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Mohd Rafi tu bahut yaad aaya…

This article is written by Mr. Achal Rangaswamy

Mohd Rafi

Mohd Rafi

It was a sticky morning in Delhi. 1st August 1980. 6 AM. I was packing my bag to load it on my Enfield Bullet. Time to get back to my HQ – Jaipur. I had just recovered from a bout of typhoid, that had left me with only enough energy to record over 250 songs on various audio cassettes (that’s what we used those days).Most reluctantly, as all of us do after a long stay at home, I picked up my bag. My father tuned into All India Radio to listen to the Morning English News.

The first few news items were mundane. The fourth news item stunned all of us. The first to react was my father, probably because he sat closest to the dining table where the compact radio was kept. “Noted playback singer Mohd Rafi passed away last night….”, said the pained voice of the news reader. Television existed those days, but the transmission ended early into the night, well before the great man breathed his last.

I couldn’t wait to hear more. I went down the stairs, tied the bag to the luggage carrier on my bike. Within a few minutes I was on my way. I didn’t even want my parents, who would always come down the stairs to see me off as I kicked my bike on the 260km journey back, to see my face which had already dissolved into tears.

Never before had a bike journey looked or felt so forlorn. Never before had I wept almost all the way back. Of course one never looks forward to going back to your station after leaving your parents’ home. But this was the worst day I could think of. At least four times on the journey of over four hours did my helmet’s visor cloud. I had to stop the bike, clear the cloud on the visor and start again.

No, the cloud on my visor was not from the dust. It was not the rain either. It had rained a day earlier in Delhi. And I had learnt by then through the radio news from the roadside dhaabhas on NH 8 that it had poured in Mumbai, then called Bombay. The gods must have cried too, I was sure. Who wouldn’t have cried?

The most unfortunate day of all..

The most unfortunate day of all..

“jaane waley kabhi nahi aatey, jaane walon ki yaad aati hai”, Rafi had soulfully started this title song from Dil Ek Mandir. How true,I thought to myself. Who would now sing “Meri Awaaz Suno, Pyar ka Raaz suno” the way he did? No wonder we would always think that he was so right when he said “thaa juda sabse mere ishq ka andaaz, suno”.

All the way from Delhi to Jaipur all I could do was compile my own list of all those soul-stirring and awe-inspiring songs that my idol had put his heart and soul into.

The first thought, the first song, and how most unusual!!! Of all the places,Madras. Of all the people I accompanied to the movie, my mother and my grandmother (a person who knew not a single word of Hindi, leave alone Urdu), a rainy evening. And walking out of this cinema hall in Madras humming the first song to enchant me, as it did all my life. Dev Anand, a  black and white movie. And Mohd Rafi’s caressingly sweet voice calling out “khoya khoya chaand, khula aasmaan”.

I have never ever forgotten the fact that Dev Anand, Jeetendra, Shammi Kapoor and Joy Mukherjee could never have romanced all those leading ladies on the screen had my idol not let the words come out from his heart through his throat and lips even as he smiled so benignly into the microphone. (just look at any pic or video of Rafi and you will know what I mean). I remember my younger sister telling me one day, long long back that Rafi smiled through his songs. Today I say, Rafi’s songs smiled into our hearts. You could hear the smile. You get me???

And how can one ever not accept the fact that the Pradeep Kumars, the Rajeevs, the Ajits, the  Rajendra Kumars and of course the Bharat Bhushans  were elevated on the silver screen and watched again and again by the money- paying public only to hear them. Not see them, no offence meant. But HE made all the difference. I am sure you will agree. Or else how could you have a Barsaat ki Raat, or a Zindagi or a Taj Mahal or a Nayi Umar ki Nayi Fasal.

When he suggested, “maine shaayad tumhe pehle bhi kahin dekha hai” or declared clearly that “jo baat tujh mein hai teri tasveer mein nahin”, the actor on the screen must have been utterly grateful to the voice that catapulted him to fame and the record books.

Kishore Kumar had him sing “man mora baanwaraa”, amply testifying to the benchmark set by Rafi. So many filmgoers and music lovers would have agreed that “aaj toh tere bina neend nahi aayegi”.

Rafi was not just a singer. He was not just a human. His voice clearly showed that God sang for us through him. Or else how could you have someone maintain the same quality the same affection, the same divinity ranging from “aaja ke intezaar mein, jaane ko hai bahaar bhi” all the way down to “ shirdi waley sai baba, aaya hai tere dar pe sawaali”, which was among the last few songs he sang. How could he put so much zest and vigour into a “ae mohabbat zindabad” and give us “ab tumhare hawaale watan saathiyon” with the same energy. How could he be so youthful in “pukarta chala hoon main” and keep it going the same way in something as late as “tera jalwa tauba hai tera jalwa” or “tum jo mil gaye ho”?

