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The Mesmerising Magic of Rafi

This article is sourced by Mr. P. Narayanan and written by Ms. Shikha Biswas Vohra, the illustrous daughter of the legendary music director Anil Biswas. I think it is important for me to stress the Anil Biswas-Mohd Rafi nexus or rather lack of it. I have recd several calls from Rafi fans after my clarification on Radio Farishta and they are quite pleased with the solving of a long-standing dilemma – Shikha Biswas.

Shrikant Narayan, Shikha Biswas

Shrikant Narayan, Shikha Biswas

Music lovers of Delhi were enthralled by the sheer magic of melody, as they travelled back in time to the golden era of Indian cine music. Responsible for transporting them there was the combination of the effort of Sangeet Smriti, an organization dedicated to old melodies being run in the capital by Shikha Biswas Vohra, and the mellifluous voice of Shrikant Narayan, who held an entire audience spellbound with his renditions of the ‘melodious moods’ of the immortal singer.

Mohd. Rafi was known for his versatile talent of singing any genre, and singing it with effortless ease, to the lip-synching of every artist from Shammi Kapoor to Johnny Walker, and making it sound as though the artist on screen was singing the song himself. It is no secret that this aspect of Rafisaab’s amazing talent helped promote the careers of many heroes like Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet and Joy Mukerjee and created for Shammi Kapoor his ‘Yahoo’ image. This was even more astonishing as Rafisaab, a diffident man in real life, gave vent to an aura of ebullience far removed from his natural, shy self. As he also successfully created the aura of ‘nasha’, despite being a teetotaller.

Shrikant Narayan at Tumsa Aacha Kaun Hai - program conducted under the banner Sangeeth Smriti (1).jpgShrikant Narayan, Shikha Biswas at Tumsa Aacha Kaun Hai - program conducted under the banner Sangeeth Smriti (4).jpgShrikant Narayan, Shikha Biswas at Tumsa Aacha Kaun Hai - program conducted under the banner Sangeeth Smriti (5).jpg

Shrikant Narayan and Shikha Biswas, during the song sequence in the program Rafi Nite-Tumsa Acha Kaun Hai- conducted in NewDelhi

Perhaps the event was more notable for the fact that it was stage-managed and organized by the daughter of Anil Biswas, around whom a controversy had raged in the late sixties regarding a remark on Rafi. Anilda had been misquoted as saying Mohd. Rafi was ‘no singer’ which had enraged Rafi fans. However what Biswas had said was Rafi is not ‘my kind of singer’. And when Anilda did compose songs which he thought would be more suitable for Rafi’s voice, as he did in HEER which had an eminently Punjabi background, they shared a superb chemistry!

Shrikant Narayan at Tumsa Aacha Kaun Hai - program conducted under the banner Sangeeth Smriti.jpgShrikant, a well-known stage and playback artist of Mumbai, recreated Rafisaab’s  melodies with a voice and style as near Rafisaab as one could imagine.  It had Rafi fans clamouring for more and they could not get enough of this talented new artist of the present generation who filled the auditorium with magic and nostalgia. The event was held at the prestigious Siri Fort auditorium in central Delhi, and comprised a repertoire of songs with popular appeal along with some numbers rarely heard in stage programmes.

It is heartwarming to note that people are eventually turning back to the music of the golden period, which has a lasting effect as compared to the short shelf life of present-day music. This just goes to prove that melody will never die. Undoubtedly the composers, lyricists and singers of that period have left us an eternal and priceless legacy not to be disregarded or underestimated.

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29 Blog Comments to “The Mesmerising Magic of Rafi”

  1. binu nair says:

    contd…from post 28

    mr raju bharatan added fuel to the fire started by him during the seventies by quoting anil biswas ji who reportedly said :

    “mohd rafi is no singer.” (Kishore is a better singer)

    mohd rafi fans landed a tirade in the illustrated weekly for nearly three months.

    the real reason for publishing the story on mohd rafi was to “boost” the dwindling sales of the weekly it was then felt.

    (it can be compared to recent statement of lata mangeshkar on mohd rafi as ‘no one’ was taking notice of her for some time now – even though she keeps saying : ” I will never stop my singhing”.

    anil biswas could have come back and disowned his statement as lies. he did’nt do that.

    it was kishore kumar the great man who came and wrote in the weekly:

    If anil da had said this about rafi saaheb, its wrong. I myself regard rafi saaheb as a greater singer than me and i respect him.

