which leads to a decline for Shanker as Jaikishan loyalists shift mostly to RD. And Laxmikant-Pyarelal too are forced to strike a balance. By early 1973, the arrival of the degenerate tradition of “music sittings” completes the case for the media – Rafi is ‘passe’!

This state of affairs is reversed only in 1977. Kishore Kumar, banned by the Congress during the Emergency regime, loses his solo supremacy chronologically coincident with the end of his persecutors’ reign. As the nation celebrates the return of democracy, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and – ironically – R.D.Burman, backed by Manmohan Desai and Nasir Hussain, sculpt a ‘comeback’ for the man who is not only a Colossus among singers, but – by nature – virtually a saint.

It is relevant to mention here about Naushad recalling how a depressed Rafi informed him about his plans to quit in the mid-70s when the Kishore wave peaked. Luckily, Naushad’s advice not to quit was heeded. The veteran composer told him that he should think of quitting only when (not if) he returns to the top.

All this shows the extent to which the great Rafi myth was perpetuated, and believed in, ironically even by Rafi Sahab himself. Today, 22 years after he left us, it is time overdue to shatter this myth once and for all. Let’s take a comparable example. Amitabh Bachchan always did less films than Jeetendra, and Dilip Kumar did fewer films than Bachchan. Which did not make the most prolific star the most successful. By the same yardstick, the reduction in Rafi’s visits to the recording studios did not necessarily imply that Rafi was down. And ironically, it was the high quantum of Rafi songs in the pre-Aradhana phase that helped to fuel this myth. Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey too were affected – but since they sang less in any case, they were not declared ’finished’. Rafi was!

But in actual fact, it was during this 1971-76 period that Rafi’s standing almost paralleled Mukesh’s. For Rafi had a greater than ever percentage of hits. Take the Burmans – the men responsible mainly for the mythical ‘eclipse’. To think that the otherwise sagacious Burmans would completely neglect Rafi would be as much an insult to Dada’s and Pancham’s prodigious talents and rock-hard convictions as to Rafi’s monumental talent. Taking the senior first, S.D. Burman’s oeuvre with Rafi during this period included two of their most lustrous collaborations ever – ‘Mera man tera pyaasa…’ (Gambler) and ‘Teri bindiya re...’ (Abhimaan), along with the LP-esque ‘Woh kya hai…’ (Anuraag), the soulful ‘Ae mere man…’(Us Paar) and the fun song ‘Sa re ga ma…’ (with Kishore) in Chupke Chupke.

Pancham, of course, could not side-step Rafi’s virtuosity when he needed the perfect earthy tang for Mela (‘Rut hai milan ki…’, ‘Ek baar rakh de…’, ‘Gori ke gaath mein…’) and Caravan (‘Kitna pyaara vaada…’, ‘Arey ho goriya kahaan tera des…’, ‘Chadti jawaani…’). It was also during this media-created exile that Pancham took inspirational base from the title track of the film If It Is Tuesday It Must Be Belgium to fashion one of his most enduring songs of all time, ‘Chura liya hai tumne…’ (Yaadon Ki Baaraat), despite the Kishore majority in the score.

And if that sounds as if Pancham never did him ‘solo’ justice, cast a thought towards such nuggets as ‘Rekha o Rekha…’ (Adhikar), ‘Ek pate ki baat sunaaoon…’ and ‘Koi aur duniya mein…’ (Pyar Ki Kahani) and ‘O jaan-e-jahaan (Chhalia)’.

There were some more examples that perhaps did not make it to the pop charts – like ‘Aa raat jaati hai…’ (with Asha/Benaam) and ‘Kaahe ko bulaaya…’ (Humshakal) and we could perhaps add ‘Pyar hai ek nishan qadmon ka..’ (Mukti), but the fact is that RD knew only too well which side his Rafi bread had to be kept buttered!