God must surely have resided in his throat. Correction, in his heart.

We haven’t heard of many controversies surrounding this great man, except for the tiff with Lata Mangeshkar over the royalty issue. And who would not side with this god-fearing simple man, who apparently accepted only a rupee as singing fee from the composer Naushad Ali, as a thanksgiving for giving him an opportunity to sing in Baiju Baawra.

Naushad was not the only one to be asked for a rupee. Composer Nisar Bazmi, not at all well-off, was made a similar request by Rafi Saab. “Just a rupee, please.”

And who cannot thank him for fanning the fire of national integration when he combined with Naushad the composer and Shakeel Badayuni the lyricist, to give us the heart-warming “Man tarpat Hari Darshan ko Aaj”. Of course he did this again and again when he smiled his way through “radhike tuney bansuri churaayi”, arrested everybody with his “sukh ke sab saathi, dukh mein na koi”, made us weep with his “oh duniya ke rakhwaaley”, and stopped us in our tracks with “kahaan jaa raha hai tu ae jaaney waaley, andhera hai man ka diya toh jala le”. He made us dance to “madhuban mein radhika naache re”, and sing along with him the simple yet sweet “brindaavan ka Krishna kanhaiya”. One of his greatest Ghair Filmi Bhajans was “Paaoon padoon toreh Shyam, Brij mein laut chalo..”

Of course he excelled in the quawwalis and the ghazals and even made a “purdah hai purdah” sound far far above the ordinary levels one had got used to in that period of film music. The only song where I didn’t agree with Rafi was his refrain “meri tasveer lekar kya karogey tum meri tasveer lekar”, because Rafi was so photogenic- I mean his smile touched you. And he always smiled.

Human that he was, he broke down and sobbed as he ended “babul ki duvaaen leti jaa”. His son Shahid clarified later that only a day before the recording of this song had this great man seen his daughter off at her wedding. I have seen the short clip of the Bidaai, and Rafi smiled for his daughter the way only a proud and loving father would. He had probably kept all the pathos at bay till the recording the next day.

What Rafi said many times through his songs was- the man above me has given me this song to sing. What more can one want?

Have you heard him talk? I have. He had only a few words at any time. But the words were sweet. They were respectful. And they showed us the man who many of us would do well to follow in terms of humility. No wonder he sang for Dev Anand the ice-cream seller in the film Maya, “Zindagi hai kya sun meri jaan, pyaar bhara dil, meethi zubaan”.

God –fearing, simple, soft-spoken and humble–Does this sound at all like a man connected with films and film songs?

Perhaps the only singer to lend a voice of dignity to the comedian, Rafi combined with Johnny Walker to give us some gems like “Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan” and “sar jo tera chakraaye”. He immortalized Mehmood as the lungi -clad Hyderabadi with his “hum kaley hain to kya hua dilwale hain”. Lyricst and comedian Gulshan Bawra must thank Rafi profusely for lending his voice to the Amitabh Bacchan trend setter -Zanjeer where he sang “Deewane hain deewane ko na dar chahiye”. He became childlike as he sang for Johnny Walker again in “hum bhi agar bachhe hotey…happy birthday to you”.

They say the ultimate test of a singer is when he has to sing the same song as another singer. And each time Rafi did it, he scored. Just listen to “Waadiyan mera daaman” where he outdid Lata, without intending to. Or the utterly romantic“Tum bin jaaoon kahan” where his protégé Kishore also sang his heart out. Rafi emerges clearly as more romantic and more hummable. “O mere shaahe khuba o meri jaane jaana na” had Rafi surpassing Lata in every line. He did it again in Beti Bete with “Aaj kal mein dhal gaya”. Asha Bhosle got a taste of it in the twin- pack song “Aaj ki raat badi shokh badi natkhat hai”.

The piece de resistance was perhaps “Zindagi to bewafa hai ek din thukraayegi” in Muqaddar ka Sikandar where Rafi just got to sing the first four lines as Amitabh Bachhan lay dying. He didn’t need to sing the entire song to tell who was the greater singer. And this song was amongst his last.

