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MOHAMMAD RAFI – The Enigma !

This article is written by Mr. Vinod Kapoor, ex Sr.Director-Doordarshan. Email:

MOHAMMAD RAFI - The Enigma !He needs no introduction nor does one have to extol the greatness he possessed. Millions still get mesmerized by the unadulterated mellifluous renderings, Mohammad Rafi has left behind. I often wonder, what would have happened, had phonographic system not been invented? Generations would have not marveled the great sounds of well cultivated voices and sought eternal pleasure out of them. It would be big loss. Music lovers miss out on Mian Tansen, Bach and Mozart but that’s history.

I am part of the golden era of Hindi film music, which till date captivates for its blending of soulful poetic expressions, situations, compositions and range and quality of singers. There were no regular film events, plethora of innocuous awards ceremonies as seen now and thankfully television had not taken birth. Despite the limited coverage of Radio, musicians could sway nations speak of their pulsating quality. It was rare one could see these personalities and their performances so very common now.

It was a Ghalib function on big scale held at the National Stadium, Delhi in the late sixties. And it had wide representation of the film industry then. Somehow, I got an opportunity to go backstage and saw all the leading names. But as a music buff, I was more endeared to the composers and singers who had enjoined the festivities.  It was a treat to see Madan Mohan, Shankar Jaikishan, Roshan and Naushad Saheb mingling and preparing their items. Soon Ameen Sayani, the effervescent emcee called for Shankar Jaikishan followed by Mohd.Rafi. It was here I heard him sing, Badan pe Sitare lapete hue…followed by Jaane Chaman, Shola Badan accompanied by Usha Khanna. He came back for Madan Mohan to take stage then who was followed by Talat Mahmood and Mala Sinha. Perhaps few would know that she was an accomplished singer! Much later, I learnt that before becoming an actress she used to sing at AIR.

Rafi Sahab singing in a stage show in England

Rafi Sahab singing in a stage show in England

At the backstage, my escort introduced me to Rafi Saheb. I was so much in awe of the man, I could not utter anything. He held my hand and started talking to my friend. Soon he heard Talat Saheb singing on the stage, Phir Wohi Sham, Wohi Gham… and was lost in the rendition. Then turning towards my friend he muttered in chaste Punjabi,” Wah, Kinna sur wich gaande ne Talat Sahib…wah(Wow, how soulful Talat sahib sings…).  That was the quality of Mohammad Rafi. Perched on the high pedestal of musical glory, san iota of envy and competition, rather a transparent effusion of a maestro singing paeans of another master craftsman!

He was indeed a simpleton and a genuine human being which brought about the earthy greatness in him. With no frills and airs about himself, this diminutive doyen would make others at peace within no time. My second encounter with him was when doing a stint with an airlines, I was asked to look after a CIP (Commercially Important Person) and handed over a list of some names. Incidentally, all names were followed with Rafi tags. For a moment, I wished it was him only.

And it did happen. After all the Rafis landed and I received them, the last one was Mohd.Rafi. And my attention zeroed on him. He could gauge that. After exchanging gentle pleasantries, again in Punjabi, both of us started looking for their bags. While his family stood in a corner, it was Rafi Saheb and me matched the tag numbers and had them loaded. I could feel that he was no more a revered singer or a star here but a caring husband and a doting father much oblivious of the appreciative looks he was garnering there!

Much later, while trying my destiny in the film industry, I became part of a set up in the Famous Studios, Mahalaxmi. A floor above us was the office of Shankar Jaikishan. While Jaikishan was no longer alive, Shankarji was all alone and low. But he would regularly come to his office. Soon I got acquainted with him and came close. He started calling me to his chambers. He would narrate us anecdotes about people he worked with and it was interesting to be part of those private talks. On one such meetings along with my friend, my friend told Shankar sahib that I sang well. I used to sing but for my friends and the bathroom… though tuneful but very amateurish.  Shankar sahib goaded to sing few lines when my friend butted in that I sang Rafi extremely well. While I was preparing and humming few lines, suddenly the door opened and entered Rafi sahib… it was like a typical scene lifted from any of the Hindi films. I was dumbstruck. Thank God, I had not started… When told about the goings on, Rafi sahib too started requesting me! But could I say any thing before the maestro…I lost my nerve, confidence and heart beat… “Gaate raho, dil se hamesha…” he said. We all laughed.

