The Rafi-Kishore saga
The following article appeared in The Statesman,Calcutta, on Aug.7 th 2005. It will give more food for thought to the ongoing debate about the Rafi personality and magic – Mohan Flora .
Mohd. Rafi was the greatest playback singer, asserts Ranjan Das Gupta as he pays tribute on the melody kings 25th death anniversary. Rafi was a classically trained singer while Kishore was naturally endowed with excellent resonance. The latter was a versatile genius, singer, music director, actor, writer and director all rolled into one. Both were proficient singers but had separate individual styles.
In the 1950s Rafi literally ruled the roost. He was the most favoured singer for veteran composers like Naushad, S.D. Burman, Shanker Jaikishan, Madan Mohan while Kishore was preferred by S.D. Burman and Salil Choudhury who was playback mainly for Dev Anand and his own films. Rafi on the other hand could balance his melodious voice for diverse stars like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Rajendra Kumar and Shammi Kapoor.
It is an astonishing fact that O.P. Nayar used Rafi to sing for Kishore Kumar the unforgettable tune Man Mora Bawra in Ragini in 1957. Shanker Jaikishan also had Rafi to sing Ajab Hai Dastan in Shararat in 1958. Says record museum owner Vinod Santhalia, It is simply amazing. Imagine Mohd. Rafi sang for Kishore Kumar in films Kishore himself acted.
Shanker Jaikishan commented, No doubt Kishore Kumar is a good singer. He sang beautifully for me in Rangoli. But Ajab Hai Dastan was simply not Kishores cup of tea. The mukhdas and antaras required a singer of Rafis range and classical background.
Although Kishore Kumar felt bad about this, he could only marvel at Rafis brilliant rendering of the two songs. Rafi characteristically remarked, No one else except Kishore could sing Dukhi Man Mera in Funtoosh so well.
Salil Choudhury was not favourably inclined towards Rafi at one point of time, but even he was compelled to use Rafi for the unforgettable Tootey Huey Khuabo Nay in Madhumati and Koi Soney Ke Dil Wala in Maya and confess that Rafi was indeed peerless.
It is generally known that Rafi and Kishore went through a bad patch in their relationship. Yet it is also true that both liked and respected each other. S.D. Burman openly admitted to Kishore that the three solos in Guide by Rafi could not be matched by any singer. On Dev Anands special request, he composed the Kishore-Lata super hit duet Gata Rahe Mera Dil for Guide. Similarly, Rafis numbers in Teen Deviyan and the haunting duet with Lata Mangeshkar in Jewel Thief were far superior to the Kishore numbers in these films.
In the late 60s when R.D. Burman composed the melody for Tum Bin Jaaun Kahan in Pyar Ka Mausam, he experimented the same solo with both Rafi and Kishore. True, Kishore sang this number by melodiously incorporating his inimitable yodelling. But in the romantic number, Rafi scored over Kishore in melody.
The 60s was also considered Rafis decade though Kishore matured considerably as a singer during this period. The Jungle Mein Mangal number Woh Din Ke Baat Sharan Karo had both Rafi and Kishore together but is somehow not remembered that well. But Shanker Jaikishans Hanste Gate Jahan Se Guzar in Andaz by Rafi quite eclipsed Kishores entire Zindagi Ek Safar in 1971.
Madan Mohan also used both Rafi and Kishore in the song Yu Na Sharma for Parwana in 1972. Kishore sang the happy rendition for hero Navin Nischal. But there was Rafi again to do full justice to the Are Hansnewale, the melancholic aspect of the same song for Amitabh Bachchan.
In the 1970s the Kishore Kumar wave took the Hindi film music by storm and was backed by R.D. Burman. Some critics felt R.D was partial to Kishore and avoided using Rafi. The Rafi Kishore duet Yaadon Ki Barat from the film with the same title in 1973 turned out to be a superhit. But it cannot be categorised either as an exclusive Rafi or a Kishore gem for both sang in perfect harmony.
Subsequently, R.D. Burman opted for Rafi again after four years as no other singer could have rendered so skillfully Chand Mera Dil and Kya Hua in Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin; that too in a film with many Kishore Kumar superhits like Mil Gaya and Aa Meri Jaan.
When Rafi sang Darde Dil for Laxmikant Pyarelal in Karz in1980 based on a single note, he proved melody was indeed God-gifted to him, remembers upcoming singer Sujan Bose. Kishores Ay Mere Umar Ke and Ek Hasina Thi could not touch that level. The same can be said for Rajesh Roshan’s Yarana where Rafi’s Aare Re Aisa Tarana completely surpassed Kishore’s Sara Zamana and Tere Jaisa.
Mohd. Rafi left for his heavenly abode on 31 July, 25 years ago. Remembers author Nabaran Bhattacharya, The photo of a silent, sad and grief-struck Kishore in the newspapers portrayed very well that no one except him understood what an irreparable loss had taken place in Indian film music.
As Kishore himself said when Jagjit Singh criticised the Rafi gharana, How dare these so-called ghazal singers criticise an icon that Manna Dey, Mukesh and I dare not criticise. Rafi was unique.