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Rafi’s Last Interview

This interview of Rafi Sahab is by Jyothi Venkatesh. It appeared in the Star & Style magazine – Aug 22 – Sept 4, 1980.

Little did I realize that this meeting would be Rafi’s last ever interview to the press. He spoke in chaste Urdu to me. Rafi was one of the few filmland celebrities who belonged to the old school of discipline. At the dot of the appointed time, Rafi was waiting for me, after doing his riyaz in the morning.

Rafi Sahab's Last Interview

Rafi always felt that though singing was a God given gift, to maintain your voice is tough. From the year 1942, I have been in this line. I have had my ups and downs. Riyaz is a must if you want to preserve the quality of your voice. I do not smoke, I do not touch liquor. I am pained to see before my eyes, some singers who, after giving one hit song, start acting big only to fall down with a thud soon after.

A humble and publicity-shy celebrity, Rafi’s formula for success was a characteristic, Humility. It is a must for one to be successful in any field. Resorting to Urdu he explained, Kisika dil hamne kabhi dukhaya nahin. Jo kisika dil ko dukhata hai, woh kabhi tarakki nahin karega, zindagi mein.

Rafi was born on December 24, 1924, in Punjab’s Amritsar district. At a very young age, he showed an aptitude for music and he was sent to train under renowned maestro, Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan of Kirana. How he became a playback singer was described by him as follows:

Ab aap ko main kya kya bataoon? I am a native of Lahore. I belong to a very orthodox and conservative Muslim family. I used to sing at friends’ places when I was only 15. During one such occassion, Nasir Khan one of the top producer-actors at that time, spotted me and offered to take me to Bombay and groom me as a singer in films.

Khansaab had asked my father for his permission. My father had refused the offer point blank since he frowned upon the very idea of my taking up singing in films as a career. I was being trained in classical music at that time by my guru Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan of Kirana. When Nasir Khan persisted with the offer my elder brother convinced my Abaajaan to let me go to Bombay. With great reluctance my dad agreed to my pursuing a career as a singer in films.

I made by debut as a playback singer in 1942, with ‘Laila Majnu’, a Nazir – Swarnalatha starrer. The late Pandit Govindram was the music-director of the film. I sang a qawwali as part of the chorus. I had even done a bit role in the film. Later on, I acted in films like ‘Samaj Ko Badal Dalo’ and ‘Jugnu’. In ‘Gaon Ki Gori’, I sang a duet with Noor Jehan under baton of music-director Shyam Sunder.

Before his death, the singer voiced his disillusionment with the music-directors today. Rafi seemed to be visibly pained that music-directors sign films by the dozen, as a result of which the quality of music in films has deteriorated. Very few music directors today work with dedication on their tunes and compose memorable music like Laxmikant Pyarelal did in ‘Sargam’. Most of the others are in this field only to make a fast buck by copying foreign tunes and plagiarising other composers’ tunes.

And lapsing into a flash-back of those good old days, Rafi had launched into a tirade against film-making today and the role of the music director. Film-making wasn’t merely a business proposition during those days when institutions reigned supreme and free-lancing hadn’t become popular in the film industry. Believe it or not, I used to be paid a meager amount of Rs. 75/- in those days for one song!

When I entered the line, there were, of course, popular singers like Saigal Saab, G.M.Durrani and Khan Mastan. Unka Khoobi yeh tha janab ki instead of considering me as yet an other competitor they encouraged me to give my best. In fact I remember the first time I met Saigal Saab at Lahore where he had come to give a concert on the stage. The mike had failed at the last minute. While it was being set right, I was asked to keep the audience engaged by singing a couple of songs. I was only 15 then. I had not yet met Nasir Khan or Shyam Sundar. Saigal Saab blessed me that day and predicted that a day would come when I would be a sought after singer.

Melody and classical training were primary in the beginning when I set my foot in the field of film music in the early forties. Today, however, music has degenerated into just shor! In those days, I remember we singers used to help interlude music, whereas today it is the other way round. A situation has come today when the musical interludes help playback singer.

