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Features |  31 Jul 2016 13:08 |  By BB Nagpal

Mohammed Rafi: A singer who compels you to remember him even 36 years after his demise

NEW DELHI: “Bhagwaan, Bhagwaan……O Duniya ke rakhwaley, sun dard bharey meray naaley….”

“Baabul ki Duyaayen leti jaa, jaa tujhko sukhi sansaar miley…”

“Ajab hai daastaan teri aie zindagi……”

The most versatile singer that India has produced, left us thirty-six years ago on this day, 31 July 1980. Rafi was born on 24 December 1924 in village Kotla Sultan Singh (now in Pakistan) of Amritsar District.

But before he left, he had left behind him several records (no pun intended) that are still to be broken. He had sung around 5000 sings including non-film and private songs, rendered playback for another equally renowned singer-actor, sung more devotional songs than any other male singer, and brought greater pathos in his songs than any other singer in this country.

Rafi was the 'only' singer whose voice could shoot up to maximum octaves without narrowing or rupturing: perhaps the best example being the high pitched 'zindabaad zindabaad aye mohabbat zindabad...’ from Mughal-eAzam or the peppy 'Yahoo...chahe koi mujhe juglee kahe…’ from ‘Junglee’.

He is perhaps the only singer in India who was remembered through songs after his death.

It is known that Rafi sang sone songs as playback for the versatile actor-singer Kishore Kumar, because the directors felt that Rafi could do better justice in those songs and Kumar himself did not raise any objection as he respected the veteran singer. He also sang for Kumar in ‘Baaghi’ and ‘Shehzaada.’

These include ‘Man mora bawra’ from the film ‘Ragini’, ‘Ajab hai daastaan teri aie zindagi’ from ‘Shararat’, and ‘Masiha banke bimaronke chale ho kahan karke jee bekarar ...’ from the film ‘Bhagam Bhag’.
Similarly few singers can match the pathos of Rafi’s songs which contrast sharply with the songs he sang in a chirpy voice for actors like Shammi Kapoor or Joy Mukherjee or romantic ditties that he rendered for actors Rajendra Kumar or Dharmendra among others.

‘Baabul ki duyaen leti jaa, jaa tujko sukhi sansaar miley’ is a song sung for a girl leaving her parental home after marriage, which can bring tears to the eyes of any listener. Some others that are memorable are ‘Na kisisi ki aankh ka noor hoon’ and ‘Lagta nahin yeh dil mera’ from ‘Lal Quila’, ‘Kabhi khud pe kabhi halaat pe rona aya, baat nikli to har ek baat pe rona aya’ from ‘Hum Dono’, and ‘Koi saagar, dil ko behlata nahin’ apart from the title song from ‘Dil Diya Dard liya’.

And who can forget ghazals and romantic songs like ‘Tumhari Zulfke sayeme sham karlunga, safar is umraka palme tamam karlunga’ from the film ‘Naunihal’, ‘Baad muddat ke yeh ghari aayi, aap aye to zindagi ayee’ from the film ‘Zahanara’, ‘Kisiki yaad mai apna ko hai bhulaye hue’, from the film Zahanara, ‘Rang aur noor ki barat tujhe pesh karu, in muradonki hassen raat tujhe pesh karoon’ from the film ‘Ghazal’, and ‘Barbad muhobaat ka dua saath liye ja’ from the film ‘Laila Majnu’. Other ghazals include ‘Hum intezar karenge, tera kayamat tak, khuda kareki kayamat ho, aur tu aye’ from the film ‘Bahu Begum’, ‘Ab kya misal doon mai tumhare shabab ki’ and ‘Aapne yaad dilaya tha to mujhe yaad aya’ from the film ‘Aarti’, ‘Zindagi bhar nahin bhulenge woh barsaat ki raat’ from the film ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’, ‘Chhalkey teri aankhon se, Sharaab aur zyaada’ from Arzoo, ‘O meri shahe khuba, o meri jaane janaana’ from ‘Love in Tokyo’, ‘Chaudhvin ka chaand ho, aaftab ho’ from Chaudvin ka chaand, ‘Chhuu lene do nazuk hothon ko, kuchh aur nahin hain jaam hai yeh’ and ‘Yeh zulf agar khulke, bhikar jaaye toh achha’ from Kaajal, and ‘Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam’ from ‘Mere Mehboob’.