The rare quality epitomizing culture, tradition, class, mastery laced with genuine gentleness is not to be seen anymore.  Whenever I see series of musical shows taking place on television and elsewhere these days, I miss the quality and range, I am so used to but as he said in our last meeting, Gaate Raho, Dil se Hamesha….. That was Mohammad Rafi.

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26 Blog Comments to “MOHAMMAD RAFI – The Enigma !”

  1. SANJIV ARORA says:

    Dear Vinod Saheb

    You are very lucky. I have also heard that rafi saheb had gifted a piece of land to one upcoming singer who had sung his song in a function.

    Such was the greatness of this farishta



  2. s nawathe says:

    dear Vinod ji,

    How much lucky you meet Rafi Sahab and Shankar ji.
    We are eager to know much more from you..It will be a great favour if you can kindly unfold mysteries..and stories for us..


    s. nawathe

  3. pmc thangal says:

    dear vinodji,really you are a lucky person.i read the last scene of ur article with much sing a rafi song before sanker and at it ends rafi sab himself appear and patronoze you to continue..what a lucky situation ur aricle is as that of the songs rafi.saheedo thum ko mera salaam is favourate song .it was in the filim bazar composed by shyam sunder.

  4. Imran Rustam says:

    Mr. Vinod Kapoor,

    Really I enjoyed the way you met Rafi Sb and he Praised you. It is a great honor to meet the legend. His smiling face attracts others to meet him. He always had enchanting smile on his face. His voice in talks in real life sweet like honey. I love to see him while giving interviews on tv. Infact his personality is so attractive.

    Rafi sb is in our hearts not only as a great singer but also a enchanting personality.

    Love You Rafi Sb.



  5. Manish Kumar says:

    Thank you so much for this write up! I really enjoyed. I envy you guys having these kind of amazing experiences that many of us can only dream of! I perfectly understand if for the sake of privacy some stories from Shankar are not shared. But some day I hope you do share a few for the many of us who weren’t around when Shankar Jaikishan were churning out music. This kind of information will not be available in books and encyclopedias and people a hundred years from now will be extremely curious about these magicians.

    It’s nice to know that in the 70s Shankar & Rafi kept in touch and remained the good friends that they always were. That was very re-assuring to me. My favorite combination is in fact SJ – Rafi! I look forward to any other write ups or experiences you share in the future!

  6. binu nair says:

    Haldar saaheb, Please submit a few lines about enoch daniels works from you; which would be read out to the audience in enoch saahebs presence. he is the vip of the function and its a fitting way to honour him.

    please do it, thanks, many thank s – for your views, interest and comments.

    binu nair

  7. binu nair says:

    Haldar Saaheb: yes. shankar jaikishan, op nayyar , naushad saaheb, hansraj behl, ravi sharma (malayalam and hindi songs, chaudvin ka chaand ho) , iqbal quereshi, firoz nizami, chitragupta, n.datta – and many more are our demi – gods.

    shankar – jaikishan team has been outstanding . we did a three hour, 32 songs programme in mumbai on nov.16 AND a music lovers numbering 1500 enjoyed it. they were asking for more. the singers shrikant narayan, supriya, kakaji naushad and sagar enthralled. sandeep pancvhwatkar the compere from pune gave deep insights of s.j. to the audience. s.js songs were on par with the info given by sandeep panchwatkar. truly great it was. very soon i would ask shirish kulkarni to put some songs, live on this great website.

    binu nair.

  8. binu nair says:

    Post 15 : Mohd Rafi – is also called Mohd Barfi, for he was an extraordinary “sweet” person, Very sweet, extra sweet – in all his songs and speech. rafi saaheb loved sweets and pure deshi ghee, brought all the way from punjab, from ludhiana.
    atlast, the sweetness only consumed him. the sweetness of his songs and the purity of his soul – travel everywhere engulfing peoples musicals minds and souls.
    this is the greatness of mohd rafi – the worlds foremost singer.

