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Rahul Dev Burman’s immense respect for Mohammad Rafi

By: Souvik Chatterji
Master of Law from Warwick University, Coventry,UK
Master of Law from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

R.D.BurmanRahul Dev Burman, the son of eminent singer and composer Sachin Dev Burman, is one of the most popular composers of the last decade whose tunes are used by many modern composers in their own compositions. Being the son of the legendary Music Director, SD Burman, RD had a great challenge to match the sheer brilliance of his father. It happens with the son or daughter of all the famous personalities.

RD Burman started his journey with Chote Nawab in 1962 with the help of the man with the golden voice, Mohammad Rafi. Major songs in the film was sung by Rafi and RD Burman commanded respect in the musical community of that period, who were still mesmerised with the classical compositions of Naushad, folk songs of SD Burman, western effects of Shankar Jaikishan, OP Nayyar, Salil Chowdhury, Ghazals of Roshan, Madanmohan. RD Burman had other skills like playing the mouth organ, tabla and other related instruments and he showed his skill while playing the mouth organ for Laxmikant Pyarellal in the film Dosti, 1964 where Rafi had galvanised the silver screen with his tragic andaz1.

R.D.Burman with Javed AkhtarThe bigger challenge of RD Burman was to create a gharana which was different from SD Burman, which was very difficult. He created western composition in “Ayo Twist Karen” for Manna Dey in Bhoot Bangla. But he received the maximum appreciation from music lovers with his compositions in the film Teesri Manzil, 1966. All the songs were sung by Mohammad Rafi. All the songs were superhits, including “O haseena zulfonwali”, “Aja aja”, “Dewaana mujhsa nahin”, “janeman janeja, tumne muhjhe dekha hoker meherban”, “O mere sona re sona re sona re”. The rock and roll flavour of Shammi Kapoor, which was started by Shankar Jaikishan in films like Junglee, 1961, songs like “Asman se aya farishta” in An Evening in Paris, 1967, “Aj kal tere mere pyar ke charche har zaban par” in Brahmchari, 1967, was matched by RD Burman in Teesri Manzil, 1966, and he gave the message to the Indian audience that he had arrived in the musical arena and was going to be a leading composer in future.

The relationship of RD Burman with Rafi continued in films like Pyar ka Mausam, 1969, where the songs like “Tum bin javun kahan”, “Ni sultana re pyar ka mausam aya” were major hits. RD Burman developed a beat of his own which marked his identity in the 1970s. The biggest success came in 1970, with the film Karwa, where the songs “ kitna pyara wada” “are ho goriyan kahan tera desh re” were superhits, and Rafi’s voice balanced the choreographic skills of Jeetender for whom the maximum number of songs were sung by Rafi. For a short period RD Burman composed songs for Kishorekumar in films like Amar Prem, Kati Patang, but that was due to the fact it matched with the voice of Rajesh Khanna.

Mohd Rafi with Asha Bhonsle, R.D.Burman
Mohd Rafi with Asha Bhonsle, R.D.Burman

Whenever RD Burman reverted back to Rafi, the songs were successful as ever, like “Yaadon ki Baarat,” “Chura liya hai tumne jo dilko”, in the film Yaadon ki Baarat, 1973, “Yeh ladka hai alla kaisa hai diwana”, in Hum kisi se kum nahi, 1977. In fact Rafi’s outstanding combination with Rishi Kapoor compelled RD Burman to provide the successful qawalli “Hai agar dushman zamana gham nahi ghan nahi”, in Hum Kisi se kum Nahi, which Rafi only could sing. The same film provided Rafi with the National award in 1977 with the song “Kya hua tera wada”. Further the musical competition in the film had Rafi and Kishore singing songs, including “chand mera dil”, etc.

