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His Talent Outlives Him

Source: Ms. Nalini Ramji

Mumbai – It’s twenty years since Mohammed Rafi breathed his last July 31 in 1980, leaving an ocean of music lovers stricken by his untimely departure. His memories can never fade; those 7,000-odd songs (next only to Asha Bhosle’s score in Hindi films) can never die.

The singer has spawned a Rafi clone in every orchestra, and a dozen in Bollywood. Today Udit Narayan has almost mastered his style of soft soulful singing. But then this Rafi way of soulful rendition was just one part of his wonderful all-pervading colossal range. He could be as boisterous as Yahoo! – Junglee, as classically immaculate as Madhuban mein Radhika – Kohinoor, as mischievous as Chadti jawani – Caravan, as pathos-laden as Na tu zameen ke liye – Dastaan, and as trendy as Dard-e-dil dard-e-jigar – Karz.

While it is totally accurate that Rafi died too early and would have even today been in perfect synch with stars like Anil Kapoor, Sunny and Bobby Deol, Govinda, the Khans and others (as his clones are), the fact remains that Rafi did touch a lot of our contemporary talents before he passed away – professionally.

This was no mean compensation for the fact that this once-in-a-millennium voice was silenced at the heartbreakingly young age of 55. He would have been 75 today, but the colossus did get to work with associates young enough to be his grandchildren.

Rafi arrived in 1944 via a couple of Punjabi films and sang for three generations of Kapoors – Prithviraj, his sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi and grandsons Randhir and Rishi Kapoor. He “missed” Rajiv by a little more than a year, as the latter’s debut Ek Jaan Hai Hum had Rajiv cloning Rafi’s best-associated star, Shammi Kapoor. The music was by Anu Malik, who designed SJ-Rafi-esque songs like Yaad teri aayegi and Dil dil hai koi sheesha to nahin with Rafi’s clone Shabbir Kumar as Rajiv’s voice. In the same year, Dharmendra, another Rafi-devotee also utilized Shabbir for his son’s launch Betaab.

Rafi was the main voice for none other than Mithun Chakraborty in the first-ever B. Subhash-Mithun combo Taqdeer Ka Tamasha in the same year as Disco Dancer, besides singing for him in at least two more films, Heeron Ka Chor and Humse Badhkar Kaun.

He sang for Amjad Khan (Samraat, Yaarana), Naseeruddin Shah (Khwab, et al.) and even Anil Kapoor in his first and obscure film as leading man – Rachna – with music by someone called C.K. Chauhaan.

Rafi sang almost 50 songs for Rajesh Roshan and about half that number for Bappi Lahiri, including the latter’s qawwali for Rajesh Khanna in Suraag. The Humse Badhkar Kaun hit Devaa ho devaa Ganpati devaa was led by Rafi under composer Raamlaxman, for whom he sang in several other films in the ’70s and in early ’80s releases.

Rafi also sang for Hunterwali 77, Ani Malik’s debut film, and his first significant film Poonam in which Rafi sang three songs, including the hit Laagi lag jaaye logon and the duet with Chandrani Mukherjee Muhabbat rang laayegi for Raj Babbar. For Babbar, there was also Nazrana Pyar Ka.

Anand-Milind were assisting dad Chitragupta in several Bhojpuri films that had Rafi’s songs, and the late singer sang several Bhojpuri and at least one Hindi song for Nadeem-Shravan, including Phoonth gayile kismatiya bhai gayile julamwaa with Asha Bhosle in their debut film Dangal (Bhojpuri/1979).

Today’s hotshot duo Jatin-Lalit began as Mandhir-Jatin in Dil Hi Dil Mein (1982) and Rafi sang a song in this flop film. He even rendered a song in Soorma Bhopali, which was released in the mid-’80s, and which was the first film of Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen, though the Sens confess that the song was already present with producer Jagdeep and was composed by someone else. He also sang for Mahabharat composer Rajkamal in films like Mera Salaam, whose title song Aaya hoon tere dar pe was quite popular.

Among contemporary filmmakers, he sang in Lahoo Ke Do Rang directed by Mahesh Bhatt, J.P. Dutta’s aborted Sarhad which had music by Laxmikant Pyarelal, Rahul Rawail’s Biwi O Biwi, Rakesh Roshan’s Aap Ke Deewane, T. Rama Rao’s Judaai, K. Bapaiah’s and Padmalaya’s Takkar, K. Bapaiah’s Dil Aur Deewaar, Tinnu Anand’s Duniya Meri Jeb Mein and Kaalia, K.C. Bokadia’s Rivaaj, Yash Johar’s Dostana and Subhash Ghai’s Kalicharan, Gautam Govinda, Karz and for Subhash Ghai in Shaher Se Door.

Mohammed Rafi led Udit Narayan and Usha Mangeshkar in Udit’s first recorded song, Mil gaya mil gaya (Unnees Bees/1980) and sang with Anuradha Paudwal and Anup Jalota Sai Baba bolo – Shirdi Ke Sai Baba, Anuradha again Kaahe bindiya lagayi – Sharda, Amit Kumar Salaam kijiye – Aandhi and a song in the film Salaam Memsaab, and Kavita Krishnamurthi a song in Ladies Tailor.

These were all live recordings. He even had his clones singing in films in which he sang himself, like Anwar in Suhaag and Muqabla and Shabbir Kumar in Baghawat. And the list of the later clones includes Mohammed Aziz, Debashish Dasgupta, Vipin Sachdeva, Gurcharan, early Sukhwinder Singh, Mangal Singh, Sonu Nigam and finally Mohammed Salamat.

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3 Blog Comments to “His Talent Outlives Him”

  1. Manish Kumar says:

    Wow! Glad I found this gem of an article! I’m going to have too look up some of these watershed (and rare) songs. Of course I’m sure you already knew but even Govinda got to lip sync to Rafi Sahab’s voice. I’d be curious to know who composed that tune. I know Bappi Lahiri was the MD but I believe he took the song from the “vault”.

  2. Bonifacius says:

    Great article. I am just sad I dont know how to reply properly, though, since I want to show my appreciation like many other.

  3. Anmol Singh says:

    The song DEVA O DEVA from the film ‘Humse Badhkar Kaun’ is popular till date among the Ganepati festivals held in Mumbai and will continue to be so for several years to come.

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