His duets with other male singers amplified this fact. Manna Dey, the trained classical singer sounds nervous singing along with Rafi in the catchy and utterly enjoyable “Ek janib sham e mehfil”, Kishore was being coached and coaxed by Rafi in “Sa Re Ga Ma” in Chupke Chupke. All the others in the memorable “Hoke Majboor mujhe usney bhulaya hoga” faded into pedestrian voices when Rafi sang “Usney ghabraa ke nazar laakh bachayi hogi”. Even the sophisticated and gentle Talat Mahmood had to contend with severe competition in “Kaisi haseen aaj bahaaron ki raat hai”, the fight being as stiff as Dilip Kumar Vs Manoj Kumar!!! One sided, no doubt.

As I rode into Jaipur via Amer I decided to call up Munna and spend the evening with him and my roommate Vijay. We sat singing into the night all the Rafi songs that we could think of. The night turned into day, and we had not finished singing. The eyes were wet, the throats were dry, but we knew that the fountain of music would never stop. The only regret was-

“chaley jaayenge hum musafir hain saarey, magar ek shikwa hai lab pe hamaare, tujhe kitni jaldi khuda ne bulaaya

And was Rafi Saab being prophetic when he sang “waqt mere geeton ka khazaana dhoondega, mujhko mere baad zamaana dhoondega”? Yes, very true. Dil ka soona saaz taraana dhoondega. Music has never been the same after that. The 80s saw a severe drop in the quality of film music. Noise took over.

That rainy day in Bombay many eyes would have looked skywards as if to ask the Gods – Has he safely reached you there, where he always belonged?

I am told more than ten thousand people braved the rain to be there for his last journey.. The others, I am sure, were mourning silently at home. I mourned for him all the way on NH8.

I still do.

“shaam kyon phir udas hai dost ? tu kahin aas paas hai dost”

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64 Blog Comments to “Mohd Rafi tu bahut yaad aaya…”

  1. k.p.singh says:

    Dear Mr.Rangaswamiji,
    I have no word to explain my feelings on 1-08-1980. on that time i am about 13years old and in 7th class student. on that day my english exam. & I learnt an essay of’ POSTMAN’in afternoon shift in school situated in west patel nagar school in new delhi-11008.
    All of sudden my elder sister who stdying in class 8th come in my room at about 10 a.m. from school she is full covered with water and informed a ” MANHOOS KHABAR” to me that our beloved singer mohd. rafi sahab passes away last night although she already a great & superb fan of RAFI SAHAB and saying him as RAFI CHACHA [UNCLE] not explain this news in clear word but in tears eyes and says today holiday i dont know on that and today the holiday declared on account of rafi’s funeral or heavy rains.I dont’t know but i didn’t believe that our rafi uncle had passed away.
    I myself and my sister weeping more times in alone because we were singing his songs in kitchen and in front of chulha dinner time and absence of our father.
    Zyada kya likhun tab se aaj tak rafi sahab ki us manhoos khabar ko sunne v padhne ke liye net per doordarshan ya t.v.ya news paper search karta hoon taki yeh yakeen aa jaye ki wakai RAFI UNCLE HUM SABKO ROTA BILKHATA CHHOD KER WAHAN CHALE GAYE HAIN JAHAN SE AAJ TAK KOI LAUT KAR NAHIN AAYA HAI.
    Khair allah unhein zannat-e-firdaus mein sakoon ata farmaye
    hum sabhi karoron rafibhakton ki aur se pyar bhara ”AAMEEN”
    khiza thi pahle badnaam ab bahar bhi ho gayee
    jo cheez hamein thi jaan se pyari wo khuda ko bhi pyari ho gayi
    hasrat thi ek phool ki wo bhi na mil saka
    kisse karein gila ke ye bagiya hi tumhari ho gayee
    mangenge nahi kabhi tumse wapas phool wo
    iltza sirf yahi hai ke murjhaye na phool wo
    naaz hai jis pe sangeet ko wo takht hai na taaz hai
    kisi aur ki nahin-e-mere dost wo mohammed rafi ki awaaz hai

  2. Arfat Khan says:

    Dear Mr Rangaswamyji,
    Its is Pleasure to read your blog. When we listen Rafi sahab that Smiling Face comes to mind. He was a very great human being. (Janey Valo Zara Mud Ke Dekho Mujhe Ik Insan Hoon Main Tumharee Tarah). This song describe Human Touch with message all in this world are same. Their Was only one Muhammed Rafi Sahab the Legend… May Allah RIP Rafi sahab & blessed with Jannah..

    Arfat Khan

  3. shammi says:

    Dear Mr rangaswamyji thanks for writing such a lovely article it really brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat as It reminded me of what I was doing and how I felt when I heard the awful news of Mohd Rafisahebs death. I’m sure for many like me the heartache never really goes away, but at least some comfort can be taken by listening to the great legends music which will remain evergreen forever. Long live Mohd Rafisahebs memory.