    With this, the editor stopped the controversy on the issue.

  2. binu nair says:

    well said neeraj anand in Post number 27.

    however, a point herein. a composer is the pilot of the song. its fully his call when recording a song.

    laxmikant-pyarelal, s d burman, O P Nayyar , ravi sharma, sonik-omi and many others were always very adament when they were to choose their singers.

    some of them have threatened to ‘leave’ the movies if their writ is not followed by the producers.

    l and p the for whom mohd rafi was the main singer once told manoj kumar that they will take only mohd rafi for the songs sung by the singer in patthar ke sanam.
    and in milan, they rooted for mukesh when the producer wanted mohd rafi as the singer.

    its interesting to note that rdb went back to mohd rafi when his films and music was flopping during the late seventies .

    their was a great team whenever they came together.

    as rightly said anil biswas should ‘not’ have slighted rafi saaheb and then disowned his own statements.

    but his daughter is a die hard rafi saab fan,

  3. neeraj anand says:

    anil biswas is known for his pitamah image as a composer.he can be credited to have given mukesh his first song.talat mehmood also owes a great deal of his position to anil da.he patronised these singers along with lata in forties and early fifties.that was the time when like all his contemporary singers, stuggling rafi also needed a patron like anil da.but the latter turned a deaf ear to the best voice of the universe.and when he accomplished unparalleled feats without anil da s helping hand and his proteges lost out to rafi saab,he was morally not within his right to slight rafi saab with a remark and that too just the opposite of the truth.anil da summoned rafi saab for heer and abhiman only when the latter had already proved his mellifluous mettle outside his music studio.then anil da needed rafi saab,rafi saab did not need anil da.rather it was rafi saab s magnanimity that he did not refuse to sing for an anil da

  4. vishnu says:

    Anil Biswas was often referred by his fellow music directors, most music lovers and none other than Lata as Anil Bakwas.

  5. shahid karim khan says:

    Rafi was and is the only one . He was and will be the god of melody. He lives in the hearts and minds of music listeners and lovers alike with out any prejudice as to religion. Rafi sang for almost all the great MDs including the respected and late Anil da. I dare say he could not have remarked like that about Mr Rafi. As for salil Ch, I donot think he ranks somewhere among the leading MDs. Madhumati is probably the only film, known after his music.

  6. Shikha Biswas says:

    Dear All
    I had posted a comment earlier on this page but seems it has not been registered. Hoiwever, I would like to thank all readers and writers for their comments. On this forum I would like to clarify some things about the Rafi-Anilda controversy. Baba was a great admirer of anyone with talent and so did not overlook Rafisaab due to slight or intentional dishonour. Perhaps he was more biased towards Mukesh and Talat as he considered them protegees whose careers he had given a fillip to with Diljalta hai and Ai dil mujhe. In fact the humility withwhich he met one and all was amazing, as even chorus singers like Renu and Pankaj and the lowest rung musician was given as much respect in the house as perhaps Lata Mangeshkar. Ms Uttara’s comments in this regard are very apt. Thanks Uttara.It is very easy to criticise but more difficult to appreciate with a correct understanding and perspective. Manish, you are right in guaging the source of the controversy which raged many months in the Illustrated Weekly and Filmfare. Also in our adulation one must not forget that no artist of the golden period was dependent on another. OP Nayyar did without Lata because he was confident of his own talent. All artists contributed in enhancing the COMPOSITION and not himself. Which is why these melodies are immortal. It was always a collective effort. So we should concentrate on promoting the music which is why Sangeet Smriti has been established. We pay homage and respect to the legends. Smriti will organise this year an event to honour the legendary Ameen Sayani on the occasion of Anilda’s birth anniversary on 7 July in Delhi.

  7. Pawan Kumar says:

    I missed to view Shrikant Naryan performance hosted by Shikha Ji due to illess and really for me it was a as about Rafi Saheb and i am a great fan, admirer of that golden voice. Us awaaz par quarban hoon aur us awaaz par aur quarban hoon jo us awaaz ki khushboo ko apni awaaz se logo tak….apni mehak ban key …rafi saheb ke admirers tak ..spread kare…ek endless khuhboo ki tarah…CONGRATS SHIKHA JI……98102-77612

  8. shashank says:


    U r right that salil chowdhury was very much popular after madhumati also. thanx for it.