Perhaps not many are aware of the fact that Rafi wasn’t a Shylock where his payments were concerned. Unlike Kishore Kumar who won’t sing unless and until he is paid his remuneration before the recording, Rafi is said to have sung even for a token amount of one rupee! Though I insist on being paid my price by commercial film-makers who can afford it, I sing for small budget films, including regional films, for a much lower price. Money isn’t the only criterion for me to accept a film. Out of my earnings, I keep aside a sizable amount for charitable purposes but I prefer not to tom tom it because I do not want to seek publicity for those acts.

In spite of several years of experience in the field, Rafi never composed music for any film. In fact, producer-director S. Mukherjee had asked me to compose music for one of his films, sometime back. I turned down his offer because it is my firm belief that one should be perfect in only one field. Look at Talat Mahmood. He took up acting and after he could click neither as a singer nor as an actor.

Film personalities paying their last respects.

The late Mukeshbhai took up production and lost heavily when the films he made flopped. If I were to agree to compose music for film today, the other music directors would start feeling that I might steal their tunes for my own films and hence they might even stop assigning me the job of singing for them.

Unfortunately, Khuda willed otherwise and took Rafi away at a time when he was once again emerging as a force to reckon with, with films like “Hum Kisise Kam Nahin”, “Amar Akbar Anthony”, “Sargam” and “Mr. Natwarlal”, after his forced exile in the early seventies when Kishore Kumar had taken over from Rafi.

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118 Blog Comments to “Rafi’s Last Interview”

  1. SYDNEY ROY says:

    I am 67 and I am not able to pass a day without hearing the songs of MOHD RAFI. I believe that if I hear Mohd Rafi’s songs I feel that my life is extended. From my childhood I have been hearing his songs. His quality of voice,accent,pronounciations,expressions through his songs by modulations are unique,uncaomparable. He only had the distinction to get the GODLY voice and due to the quality, his style of modulation and pure URDU accent suited to any actors from DILIP KUMAR,Rajeendra kumar, Sunit Dutt, especially Shammi kapoor,shashi kapoor and Raj , Amitab bachan, Jitendra, Rajesh khanna,Vindod khanna, Biswajeet,Joy mukerjee, Pran like villain’s role,and comedians like Johny walker,Mehmod, When we go to see a movie in theaters his voice would blast the hall with ecko. He sang more than quarter lakh of songs and passed away quiet YOUNG. GOD has not been kind to him or to us listeners and did injustice to take him away from us. However we could content and satisfy ourself that he has sung enough songs for us during four decades in many languages for us which we are not able to hear them in a year, or months or daily. I would like to narrate more about him that i am unable to stopwritilng about him and I shall continue with this writing about him by REMEMBERING HIM, PRAYING FOR HIS SOUL TO BE REST IN PEACE AND PAY TRIBUTES TO THE GREAT SINGING, IMMORTAL SOUL.

  2. Anjul says:

    Rafi,kishor,Mukesh all are real gems..shouldnt compair each other..Rafi gives its best for every song its not mean that kishor or mukesh didnt was classical singer they knew every alap sur..but with magical kishor or mukesh they are not fully trained singer but they are compairing with rafi because of their talent when rafi sung for naushad its make wonderful same for kishor sung for sd berman it was magical and same for mukesh when he sung for laxmikant pyarelal i always deeps in rafi songs khoya khoya chand (kala bazaar)My salute to rafi shaeed..

  3. I always listen his songs. i understand rafi shb is the best singer in all over the world. Rafi’voice always touch my heart and think about that amazing and God gifted undoubtedly.Sir May God bless you. 02-10-2011 Ayaz Shah.

  4. Srinageshwar says:

    Rafi saab has always been special in my heart since my child hood considering the fact that I grew up listening to his songs in Madras it was then called. At this age of 54 years, when i think of his demise a pang used to grip me and be angry with God as to why He took HIM away. Reading this last interview the pain is more palpable and unbearable. When could one see such a fine gentleman with golden voice even my 18 year old daughter could fall in love with.

