Zindagi To Bewafa Hai… The K-A/Rafi Jukebox
This article has been written by Mr. Ali Rashid
Zindagi to bewafa hai
Ek din tukhrayegi
Maut mehbooba hai apne
Saath lekar jaayegi
How right Rafi-saab was, when giving a soul-stirring rendition to this Kalyanji-Anandji tuned composition from Muqqadar Ka Sikandar. Three years later, Khuda willed, and Mohammad Rafi breathed his last, bringing to a close an era of melody. Now, twenty-nine years after his death, his star shines brighter than ever, and his legacy continues to enthrall music lovers of all generations, across the globe.
The name Mohammad Rafi conjures so many enchanting memories and compositions of a diverse nature. Blessed with phenomenal talent, a beautiful sweet and melodious voice, an unbelievable range, and sparkling versatility, among many others, Rafi ruled the HFM scene like a monarch. For over three decades, Rafi was a composer’s dream. His unmatched brilliance, consistency, and variety gave shape to every possible kind of song, and gifted us music lovers with fantastic melodies. Truly speaking, they don’t make them like Rafi anymore.
In the same year as Rafi put his soul into the sad version of the Muqaddar Ka Sikander title song, he also, yet again, reminded us how lonely life can be without our beloved, with his emphatic rendition of another Kalyanji-Anandji beauty, “Zindagi teri yaadon mein khoyee” (Darinda).
A lot has been written about Rafi’s fantastic association with many legendary composers. As this year is Rafi’s 29th death anniversary, and Kalyanji’s 9th death anniversary, I’d like to take this opportunity to ponder upon an under-explored relationship, one that is no less than any one of Rafi’s other associations, and that is Mohammad Rafi with Kalyanji-Anandji. Not much has been written about this team, which is quite a surprise, as they consistently produced excellent songs. This fruitful association may not have been as high profile as other Rafi associations, but was no less in terms of memorable outings and outstanding melodies. With close to 200 songs, many classics and hits, this team was anything but low-key.
K-A’s compositions with Rafi covered large ground, a lot of genres, and contained intense melody and variety. From soft romantic ballads, to western-based nuggets, from the sentimental to the classical, with the qawwali thrown in, not to mention the ghazals, and the fantastic duets and multi-singer songs, add to it the lively, fun, and trendy gems, the K-A/Rafi jukebox is a prized commodity. K-A always had this “sweetness” factor associated with their compositions, and this aspect of their music was ever so naturally fluent when they combined with Rafi. In addition, K-A’s Rafi songs were fresh and had both an old- world charm and modern appeal. The K-A duo refined their overall style every few years, acclimatized to various times, and Rafi was a part of their journey from the 50’s to the 80’s. K-A made full use of Rafi’s dazzling vocals in a variety of ways, and in turn Rafi gave them (as he did all others) his very best.
What is interesting is that Kalyanji, one half of the dynamic duo, started his association with Rafi as a ‘solo composer’ in his debut film, the 1958 ‘Samrat Chandragupta’. In this film, Rafi sang his first hit “Chahe paas ho chahe door ho”, a melodious Lata-Rafi duet along with another Lata-Rafi gem in “Bhar bhar aaye akhiyan”. Kalyanji is one of the rare composers in Hindi Film Music to score successfully solo, and excel as part of a duo. With this in mind, I’d like to briefly mention some of the melodies that Rafi sang for Kalyanji ‘solo’, before Anandji joined him hand in hand. In Post Box 999, Rafi vocalized two nice duets, “Main hoon papa khan” (with Suman), and “Bichde hue milinge” (with Asha). Rafi and Manna vocalized “Kya hamne socha tha” in O Tera Kya Kehna and in Ghar Ghar Ki Baat, the solo “Ooperwale ne jaldi mein” was well-received. Anandji, the second half of the duo joined him in 1959 with Satta Bazaar to complete the great duo. However before that, Kalyanji scored another solo film with ‘Bedard Zamane Kya Jane’. By the time this film came around, the industry had taken notice of this young talent. Kalyanji created such evergreen treats in this film, “Kyun mile hum tum”, “Main yahan tu kahan”, and “Door kahin tu chal”, each an excellent duet in the voices of Lata and Rafi. For it was this golden duet pair of Lata and Rafi, that would become a K-A favourite in the years to come.