If the Burmans alone could be so good to Rafi, what of L-P and S-J who were completely Rafi-aligned? Think S-J and we had Andaz, Jawan Mohabbat and Patanga (as scores) as well as individual triumphs like ‘Unke khayaal aaye…’ (Lal Patthar), ‘Joode mein gajraa…’ (Dhoop Chhaon), ‘Chirag kiske ghar ka hai…’ (Ek Nari Ek Brahmachari), ‘Humko to jaan se pyaari…’ (Naina) and ‘Teri neeli neeli ankhon ke…’ (with Lata/Jaane Anjaane) – and that’s only the cream.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal of course, flooded Rafi with a string of winners, apart from Rafi-dominated scores like Mehboob Ki Mehndi and Aap Aaye Bahaar Ayee. The other ‘memorabilia’ included ‘Koi nazrana lekar…’ (Aan Milo Sajna), ‘Kuch kehta hai yeh saawan…’ ( with Lata/Mera Gaon Mera Desh), ‘Patta patta boota boota…’ (with Lata/Ek Nazar), ‘Reshma jawan ho gayi…’ (Mom Ki Gudia), ‘Na tu zameen ke liye…’ (Dastaan), ‘Main ek raja hoon…’ (Uphaar), ‘Yeh zulf kaisi hai…’ (with Lata/Piya Ka Ghar), ‘Aaj mausam bada beimaan hai…(Loafer), ‘Tere naam ka diwana…’ (Suraj Aur Chanda), ‘Banda parvar main kahaan…’ (Pocketmaar), ‘Doston mein koi baat…’ (Prem Kahani), ‘Main jat yamla…’ (Jaaneman) and many more.

Such was Rafi’s gentle clout even in this so-called exile that he made an impact even with small composers and lesser films, lending substance and even a permanent place in history to such names as Thokar composers Shamji-Ghanshyamji (‘Apni aankhon mein basaakar…’), Milap composer Brij Bhushan (‘Kahin aisa na ho…’), ‘Ek Nari Do Roop composer Ganesh (‘Dil ka suna saaz tarana dhoondega…’), My Love composer Daan Singh (‘O my love…’), Khoon Khoon composer Vijay Singh (‘Maati ke jalte deepak…’).

During this phase, Rafi would often do what Mukesh did to him in the earlier days – steal the thunder with the single song he sang. Thus we had Rafi upstage multiple Kishore numbers with one ‘Nafrat ki duniya…’ (Haathi Mere Saathi/L-P), ‘Mera man tera pyaasa…’ (Gambler/S.D.Burman), ‘Jis din se tujhko…’ (with Asha under Madan Mohan in Parwana), ‘Wada kar le saajana…’ (with Lata under K-A in Haath Ki Safai), ‘Yeh raat hai pyaasi pyaasi…’ (Choti Bahu/K-A), ‘Zamane ki aankhon ne…’ (O.P. Nayyar/Ek Baar Mooskura Do) and ‘Din hai yeh bahaar ke…’ (Usha Khanna/Honeymoon).

His effortless brilliance was thus spotlighted again and again in this so-called dull phase, in a spell-bindingly variegated ‘buffet’ spread that also included lovely duets like ‘Ek daal par tota bole…’ (Lata) and ‘Paon mein dori…’ (Asha) in Ravindra Jain’s Chor Machaye Shor, ‘Tum jo mil gaye ho…’ (Hanste Zakhm) and ‘Tumse kahoon ek baat…’ (Dastak/Madan Mohan) or those lovely K-A duets like ‘Chal diye tum kahaan…’ (with Asha/Ek Kunwari Ek Kunwara), ‘Diwane hai diwano ko…’ (Lata/Zanjeer) and ‘Ho tumse door rehke…’ (Lata/Adalat).

Rafi and range were synonymous, and it was there in all its resplendent array in two of his chart-smashers during this phase: the Dharma film Sonik-Omi qawwali, ‘Raaz ki baat keh doon…’ (which had coins showered on the screen during the sequence) or that hijra hit, ‘Saj rahi gali meri maa…’ which jet-propelled the debut-making Rajesh Roshan’s career amidst a glut of Kishore numbers in Kunwara Baap. Both were benchmarks in their genre in the 70s.

We also had Rafi giving Ravindra Jain the sole lingering ace in his debut, ‘Nazar aati nahin manzil…’ (Kaanch Aur Heera), and that timeless Usha Khanna masterpiece, ‘Teri galiyon mein…’ (Hawas). Even for a struggling Bappi Lahiri, Rafi ended up singing two steeply melodious songs – ‘Kaisa hai naseeb tera…’(Paapi), ‘Allah hi dega…’ (Sangram).

Rafi and ‘down’? Haven’t we heard that titans go down only in history?

