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The Kaka – Pheeko connection

By Achal Rangaswamy

Mohd Rafi Sahab and Rakesh Khanna

Mohd Rafi Sahab and Rakesh Khanna

A slim, almost impoverished looking young man, albeit with a twinkle in his eye and a charming smile, wooed his lesser known heroine in a low-budget film. The film would go on to be sent to various film festivals, become known as the first film in which Bhupendra sang a solo, but most people would not remember it as the first film in which the winner of a major talent hunt would be playing the hero.

Jatin Khanna, now rechristened as Rajesh Khanna wooed Chand Usmani, who would later go on to play either sister to heroes in B grade films or maybe the mujre wali in B- grade films. But the song that was chosen for this occasion was hauntingly beautiful.  The hero urges the lady to stay on, by singing “ aur kuchh der thaher aur kuchh der na ja….”. The song was rendered flawlessly. The film was Aakhri Khat. And thus began the less talked about but rather interesting relationship between someone who was to go on to become The Phenomenon and someone who was already being worshipped as the greatest male playback singer in Hindi Film Music history.

Rajesh Khanna, the man who went on to deliver 15 super duper hits in a row in a span of 3 years, would most certainly have attributed his meteoric success to  his own acting prowess, his own style of dancing, his innovative dialogue delivery and those mannerisms that only he could carry off with aplomb. But he definitely knew as did music director Rahul Dev Burman that there was another person responsible for this huge success- the mercurial Kishore Kumar. The two struck up such a chord that the whole country hummed their successful song after successful song.

Whether it was Amar Prem, or Kati Patang, or Mere Jeevan Saathi, it was Kishore Kumar singing for  Rajesh Khanna, all the way. Well, almost.  Because the more discerning and more impartial observer would have something else to say.

That there was a voice that also suited this new hero very well. And that voice was Mohammed Rafi’s.  And that this great singer also most definitely enhanced the superstar’s career and popularity with his great rendering of solos and duets for the actor who had taken the film world by storm.

Aakhri Khat was followed by Raaz and the melodiously haunting Akele Hain Chaley Aao had Rajesh Khanna year for Babita’s company. The song used to play late at nights on transistors across the barsaatis in New Delhi where I was growing up. I used to go to sleep listening to this song on so many nights.

Aaradhana was the watershed moment in Hindi film song history. Everybody knows that R D Burman had his way when an ailing father Sachin Dev asked him to step in and complete the musical score for the film. The fact that two songs- Gunguna rahein hain bhanvre and Baaghon mein bahaar hai had already been recorded in Rafi Saab’s voice meant nothing to RDB who went on to record the chartbusting Roop Tera Mastana and the almost equally successful  Kora kaagaz thaa yeh man mera.  But music lovers will always maintain that each song was worth its weight in gold, and no song was less than the other, since the mood was different in each one of them.

RDB continued to sideline Rafi Saab, who only a few years back had delivered thundering and thundering hit in the Shammi Kapoor  grosser Teesri  Manzil  and the musical Pyaar Ka Mausam for Shashi Kapoor.

But coming back to Rajesh Khanna. He almost made sure there was no trace of Rafi in Kati Patang or Amar Prem, both  films made famous by their  very popular  songs.  But Rajesh Khanna couldn’t have ignored the strong presence of  Rafi Saab and his powerful voice in the romantic musical Mehbood Ki Mehndi.  Whether rendering Yeh Jo Chilman Hai or playing the male voice in the duet Itna toh yaad hai mujhe, Rafi Saab made a great impact and Rajesh Khanna would definitely have agreed that the male voice added to make the film a bit more memorable.  The song Pasand aa gayi hai ek kafir haseena was perfectly designed for this actor.

Haathi mere Saathi had quite a few Kishore numbers , but listeners would always root for Nafrat ki duniya ko chhodke pyaar ki duniya mein as the true heart stopper in the film. Pathos laden and sung truly from the heart, the song left many viewers of the film in tears as they trooped out after the last scene where the loyal elephant gives its life to protect its owner’s child.