  9. P. Haldar says:

    binu ji, great news! I am especially happy to know that enoch daniels would be the chief guest at the pune musical extravaganza. I used to buy a lot of instrumental lp’s in my childhood and most of them were by enoch daniels and van shipley. Both of them were part of sj’s famous orchestra.

    I am too small a person to provide advice to anyone, but I’d request all the rafi groups in the country to coordinate with the shankar-jaikishan group. No other md has been treated as shabbily as sj. It’s a real shame given that they were truly the superstars among md’s. Mr. Vinod Kapoor has written that Shankar shared a lot of private stories with him. I’m not sure if he’s going to share them with us but I can kind of guess some of the things that shankar told him.

  10. binu nair says:




  11. binu nair says:






    9833 250701….

  12. pvks raju says:

    Shri Vinodjee…. Ur article regarding sudden meeting(s) with the legend during the late sixties and early seventies was great. Ur article dealt with various moods of the legend. U may be among the lucky few to have actually met him in person. For us all it will be always a unfulfiled desire. The other name … appropriate name for Rafi Saab…. should be seedha saadha, bhola bhaala. Imagine in an industry, where name and fame and money are abundant… that man showed no airs and was so down to earth inspite of being at the top of music world. By then he had ruled the music world for more than a quarter of a century. Yet he blessed newcomers and appreciated their effort to immitate his style, even though the newcomers were less tuneful and sang without perfection. Indeed, you are a blessed soul. U met that great man…….

  13. Saifullah says:

    Dear Vinodji,
    I went through your article and let me tell you, I am envious.
    You just are so lucky to have met this legend, our Rafi Saab a couple of times.
    All of us know of his qualities as a singer and as a great human being.
    But, one must be lucky enough to meet such a great person in real.
    Thank your stars for your luck, Vinodji.
    If you have any recordings of such events, please see if you could make out a documentary on this great human being.

  14. Mr Vinod Kapoorjee indeed a nice little piece of your thoughts & remembrance in respect of our beloved king of melody – mohammed rafi saab
    As Mr Sandeep Nadkarni has rightly said doordarshan has always stood and has always cooperated when it came to paying tributes in the loving memory of Rafi Saab
    We remember how after his sudden demise we a few of his ardent admirers would run to your studious at Worli and meet Mr Yakub Sayad with whom we all used to held lengthy discussions as to how the memorial chhaya geet would be & which were the songs of Rafi Saab would feature in it.
    Mr Kapoorjee we all his ardent admirers welcome you on this beautiful site and would definitely like to know more of your association with the greatest ever – Rafi Saab

  15. biman baruah says:

    respected vinod kapoor ji

    hearty congratulations for a great article with great quality of a great human being : our beloved Rafi saheb. you are too a great & lucky fan of rafi saheb who met him personaly for several times.

    god bless you and my best wishes for your documentary on rafi saheb. we will be very happy to see your documentary on rafi saheb.

    with warm regards
    biman baruah
    sivasagar, assam.

  16. mohamedparvez says:

    dear vinod kapoor ji thanx for sharing nice article with rafisaab you are fortunate you met rafisaab thrice i got chance to watch him on the stage proagram in the year 1973 rafisaab was present to watch santosh trophy match on the same day iwas there when he entered the ground crowd got exited when they saw rafisaab i have created a blog dedicated to rafisaab kindly visit my blog

  17. A.T.M. SALIM says:

    REF: POST-2




  18. A.T.M. SALIM says:





  19. Ashish Pradhan says:

    Dear Mr. Kapoor,

    It was indeed immense pleasure and gave goosebumps as i read your experience with the genius called ‘ Rafi ‘ . I am a die hard fan of this Magician. However feel sad when i hardly find a live show of him. You know doordarshan also unfortunately has only one recording of the legend with Naushabsaab, which they show every year on his birthday. A black and white short recording.Until however I was thrilled to see his live shows on youtube. Its just amazing to see him and other legends performing live. There are about 20 different recordings a rafi fan like me can enjoy. Just go to youtube and type rafi live performance and download the clips.
    Long live Rafisaab !!!!