—Rajiv Vijayakar

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8 Blog Comments to “The mammoth myth about Mohammed Rafi”


    this is an eye opening article .I would like to add some songs in this list: 1. badi door se aaye hain pyar ka tohfa laye hain 2. sab ke rahte lagta hai jaise koi nahi mera 3. kuchh log yahan par aise hain 4. matlab nikal gaya hai to pahchante nahi .5. door rahkar na karo baat qareeb aa jao. I will add more songs later on.

  2. mohanflora says:

    Rafi also sang the following, among others, for RD Burman in the early
    RAATON KA RAJA(1970) – all songs hits
    Door se tera diwana with Asha
    Aana to sajni din ko aana -solo
    Mere liye aati hai sham…Raaton ka Raja- solo
    Mohabbat ser tumhe dekha with Lata
    and others

    PARCHHAIYAN(1970)the only full punjabi song by RDB
    Zara ankhiyaan la laiye- solo

    GARAM MASALA(1972) hit
    Mujhko bachale meri ma with Asha

    Tere athroo chun lawan main-solo hit

    DIL KA RAJA(1972)-hit songs film starring Raj Kumar flop
    Jao Jao samajhte kya ho-solo
    Sunder ho aisi- solo
    Rajeshwari Bhagyeshwari-solo
    Jinke pas haathi ghora-with Manna Dey

    DO PHOOL(1973
    Armaan tha hamein jinka- hit duet with lata

    There were other hits too, like in Rampur ka Lakshman(1972), Benaam, Kahte Hain Mujhko Raja, Kasme Vaade etc. before RDB again began taking Rafi big time with scores in Hum Kisise Kum Nahin(1977) and Phandebaaz(four Rafi hits, 1978). If you follow the trend after 1977 you will note that RDB had started depending on Rafi more and his tendency towards Kishore Kumar was cooling off. Cases in point- big budget movies like The Burning Train, Shaan, Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, The Great Gambler etc. Just listen to all the songs I have listed above and you will find a freshness not found in scores of RDB with other singers. RDB-Rafi combo rocks!

  3. mohanflora says:

    Click on the link and enjoy the “Din Dhal Jaye” from Guide.Rafisaab and Dev combo at their best!

  4. Harvinder says:

    Rajiv ji ‘s write reminds us all that although Kishore da ruled hindi music between 1970-1976, Rafi Sahab gave many wonderful songs in the so called Kishore era. Such was the wave then that there was only one singer, even Lata was talked about less than Kishore. Compare Lata’s version of “Mere Naina Sawan bhadon” vis a vis Kishore’s. To me Lata’s song is far superior. Yet die hard Kishore fans think otherwise.

    Rajiv bhai has mentioned Rafi’s so many songs from his “bad years- as I like to call”. For any other singer those numbers are good enough, but Rafi being the king and messiah, for us to accept this is little hard, but a fact. I do not think that Kishore da despite his brilliance had nearly as many songs in 50s’60s’and late seventies. Not to forget, Kishore da was very talented and could improvise instantly. Many of his songs are simply amazing.

  5. Muhammad says:

    We need to comment at that topic which being indecisive. The voice qaulity of Muhammad Rafi was a Blessing of GOD and HIS decisions cannot be challenged. That had already been proved that Muhammad Rafi’s was ONE on this earth and he will remain ONE forever. Who was popular in 1960,1970s?? are all baseless points. Muhammad Rafi is a star on skies of his fans hearts and will his voice will continue to mix in airs of INDO-PAK.

    Only one example is enough that all RAFIANS are writing every day for the GREAT Muhammad Rafi even he has passed since 26 years ago.

  6. ashis says:

    Very logical and well written, thanks Rajiv. Thanks to Mohan Flora for bringing it out.

    As stated in the article early 70s expereienced numerous hits of Rafi Sahaab. I still remember how people went crazy about “Botol pe ek baat – from Ghar” despite other KK hits from the same movie.

    I totally agree with Mr.Pravin that
    “there can be no doubts. One doesn’t have to look at the sun, to know its shining”

    To us Rafians Rafi Sahaab is simply The Leader/Guru in the music field and nothing can change that.

  7. Pravin Nair says:


    Thanks for this amazing write-up, this is a slap on the ungrateful faces.

    We are believers, for us to see and believe that Rafi is the greatest, is like believing that right now you and me are breathing.

    For those who don’t believe…its a shame.

    I, like any other Rafi follower, there can be no doubts. One doesn’t have to look at the sun, to know its shining.




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