Versatility, Thy Name is Mohammed Rafi
Two Rafi Songs from the Film ‘Naya Raasta’- A Study in Contrast
Mrs. Usha G Rao- a Senior Member of ‘Baar Baar Rafi’- The Fan Club, Bangalore, India
Call it a cliché, an oft-repeated statement or stating the obvious, I would still like to dwell on this topic and say- ‘Versatility, thy name is Mohammed Rafi’. For me, a discussion on any aspect of Rafi Sahab’s singing amounts to a joyful celebration of his music. Each time I look at the prism of his songs, I see a new angle, a new dimension hitherto unseen by me.
I wish to present here a study of two of his songs from the 1967 film Naya Raasta. The mood and the ethos of the two songs are at total variance with each other and hence are perfect examples for the topic under discussion. The music is composed by Narayan Dutta, better known as N Dutta and the lyrics written by Sahir Ludhianvi Sahab are some of the most meaningful lyrics ever written for films. The two songs are:
- “Ponchh kar ashq apni aankhon se”
- “Main ne pi sharaab, tum ne kya piya”
A brief outlining of the film’s story is necessary so as to understand the mood of the two songs. Balraj Sahni and his screen sister Asha Parekh belong to the economically and socially backward section of society. They are abused, insulted and ill-treated by people belonging to the affluent upper class. Jeetendra who is the love interest of Asha Parekh in the film plays the role of a sheet-anchor in her troubled life.
The first song ‘ponchh kar ashq apni aankhon se’ is happy, upbeat and full of hope and optimism. Saddened by her circumstances, the heroine Asha Parekh is in tears and the hero Jeetendra implores her not to wallow in self-pity and despair but to challenge the existing system and dream of a new social order.
The second antara has some of the most eloquent and thought-provoking words. They are as follows:
“Rang aur nasl, jaat aur mazhab,
jo bhi ho aadmi se kamtar hai,
is haqeeqat ko tum bhi meri tarah maan jaao
toh koyi baat bane.”
Rafi Sahab, as always, breathes life into the poignant lyrics. Gauging the mood of the song, his voice, flowing like a gentle stream, assumes a tender yet cheerful demeanour that is both soothing and comforting. As he sings this song, his voice encapsulates so much of hope, promise and happiness that it encourages the listener to think positively in life.
The second song is “Mainne pi sharaab, tum ne kya piya”.
This song is complex and multi-layered as varied emotions are portrayed in it. There is a sense of doom and despair, anger, frustration, bitterness and even defiance-emotions that are incongruent with each other.
As is evident from the lyrics, the character played by Balraj Sahni is in a drunken stupor while singing this song. Defeated and frustrated by the trials and tribulations he has to undergo in life, he gives vent to his feelings in this song.
As for Rafi Sahab’s singing, well, this is a Rafi song par excellence. This sing should definitely be counted among his best. Rafi Sahab, a teetotaller in real life, does a perfect imitation of a drunken man’s ways of enunciating the words. Notice his slurring and the slight incoherence while singing. When he repeats the mukhda, after each antara, notice how he sings the line ‘main ne pi sharab’ dragging the word ‘pi’.
The second antara begins with the words:
“Tum kaho toh sach, hum kahe toh jhooth,
Tum ko sab maaf, zulm ho ke loot”
While singing the line ‘hum kahe toh jhooth’, he lets out a snigger, a derisive laugh to show the character’s utter contempt, bitterness and a deep sense of hurt towards an unjust society.
The last antara brings out strongly the discrepancies between the haves and the have-nots.
“Reet aur riwaaz sab tumhare saath,
dharm aur samaaj sab tumhare saath
apne saath kya dhool aur dhuan,
aaj chahe tum noch lo zubaan,
aanewala daur lega sab hisaab.”
The intensity of emotion comes out so well in Rafi Sahab’s voice when he sings this antara, especially in the last two lines:
“aaj chahe tum…
……sab hisaab” where he (that is the character played by Balraj Sahni) throws a challenge and warns people around him that future generations would make them pay for their misdeeds.
I urge all Rafi bhakths to watch the video clipping (if they have not done so already) of this song in which Rafi Sahab’s soulful rendition brings out all the subtle nuances of the song and enhances the brilliant performance of veteran actor Balraj Sahni. The entire song sequence, embellished by the two great artistes, makes for a moving visual and aural experience for the viewers.