  20. Vinod Kapoor says:


    Thanks for the appreciation.

    I agree,he was not an enigma in that sense. But as a shy, man of few words it was difficult to decipher him initially. But once he opened, it was a treat.
    But why did I meet him for just three times only….perhaps I was not destined to have more of him.

    Infact, I am trying to make a documentary on the man who has given us so much. I would like to request those who met him or those who possess his personal film footage, to lend me the material which will help me in compiling his profile. I had some correspondence with Ameen Sayani sahib on this and hope he is able to help me.

    Thanks for remembering Doordarshan. It has indeed done a lot in preserving our culture which people will realise one day after they are cheesed up with all these mundane shows !

    Thanks again.

    Vinod Kapoor

  21. H.V.GURU MURTHY says:

    Dear Shri. Kapoorji,

    What a lucky man you are? You met Rafi four times and could also sing in his person, where as we did not even get an oppertunity to meet the legend. The article brings out some more humble qualities of the Singer. Well, I really think that we people born in forties, fifitees and sixtees were lucky that we enjoyed the best period of the Indian Film Music, led by Rafiji and Lataji.

  22. Nasir Ali says:

    Vinod Kapoor Sahaab,
    Tussi bee great ho. Khush kar Ditta.
    Thank you sir, for the great personal article on Rafi Sahaab. However, I do agree with Mr. Murthy when he implies that Rafi Sahaab was not an enigma.
    In my humble opinion, his life was an open book as he was a man of simple habit, a great singer but a very humble man. This humility was not a fake one as others tried to cultimate it too but were exposed. Yes, he could be called enigmatic only in our own astonishment that the most mellifluous singer of the world could be so humble in his interactions with one and all.

  23. A S MURTY says:

    Vinod kapoor sahab congratulations for a very fine description of your chance encounters with rafi sahab himself and your perception of the great personality. the article was laced with such momentous anecdotes that it makes us envy of your having met rafi sahab and having known him from close quarters. for a long time now, i was waiting for some write up like this from people who have met rafi sahab himself. but was he really an enigma ? surely such a simpleton like rafi sahab is not very complicated to comprehend. yes his ‘gayiki’ and even ‘adayigi’ being out of this world perplex most and till date no clones have emerged. rafi sahab is impossible to imitate and had more chunks under his armoury than even the best of singers can ensemble. rafi sahab was and will remain a doyen. please keep posting your thoughts through such finely crafted articles every now and then.

  24. Indeed a nice little article on Rafi Saab by Vinodjee
    Doordarshan has always remembered the beloved king of melody especially through their chayya geet programe when Mr Yakub Sayyad was incharge of this section and also the live Rafi – Naushad was aired by doordarshan

  25. P. Haldar says:

    mr. vinod kapoor,

    you are one lucky man! I don’t know what I’d have done if the farishta had touched my hand; I’d have probably fainted on the spot. By the way, is the lady accompanying him in the picture Saira Banu? If so, he must be singing the number from aman.

  26. Jayant Sanyal says:

    Dear Mr. Kapoor!

    You deserve rich praise for such a beautiful article on Rafi Sahab. not only the article is rich in content, but the presentation is also very good. The article brings out the ecstacy of a fan who meets his idol for the first time, and goes on to give the reader the joy of rediscovering Rafi Sahab- the singer and the human being we all appreciate and admire.
    Yes, Rafi Sahab was a gem whose work speaks for itself has stood the test of time. Music Competitions these days lack the richness, the poetry and the melody that a Rafi Sahab song would offer.

    Pity that technology has improved by leaps and bounds but we are seeing a decline in standard of poetry, melody and singing quality, with some exceptions of course. The young generation is perhaps devoid of the rich treasure that we should all make them aware of. Let us rediscover the Rafi Sahab Magic in our lives!

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