The combination of RD Burman with Rafi continued in Rishi Kapoor’s film, “Zamane ko dikhana hai” where “Sochenge pyar kya hua” with Asha Bhosle, was a major hit. Further in the film Burning Train, 1980, the biggest hit was the qawalli sung by Rafi and Asha, titled “pal do pal ka saath hamaara”. The action of Dharmender and Vinod Khanna was balanced by the excellent choreography of Jeetender in the song “Pal do Pal”, and superlative performance of Rafi.

People have a wrong conception of the fact that RD Burman underestimated Rafi, which is not true. He had tremendous respect for the man with the golden voice. The only lacuna was that R.D.BurmanRD Burman had a lot of inherent classical skill which he did not get any scope of showing due to the demand of popular music except in the films of Gulzar. In Kinara, 1977, “Naam Gum Jayega”, “Meethe Bol Bole” sung by Bhupinder Singh, shows RD Burman’s gharana. Had Rafi survived for a longer period of time and had RD Burman got more opportunities to blend eastern and western music, the combination could have provided everlasting creations for future generations to cherish. Rafi’s archive should also contain the compositions of RD Burman which are admired by the modern generation and should be restored for music lovers of different ages.

1 My father Ex chief Public Prosecutor, Bankshall Court, (Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, Kolkata) had interviewed Manobendra Mukherjee, a versatile classical singer having immortal records on bhajans, kirtans, nazrulgeeti, modern bengali songs, film songs and asked him to sing his first Bengali Modern Song “Naichondon Lekha, sriradhar chokhe, nai nai shemorai” before the crowd in a function held in Paikpara, Kolkata where Manobendra said it was his beginning of his musical journey and a song which was a blank verse without musical instruments. If that song could be heard minutely it can be realized that modern music is almost bankrupt. Aroti Mukherjee, the famous Bengali singer, also my father’s witness in a case instituted in Bankshall Court, in the anurodher asor, in all in Radio, said that her teenage was shaken up by Manobendra with the song “Naichondon Lekha” in 1953. In the same interview Manobendra Mukherjee told my father, the real starting point of compositions is classical background. He said the more RD Burman tried to move away from SD Burman in composing western tunes, the more he landed back with SD Burman’s classical gharana in Kinara, 1977, Parichay, 1972, Masoom,1982, where he was appreciated the most by musical pandits where the classical songs were sung by Bhupinder Singh and Lata Mangeshkar..

Souvik Chatterji - the author along with his wife, Rumi Chatterji
Souvik Chatterji – the author along with his wife, Rumi Chatterji

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77 Blog Comments to “Rahul Dev Burman’s immense respect for Mohammad Rafi”

  1. ALMAS says:


  2. Santanu Bandyopadhyay says:

    Md Rafi sahab, Lata Mangeshkar, Ashaji and even Kishorekumar also are revered more as icons greats in the sphere of musical world than Shri RD Burman, and will be revered and remembered more than RD Burman in future years. So, it hardly matters what RD Burman thought about Md Rafi sahab, the greatest male singer of Indian, in the realm of modern songs. 2ndly, RD Burman was tremendously talanted musician, and all music lovers know it. But we do feel from the core of our heart and realisation, that Md Rafi sahab, Lata Mangeshkar and even to some extent Ashaji and Kishoreji were endowed with such hypnotic qualities and gift of divinity, that Rahul Dev Burman’s musical creation failed to touch. We can conjuure up in our imagination about film songs without RD Burman, but can we think about bollywood golden era songs, without the divine timbre ofLata Mangeshkar and Md Rafi sahab? body of films songs without great Kishore Kumar or Asha Bhosley even? Obviously, we cant.