Chhoti Bahu had Kishore draw applause for He Re Kanhaiya, but Rafi Saab stole the show with Yeh Raat hai pyaasi pyaasi. One of the most romantic songs composed for him by the Kalyanji-Anandji duo.

Only a few months before this had Rafi Saab team up with Lata Mangeshkar to deliver the foot tapping Yun hi tum mujhse baat karti ho in the film Sachha Jhoota where Kishore had already got the masses and bands belting out Meri Pyaari Behaniya.

Do Raaste was perhaps Lata Mangeshkar’s playground thanks to Bindiya Chamkegi, but the endearing and awesomely song of praise Yeh Reshmi Zulfein Yeh sharbati Aankhen was to prove once again that Rafi Saab’s voice was no less suitable for the fast rising star on the Indian Film Screen horizon. He teamed up again with Lata to give a song that youngsters those days, and I remember those days very clearly, would sing at every Antaakshari–  Chhup Gaye Saare Nazaare Oye kya baat ho gayi. I always used to admire the way the lines teri chunari leharaai barsaat ho gayi, with special emphasis on the word Barsaat !

In between a mock drunken scene by Rajesh Khanna to tease Babita in Doli had the Asha-Rafi duet Sajna Saath Nibhaana where Rafi Saab beautifully rendered the lines Kisne Saath Nibhaaya, dil ko ek khilona samjha , khela aur thukraaya.

The songs he sang for Rajesh Khanna were not few and far between. It was just that the hero was doing a large number of films, practically spending his entire day on one set or the other. And most of his films were full of great music and tuneful melodies.  And there was no doubt that he always had a soft corner for Kishore Kumar. Maybe he was superstitious and thought that the singer brought him luck.

I wouldn’t be surprised that the singer himself may not have been thinking the same way, that the actor had brought him luck and had actually revived his temporarily sagging career.

Kishore Kumar may have sought Lata’s permission to meet again in Aan Milo Sajna with Accha toh Hum Chalte Hain, but the birthday song and the ultimate gift was brought by Rafi Saab in the form of Koi Nazarana lekar aaya hoon man deewana tere liye. A truly gifted song. Not to be left behind with just one solo, Rafi Saab sang the title song, Ab Aan milo sajna with Lataji, a terrific dance number in true J Om Prakash style and size.

And who can forget the  way The Train starts- with Gulaabi Aankhen with Rajesh wooing Nanda right from the first frame of the film. Incidentally another RDB hit. I always wondered why RDB never thought much of Rafi Saab. Strange when you listen to the truly romantic Mujhse bhala yeh kaajal tera….nee soniye.

By the time we complete the list of songs Rafi Saab sang for the superstar it becomes evident. The quantity factor may have weighed heavily in favour of KK, but there was no dearth of quality in the numbers Rafi Saab rendered.

Even the Churiyan chal teir matwali chal pe from Dharam Kanta or the songs he sang in Shehzada  or  Humshakal were hummable.  KK may have got the more musical hum tum gumsum raat Milan ki, but Rafi Saab did great justice to Kahe ko bulaaya, where he playfully handles the lines Radha ne yehi poocha thaa ek din roothkar shyam se, marvelous rendering.

Anand babu, Avinash, Flt lt Arun, Anand Sehgal the cancer patient, Raju the circus owner, all these characters charmed us to tears and laughter and appreciation. But the man who was the heartthrob of millions is no more.

He must be sitting upstairs there with his two voices.  And they must be laughing together saying- wahaan neeche log ladte rahenge ke kisne zyaada achha gaaya. Humne toh khoob mazaa liya.

And I am sure that RK and KK would have coaxed and cajoled Rafi Saab to sing another romantic song, even if it was from a forgettable film- and  Rafi Saab would have smiled and obliged with Ek Khoobsurat Ladki mujhe raat ko mili thi……….ending the song with the soft soft lines Woh so rahi thi….Hai !!!!!

RIP Mr Khanna. You were truly the phenomenon.

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30 Blog Comments to “The Kaka – Pheeko connection”

  1. V. Manohar says:

    Mohd. Raf a great singer also most definitely enhanced the superstar’s career and popularity with his great rendering of solos and duets on Super Star Rajesh Khanna of Indian Cinema.