  5. Dinesh Patel says:

    My father met Rafi Saab at Heathrow airport many years ago. My father asked Rafi Saab, “Can I shake hands with him you”? Rafi Saab said, “Can I give you a hug”? My father was always a Rafi Saab fan but after he walked away, my father said that Rafi Saab made him feel so special, asking what he does in London, how the family were, my father didn’t have a pen to get his autograph!

  6. sanjay post no 87.. are you sure you have ears to listen to music and heart and soul to feel music.. what are you trying to prove by counting actors’ names.. list the songs of kishore kumar which are ghazals, bhajans, desh prem, josh , regional touches etc etc..kk himself had admitted rafi’s supremacy–a great singer kk was but note that rafi is number 1 to 10 and other singers follow after that, and as wished in post 94, i too wish you a speedy and effective recovery..

  7. Facts says:

    Sanjay, Post no. 87

    Rafisaab sang for all actor you are refering to except who started acting after Rafisaab passed away. rafisaab gave them the best songs of their carrier. Rafisabb was Vinod Mehra’s favorite (he mentioned in a TV show). Rajeshkhanna looked and acted like a joker after he switched to KK. You did not mention Manojkumar. He is still alive. Rafisaab gave his voice to Amitabh in late 70’s for many songs. For Dilipkumar, your two fingers are enough to count no. of KK songs. If you like yelling, shouting and hoarse voice you made the best choice.
    Please don’t tell us who is no. 1. You sound like Amin Sayani or RD Burman. Hoping you get well soon.

  8. vikram says:

    Sanjay, Mohammad Rafi sahab sang more for Kishore da then Kishore da sang for Dilip kumar, Bharat Bhushan and Rajender Kumar combined together. Nobody comes close to Rafi sahab as far as singing prowess is concerned. Kishore da was definitely multifaceted, but no way a better singer than Rafi sahab.

  9. Rakesh Kohli says:

    Jab Kabhi Bhi Sunoge Geet Mere Sang Sang Tum Bhi Gungunaoge……………….

  10. Ribhu says:

    I’m touched with the great words of the finest and most talented singer of indian cinema. He was so generous that his thoughts like ” JKisika dil hamne kabhi dukhaya nahin. Jo kisika dil ko dukhata hai, woh kabhi tarakki nahin karega, zindagi mein.”
    OUtstanding. Hats off rafi saab. you will be remembered by every music lover indian for centuries ……….
    Your Little fan..

  11. Rounak RAFI's BIGGEST FAN says:


  12. A great & precious article.
    Rafi saab is a legend No one can take his place.

    Thanks for this article.

  13. Abhi says:

    He was very talented

  14. sanjay says:

    ek myth kishor da ke bare mai felaee ja rahi hai ke unhene keval rajesh kanna amitabh our dev anand ke liye hi gaya jab ki rafi ne sabhi acotor ke liye gaya jab ki truth is se alag hai kishorda ne jin actor ke liye gaya unki list de raha hu——rishi kapoor,sahshi kapoor,shatrughan sinha,vinod khanna,dharmendra,jitendra,sunil dutt,rajewndra kumar,bharat bhushn,firoz khan, sanjay khan,sanjiv kumar,dilip kumar=sala mai to sahab ban gaya’ akbar khan,kiran kumar,navin nishchal,vijay aroda,shashi puri,tariq,amjad khan,pran,rakesh roshan,mehmood,jacki shrof,anil kapoor,sunnu deol,sanjay dutt, kumar gourav,kunal goswami,govinda,randhir kapoor,vinod mehra,rajesh kanna aur amitabh ab koun bacha. rajkapur aur shammi kapoor ko chod ker koun bacha.simply kishor is greatest for ever no one can even touch him rafi great hai per kishor ka muqabla nahi kar sakte so kishor is no.1 & rafi is no. 2 long live in our heart kishor di great

  15. binu nair says:



  16. binu nair says:

    recently, i heard a tribute programme in you tube. he tributed mohd rafi by saying that mohd rafi saaheb ab is duniya me nahin rahe. hamara acha dost that aur mere bhai samaan tha mohd rafi.
    kk started his stage show by singing the rafi song : “man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare”…. Kishore Kumar conquered many hearts.

