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Madanmohan’s utilization of Mohammad Rafi during Rafi–Lata spat

By Souvik Chatterji

Mohd Rafi with Madan Mohan

Mohd Rafi with Madan Mohan

It is known to the entire film world that Madanmohan Kohli was very close to both Mohammad Rafi and also Lata Mangeshkar.  When the spat took place between Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar over the issue of royalty, between 1963 to 1967, both of them did not sing any duet songs. Lata contended that singer should receive royalty for their entire life for songs sung in films. Rafi contended that if singers don’t share the losses suffered by the film industry, they should not also share the profits.

Composers in bollywood industry had to decide either to choose Rafi or Lata in respect of duet songs. It was a very difficult decision. Ghazal Ka Shezada Madanmohan Kohli handled the situation in his own royal style. He concentrated more of the solo songs where he could devote them to both Rafisahab and Lataji. In respect of duet songs, where the song required the treatment of female singer he asked Manna Dey or Talat Mehmood to sing the duet with Lata. When the song required the treatment of male singer he asked Suman Kalyanpur or Asha Bhosle to sing with Mohammad Rafi.

In 1963, Madanmohan Kohli composed music in the film Akeli Mat Jaiyo. But in 1964, there were many films where Madanmohan composed music including Aap Ki Parchaiyan, Gazal, Haqeekat, Jahanaara, Pooja Ke Phool, Sharabi, Suhaagen, Voh Kaun Thi. In 1965, Madanmohan composed music in the films Neela Akash, Naya Kanoon, Rishte Nate, Bombay Racecourse. In 1966, Madamohan composed music in the films Daakghar, Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, Ladka Ladki, Mera Saaya, Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhari. In 1967, Madanmohan composed music in the film Naunihal, Jab Yaad Kisi Ki Aati Hai, Nawab Sirajuddaula. In 1967, there was compromise between Rafi and Lata and the first duet song they sung together was “dil pukaare” in the film Jewel Thief under composition of SD Burman.

It is important to examine the treatment of Madanmohan in these few years, when he balanced the excellence of Rafi and Lata and yet continued to do justice to the duet songs. In 1964, Madanmohan composed music in 8 films. In Aap Ki Parchaiyan, Rafi had sung solo songs “ek matwala aaj chala aapni manzil ko”, “mai nigahen tere chehere se”, “yehi hai tamanna tere dark ke”, while Lata sang the solo “agar mujhse muhobbat hai”. When the question came to duet Madanmohan used Rafi and Asha in the song “kabhi ithla ke chalte ho”.

Mohd Rafi with Madan Mohan

Mohd Rafi with Madan Mohan

Madanmohan showed his immense skills in composing ghazals in the film Ghazal in 1964. Rafi’s solos “ishq ki garmiyan”, “rang aur nor ki baraat”, etc., were very popular as well as Lata’s solo “naghma o sher ki”.  It was sheer brilliance of Madanmohan that he did not compromise with Rafi in the song “mujhe ye phool na de”. The duet song of Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur had their own spaces and both had contributed with their unique style.

Madanmohan created magic in the film Jahanaara in 1964. In that film while Rafi sung his solo in style “kisiki yaad me”, Lata sung her solo in style “wo chup rahen to”, Talat Mehmood sung his solo with ghazal andaz “phir wohi sham teri ankh ki ansoo”, there were sequences for duet songs. The one where Madanmohan composed it keeping Rafi in mind, he created the duet with Suman Kalyanpur “baad muddat ke ye ghari aye”. The one where Madanmohan composed it keeping Lata in mind, he created the duet with Talat Mehmood “aye sanam aaj aye”.

In Haqeekat, in 1964, there were hardly sequences for duets. Lata sang her solo sang in style “zarasi aahat hoti hai”. Rafi had many solos and he competed against himself. “yeh sochkar” was as brilliant as “kar chale hum fida”, “mastee me chedke”, etc. In fact Rafi sang the song “hoke majboor usne bulaya hoga” with Bhupinder Singh, Manna Dey and Talat Mehmood.

In Sharaabi, in 1964, Madanmohan’s solo songs for Rafi  like “sawan ke mahine me”, “mujhe le chalo”, “kabhi na kabhi” were mostly in intoxicating moods. So the problems relating to duets were managed in a big way. In Pooja Ke Phool in 1964, Rafi sang the song “hay jamalo” with Asha Bhosle, Madhumati, and others. Lata sang the song “meri ankhon se koi neend” in the film very well. Wo Kaun Thi had many sequences for female playback so Madanmohan gave solos like “naina barse”, “lagja gale”, etc. which became smash hits. Rafi and Asha’s duet “tiki riki tiki riki” also was impressive.