  3. Santanu Bandyopadhyay says:

    Asha Bhosle is a great, great singer, there is no speck of doubt about it, but every music lover perhaps knows that she lacks the divine melody of her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar, whole Hindusthan I think has admitted this fact. But why a great musician like OP Nayar did never look back upon this greatest voice and invited to sing her for his compositions? The answer might be other than music, since Lataji is far ahead of Asha Bhosle, we all know. Similarly, RD Burman being a tremendously talented musician did prefer Kishore kumar to great Md Rafi sahab from 1971 to atleast 1976, and on the whole he had more liking for Kishoreji than Md Rafi sahab, ( although he gradually seemed to be switching back to great Md Rafi sahab once again since 1977, but KK remained his main singer) this preference for Kishoreji to Md Rafi sahab lurks outside the realm of music, since beig so talanted a music director ( WHILE NEVER BEING A GENIUS LIKE SHANKAR JAIKISHAN AND HIS FATHER SD BURAN), he could not be ingnorant of the mesmerizing beauty of Md Sahab’s god – gifted timbre. The reason obviously lurked somewhere else, which I tried to hint at in my post given below. Lastly, while being great as a composer, the very body of core ‘dhun’ lacked the subtle nuances, and devince splendour, which could demand the inevitability of great Md Rafi’s voice. Although Kishoreji was also great, but with the exposure of youtube after globalization, it has almost become crystal clear that Md Rafi was more ” SURELEE’ and had the divine touch which only Lataji could touch or even surpass.

  4. Santanu Bandyopadhyay says:

    RD Burman was a great musician, had all round quality of composition and was a champion Music director. But let us never forget he had his fllies and limitations too. He did bring about a new genre of Rock-and-roll in Hindi film music, no doubt, but in good many songs he emphasized sometimes more in musical compositions, novelties in interlude music and cacophonic CLUB DANCE SONGS. It is a reckonable fact that even in club music composition, he could never reach the quality which his songs had touched in film ‘Teesri Manzil’. He was extremely talanted as I mentioned above, and could create very nice melodious as well as few semi-classical songs too ( Like Amar Prem ). But in the realm of melody he lacked the divine touch of Shankar-Jaikishan, Madanmohan, Roshanji, SD Burman and even chitragupta or Ravi, though the latter two MDs lacked the musical instrumental quality which RD possessed. 2ndly in the realm of semi-classical genre he was far behind Naushad and Roshan even Madanmohanji. In my opinion, if judged exclusively from the point of view of ‘dhun’ of the songs constituted in words, SD Burman and Shankar-Jaikishan are ahead of him. 3rdly, due to his blinkered view and some personal bias for Kishoreji, he failed to realize the mesmerizing divine timbre of the great singer Md Rafi sahab. His father, SD Barman sahab, who in his earlier career had clear fascination for the golden voice of Hemant kumar, and Kishore kumar, did prefer Md Rafi sahab to all other male singers since 1957 to 1970 ( Talash and Aradhana, we all know SD got Md Rafi to sing all songs for Aradhana initially, but after being seriously ill, 3 songs of the film were sung by Kishoreji, and RD Burman was instrumental behind it). Lastly, while admitting his genius as a MD and KK being also a great singer, RD’s total body of works are devoid of the splenndour and divinity of SD Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan and to some extent Roshanji also ( while acknowledging that Roshanji was also confined to his own type, even though the ‘type’ was simmply great ). Finally, most of RD Burman’s composition are very flat, and may not be regarded as great as SJ or SD Burman after 50 years from now. And being a very close friend of Kishore kumar, he pehaps could not stomach the greatness and terrific popularity of Md Rafi for more than 17 years, while his talanted and very close friend was looked upon to be a lesser singer in commparision with Md Rafi sahab and he ( Md Rafi sahab) being the 1st choice of every musician, including his father SD Burman, since Pyasa in 1957.