  2. Dr Lateef M Khan says:

    The heroine of Akhri khat was Indrani Mukharji and not Chand Usmani as quoted in this article


    remembering Md. rafi on his 32nd death anniversary today that is also near to the date of Rajesh Khanna bidding this world adieu is a tear jerking, with Rafi saab finding no space after his death……….

  4. Pallavi ji I fully agree with your views, the whole film industry is portraying the Rajesh-RD-Kishore combo as top most combination of Hindi film industry as if there is no body else to rank more than them. It is strange and sad that the stalwarts are being rated below this so called combination. They intentionally forget the great contribution of Rafi sahaab to whole film industry and the growth of so called super stars. Thank you very much for pointing out biases at right time. Tomorrow it is 32nd death anniversary of Rafi sahaab when the whole nation will offer respectful tribute to Rafi sahaab. Thank you once again.

  5. pallavi says:

    today, to write about “over-hyped” music director R D Burman, has become a fashion. writer just want to write about R D Burman and Mohammad Rafi with Rajesh Khanna…this tells how biased is the writer. It was a sad note that R D Burman’s “gulabi Aankhen jo teri dekh” from “the train” has been rated ‘higher’ by the writer without mentioning the songs of “do raaste”, “aan milo sajana” and “mehboob ki mehandi”…Rajesh Khanna and Mohammad Rafi…

  6. There is no concern when we speak of Rafi sahaab as how many songs he could sing for Rajesh khanna., rajesh khanna can not be the parameter to measure the versatility of singers of Rafi sahaab’s calibre. May be Rajesh khanna was so called super star but he was still less than Rafi sahaab. Rafi sahaab have sung each and every song with same dedication and sincere efforts for whatever star or music director he may be. It is sheer dirty polytics of film industry that unnecessarily Rafi sahaab is being pulled in useless controversial comparission between Rafi sahaab and Kishore kumar.
    Rafi sahaab undoubtedly deserves respect and also Bharat Ratna but “Matlab ki duniya saari”. Please stop this comparision and if possible pray Rafi sahaab with a real tribute.

  7. sunil kumar says:

    I agree with Ajay ji , Laxmikant pyarelal did perform his Dosti with Rafi sahab during the peak of Rajesh khanna as you have rightly pointed out. The Movies DO Raaste , Aan Milo Sajna and Mehboob ki Mehndi all the 3 movies had super hit songs. Now Rafi sahab did helped Laxmikant Pyarelal establish their career by singing for them though they did not had the budget to pay Rafi sahab. This is what i call real Dosti.
    As far as Rajesh khanna is concerned all i can say he was the only real superstar we have seen and i don’t know about the future . That is why when an Advertisement of a fan was being shot by director R Balki maker of PAA and Cheeni kum who has worked with Amitabh in both these movies thought of KAKa for this advertisement he says only KAKA came to my mind whenever I imagined fans running towards a star .
    Now about Rafi Sahab and KAKA Ji both were superstars.
    Both were born in December month 24th and 29th December and both died in the month of July 31st July and KAKA on 18th July. Both hailed form Punjab what a coincidence. My salute to both these great artist.

  8. Ajay says:

    To the writer, as far as “Aradhana” music is concerned..It has a “stamped” as
    S D Burman’s music. SDB was favourite singer for SDB…When you give credit to SDB’s “Aradhana” in 1969….There was another super duper musical hit movie for Rajesh Khanna , ” Do Raaste” released few weeks after “Aradhana”..just 2 songs from Mohammad Rafi,,where responsible to boost up the popularity..’Yeh Reshmi Jhulephe” and “Chhup Gaye Sare Nazare”…composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal..

    During the peak-wave of Kishore Kumar,,It was only Laxmikant-Pyarelal who gave some wonderful song for Rajesh Khanna sung by Mohammad Rafi….”Aan Milo Sajana” and “Mehboob Ki Mehandi” are the best example of it.