In 1965, Madanmohan still gave important duet songs during Rafi Lata spat. In Neela Akash, Rafi and Asha’s duet “tere paas aake mera waqt” became big hit. The solo of Rafi with ghazal andaz “akhri geet muhobbat ka sunayun” was marvelous. In Naya Kanoon in 1965, the solos given to Rafi by Madanmohan were impressive like “khuch aisi pyari shakal”, “unne qisa e gham” and Asha Bhosle “ankh mei rehti hai” were excellent.

1966 was very successful year for Madanmohan. His songs in Mera Saya all did strike gold. While he managed solos for Rafi like “aapke pehloo me akar ro liye”, Asha “jhumka gira re”, he gave excellent ghazals to Lata like “tu jahan jahan chalega” and “nainon me badra chaye”. In Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, Rafi’s solos created magic like “ek haseen sham ko dil mera kho gaya”, while Lata’s “sapno mei agar mere” created attention.

Neend Hamari Khwab Tumhari created sensation in 1966. Madanmohan used Rafi and Asha’s duet songs “husn jab jab ishq se takra gaya”, “kabhi tera daman na” created sensation. In 1967, Madanmohan created magic with Rafi in the landmark ghazals “meri awaaz bhi sun” and “tumhari zulfon ke saye me sham kar lunga”.

In 1967, the patch up happened and Lata agreed to sing duet songs with Rafi. But it was sheer brilliance of Madanmohan that he utilized the sweetness of voice of Rafi and Lata and solo songs and yet in the duets justified the presence of Suman Kalyanpur and Asha Bhosle with Rafi. Many other composers lke Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad Ali, Roshan Lal Nagrath had to make adjustments in those years. Madanmohan Kohli also faced the challenge and did rise up to the occasion.

Souvik Chatterji, the author of this article

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28 Blog Comments to “Madanmohan’s utilization of Mohammad Rafi during Rafi–Lata spat”

  1. Mohan Pujar says:

    Dear Shri Chatterji,

    Your article is very informative giving a lot more details about Madanmohanji, the Gazal Samrat. In my personal opinion, Lataji always took care to excel in duets with Rafiji. I can just cite a couple of examples. The duet in Rani Roopmati, Lataji shows her excellent command over Hindustani classical singing in the duet, “Jhananana Jhan Jhananana Jhan Jhananana Baje Payaliya……” the song ending in aalaap of both singers one after the other. Lataji excels in those aalaaps. Similarly, in Suvarna Sundari, the evergreen duet, “Kuhu kuhu bole Koyaliya….” she appears completely at ease with her classical part and never goes out of her Sur. I feel that she always took care to put in her best efforts during recording duets with Rafiji. — Regards

  2. lataji should feel proud of rafi sahib he had sung duets with her.
    believe it or not singing with rafiji had brought best out of lataji.
    if that had not happened lataji would not have attained the place
    where she finds herself. i feel like crying why that spat over royalty
    ever occured.
    she should understood the felling of a true pure pious & humble muslim
    soul. some times i feel at peace that it is good that this pious soul left
    this selfish world at right time.

  3. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Dear Santhanakrishnanji and Sunilji,
    Thanks for the beautiful comments. One great aspect about composition of Madanmohan Sahab was that he utilized the speciality of the singer in his songs. For example Manna Dey’s song “kaun aya mere man ke dware” looked created specially for Manna Dey. Mukesh’s song “bhuli hui yaaden” had pathos andaz. Rafi’s numerous songs had the hall mark of the great singer. So the spat between Lata and Rafi between 1963 to 1967, did not stop Madanmohan from producing gems and Rafi did not suffer at all. All the composers showed their loyalty to the great singer.


    Lata had a feud with Chitalkar Ramchandra also. She is a mean minded jealous lady. At par as an artist but not as a person. She never encouraged her juniors to flourish under her baton unlike Mohd. Rafi, who always used to encourage newcomers and never ever felt any threat.
    I can safely conclude the two stalwarts the following way:
    1. Artist at par and a thorough gentle man= Mohd. Rafi
    2. Artist at par but not a person at par= Lata Mangeshkar.