  5. sunil kumar says:

    It is true over the period of time RD felt the limitations of KK because He used Rafi for Rishi kapoor in Hai agar Dushamn (a Qawwali song he knew kk cant deliver it). Again use Rafi for another qawwali in Burning train “pal do pal ka saath hamara”. He knew kk’s lilmitations. In shaan “Aate jaate mein sab pe nazar rakhta hun Naam Abdul hai mera”. Also he gave a song to rafi Which i thought why did he choose rafi if Kk was his favorite. The song is “Yaama Yamma ye khubsurat sama”. And RD & Rafi sang fist time a duet to gether. No need o say people liked it. I do not know But i have feeling and I agree with some one who says it was RD who made KK.otherwise KK was the since 1950 But it was only after he teamed with RD he became popular. I dont know what would happened had he not given a chance to KK for Rajesh khanna in Aradhana . History would have been different

  6. Ahamed Kutty says:

    time showed us the result of rdb’s dependancy more on kk
    than rafi his last days he was nothing.everbody knows
    it is because of his mistake by choosing kk and ignoring rafi
    saab.better we say it is because of the limitations of kk as far
    as music is concerned.

  7. garikipati says:

    One thing is for sure…. R D Burman made Kishore Kumar a prominent singer. He chose KK above Rafi… and kk did justice. If it is not for RD Burman… Kishore da would not have lasted in Bollywood.

  8. sunil kumar says:

    I feel both RDB & Rafi were greats no doubt any body doiubting these two greats is biased. This is most unfotunate why these 2 did not worked often whatever may be the readon audience was the looser because we did not
    got many more melodious song which these two gave.
    It is not right to blame anyone sometimes circumstances are such things are in your control & ego & other things come in.
    In my view both were greats and very versetile I must add that .

  9. anurag says:

    Rd was a good musician; and that is it! Only good musician. Not exception, extra-ordinary or superb. like Madan Mohan , Naushad, SD & Salil. I know little music but do not understand the enormous appreciation given to RD.He had lot of problems with rafi sahab; and also doubted his singing capabilities.(???) and openly appreciated KK. Politics? certainly. That is why he flopped later.

  10. vikram says:

    I don’t think there is any need to be harsh on Souvik. He has penned a reasonable article. He has tried to put things in right perspective. No doubt, R.D.Burman did not make full use of Rafi Sahab, but it’s a known fact that some of his best songs were recorded in the legend’s voice. There were a lot of music directors who did not use Kishore in the 50’s and the 60’s, even though he was a good singer. O.P.Nayyer, for example used Rafi almost all the times. Naushad, Madan Mohan, S-J, L-P, Roshan, S D Burman and others also preferred Rafi. Yes, RD had a preference for Kishore, but it would be wrong to say that he completely ignored Rafi. There was no music director worth his or her salt who could have dared to ignore Rafi Sahab. Rafi was the best and would remain so for eternity.

  11. Aseer says:

    Souvik ji
    are u trying to make both Ram and Ravan happy at the same time? its a known fact that RD ignored Rafi, RD used KK for dhamendra who was a Rafi voice,what about that? sir, now if u try to say that the sun moves around the world hen the evidences are so overwhelming that its impossible to write them all up.
    Akalmand k liye ishara hi kafi hai. Plz dont write rubbish.

  12. vikram says:

    Could somebody please let me know as to where I could get the song “Ek chameli ke mandave tale”, by Rafi-Asha? What about the album, “Rafi resurrected”? I am a big time Rafi fan. I live in the US. This makes it a little difficult to find real musical gems. I would be grateful for any information. Thank you very much in advance.

  13. binus2000 says:

    Well .. why r.d.b lost confidence, films and his art – after a great
    two imp. or only facts are : first he ditched rafi saab. then he ditched
    his wife – for another woman.
    their were fights galore post 1971 and ‘peace’ was the only thing
    missing from his house.
    He went back to rafi saab and got some of his glories back through
    the legends songs like : Kya hua tera waada, chaand mera dil, Hai
    agar dushman dushman and some others.

    On the home front there was chaos as his new wife chose to stay
    seperately from him.
    Personal and domestic chaos played havoc with this creative composers
    works just like of another bengali composer Salil Chaudhary – one of
    India’s greatest composers in dilip kumar’s words ” who would have
    not lost his touch if his marital life was in shape “.

    Binu Nair.