  9. Manish Kumar says:

    I want to extend my thanks to Miss Shikha Biswas for taking the trouble to clarify the dilemma instigated by Raju Bharathan.

    Now I have been made aware of the appropriate perspective some time before but can anyone post the transcript or point me in the right direction so I can access her comments on radio Farishta? Thanks.

  10. Anil Biswas born on 07/07/1914 and left for his heavenly abode on 31/05/2003.
    Anilda infact started his carrer in the year 1935 with his films “Baal Hatya” “Bhaarat Ki Beti” & “Dharma ki Devi”
    Anilda was undoubtedly one of the greatest music directors of the industry and his immense hard-work & contribution can never ever be forgotten.
    However his small rift with our beloved king of melody Mohammed Rafi Saab cannot be considered as a controversy mainly because his songs were not suitable for Rafi Saab.
    Inspite of all the ods i would like to present a couple of songs sung by Rafi Saab with Anilda from the 1956 film “Heer” starring Nutan & Pradeep Kumar as follows
    1) “Aa jao tumhe dil ka afsana sunana hai” with Asha Bhosale
    2) “Le jao uskee duayein jo tera ho na saka” by Rafi Saab
    Both these songs were penned down by Majrooh Sultanpuri
    Infact Shikha Vora & Narayanjee should come out with a memorable article on Anil Biswas.

  11. AHAMED KUTTY says:

    very attractive article indeed.wishes to narayanji and shikaji

    each and every coin there will be two sides.nobody is above
    controversies.but rafi saab had minimised controversies
    during his life once ramkrishnaji told rafi saab was
    a is difficult to lead good life even for the people who
    do not possess any ability to perform.rafi saab was a human-
    being who controlled and shaped his personality and
    singing career through difficulties.we common men cannot
    imagine his position even.

  12. binu nair says:

    Teri Ada : Good News. The last six songs of legendary Mohd Rafi will be released – at last.
    Production work is being done and there will be a “World Release” of the same.

    The c.d. contains five solo songs of rafi saaheb and one is a duet with asha b.
    Later on the songs will be put in to the movie Sorry Madam and released. The magic of Mohd Rafi will come back once again in the movie.

    this is good news for all mohd rafi lovers. but, a little piece of advice too.

    please have some patience music lovers….

    binu nair, rafi foundation, mumbai : 9833 250 701

  13. sabnavees says:

    post – 11

    singh sahab,

    thank you very much for your respect for me. i deeply reciprocate the same. in fact i was out for a very long time as i was having a number of personal & official problems due to recession etc. since i work in a private firm recession has affected me financially. personal problems i had due to the difference in thinking levels. i stay away from false propaganda. i speak the things which i feel its correct. some may think i am head strong, some may think i am blind in passion etc. i care a damn for it.

    i feel i am a part in this forum & offer my respect to our guruji keeping all the personal issues apart.

    singh sahab jab ham log rafi sahab ke baare mein baat kartey hain to shair or shayiri khud bakhud paida ho jatten hain. bananeki zoroorat nahin hai.


  14. binu says:

    Shikha Biswas and Narayan ji…

    The world is full of Rafi lovers and we love them all.

    Yesterday at a function in which classical songs were taken, i presented the copy of sargam to padmashri awardee smt. zarina sharma, a sitar player and her husband renowned musician shri ashok sharma at a hall in bandras pali hill.
    the cover of sargam mag has a unique picture of mohd rafi saaheb and below it is written : Bharat ka ratan : Mohd Rafi.

    the couple got up from their seats came over and congraluted me for the title.

    before this, our great saxophone player shri manohari da had this to say pinpointing the sargam title : He, Rafi is the asli bharat ratan.

    I am happy to say that everyone loves mohd rafi saaheb.