    yes. kishore was demanding . why not ?
    the income tax dept had “left out” many big fries due to political pulls but kk had got entangled in the i.t. web . what he would have done to pay the income tax? sing free….. its all absurd.

    mohd rafi and kishore kumar workd their way up their career and profession in a tough tough industry.
    we should be lucky to have them in our midst – during our lifetime.

    binu nair, rafi foundation, mumbai
    cell : 9833 250 701

  17. PG Joseph says:

    Re-redrafted comment

    Yes, the author should have avoided the part “unlike Kishore Kumar…….”. Why make an unwanted controversy on great talents. Rafisab is Rafisab – a rare gift by the Almighty for millions of Indians for decades and decades. While praising Rafisab, why should one downgrade Kishore Kumar?

    Rafisab has left a throne, which is next to impossible for anyone to claim!

  18. Zulfikar Ansari says:

    Mohd.Rafi AAp Music Ki Duniya mai ek esa amar naam ho jo kabhi mitaye nhi mitega,or jabtalak ye duniya ye qaynaat rahegi aap ka gaya har ek gana har ek bool hamesha gayki ki duniya mai yaad kiya jayga
    na to kabhi koi aap ko copy kar paya hai or na kar payga.aaj hajaro singer music industry mai hai..magar aap hamesha
    sabke ideal rahe ho or hamesha rahoge.shayad mai ye jo likh raha hoon is baat se har koi wakif hai
    magar dil mai aapke liye jo pyar jo jagah hai bas thoda sa jahir karna chahta tha.
    duniya janti hai ke aapke shaan mai jitna kuch bhi likha jaye wo sab kam hai.
    aapki aawaj khuda ka diya hua ek ajeemo shaan tofha tha or aap ne us tohfe ho duniya
    ke sath bata ye aap ki mohhabat or mehrbani hamesha music lovers par rahegi
    is duniya mai esi aawaz na to kisi ki hui hai or na kabhi duniya ka har insaan jaanta hai
    .Rafi sahab aawaj ke sath sath aap ki sadgi or neek dili ke bhi duniya saalam karti hai..
    Allah aap ko Jannat Nasib Kare…Bas itna hi……

  19. agni says:

    Mohd rafi saab is world’s best singer and most popular male singer in India..
    his voice can’t be compared to any one. although sonu tried well…
    Imagine what happens if he would sing with a great music director A.R.Rehman…
    so today i miss him …GOD of music…………

  20. Baluch Saab says:

    Simply there is no Doubt that the legend will alwayz be th e legend and no one can compare some one with Rafi Saab . He had a lot of Voice qualities such as the Comparision of voice with different Heros Such as Shimmi Saab… Jetender ..Sunil da Etc Etc and i really really the Phenomenal Song Sung by Rafi Saab which is TUM MUJHE YUN BHULA NA PAOGE…. ……!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Neeraj kumar says:

    Rafi saab aap amar hain, aapke jaisa singer na kabhi hua aur na kabhi hoga.

  22. Abdul Majeed, Kunnumpurath house, Mundengara, Edavanna, Malappuram, Kerala, India. says:

    There is no words to say about this legend Mohd Rafi Sahab… he was the greatest, is the greatest and will remain the greatest….the passion with which he sang, the feeling its simply divine…The calibre and humbleness of Rafi Saab was simply different from others and never seen such a person. Long live Rafi Saab, you cannot and will not die from the heart of millions especially from Indians.

  23. Harish says:

    I have been Rafi Sahab’s follower from the age of 10 years. Though I used to sing his songs in small group of friends, I had never seen his picture even. Later when I had a chance to see his picture, I was amazed to relate his picture with the one I had visualised in my thoughts. I have always loved him next to God. Even today, my day starts with his voice and I go to sleep after listening to him. Imagine, even after nearly 30 years, we dont find any singer who can match his versatility and calibre in Bollywood industry. I dont think we would ever have another original Rafi Sahab.



  25. ajit says:

    Interview of Rafi Saheb with JV is wonderful.
    Yes ofcourse, from vrious articles I understand that his death was due to the shock he got when he found out that the charity money he used to send to ‘madrasa’ did not reach there(swindled by the person responsible to send the amount), and Rafi saheb felt like a ‘gunehgar’ in the eyes of Allah. Thereafter he had a heart attack, which took his ‘anmol’ life.
    May he rest in peace.