  14. Anil Cherian says:

    Ref: post 57
    Thank you Dear Haldar Sir for responding to my querry. However you got me slightly wrong here, I wasn’t trying to challenge your views (and I would’t dare do so). I just wanted your views on the two songs, I wasn’t trying to prove that these two are better than the gems of 60s and early 70s. Thanks once again for your time and effort. I have listened to all your picks and got a lot enlighted in the process.

  15. P. Haldar says:

    Dear rafifan and parveen ji,

    Thanks for the correction. My memory sometimes fails me. It must be meer and not ghalib; both legendary poets. I remember Laxmikant coming on Jaimala, mentioning the incident and playing the song. Since this is a thread on RD, here’s rafi saab’s song “main ne poochha chand se” where “meer” is mentioned:

  16. mohamed parvez says:

    i would like to add ek pattey ki baat bataon sun mere humjoli & koi aur duniya men tumsa haseen hai bot songs from pyar ki kahani picturised on big b music by rdburman sang by rafisaab please watch on you tube

    bot song rafisaabs & amithabs combination isgreat it is wel composed by rdburman

  17. rafifan says:

    Re: Post 57.
    Mr. Haldar, ‘Patta Patta Boota Boota’ is not from a Ghalib verse. It is from another great Urdu poet Meer Taqi ‘Meer’, who was slightly senior to Ghalib. The whole shayer (verse) is:
    Patta Patta Boota Boota Haal Hamaara Jane Hai,
    Jaane Na Jaane Gul Hi Na Jaane, Baagh To Saara Jane Hai.

  18. parveen says:

    haldar saab
    patta boota boota haal hamara janay hai, janay na janay gul hi na janay bagh to sara janay hai
    it is actually from meer taqi meer verse and not ghalib.

  19. parveen says:

    post 53 rafian
    u can not compare rdb and op opinions and experimentations.rdb used rafi but op did not.
    this shows the greatness of lion.he can win single,no mistake by op.on the other hand,rdb was selfish,he took his time with rafi and after reaching at some destinations, he forgot everything.
    secondly,it was lata responsible for creating distance with op.

  20. RAMAKRISHNA says:

    dear raju jee,

    we are all I mean me, mr murty, mr srinivasan, mr padmanabhan are all waiting for the fruits of your splendid efforts of release of the CD.

    In fact the other day me and Mr Sirish kulkarni were discussing about your knowledge & association with our legend cum saint.

    Raju jee I always address ‘ Mohammed Rafi ‘ as ‘ Rafi Sahab’ or ‘ as ‘ saint ‘ & not as just ‘ Rafi ‘. Because if I do so I feel I have done a great crime.

  21. P. Haldar says:

    Mr. Cherian, the “patta patta buta buta” line is from Ghalib; LP requested Majrooh to put that first line in; a superb score. But please note that the film was released in 1972. The “aaja teri yaad aayi” is from Charas, which was released around 1976 and it’s again a duet with Lata.

    There’s a lot of percussion in this song, so I’ll list two rafi-lata duets from the late 60s, one from talash (1969) and the other from jewel thief (1967), also supported by a variety of percussion instruments. The music in both films was scored by s. d. burman but his son played a major role too. In the first song, rd actually plays a more explicit role; see if you can detect it.

    Now let’s move from the Indo-gangetic plains to the hilly and lush surroundings of sikkim. A different set of percussion and string instruments; also, notice the beautiful use of the flute. This song marks an important milestone in the rafi-lata relationship.

    Finally, here’s a rafi solo for dharam in ipzn (1970); Please look for those extra touches that separated Rafi from most of his fellow singers.

    Now you decide for yourself where rafi’s voice quality was the best, where he produced the magical effects, etc. etc. I am not a music critic; I am just a listener like you who enjoys good music.

  22. Anil Cherian says:

    Ref: Post 54
    Thank you Haldar Sir for answering to a querry which I know is a bit touchy for you. Could you tell me something about Rafi Sir’s voice in Patta patta….and Aaja teri yaad aayi… I feel Rafi Sir is at his melodious best in these two songs.

