Rafi – The Immortal
Article by Imran R. Kidwai – Pakistan Magazine August 1995
Zindagi Tho Bewafa Hai, Ek Din Tukaraayegi, Maut Mehebooba Hai Apne Saath Lekar Jaayegi
Three years after singing this song, Mohd. Rafi passed away on July 31st, 1980.
It has been 15 years now and till this world exists, there is never going to be a replacement for Mohd. Rafi. It is unusual that in a country whose population exceeds 850 million they have, as yet, failed to find a suitable voice to sing songs the way Rafi sang. They have, of course, been many imitators but none like the original.
For Rafi, singing was a passion and something which had to be taken seriously. He started his singing career way back in 1942 and held sway in the film industry till his death in 1980 – 38 years with innumerable variety of songs.
As a human being, he was extremely humble and religious and surprisingly so soft spoken, that you had to be very close to him to catch what he was saying – something in stark contrast to his songs and powerful voice. He is the only singer who had the unique distinction of opening out his voice when singing on high scales. Other singers’ voices narrow down as they reach high pitches. If you listened to the song “chal ud ja re panchi” both by Rafi and Talat, it will be noticeable.(*)
During his long career he sang a vast number of songs for all kinds of characters portrayed on the screen. Be it a hero, a drunkard, a beggar, a comedian etc., Rafi catered to all and did justice to the lyricist, the music director, and to the song itself. Music directors had a choice of many singers but there was always the thought at the back of their minds, that in the event no other male singer could do justice to their song, there was always Mohd. Rafi to sing for them. Even other singers have admitted that to sing a duet with him was extremely taxing.
Being trained in classical music, he sang a number of very good classical numbers, both solos as well as duets. He has also sung a song for Kishore Kumar in the film Ragini.
Of all music directors that Rafi sang for, somehow he was never repeated by Anil Biswas. Anil Biswas always claimed that his soft music was not suited for Rafi’s loud voice – an argument that can go on forever, but Rafi has sung some very good soft numbers, such as apni to har aah ik toofan, jaane kya dhoonti rahti hai, tumse kahoon ik baat, which is proof enough of the control he had on his voice.
It seemed as though he could scale any heights of the pitch. The song from Mughal-e-Azam titled zindabad ai mohabbat is proof enough. His voice carried expressions and gave the listener an understanding of the scenes and actions without having actually seen the film. For example, in Barsaat Ki Raat the song zindagi bhar nahi has a poetic line, surkh aanchal ko dabakar jo nichora usne. And the way Rafi has emphasized the word nichora, you could almost imagine Madhubala wringing her aanchal. Or if you listen to the song from Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, phrased aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai, you can imagine the detailed facial expressions as expressed in the song.
Naushad-Shakeel-Rafi was a team that started off way back in the 1940s and produced hits upon hits till mid 1960s. They seemed to be made for each other and none of the three let the other down. Who can forget songs such as is duniya mein si dilwalo Dillagi, tasveer banata hoon teri Deewana etc.
To write and record from the 1940s to the 1980s would take up a lot of pages, so I will end this article by listing out various songs that have been my personal favourites for a long time and will remain so.
Zindagi ke safar mein akele the ham – Nartaki – Ravi
Ba hosh-o-hawas mein diwana – Night in London – LP
Mohabbat se dekha khafa ho gaye hain – Bheegi Raat – Roshan
Raaz-e-dil unse chhupaya na gaya – Apna Banake Dekho – Ravi
Dil mein ek jaan-e-tamanna ne – Benazir – S D Burman
Tu mere saamne hai – Suhagan – Madan Mohan
Pahle mile the sapnon mein aaj saamne – Zindagi – Shankar-Jaikishan
Dil ki tamanna thi masti mein – Gyarah Hazar Ladkiyaan – N Dutta
Gar tum bhula na doge – Yakeen – Shankar-Jaikishan
Masti mein chhed ke tarana koi dil ka – Haqeeqat – Madan Mohan
Mujhe le chalo aaj phir us gali mein – Sharabi – Madan Mohan
Ankhiyan sang ankhiyan laagi aaaj – Bada Admi – Chitragupta
Saaz ho tum awwaz hun mein- Saaz aur Awaaz – Naushad
Maana mere haseen sanam – Adventures of Robin Hood – G S Kohli
Teri zulfen pareshaan – Preet Na Jaane Reet – Kalyanji-Anandji
Paas baitho tabiyat behl jaayegi – Punar Milan – C Arjun
Haaye tabassum tera – Nishan – Usha Khanna
Teri tasveer bhi kuch – Kinare Kinare – Jaidev
Zara sun haseena – Kaun Apna Kaun Paraya – Ravi
Hamne kya pyar kiya – Naag Mohini – Sardar Mallik
Tum Mujhe Yun Bhulaa Na Paaoge, Haan Tum Mujhe Yun Bhula Na Paaoge,
Jab Kabhi Bhi Sunoge Geet Mere, Sang Sang Tum bhi Gungunaaoge…