  5. sunil kumar says:

    Sanjeev ji your father and Rafi saheb had a magical chemistry which is evident in their work . The songs of “Haqeeqat” , “Aap Ki Parchaiyan”, “Naunihaal”, “Mera Saya”, “Gazal”, “Jahanaara”, ” Sharabi”, “Neela aakash”, “Dulhan Ek Raat Ki”, ” Hanste Zakhm” were some of the great works by these Great artists. Their work will be written in Golden Letters in the history as a masterly work.
    One song of the film ” Naunihal ” was dedicated to Pandit Nehru it was the highlight of that Movie. The Rendition of that song By Rafi sahab gave ample evidence How to sing a soulful song. People who want to learn how to throw words in such songs like “Meri Awaz suno” and “Tumahri Zulf ke saaye mein Shaam “. You have to be very precise while singing such songs not much of a force but a delicate push is required It is like a delicate shot played without using much force where a class batsman knows where and how much push he has to apply. Another Soulful song from Haqeeqat “Mai Yeh Soch Kar” the use of Violin is beautiful it ripples your heart what a composition and rendition by the Rafi sahab again an ample proof of their Chemistry at work. These are Incomparable songs and can only be heard today and not created again. Sanjiv sir It is our good fortune that you have thought to pen down some of the last moments of Rafi sahab . But what to do we want to know more as “Dil abhi Bhara Nahin” aur kabhi bharega bhi nahin.
    Thank You once again sir for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  6. Santhanakrishnan says:

    A wonderful article which lists the memorable songs of that era. We all took the songs for granted without knowing the hisotry behind. Having access to the siblings and children of those great human beings, is really great and informative!

    Rafi ji was quite unique character, when he was not finding much opportuntiies in early seventies, he said, this has to happen as people want a change – when he (Rafi) came in Talat’s voice was as silky as ever, but people took to him (Rafi) as he was new. When Rafi passed away, Talat flew in and kissed him on the cheek of Rafi’s body. In fact all the male singers of that era – Mukesh, Talat, Tafi and Manna De, had a very healthy respect for each other. In Youtube you find Rafi songs sung by Talat, Manna De and Kishore as a tribute to Rafi. Somewhere I read that he used to refer to Lataji as Maharani (which she thought was meant as a nickname since she insisted on the royalty!). OP Nayyar did not face any problem, because he never used Lata. Shankar Jaikishan, brought in Mubarak Begum, kamal barot, Suman and Asha – as they used to compose for Shammi Kapoor, and songs were meant more for the male leads of their movies. Lata lost out on her ego for a while which was necessary for her to grow personally. Lata had a spat with SD Burman too, and that is why, Asha was brought in when Geeta was fading out. Lajwanti, Dr Vidya and Insan Jaag Utha, etc were mainly Asha’s films!

  7. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Dear Bhagchandaniji,
    As far as the information relating to Rafi Lata spat between 1963 to 1967, it is absolutely true. There is no shadow of doubt. I had contact with Sanjeev Kohli, he confirmed the fact. He in fact said that the spat ended with the song “dil pukare are are are” in the film Jewel Thief composed by SD Burman in 1967. Before the spat ended a musical party was organized where other giants like Mukeshji, Manna Dey sahab also attended.
    Regarding few films within the 1963 to 1967 span, where Rafi Lata duets were heard, the recording of the songs took place before 1963 (films like Leader). Many films had been released after 6 to 7 years of shooting. For example Mera Naam Joker was shot over a span of 5 years and ultimately was released in 1971. Pakeezah was made over a span of 10 years.

    So the duet song like “tere husn ki kya taarif karoon” was recorded before the spat began. Madanmohan Kohli handled Rafi Sahab and Lataji with care and whenever duets were given he ascertained that the quality of the songs never suffered.
    Souvik Chatterji

  8. PARESH DUBEY says:

    All respected listners , I would have focused on this spat ,if I was in india,and
    checked all hindi geetkosh,BUT unfortunatelly at present I m in europe,with my
    son,and daughter.As far I remember,duet of Gaban was recorded in 1962,[gaban was delayed by five years bcoz its director died befor the shooting was complited]Duet of leader was also recorded earlier befor spat,Shagird [1968]and Inteqam [1969]songs recorded after spat.Its 100pc. true that two LATAJI and RAFISAAB did not sing togather during 1963-1967´MID.AROUND 3 YEARS spat started in mid 1963 and ended in mid 1966,till the time suman kalyanpur had sung more than 100 duets with RAFISAAB ,Lataji would have convenced by her group,that she was at great loss,and by the time hmv,and rafisaab also reached at some understanding.So again LATAJI and RAFISAAB STARTED their golden duets .