  23. Narayanan says:

    Haldar da,
    Fantastic analysis on the Rafi vs Rafi of the 60s vs 70s.I fully agree that there are many songs which were not super box office hits but simply outstanding n melodious.
    For instance I also liked Aye husn zaraa jaaag mujhe ishq…… from the film Mere Mehboob where Rajendra kumar woos beautiful sadhna. But the most popular song of the film was the title song where Rafi saab solo was better than latajis.
    Simillarly songs of Ravi n Chitragupt which many Gen next Rafians would not have heard like from the film Oonche log, Aaj aur Kal, and several not so hit films atleast 5 CDs of 200 songs can be easily compiled which do not include any popular hits.

  24. P. Haldar says:

    ref post 36:

    Mr. Cherian, the songs that you’ve identified are very good indeed. But here are a few observations: except for the Hanste Zakhm, Hawas and Laila Majnu songs, all the other songs are from the 1970-71 period (only Dostana is from 1979-80). Please remember that Rafi was at his peak during 1970-71 (Geet, Gambler, Jeevan Mrityu, Khilona, Caravan, The Train, Heer Ranjha, Dastak, Ishq par zor nahin, Seema …). Two of the three films from the 1973-76 that you’ve mentioned had scores by Madan Mohan. You will notice one thing about Madan Mohan and SD; no matter what, Rafi’s voice will sound great. If you listen to SD’s “teri bindiya re” (1973), you’ll find that Rafi’s voice is as beautiful as ever. And what can I say about “tum jo mil gaye ho”! The way rafi sings “ke jahaaaan mil gaya” makes you feel that you are on top of this world. Remember my comparison is Rafi vs. Rafi; Rafi always had a beautiful voice, but I still feel that in the mid 70s, his voice quality was a little lower by his own lofty standards (this is my opinion and you don’t have to agree with me). My opinion may also have to do with the fact that I’ve heard Rafi perform live several times during the 70s. At the 1980 concert, I could detect a significant qualitative difference in his voice; he was back on top and that must have given a big boost to his confidence.

    Let me bring this issue to closure by saying that if you like his 70s songs as well as his 60s songs, there is nothing wrong. There are people in my previous generation who swear by “ek dil ke tukde hazar huwe, koi yahan gira koi wahan gira”; listen to the song and see if you can detect another legend’s influence.

    The song was composed around 1948 by Husanlal Bhagatram, whose gharana sj belonged to. I once heard an audio clip of a live performance of this song; before he started singing, rafi saab said “main is gaana pnachis saal baad gaa raha hoon”. Someone from the audience must have requested this song and Rafi saab couldn’t say “no”.

  25. Rafian says:

    parveen, post no.37

    i agree with you..opn was question about that.he is one of my most fav mds too..the only point i want to make is lataji did not become small if opn never used her voice.similarly if rdb did not use rafi’s voice, it should not be rafi sahab whose greatness should be should be rdb whose greatness need to be questioned.the debate should either be other way round or should not be.
    imo rdb was too western centric mostly and lacked the variety shankar jaikishan,laxmikant pyaarelal had..he also gave very mediocre music in some of his my opinion sj and lp were far more versatile and talented then rdb and had much better success rate and longer career..even if we see lataji’s most favourite songs, you would hardly find rdb songs listed in that..she definitely gave much better songs with sj and lp in comparison to rdb..rdb is almost nowhere in her favs list..can one expect satyam shivam sundaram or ek duje ke liye or sargam or dil ek mandir or dil apna aur preet parayi songs from way..the great songs list is endless for both sj,lp for both rafi and lata..and i think rafi and lata are last words in hfm and nobody can dare challenge that..what ever period it be..

  26. unknow1 says:

    who can give me list of RD super hit flims as music offourse without Mohd Rafi?!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Anil Cherian says:

    Dear Haldar Sir:
    You were almost there when someone came up with the oft-repeated Rafi Vs Kishore non-sense. Please don’t forget me and my querry.

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