When it comes to Lata-Rafi duets, K-A stand tall on a separate pedestal, amidst the other legendary composers who created duets for this pair. It seems whenever Lata and Rafi came together for a K-A duet, they gave that extra little something to the composition. Just sample these amazing melodies. The sweeping feel of “Humne aaj se tumhen” (Raja Saab), the intensely melodic “Kabhi raat din hum door the” (Aamne Samne), the South Indian flavoured “Humko hone laga hai pyar” (Dil Ne Pukara), the catchy western-based “Aao tumhen main pyar sikhadoon” (Upaasna), the deep romantic “Bekhudi mein sanam” (Haseena Maan Jaayegi), the song that rocked in 1974 and still does, “Waada karle saajna” (Haath Ki Safai), and melodies as vintage as “Saaz dil ched de” (Passport), “Yunhi tum mujhse baat” (Sachcha Jhoota), “O jaanewale sun zara” (Preet Na Jane Reet), “Husn chala kuch aisi” (Bluff Master), “Tu bhi aaja” (Maryada), “Tere nain mere nain” (Rakhwala), “Bol mere saathiya” (Lalkar), “Mere pyar ki awaaz” (Raj Mahal), along with many other assorted gems.
Apart from the Lata-Rafi duet pair, K-A produced fabulous duets for Rafi with other singers, most notably Asha Bhosle and Suman Kalyanpur. With Asha, we have the exotic “Chal diye tum kahan” (Ek Kunwari Ek Kunwara) with its Arabic flavour, the trendy “Kya dekhte ho” (Qurbani), with Feroz Khan and Zeenat Aman exchanging sweet nothings on a speedboat, the semi-classical romantic “Rehne do rehne do” (Rakhwala), the breezy “Sare shehar mein” (Bairaag) which had Dilip Kumar romancing a young Leena C, and the trendy “Pyar se dilbar de” (Kab Kyun Aur Kahan) filmed on macho man Dharmendra and Babita, among others. Along with this, we had Suman-Rafi adding their bit to the K-A record with lovelies such as “Na na karte pyar” (Jab Jab Phool Khile), “Tu jungle ki morni” (Raja Saab), “Aye jaan-e-tamanna” (Ji Chahta Hai), “Jaaneman hum aap se” (Anokha), and a few more. Geeta Dutt, Krishna Kalle, Usha Timothy on the female side, and Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey and Mukesh on the male side, besides others, occasionally came in for duets or multi-singer songs with Rafi.
How did K-A and Rafi fair on the ‘solo’ lane ?. Absolutely marvelous I must say. K-A’s Rafi solos are not celebrated as much as they should be. It is here that I recall two stunners, “Tere jaisa kaun hai” (Tamanna), and “Yeh raat hai pyaasi” (Chhoti Bahu). The emotion and romance Rafi put into the former gives one the feeling of ecstasy. With the glorious voice doing its magic, hero Biswajeet did not have to do much on screen, just let the voice do everything. This romantic masterpiece is no less than any one of Rafi’s historical romantic ditties. The latter classical-based composition, craved Rafi’s peerless art, and so Rafi it was on Rajesh Khanna. The tabla, santoor and violins transport one into another world, the ‘phirat’ and ‘masti’ in Rafi’s voice leaves one in a dizzy. The immortal bhajan filmed on the Thespian Dilip Kumar “Sukh ke sab saathi” (Gopi) was another outstanding creation from K-A/Rafi, as was the haunting “Mohabbat ke suhane din” (Maryada), a sentimental beauty and one of Raj Kumar’s best ever songs. Other extraordinary solos include the Kashmir- flavoured “Pardesiyon sena akhiyan” (Jab Jab Phool Khile), the extraordinary “Teri zulfen pareshan” (Preet Na Jane Reet), the folksy “Aaja tujhko pukare mere geet” (Geet), the tour-de-force “Akele hain chale aao” (Raaz), the composition that conveyed the emotions about being alone, “Sab ke rehte lagta hai jaise” (Samjhauta), the suhaag raat “Yeh baat hoti hai” (Majboor), the pathos-based “Jinki kismat mein” (Raja Saab), the piano-based “Kuch log yahan par” (Vardaan), the story that Rafi told through a song “Ek tha gul aur ek thi bulbul” (Jab Jab Phool Khile), the romantic “Chandni raat mein” (Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati), and many more.