  4. BINU NAIR says:

    MUJHKO MERE BAAD ZAMANA DHUNDEGA…this is the truth in five simple words.
    Rafi excelled in whatever he did both as an individual and an unforgettable singer. mohd rafi output can never be outscored. mr.javed akhtar recently had pleaded to the govt to “preserve” the works of mohd rafi for future generations.

    in mumbai we are making a library of old songs. long live the king……….

  5. achal rangaswamy says:

    dear mr suresh
    i am honoured to receive such a glowing feedback on my write up. thank you so much. i fully agree with you that the likes of rafi saab could warm any heart on the coldest of days, specially in foreign lands. i am sure you are humming “kaalangalil aval vasantham” from paava manippu when you think of p.b.srinvas the gentle but perfectly romantic singer from the south.
    i am listening to “ek janib sham-e-mehfil” from the film abhilasha as i write to you, and i can feel the warmth exuded by rafi saab as he delightfully sings…”in nazron ko yaaron kya jaanun mein anjaana..”..
    thanks once again sir for your very warm and encouraging lines

    achal rangaswamy


  6. V. Suresh says:

    Strasbourg, France, 21st Oct

    Dear Mr. Rangaswamy !

    What a wonderful little article you have written, capturing in a few pages all that defines the inimitable Mohammad Rafi.. The list of songs that you have so painstakingly compiled captures the essence of Rafi. As a Keralite (a so called pattar), I moved for further studies to Norway and worked part-time as a train driver in the local subway. And when it snowed and the winds howled at the train during those arctic winters, a lilting Hindi song of Rafi or a romantic Tamil duet of my other favourite P.B.Srinivos transported you back to the warmth of India.

    Once again, thanks very much for posting this wonderful and by far the best written tribute to a great Indian and a great human being.

    Do write back if you could:




    Aaj mujhe bahut dino ke baad rona aaya hai.I was very young when he passed away, but I was into recording his songs on tape from radio and still cherish those recordings.Some songs are not available on CDs,MP3s,etc.
    Woh jab yaad aaye, bahut yaad aaye…..

  8. mohamedparvez says:


  9. Imran Rustam says:

    Dear Mr. Achal Rangaswamy,

    Very touchy article on a very sad moment of the history………….I am feeling tears in my eyes while reading your article………..I just feel that i am in past and all the scenes are happening before my eyes….

    Dear Achal Jee, You have the quality to narrate just like true feelings of being happening in front of us….

    Keep it up….


  10. many many thanks to all of you again. i am overwhelmed. to be honest i had never ever imagined that this would be the response to my first regular post on this wonderful site.

    utthara ji i am touched by your feedback. sumit ji i do hope the tears are of gratitude towards Rafi Saab for giving us gems in the form of his songs.
    Binu Sir, i wonder if you have provided me with just the necessary kick start to think of a book…(?).
    jugrasg (sorry, did i get the name right ?) i am thankful to you for your feedback.
    i want to thank so many people here- denis, abhinav, harini, all friends of mine, who also chipped in with their feedback.

    i have tried to mail personally to those whose mail IDs were available with their comments. in case i have missed some, A VERY BIG THANK YOU TO EACH ONE OF YOU.
    i was honoured to receive one such comment from Dr Vasudha, since i got to read quite a few of her posts that have already been published on this site. and they are all terrific.

  11. Jugrasg says:

    Sir, thank you for sharing your immortal thoughts with us, my mind traveled back to time when reading your wonderful article. It has made me happy and grateful

    Thank you

  12. binu nair says:

    u can be a wonderful writer too mr.rangaswamy ji……cheers all the way….

    binu nair.

  13. Sumit Nagpal says:

    I don’t know what to say… just can’t stop tears in my eyes…

  14. Utthara says:

    Achalji, I couldn’t post my mail earlier because your gripping, absorbing, amazing and moving lines straight from your heart made me moist-eyed. Sir, you have taken us on a nostalgic and memorable ride on your bullet. Each word and each sentence gave us a vivid picture of what you experienced. And we could relate to it all the way. This is an outstanding tribute to the humble Rafi saab. You have woven a magic spell with your rich narrative, yet so simple, that goes straight to the heart.
    It is impossible to capture the genius and magic of Rafi saab. He enchanted generations with his voice __ the voice of God.

    Achalji, words fail me to express my feelings. You have taken us one very emotional roller-coaster ride.

    Thank you very much.
    Waiting to read more from you.



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