    Lagos ( Nigeria)

  9. Ahamed Kutty says:

    it is luck other than a gifted singer for kishore kumar helped
    to become a singer again during the era of kaka and others.
    it was a belief at that time that if kk sing for anybody that
    film will be a success.even there was chances for him to
    sing all types of songs.but the limitations as a singer and the
    voice quality did not permit him to do so.if kk bounced back
    a song like that of “oh uniyaa ke rakwaale” he would be a
    versatile singer also.we cannot imagine actors like shammiji,
    rajendra kumar or dhileep kumat to sing a song for their
    films.but even in the peak time of kk amithab bachan sung for
    himself daring to say he can sing.i think if amithab sing the
    song “oh kaike paan banaa ras waalaa” it would have been

  10. jyoti mohanty says:

    The rise of KAKA to superstardom and also that of pancham’s also witnessed the partial eclipse of was early 70s .the combo was lethal and phenomenal.But somewhere down the line, i feel LP should have given thrust to rafi-kaka combo as who could forget that solo from Do-raste–“yeh reshmi julphe,a perfectly befitting voice -act on screen at display.Surely we desereved more from them ,Butr again that was destiny!!!.Never to forget, like pancham, kaka too started his carrier in akhir khat & raz in which it was rafisaab who brought him recognition through his voice.
    Kaka, reached dizzy heights of his carrier in early 70s and became crestfallen as action in the place o romance occupied the cetrestage.Every one had his time.We shall never forget the charismatic kaka whose popularity is beyond any comparison till date.its shocking to see him bid adieu so soon………..
    May his soul rest in peace

  11. vijay bavdekar says:

    Rajesh Khanna’s career started with melodius Rafi song” Aur Kuchh Der Theher” fro AAkhri Khat.I would like to add one duet to the songlist presented by Salim K above.Rafi Krishna Kalle duet”Sochata Hun Ke Tumhe Maine Kahin Dekha Hai”fro film Raaz,which had music by Kalyanji Anandji.Ican mail this duet in video form to any desireous Rafi fan.Rafi’s voice quality in this duet is outstanding,krishna kalle seems to imitate Asha Bhosle.

  12. Binu Nair says:

    Post 19….

    Prabhakar ji….

    i agreee with your point 200 %. i have many inside stories of this biased and opportunistic industry in which rafi saaheb was the “kamal” – the lotus.

    mohd rafi ruled the industry solely – on his talent. many others did not. even toda y the same things go on…….says industry wallahs.

    just 2 days back i met rafi saahebs daughter and told her : ” no one can touch rafi saaheb in his singing “… didi just smiled as usual.

    achal ji : pls attend our 31st event. see all of u there at delhis sirifort mohd rafi yaaden on his 32nd barsi.

    from the rafi foundation…

    9833 250 701

  13. PRABHAKAR says:

    All the people including great Lataji and Ashaji seldom become intentionally bias whenever there is something to speak about Rafi sahaab. They usually go far away from fact and try to portray some imaginary stories to prove greatness of Kishorkumar. In fact, God has specially gifted a golden voice to Rafi sahaab and no one else can come even near to it. Besides his voice, his greatness as an humanbeing is something uncomparable. I feel it sad when people start to compare him with anyone. Rafi sahaab was himself a peak that no one else could reach to it. There is no need to prove versatility and greatness of Rafi sahaab again and again, it is an universal fact like Sun, Moon, Earth, Sky, Water etc. He was great soul which can never be denied.

  14. salim k says:

    All songs of Rafisaab for RK are classy and unmatched. If one made a list of the best RK songs, most of Rafi saab songs would fall in that list.

    I cannot even imagine any other voice for songs like:
    1. yeh jo chilman hai
    2. Gulabi ankhen jo teri dekhe
    3. Akele hain Chale aao
    4. Yeh raat hai pyasi pyasi
    5. Nafrat ki duniya ko
    6. Koi nazrana lekar
    7. Yeh reshmi zulfien
    8. Jaane kya hojaye
    9. Chup gaye taare nazare
    10. zamana ne maare
    11. Woh nazar leke rahi
    12. You hi tum mujshe baat karti ho
    13. Gun Guna Rahaein hem

    Rafisaab’ voice gave style, dignity and confidence to the actors for whom he playbacked and Rajesh Khanna is not an exception.

