His voice swayed millions
This article is by Mr. Vishal Verma. Source: Mr. Sajjad Qadir
MOHAMMED RAFI was one of the most versatile and talented singers Indian film industry has ever produced. Though he passed away 19 years ago on July 31, 1980, he continues to live in the hearts of millions of his fans in India and abroad. Mohammed Rafi had an immortal, melodious voice. He was trained in classical music and had an unparalleled range. Rafi conveyed different shades of emotions through his songs whether romantic, sad, classical, devotional, ghazals or bhajans. He could sing every kind of song with an ease and perfection that made him the uncrowned king of Indian playback singing. It is no wonder that film-makers of the stature of Mahboob Khan, Guru Dutt, A.R. Kardar, Dev Anand, S. Mukherjee and Nasir Hussain relied on him.
However, this humble and shy manâ€™s journey from a small village, Kotla Sultan Singh, to the position of popular singer was not an easy one. Rafi was born on December 24, 1924, and was fond of singing from childhood. As singing was not considered respectful those days, he ran away from home to Lahore, where he got training under maestros such as Bade Gulam Ali Khan and Ustaad Abdul Waheed Khan. Rafi sang on All-India Radio before he entered cinema. Sham Sunder was the first music director who recognised the artiste in Rafi and gave him a break in a Punjabi movie, Gulbloch, in which Rafi sang Soniye, Hiriye nee. Rafi came into limelight in the late 40s with songs such as Suhani raat dhal chukie and Yahan badla wafa ka. However, the credit for discovering the immense range of his voice and polishing it goes to Naushad Ali whose film Baiju Bawra (1951) established Rafi as a talented singer.
Rafi sang for many famous music directors during the 50s and 60s. He sang Naushadâ€™s composition Man tarpat Hari darshan ko, with the same perfection he sang O.P. Nayyarâ€™s light composition Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan. He also sang S.D. Burmanâ€™s Khoya-khoya chand – Kala Bazar,Shankar Jai Kishanâ€™s Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar – Junglee, Roshanâ€™s Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi – Barsaat ki Raat, Madan Mohanâ€™s Main nigahen tere chehre se – Aap ki Parchhaiyan, Salil Chowduryâ€™s Koi sone ke dilwala – Maya and Raviâ€™s Sau baar janam lenge – Ustaadon ke Ustaad.
Despite his great success Rafi was a simple, kind hearted and down-to-earth person. When Laxmi-Pyare recorded their first ever non-film song, Rafi called them after the recording and said Are you both happy?, Yes said the duo. He then gave his entire fees to them and asked them to divide it among themselves. Since then we have always shared everything equally, said the late Lakshmikant. Such was the respect he got from the music directors. He sang free of cost or for a small fee for producers who were short of finances.
Rafi sang almost all the songs for actors like Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Sunil Dutt and Dharmendra among others. He also lent his voice to musical hits like Baiju Bawra, Aan, Amar, Pyasaa, Mere Mehboob, Kashmir ki Kali, Jab Jab Phool Khile, Taj Mahal, Junglee, Suraj, Dosti and Arzoo. Even the producers who had other singers as favourites had to turn to Rafi whenever the need arose such as Raj Kapoor in Sangam, Shri 420, and Awara, V. Shantaram in Sehra, Manoj Kumar in Upkaar, Kranti, and B.R. Chopra in Waqt, Dhool Ka Phool, Dastaan and The Burning Train.
In the course of his career spanning over 35 years, he sang over 26,000 songs in different Indian languages. He has the credit of singing the maximum number of duets along with Lata Mangeskar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. He won six Filmfare awards and the Padam Shree in 1968. He also received the National Award for Jinhen naaz hai Hind par- Pyasaa and the Sur Singar Award for Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare – Chitralekha.
Rafi was truly a singer for the masses and not for any particular class. His voice appealed to all, the old, young, rich, poor, men and women. He was always ready to entertain jawans at the border whenever approached. Pandit Nehru once invited him to Delhi to hear him sing. That was the happiest moment of my life said Rafi. No wonder then that his patriotic songs like Kar chale hum fida – Haqeeqat and Watan pe jo fida hoga – Phool Bane Angaray are still popular.
His demise at the age of 56 on July 31, 1980, came as a shock to the film industry and millions of his fans. Thousands of people took part in his funeral procession although it was raining heavily. People wept, threw flowers and garlands on him from their homes, recalls Naushad Ali. I felt as if my own voice had been lost and could not utter a word for hours when I heard this shocking news, said actor Shammi Kapoor.
- By Vishal Verma.