  9. Jae-Bee says:

    Agree with post # 18 In my personal opinion it was media who played a major part. Maybe it was not that bad like it is potrayed. All I think was difference of opion. And then rumors takes over like “lata doesn’t want to sing with rafi anymore” public and mds starts beleiving it and the hfm world looses. Just like the fued that never was between rafi and kishore. The truth in that was rafi sahab was not available for personal reasons for a couple of years and kishoreda was gaining popularity in rafi’s absence, so what is wrong with that. After all rafi sahab replaced talat sahab, and there was no media frenzy or ill relations then.

  10. J.K. Bhagchandani says:

    I just checked the list of Hindi movies release for 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967. Out of these, I could not find any movie in years 1965 and 1966 having any Lata-Rafi duet. 1963 years has many movies having Rafi-Lata duets (Mere Mehboob, Taj Mahal, Dil Ek Mandir etc.). In 1964 there appears to be only one movie ‘Leader’ having ‘Tere husn ki kya tarif karoon…’. Then 1967 has Jewel Thief, Ram Aur Shyam etc.

    Based on above it will be fair to assume that the spat latsed about two and a half to three years. And that period could be between end of 1963 or beginning of 1964 till 1966, assuming that the releases of 1967 might have songs recorded sometime in 1966 end. I stand corrected if someone ca throw more light on above

    -J.K. Bhagchandani

  11. J.K. Bhagchandani says:

    As far as I know the spat between Lata and Rafi had lasted about 3 years. Considering the duets of Shagird, Inteqam, Leader (in 1964), Gaban etc. the exact period of that spat needs more inputs/ verification from some authentic sources.

  12. Jae-Bee says:

    post # 14 I also think that there must be some duets within that time period, because that is the time when md LP came on the scene with a blast, and we all know LP’s fav’s were rafi and lata. so I guess some research is required. Because sj had a duet in Gaban which is said to be recorded seperately. What about the duets in shagird, intequam etc.? All in all this is a really good and informative article.

  13. PARESH DUBEY says:

    Dear Iqbql ,In my opinion mera saya,and sharabi,had no duets sung by lataji and rafisaab.BUT there was duet sung by asha and rafi in sharabi, mera saya had ALL solo songs,sung by lataji,asha,and rafisaab.

  14. Lt Col Javed Sayyed(Veteran) says:

    Thanks Mr Souvik Chatterji for this informative write up. Very well written.
    Also grateful to vinod mehru, J.K. Bhagchandani, PARESH DUBEY & Binu Nair for sharing valuable info on our Rafi Sahab & his ever helping hand to his colleagues & music fraternity.
    Keep up the good work-All rafians.
    regards & Best Wishes.

  15. iqbal says:

    Sir,If there was a spat between theses two legends in the year 1963-1967,but I still finds deut of them in film like Sharabi,Mera Saaya…etc.

  16. Binu Nair says:

    Madan mohan saaheb is getting back his dues decades after his death. there are many madan mohan shows in mumbai and they are all well attended.

    the madan mohan family too supports the musicals and its a treat for music lovers.

    truly, madan mohan ji lived before his time – it seems and he died young five years before his main singer mohd rafi left the scene.

  17. Ali says:

    I think the bigger loser was we not mohd rafi or lata ji .
    Madan mohan ji said once when mohd rafi sing for I should not be pay because I have nothing to do with song but that be only mohd rafi voice magic.
    In 1970″s when most music directors ignored mohd rafi but madan mohan was with mohd rafi ……

  18. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Dear Jasbirji,
    Thanks for your comments.
    One more thing can be inferred from the history. The composers and lyricists of the 50s and 60s were motivated by quality work. So they also did not compromise with quality.
    Mohammad Rafi was the greatest singer of the country. But if composers like Madanmohan Kohli, Roshanlal Nagrath, OP Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan, did not show absolute loyalty, they may have switched on to other singers. But they did not do so. They found out other singers to sing duets other than Lataji. But Mohammad Rafi’s choice remained unanimous.
    Souvik Chatterji.