The last mentioned song from Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati brings us to the film’s hero, Shashi Kapoor. If elder brothers Raj and Shammi had the ‘duo of all duo’s’ in S-J for their music quotient, the younger Shashi had the melodic support of K-A. In films such as Jab Jab Phool Khile, Aamne Samne, Haseena Maan Jaayegi, Raja Saab, Do Musafir etc., the K- A/Shashi/Rafi team created chartbusters. The bond and symbiosis was such that Shashi became linked with K-A in the public mind. Although Rafi also produced excellent songs for Shashi with other composers, his songs for the star under K-A remain unique for their special appeal. Besides the youngest Kapoor, under K-A’s baton, Rafi sang for every hero that mattered. From Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra, Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Raj Kumar and Biswajeet to Joy Mukherjee, Rajesh Khanna, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, right down to Feroz Khan, Sanjay Khan, Vinod Khanna, Anil Dhawan, and others, Rafi vocalized a multitude of K-A beauties.
If one has observed K-A’s music, it is quite perceptible that in their early days, K-A modeled their music on their idols Shankar-Jaikishan. The pacy rhythm, orchestral finesse, and beautiful east-west fusion, among others, that S-J are known for, is reminiscent in many K-A compositions of those times. I’ve always had a hunch that “Dil beqarar sa hai” (Ishara) was K-A’s tribute to S-J and the S-J/Rafi combination. For everything about this song screams S-J. The rhythm, accordion, melody, and violins have a distinct S-J feeling. Yet the composition is quintessential K-A, with amazing singing from Rafi. In addition to S-J, if there was another composer the duo admired, it was the Grand Old Man from Tripura, S.D. Burman. One can find traces of the senior Burman in choice K-A songs, whether it is their use of the santoor, the calm feeling their music generates, or the evergreen melodic aspect of their compositions. Nevertheless, having absorbed the best of both S-J and SDB, at the end of the day, K-A’s music was essentially their own.
Writing about more K-A/Rafi gems would need numerous pages, so here I will pick and choose a few more memorabilia. “Aaj kal hum se roothe” (Aamne Samne) has an excellent east-west fusion, with its classical favour, splendid tune and soft orchestration in which at two points, the sax takes us through a short journey to be followed by the famous K-A santoor and violins. The shelved film Sweetheart boasted of great songs by the duo, including a catchy, sweet and sizzling Lata- Rafi duet “Ban ke saathi pyar ki rahon mein” which followed the tradition of sublime K-A Lata-Rafi duets. Rafi used to start most of his mid-to late 70’s concerts with “Badi door se aaye hain” (Samjhauta), a terrific composition with a nice melody and rhythm. There is a beautiful pathos-laden gem from Shammi’s Kapoor’s Preet Na Jaane Reet entitled “Main bewafa nahin hoon” in which K-A and Rafi’s artistic side flourishes. Another artistic song with a classical flavor is the haunting beauty which released in 1980, “Kisi aasman pe to saahil milega” (Kashish), immortalized by Rafi and K-A. Raaz had an intimate duet entitled “Kya soch rahe ho tum” in which Krishna Kalle accompanied Rafi. This duet is almost music-less and K-A allowed just the two voices to work their magic. “Tu hai kahan” (Log Kya Kahenge) and “Aap ka shukriya” (Anokhi Pehchan) are two more wonderful songs from the K-A/Rafi team. An aspect of K-A/Rafi that also needs to be mentioned is the men who wrote these beautiful songs. Delve into this association and you will find lyricists as varied as Anand Bakshi, Indeevar, Gulshan Bawra, Kaifi Azmi, Rajinder Krishan, Hasrat Jaipuri, Gulzar, Qamar Jalalabadi, and Bharat Vyas writing their songs.
Kalyanji was fond of “Yahan main ajnabi hoon” (Jab Jab Phool Khile) and was of the opinion that it was one of the best songs that Rafi sang under their baton. This splendid composition also showed that K-A were also masters with the violin ensemble. The way the violins have been tuned to convey sorrow and pain, combined with the piano and Rafi’s immaculate rendition, makes this another winner from the K-A/ Rafi team. Kalyanji in a TV interview mentioned “Rafi jaisa singer koi nahi ho sakta” and said that whenever an aspiring male singer came to them, they almost always tried to sing “O duniya ke rakhwale” (Baiju Bawra) or the songs of Dosti in an effort to impress them.
The K-A/Rafi Jukebox is what classics are all about. As long as music is alive, these compositions will continue to enrich our lives. Next time you’re in the mood for some pristine melody, put on a Kalyanji Anandji-Mohammad Rafi creation, and enjoy music and voice at its best.