    Good article, and like someone pointed out Rafisaab’s voice was suitable for all stars whereas Kishore’s voice could not suit stars like Biswajeet, rajendra Kumar, Sunil dutt, Dilip Kumar (what was SDB thinking), Joy Mukerjee, Dharmendra, and Sanjay Khan.

    Infact Mukesh, Mahendra, Mana Dey and Rafisaab all sang for Rajesh Khanna in a period where Kishore was considered synonomous with RK.

  15. NEERAJ THAKUR Bhopal says:

    Rafi saab had sweetest male voice and rajesh khanna was the chrmiest male in the same era unfortunately we have to compare between two legends kishore da and mohd. Rafi saab but i my opinion both were great artists and both had delivered greatl music scores in their life time

  16. vinod mehru says:

    dear achal ji,
    Aab to bhagwaan se yahi pray karta hoon ki. bhagwan dono souls ko rest grant kare, meri nazar mein Rajesh khanna ji jyada nasseb wale nahi the jo unko rafi sahab ka jyaada saath nahi mila , rafi sahab ne jo bhi gaana rajesh ke liye gaaya woh kabhi bhi flop nahi hua, balki film amardeep naam ki film mein LP ke music mein rafi sahab ne sief ek doha bhi reccord kiya hai jise rafi sahab ne free gaaya tha.
    now both r not live so let their spoul may be in peace.
    with regards
    vinod mehru

  17. Good job Achalji within very few days of Rajesh Khanna’s demise.. As rightly stated by you , Setia ji and others Rafi definitely suited Rajesh khanna . on the contrary kishore kumar did not suit/ could not have suited the actors like rajendra kumar, dilip kumar,dharmendra, raj,shammi and shashi kapoor, manoj kumar, raj kumar, bishwajeet, joy mukherjee, bharat bhushan, pradeep kumar etc etc. in nutshell kk’s voice suited very very few actors, the reason been primarily because rafi used to mould his voice to suit any actor , a quality possessed by him only…and achal ji – the song you referred is ” zamane ne maare jawaan kaise-kaise, zamee khaa gayee aasmaa kaise – kaise.” – indeed very beautifully rendered as if the singer himself is suffering with pain..!!

  18. H.V.GURU MURTHY says:


    Good article, you have brought out alost all the good songs of Rafi-Kaka team. Let me add few more, Zamane Ne Maare (Baharon Ke Sapne), Tere Attaroo (Shehazada), etc.

  19. Ali says:

    Mohd rafi was a God gift singer,when ever Rajesh khanna used mohd rafi voice the song was hit,

  20. Padmanabhan NR says:

    You have done it again, Achal! Congrats.

    Most of the articles where both KK and Rafi saahab feature, invariably end up stirring a hornet’s nest. Writing about one is taken as an affront to the other and one ends up supplanting further facts to justify a viewpoint. Arguments generally start where reasons end; the ‘war’ usually starts to justify ‘battles.’

    This is one article which does not thrust a view point beyond a certain extent. The figures are there, the facts are there and the cinematic situations are there. One can easily surmise on the basis of the available data that what came out added to the audio visual medium that is what cinema actually is. There are a thousands reasons why KK was patronized by some, rafi Saahab himself by Naushad, Roshan, SDB etc, as also Lata Mangeshkar by Madan Mohan. Any creative expression will bank heavily on subjective bias’ and prejudices.

    It requires great understanding to write in a manner that the views come out in a balanced way. You have that attribute. Will look forward to more in the same vein from you.

    Padmanabhan NR

  21. achal rangaswamy says:

    Bhagchandani ji

    thank you very much for your kind words. you have a point where you mention that Kaka wanted to be different. maybe that was a very strong reason for this almost biased stand towards KK.

    ahmed kutty saab

    thank you very much.

    Onika ji

    bahut shukriya. quality aur quantity ke is muqaable mein rafi saab kharey utarte hain.


    achal rangaswamy

  22. J.K. Bhagchandani says:

    A flawless, balanced and unbiased write-up. Only a great writer like Achal ji could have written this.