    There is a request from rafi lovers to print original statements made by shri anil biswas on mohd rafi saaheb.
    we are aware that rafi saaheb has sung some six songs for anil da . and, atleast one song was recorded by anil da’s assistant music composer.

    shikha ji : well done for hosting a dedicated programme on mohd rafi. i know you as a music lover and a mohd rafi big time fan. pls. keep the flag of golden era musc – flying high.

    binu nair, mumbai rafi foundation, cell : 9833 250 701

  15. prakash shah says:

    any good or worst comments in past or present on rafi has no value,Logo ka kaam hai kahena…….aur even aaj voh contrversial statement on m.rafi made him se ye prove hota he ki rafi saab ke naam me kitni taqat hai .

    with love,

    Prakash shah – Diu

  16. sundeep pahwa says:

    reg prog on rafi saheb by srikant ji at srifort delhi on 04 04 09
    under the photo it has been mentioned srikant and shika biswas
    singing actually the female singer is SHUBA MUKERJEE .
    you may like to rectify sundeep pahwa new delhi

  17. sabnavees says:

    binuji, post no – 8

    kya baat hai. ham aapke saath hain.

    haath nahin chodenge sanam, jab tak is jism mein hai dum.

    ( bangayi na shayari )

    mein yeh kahoongaa binuji ke ‘ madhur gane suniye aur bindaas rahiye.

  18. Bina says:

    Anil Biswas ki baatein karen ya Rafi Saab ki…its a tribute to two great souls of Indian Melody. While present day music can be described as a beverage that is had for instant energy, yesteryear classic melodies of Biswas saab had that soothing and calming effect which induced harmony in the listener.

    Shikhaji, you are doing mankind a great service by bringing to us Bhakts those old melodies of Rafi Saab that inspire in us to be as gentle as that great singer. Srikant is a wonderful singer whose performance everytime is a dedicated one and brings joy to our hearts.


  19. singh says:

    Sabnavees alia ramakrishna sahab, greetings,

    In some other post I recognised you as ramakrishna ji, you yourself acknowledging your name. Thanks for your posting again in another name. I remember your earlier posts, specially with reference to post 5 of A S murty ji and your poetry earlier viz., the two corners of a river are rafi and ghantasala and the gap is filled by other singers to complete the bridge etc. and other poems from your end. In fact, we are missing you sir, Thanks for coming back again. expect to see more interesting posts from you sir.

  20. singh says:

    Mr. A S murty ji, post 5

    Good post from you for views of Mr. Chittaranjan – a fine musician from andhra pradesh and for sharing his views on mohd. rafi ji and ghantasala ji from the south. In fact this was stated by many musicians and will be stated in future also. Not only chittaranjan ji, but all other notable southern musicians including spb, kjy, p suseela, pbs etc. and others while analysing southern and hindi counterparts have same views about the said two singers. Thanks for the post.

  21. Raghunaath says:

    The mesmerizing article by P.narayanji and Shikaji is indeed interesting and thought provoking ..I sincerely consider that Anil Biswasji was to Rafisaab as o.p.nayyar to Lathaji…I dont think Anilji had commented negatively with regard to Rafisaab,perhaps in a lighter way he might have done..No body can talk negative about Rafisaab (even for fun),an ever smiling Rafisaab..

    Thanx for the article..

  22. binu nair says:

    Madhur Gaane suniye aur baaki sab baatein (controversies) ko side me rakhiye.

    Is me he bliss (anand) hai.

    sweet listening and regards,

    binu nair
    rafi foundation, mumbai… cell : 9833 250 701…

  23. sabnavees says:

    dear shashank,

    you have a lot of passion for rafi sahab. thats good but please dont conclude that salil choudhury sahab’s career dropped down after madhumati after he was upset with rafi sahab since rafi sahab had rendered a sad song with a smiling face. music director wants a perfect rendition whether the singer keeps a smiling face or rotten face.

    as regards salil choudhury sahab, he is a ‘ genious ‘. his compositions have a hypnotic touch of folk music of north east, the blow of trumpets where we can feel a sunrise or a sunset while listening to his compositions by closing our eyes. in the ‘ antara ‘ the song is so difficult which you can make out while playing a key board or guitar. there is rapid turbulence of notes but neverthless they are in the perfect key. thats salil choudhury sahab the great. he knew the range of rafi sahab. as i wrote earlier also he took rafi sahab for rendering the song ‘ jangal mein mor nacha kisine na dekha ‘ for madhumati. here you can find the range of the singer at the start of mukhda & central antara. he knew what is rafi sahab. dont worry.