  26. SujathaKoteswararao says:


  27. SUJAKOTI says:


  28. binu nair says:

    Rajdeep ji…My best wishes to u and i know that u would emerge as a great singer one day since u are a great fighter.

    Please be in touch and please do not fall in to the “politics” of self advertising singers found everywhere.

  29. rizvan says:

    i miss you sooooooooooo much rafi jeeeeeeeee

  30. Rajdeep says:

    RAFI SAHAB IS NEXT TO GOD TO ME. I’m a playback singer and have done various stage shows of those Rafi sahab evergreen songs and got a box of appreciation of public. The eternal songs like PARDA HAI PARDA, YEH JHUKE JHUKE JHUKE NAINA, CHAHUNGA MAIN TUJHE, DARD E DIL, RAHA GARDISHON MEIN, MAIN NIGAHEIN, Chaudavin ka chaan i sang more than 20 times in various stage shows of various cities. I lately have performed in NAUSHAD HALL when I had been invited by Rafi foundation group. I want to send the songs of Rafi sahab in my voice to this site.
    RAJDEEP(Playback singer) Mumbai

  31. Rajdeep says:

    First and foremost this is most respectfully to send my holy regards to the entire team of RAFI SAHAB IS NEXT TO GOD TO ME. HIS ADORABLE VOICE AND THE EVERGREEN SONGS RESIDE IN MY HOLY HEART WITH CELESTIAL PLESSURE. I’m a playback singer(age 26) and have sung some songs is some movies in Mumbai. Above all I’m a great and true fan of the maestro Mohd Rafi Sahab and since from the begining of my childhood I’ve been learning classcial vocal under the discliple of Ustad Aamir khan(KIRANA GHARANA) and Pandit Jayant Bose along with the presence of Great Rafi sahab songs in my life through audio cassettes. I became young day by day listening the eternal songs of Rafi sahab. Keeping the current tough condition of film industry of now a days in mind it became possible only due to an adorable desire and blessing of God and my family members that I became successful in singing few songs in various movies in Mumbai only because of the great influence of Rafi Sahab in my life and still now I’m keep on struggling a lot to become a successful and known singer of Bollywood for which at every now and then I’ve to sacrifiece some of the comfortable and important facts of my life and despite getting benefitted little by little.
    I’m one of the fortunate fellows that I got the splendid chance more than twice to meet with the family members of Rafi Sahab and the recorded songs of Rafi sahab in my own voice have also been appreciated by those adorable fellows e.g. Respected Shri Parwez Ahmed Sahab, Shahid Rafi Sahab and Smt. Yasmeen Ji.
    Its my heartiest request to the entire team members of this site kindly allow me to send some songs of Rafi sahab in my own voice to I recorded 2 audio cds of Rafi Sahab’s songs in my voice with digital stereophonic recording. Those very songs in my voice have been appreciated by Eminent music directors like Ravindra Jain Sahab, Ravi Sahab, Rajesh Roshan Sahab and Shankar Mahadevan Sahab in Mumbai whenever I’ve been to their studios and residences. I most respectfully want to send those songs to this site. If its possible then kindly get the procedure sent to me how and where the song could be sent so that one can listen to it. I hope being a true fan of Rafi sahab I’ll not be deprived of it.
    Eagerly awaiting your reply
    Yours faithfully

  32. IMRAN TARIQ says:


  33. atkinsion says:

    super …unmatchable voice..only rafi can do magical work….of..singing

  34. chittaranjan says:

    this article is a very precious one…i urge others to post these kind of articles…and about Md. Rafi Saab… “woh is kism ke gayak the ki koi gana na samajhne wale bhi unka gana sunkar wah wah kar uthte the….”there is no words to say about this legend… he was the greatest is the greatest and will remain the greatest….the passion with which he sang,the feeling its simply divine…

  35. Dinesh Prajapati says:

    M. Rafi Was Great Singer But I speak every time Rafi never die
    because I speak for Rafi Only One singer in wold not past but today and future
    I speak for Rafi
    “Rafi is great singer”

  36. meenu says:

    Why LATA is dragged ? Why People are jelous of LATA ?
    Why evey now and then comparision of LATA with other artist ?
    LATA is Godess Saraswati !!!