  19. jasbir singh says:

    during their spat,who was loser,first of all latajee who missed so many golden duets which ultimately went to suman kalyanpur,asha bhonsle,sharada n shamshaad begum…secondly the listeners were losers who missed latajee in alol those duets she was replaced by above fact,rafisaab n latajee duets are great magic n sweetest to the ears,and will remain so as long this music industry survives.
    it was really difficult period becoz both were most popular and most suitable to that golden era of music when music director,lyricist,singer n musicians worked with honest,sincere,dedication to the highest order,,that was golden touch we like to hear again n again….immortal songs.

  20. SalRafi says:

    Nice article and unique subject. Thanks for throwing light on the spat. Like Paresh Dubey put it Lata was more at loss than Rafi Saab naturally.

  21. PARESH DUBEY says:

    Article was informative,though mejority of music lovers know this fact that there was diffrence of opinion on royalty issue,between rafisaab and lataji
    Rafisaab was kind enough and very librel towards hmv,music director chitragupt also confirmed the fact when I met him at his residence in june 1987.He told me that he had no choice ,rafisaab was his first choice ,he took sumankalyanpur in AADHI RAAT KE BAAD,bahut haseen hain tumhari aankhein…and in two duets of MAIN SHAADI KARNE CHALA…
    In my opinion lataji would had realised that she will lose more and more duets because of royalty controversy,so they opt for compromise.Bcoz of this suman kalyanpur had opportunity to sing more than 100 duets with rafisaab.

  22. J.K. Bhagchandani says:

    Madanmohan was a true Rafian. At the same time he had tremendous sense of singer-selection. He went with Talat for Jahanara and delivered some gems. Apart from those Talat gems he also gave us one of the best all time duets (which came during this Rafi-Lata tiff)- “Baad muddat ke ye ghadi ayee…..” sung by Rafi-Suman Kalyanpur.

    For Laila Majnu, the producer of the movie wanted Kishore to sing for Rishi Kapoor, but Madanmohan saab put his foot down and announced that it will be either Rafi singing those songs or he would quit the movie. Good sense prevailed and it was Rafi all the way. He was a true perfectionist. Unfortunately such a master composer is largely ignored by the main stream media.

    -J.K. Bhagchandani

  23. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Dear Birendraji, Vinodji, Aroraji,
    Thanks a lot for the kind comments.
    I agree with all of you that Rafisahab deserved Bharat Ratna during his lifetime only.
    He had Godly qualities which were manifested in his humbleness. Composers like Madanmohanji were always loyal to him and Madanmohan’s eldest son Sanjeevji confirmed that the Madanmohanji had tremendous relationship with Mohammad Rafi. It did not get media attention that is another case.
    The combination of Rafisahab with Madanmohanji was a deadly combination. Whatever had been produced were masterpieces.
    Souvik Chatterji.

  24. any missed there. please read it as any kind of it in his life time.
    Birendra Singh Bisht

  25. dear souvik sahab,
    good informative article. It was only our rafi sahab who had always keep distance from controversy and never indulged in kind of it in his life time. He was gentleman, helpful, down to earth and real singer of the millenium. Rafi sahab had the qualities that belongs to god only and because of these qualities we rafians demaning the indian govt to conffered rafi sahab “Bharat Ratna” ASAP. Long live rafi sahab.
    Birendra Singh Bisht

  26. r l arora says:

    Dear Souvik ji

    Bundle of thanks for sharing the facts. infact Rafi Saab had no replacement as such Lata had no choice but to sing with him and it was a success.

    warm regards,

    r l arora

  27. vinod mehru says:

    dear souvik ji,
    first of all i would like to convey my sincer thanks to you for selecting such topic , it was a really difficult for respected composers to make adjustment during said spat between two legends, it is true tha matter was dragged for longer period, but still i feel the stand taken by rafi sahab was correct and he never a part of any difference created by him and he is the one who prefer to peace every where.

    i also recalled one incident it was in the year of 1975 when a ban on kishore kumar was imposed by information and broadcasting ministry none of his song was played on radio aur telecast on doordarshan and it was our rafi sahab who initiated to remove the ban on kishore daa.

    i feel that u have well covered the topic and missed none.
    with warm regards
    vinod mehru

  28. Souvik Chatterji says:

    Part of this article was based on communication with Sanjeev Kohli, the eldest son of Madanmohan Kohli. He also agreed that all the composers found it difficult to choose the singers for duet songs during Rafi Lata spat between 1963 and 1967. But Madanmohanji came up with alternatives without compromising with the standard of the songs.

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