Rafi’s devotional songs include some memorable songs like ‘O /duniya ke rakhwale’, ‘Insaaf ka mandir hai, bhagwan ka ghar hai’, ‘Ishwar allah tere naam’, ‘Tu hi mera prem devta’, ‘Main tardhpat hari darshan ko aaj’. ‘Bardhi deri bhai Nandlala’, and ‘Mann re, tu kaahe na dhir dhare’.

Rafi learnt Hindustani Classical music under the renowned Ustaad Bade Gulam Ali Khan and Vahida Khan. When K L Saigal was to perform at a function in Amritsar and was delayed, the twenty-year old Rafi was asked to fill in and pacify a restive audience. During this period, Saigal arrived and heard Rafi, after which he told Rafi to complete his training in classical singing before coming to Mumbai.
He made his debut in the Punjabi Film ‘Gul Baloch’ in 1944 with the song ‘Soniye ni heeriye ni’ set to music by Shyam Sunder. Rafi was so much enamoured of Kundan Lal Saigal that he participated as a chorus singer in Saigal's song ‘Roohi roohi roohi’ (‘Shahjehan’ in 1946) and also sang one line in solo.

Rafi established himself as the number one playback singer in Bollywood with the songs of Baiju Bawra (1952). The songs from Baiju Bawra, O duniya ke rakhwale and Man tarpat Hari darshan ko aaj established Rafi's credentials.

In 1950s and 1960s, Rafi became the favourite singer of other composers too, notably O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan and Sachin Dev Burman who patronized Rafi as the singing voice of Dev Anand in 1950s and 1960s. Rafi's notable songs with Burman included songs from the movies Tere Ghar ke Saamne (1957), Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969) and Abhimaan (1973).
picturized on Rajendra Kumar. Rafi sang a total of 341 numbers (216 solo) for Shankar-

Rafi got his first Filmfare Award for the title song of Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), composed by Ravi. He got his first National Award for the song Babul Ki Duaen Leti Ja from the film Neel Kamal (1968), also composed by Ravi. Ravi and Rafi produced several other hit songs, in the films such as China Town (1962), Kaajal (1965), and Do Badan (1966).

Between 1950 and 1970, Rafi was the most sought after singer in Bollywood, some say, at the expense of the careers of contemporaries like Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, and Hemant Kumar. He did playback singing for all the major male stars in Hindi films until his death. In 1965, he was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Shri award.

Rafi recorded two Hindi songs in English on 7" release in 1968. He also sang a song in Creole language, while his visit to Mauritius in the late 1960s.

Rafi recorded two English albums. One of them is Pop Hits. In Bollywood, yodeling is generally associated with Kishore Kumar.

But Rafi also used yodeling in some of old songs, such as ‘Hello sweety seventeen’ (duet with Asha Bhosle), ‘O Chale ho kaha’, ‘Dilke Aine main’, ‘Unse Rippy Tippy Ho gayee’ (duet with Geeta Dutt).

On Thursday, 31 July 1980 after composing the song ‘Shaam phir kyun udaas hai dost’ for the movie ‘Aas Paas’ with Laxmikant-Pyarelal (L-P), Rafi asked if he could leave for home. L-P were surprised because Rafi would be the last person to leave the recording session. While leaving, Rafi said once again "OK. I will leave."

Rafi died at 10.50 p.m. on the same day due to a massive heart attack. His funeral procession was one of the largest Mumbai ever witnessed.

Apart from several government awards and National Film Playback awards, he also received other honours like Filmfare and some from foreign countries where he performed.

Perhaps the best honour for Rafi came after his death a song ‘Mohammed Rafi tu Bhaut Yaad aaya’, was picturized on Amitabh Bachchan and sung by Mohammed Aziz in the movie ‘Krodh’ (1990). The Audio CD ‘Rafi Tu Hai Chanda’ sung by Tarlochan Singh with lyrics by Daljit Singh Arora, President and Secretary respectively of Mohammed Rafi Society, Amritsar, was released in 2012.