    I am one of those who believed that though Kishore had more number of songs for Rajesh Khanna, but Rafi’s voice too suited him quite well. Rafi had in many songs modulated his voice to suit Rajesh Khanna’s style. ‘Yun hi tum mujhse baat karti ho…’ (Sachaa Jhootha) has so much of Rajesh Khanna style in-built into the rendering. So has ‘Koi nazrana le kar aayaa hoon main..’ and ‘Mujhse bhala ye Kaajaal tera…’

    I had read it somewhere that Rajesh Khanna’s insistence on Kishore Kumar was mainly based on the fact he wanted to be different from Rajinder Kumar, Dharmendra, Shammi Kapoor etc. Or may be that after the super success of ‘Aradhana’, he did not want to disturb what he thought was a ‘winning combination’.

    All in all a great article/ tribute on the super star. Accept my compliments Achal ji.

    -J.K. Bhagchandani

  23. Manoj Kumar Bhanshali says:

    I have been a regular fan of Rajesh Khanna, since my early childhood and been seeing his movies and hearing to his songs, both of which were and are very popular till date. In my teens, I made a cassette tape of “KISHORE KUMAR SINGS FOR RAJESH KHANNA ” but was unable to get enough numbers to fill the same. Then I filled in the balance space with some of his songs sung by Mohd. Rafi sahab and renamed the cassette as ” GREATEST HITS OF RAJESH KHANNA”. This cassette was compiled along with my other favourites, namely ” MOHD. RAFI SINGS FOR SHAMMI KAPOOR” ” MOHD. RAFI SINGS FOR DHARMENDRA” MOHD. RAFI SINGS FOR DEV ANAND”, all of which I still hear in my car regularly, despite having a CD player also. Its a bit nostalgic.

  24. Onika Setia says:

    maalum nahin kyon log kishore kumar ko rajesh khanna ki aawaz kehte hain ,rajesh ji par to rafi sahab ki aawaz bhi khub jachti thi . yeh kisi bhi gayek mein khubi ho sakti hai abhineta ki aawaz se apni aawaz milana.magar sabse zyda kamal to rafi sahab ki karte the .rajesh khanna k shuruati dour ke adhiktar geet ka playback rafi sahab ne hi diya hai. uske baad bhi anekon geet aise hai jinmein kishore ki aawaz bhi shamil hai .magar rafi sahab ke geet unpar bhari padte hain.mein achal ji ko is article ke liye mubarkbaad deti hun.

  25. Ahamed Kutty says:

    dear achallji,
    excellent writing.waiting for more articles about our beloved
    rafi saab again.

    rafi saab’s version of “akele hai chale aao” is marvellous.also
    who can sing the song “koi nazraana lekar aayaa hum main”
    better than rafi saab?who can forget the humming of rafi saab
    in the song “ithna tho yaad hei muje”.no words to say about
    the humming.

    with all the best wishes.

    ahamed kutty

  26. achal rangaswamy says:

    mohd parvez sb

    thanks for adding the song from bundalbaaz to the list. yes, its a very nice song.

    there was another song sung in the background for rajesh khanna in the film bahaaron ke sapne, another r d burman number- the song went something like jawaan kaise kaise….

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  27. achal rangaswamy says:

    sundeep pahwaji

    thank you so much for pointing out the errror. i stand corrected

    warm regards

    achal rangaswamy

  28. sundeep pahwa says:

    in the film aakhri khat the song aur kuch der thaher was
    sung to woo indrani mukherjee and not chand usmani
    sundeep pahwa

  29. mohamedparvez says:

    Dear sir, Thanx For Sharing Nice Article, About Kaka Ji, And Rafi Sahab”s Combination,One More Duet With Lata Ji,I would Like To Add ,From FilmBandal Baaz,(76) Nagma Hamara Gaayega yeh Zamana, Music By Pancham Da,Is A Great Duet,Kindly Visit This Links To Know About Rafi Sahab,Take Care

  30. josh says:

    r.i.p rajsh khanna very good actor in this note i would like to people to join a new fb group which is dedicated to rafi sahab you can share songs and articles
    this is the group join and enjoy

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