  37. Rashid Diwan says:

    Very good interview….the more we know about this great man the less it is.

  38. ESR-K7 says:

    “Khuda willed otherwise and took Rafi away” If only Khuda had kept Rafi with us for much longer, imagine as he was once again back on top in the late 70’s, he would have been a breath of sunshine for the 80’s. The thought constantly crosses my mind “Why was Rafi taken from us so early”??????????

    Strange as it is that Rafi, Mukesh & kishore all passed away in their fifties from heart attacks! Was it down to lack of healthy diet? Lack of excersise? or was it something else?

  39. Ghulam Murtuza says:

    This article is a precious stone to the music lovers. Really Rafi Sahab’s greatness and verstality of his music can’t be defined in words but such golden pieces of memories are like great achievements and a capital to the real music lovers.

  40. Deepak Rahi says:

    Rafi is Rafi. No one be it Lata, Asha, Mukesh or Kishore can ever come close to that verstality. All the songs of Rafi are real gems. The only singer who rendered his voice to all from Raj Kapoor to even Kishore Kumar. He will ever be remembered by Indian irrespective of regional barriers. But unfortunately the works of Rafi saheb have not been glorified in the way it should be. Notwithstanding the bias on the part of the government, Rafi Saheb will be on the top forever..There is no words to put down in the praise of the greatest of great i.e. Rafi Saheb

  41. Asif says:

    No words to desribe this Gr8 singer. Rafi saab’s golden voice had soul, emotions, feeling that brings a lively temperament in a human being. His voice is simply unmatched and a there is one Mohammad Rafi and there cannot be another. The calibre and humbleness of Rafi Saab was simply different from others and never seen such a person. Long live Rafi Saab

  42. r.venugopal iyer says:

    after reading this interview, i feel much more closer to rafi sab.
    great publication. great job. great sri.mohammed rafi. salute this net venture.-venu

  43. Anil says:

    Is there a web site out somewhere which might list all of Rafi Da songs in some kind of chronological order. I am looking for some of his Duets from 70’s but cannot rememer now. Thanks in advance.

  44. nanusingh says:

    bhai subhashish. youdid even greater mischief than the interviewer who dragged kishoreda in. the interviewer brought only kishoreda, but you brought the entire indians by saying “Indians that we are…we will remain incorrigible….. ”
    kuchh samjho yar!!

  45. kripal says:

    The bollywood fraternity can never repay back what Rafi Chacha has given to it. This day of 31st July is a tribute to a person whom I assume could ressurect the dead by his sheer magical voice. Rafi Chacha do come back for once.

  46. kripal says:

    If once in a bluemoon Kishoreda donated a meagre sum to Satyajit Ray ,does it mean he was generous ? The generosity of Rafi Sahab cannot be matched.Why did music composers behave so with Kishoreda only and why not with Rafi Sahab ? Any answer ? Such a nice human being will never be born again. Granted. Long live the greatest singer of all times.

  47. riz khan says:

    a great voice which will never be heard again in any other form

  48. shubhashish says:

    Though rafi’s interview made very good reading, i strongly object to the writers move to unnecessarily draw kishore into the picture. What does she know about kishore’s benevolence? Kishore donated Rs 5000 to Satyajit Ray for making of his movie pather pachali. There are many more such incidents which i cannot recount in such a short space. Kishore was very particular with producers about the remuneration factor because he was fed up with the mischievous ways of many producers. They reneged on their promise at will. To ensure they dont dupe him he was strict about his remuneration.

    isn’t there any other way of talking about the greatness of a legend, than by running down another ?.. Indians that we are…we will remain incorrigible…..

  49. harish says:

    the original legend,……the great singer

  50. kool kamal says:

    east or west Rafi Sahab is best. No comparison…Simply “The Legend’…..

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