  24. Utthara says:

    Dear friends, i think Rafi saab is above all controversies. He is God and can God be part of controversies? The statement attributed to Anilji could not have been right. For Anilji, the most respected music director, would not have made such a remark. Thanks to Shikhaji for clarifying.

    Shikhaji, I have had the privilege of interviewing Anil Biswasji and Meena Kapoorji in 1986 when they came to Bangalore on the occasion of a felicitation function for Biswasji. Both spoke for nearly three hours. Anilji went into a flashback and recounted his musical career. It was fascinating. I feel so honoured. I listened to him with wide-eyed interest as i was very young then and felt overwhelmed that such a celebrity was speaking to me like a member of the family. The interview was published in the Indian Express where I was working then.


  25. A S MURTY says:

    thanks to Narayananji and Shikha Biswas for the excellent article. A lot of what is said in the article is not known to many and therefore I refrain from putting any kind of comments on a subject on which I have no knowledge. I have seen shrikant narayan’s live programmes and know that he is one singer who puts in a lot of passion in rendering the songs of rafi sahab and doing an excellent job. a great scholar in music who has known anil biswas and one who has researched very deeply into the music styles of both hindustani and carnatic (from the south) is dr m chittaranjan. himself an accomplished musician who composes music, dr chittaranjan is an authority and a household name for most music lovers in andhra pradesh. on several occasions when we met him to enquire how he rates the play back singers of both hindi film world and the southern languages, he emphatically states that rafi sahab is way above all the established names and that ghantasala comes a very close second and that these two singers between themselves have practically explored all the possible naunces of music that can evolve. every music director has his/her own style of composing the songs and choses the right playback singer based on various factors and may not chose a particular playback singer for reasons other than being the best in the industry. shikhaji has put paid to rest any controversy that may be in the minds of music lovers as far as anil biswas and rafi sahab’s relationship is concerned and let us not focus our attention on these matters.

  26. shashank says:

    thanx shikhaji for the nice article. But somehow there was some misunderstanding happened by music directors for rafisahab, but rafisahab was a gentle person so he ignored all the controversies. One by Anilda and another was Salil Chowdhury for the song “Madhumati”. His intention was he wanted to sing in a sad mood rather than singing while smiling in rafis face. He lost his music career after that declining factor. OPNayyarji also had to go in similar fashion which he took Mahendrakapoor for his songs, which he said lately in the interview that he had done a big mistake for that thing. I feel music directors didnt took rafisahab in a way the fans also wanted so they were ignored by the film industry which is a very sad thing. I want to know why this things happened with rafisahab? Whether he was a gentle, quiet and sweet person or it was a ego of music directors which this things happened.

  27. sabnavees says:

    as regards the choice of anil biswas sahab for rafi sahab & salil choudhury sahab for rafi sahab people say so many things . this may be out of passion , immence love for rafi sahab they have. we need not bother for those. either we ignore or we keep ourselves apart from these things. i follow the second option.

    as regards the selection of a singer is concerned its the total descrition of the music director only. anil biswas sahab is the oldest music director in bolliwood. he has seen hundreds of singers in his tenure. i remember once he was totally emotional in tvs saregama programme anchored by sonu nigam. he was holding the laminated photograph of talat sahab & was kissing with a lot of fondness & grief. being asked he told talat sahab has an unmatchable voice like velvet. he was breaking down while telling that talat sahab is bed ridden & he prays god for his early recovery. with this one should never think that he does not favour rafi sahab. its his personal choice. similarly the personal choice of madan mohan ji, ravi ji, o.p.nayyar sahab, roshan sahab, s.d.burman sahab & finally the legend naushad sahab was non other than rafi sahab. the queue of lovers of rafi sahab is endless.

    neverthless as mentioned in this article anil biswas ji has to take the help of rafi sahab at the microphone for a heer.

  28. Muveen says:

    Dear All,

    I am Muveen from Delhi and a Rafi Fan.
    Article is too good as usual.
    “Mohd rafi tu bahut yaad aaya”


  29. I have heard Srikant Narayan at various ‘ keep alive ‘ shows. He is superb. rightly quoted as very very close to the genius.
    He takes you back to the era of the magician.
    Should listen to him.
    Thank you.
    Rafi saab amar rahe !!!

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