Balaji Vittal lists 10 songs of Rafi Sahib that they would have loved to include in their book Gaata Rahe Mera Dil. as his tribute to the iconic singer, exclusively for Silhouette Magazine. Gaata Rahe Mera Dil – 50 Classic Hindi films Songs co-authored by Balaji Vittal and Anirudha Bhattacharjee (published by Harper Collins) had been at the top slot of the Bestseller List and received very positive reviews by the media and readers alike.
At first glance Mohammed Rafi looked like a humble middle-class Mumbai office goer on the way back from a 9 am – 5 pm work routine. In none of his old photographs does his countenance bear any strain of the heavy crown of the busiest male playback singer over two decades. One has never remotely heard of Rafi sahib losing his temper. While his talent sought him out and elevated him to the #1 slot among male playbacks, his geniality endeared him to ALL.
He may have let go of the Number 1 slot at the fag end of the 1960s. But nobody could remove Mohd. Rafi from their hearts. Here is a list of 10 songs of Rafi sahib that we would have loved to include in our book Gaata Rahe Mera Dil – 50 Classic Hindi films Songs, published by Harper Collins this month.
Tandem song with someone with whom Rafi had had a professional fall out over royalties. One of his less celebrated melodies but opens up a vertigo of sadness at an impending separation of two people.
In this film (Abhilasha, 1968) RD Burman experimented with an array of male voices ranging from Kishore, Rafi, Manna, the rarely used Bhupinder and Marutirao Keer, RD’s chief rhythm assistant. The tune of the mukhra of Wadiyan mere daman he used, with subtle modifications, for the antara of the raga Nand based Asha Bhosle solo, Jete dao amaye deko na.
The Lata version of the tandem was lipped by Nanda, surprise, not for Sanjay Khan, but for Kashinath Ghanekar, a dentist turned actor of Marathi cinema, who played Sanjay’s foster brother in the film.
The hush was here. And with it came the midnight-velvety luster. The fabric in Rafi that not all composers discovered. Khayyam did, in Shankar-Hussain (1976), a film which was announced by Kamal Amrohi in the mid-1960s and actually saw the light of the day a decade later.
Yes, Mohd. Rafi’s voice sounded best when he was not throwing his voice loud. Khayyam, time and again, used raga Pahari for his compositions, and this was another score which traced the progression of the raga Pahari, but held its own identity.
This is one in which Rafi simply lets go. There is no audience, no microphone, nothing else in this worlds except his own voice and the woods. There is a languid glide from one note to another that can come only when a singer is in his prime.
Trust Madan Mohan to not only compose such a melody but communicate to Rafi the way he wanted it sung. It’s a pity that the song, filmed nicely among willow trees, was wasted in Dulhan Ek Raat Ki (1967), a not too inspiring film based on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles.
In a TV commercial, Sachin had named this his favorite song (from Hum Dono, 1961). He is one of the millions. Dev Anand’s real life “move on” attitude is represented to a “T” in this Jaidev melody.
The killer piece was the ‘incomplete’ mukhra, “…. Har fikr ko dhuen me udaaaa…”. Rafi delivered this as well as Jaidev intended. Maybe even better. Nothing in Indian cinema probably expresses gay abandon in the way the song had done then. And continues to do even today…
True to the title of the film (Vaasna, 1968), this melody tastes as sweet as sin. Sahir’s lyrics tickle awake the forbidden thoughts and Chitragupta’s tune and arrangement encourage action. Mohd Rafi makes it happen. Love experiences a new high with this song.
Road songs we rarely miss. This one may have missed Gaata Rahe Mera Dil but will keep wheeling in fans’ memory, not least being Rafi’s intro effortless intro and interlude humming and the way he breezes through, underlining the lead character’s identity.
As far as popularity is concerned, SD Burman’s composition perhaps struggles in comparison with its peer Na Tum hame jano. But over time, both (from the film (Baat Ek Raat Ki, 1962) have held their own. The fishing rod almost became a motif with Dev… a la SD, who wouldn’t mind cancelling a few recordings if he had fishing on his mind!
What was it about the chemistry between OP Nayyar and Mohd Rafi that kept belting out classic after classic starting the mid-1950s?
Be it the noir genre of Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar, or the romantic escapades in Kashmir or the chocolate faced heroes? The tune is built around lower notes in the mukhra and rises abruptly in the antara. Unlike a comparable track like say, Kisi na kisi se from Kashmir ki Kali, ‘Pukarta chala hoon main’ is trance-inducing in its relaxedness. And Rafi renders it exactly that way. A classic to date. (Mere Sanam, 1965).
A very different sounding Qawwali. But then composer Sajjad Hussain was different from anyone else. Every note, they say, of whatever he had composed in his sparing career, was original. Rustom Sohrab (1963) featured melodies that remained some of his most recalled ones by the singers involved including Lata Mangeshkar.
Sajjad was not known to favor any particular singer. One finds Talat and Lata singing well known solos in this film. But here it was, the Qawwali registering as probably the most popular song of the film, and definitely one of Rafi – Manna’s most well-known duets.
This film was typical in many respects. The quintessential male sentimental solo, sung for the tragedy queen Meena Kumari lip synced by Rajendra (Jubilee) Kumar. A tragic love story of separation and ominous reunion, loads of melodrama …. And intense music to match by Shankar-Jaikishan. Who else could have composed such a heart rending melody?
Dil Ek Mandir (1963) was made and remade in four different languages. The theme of the song, the mood of the hero, the poetry, all were just the setting that Mohd Rafi needed. Maybe Rafi could have toned down the emotion a shade, but perhaps he was guided by the composing duo who would have perhaps wanted to keep the rendition consistent with the script. A true Rafi classic.
This was touch and go. Honestly this one did not stand much of a chance of making it to Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, except for the historical significance.
Picturized on lyricist Gulhan Bawra in a street-nautanki act. Mohd Rafi brings in a light peppy feel to the whole song. Even the stone-faced angry young cop’s tension eases as he hears the song through the open window. Composing duo Kalyanji-Anandji cemented their relationship with film-maker Prakash Mehra and Amitabh Bachchan from this film onwards (Zanjeer, 1973).
Gulshan Bawra said in an interview later that the recording did not come out as well as expected. This was pointed out to him by Bawra himself after the recording was completed. When Rafi learnt that the song was to be picturized on Gulshan Bawra himself he heartily agreed to do another take. This was despite the fact that Rafi had been fasting all day as it was the month of Ramzan.
But then this was Mohammed Rafi, the professional and the genuine human being.
(This essay is from Silhouette’s archives and was first published in July, 2015. It is being republished on the occasion of Mohd Rafi’s anniversary.)
Also read the tribute to Mohd. Rafi by Peeyush Sharma:
Jaao Mere Siva Tum Kahan Jaaoge – Remembering Rafi through Rahul Dev Songs
More to read on Music Makers and Golden Voices
The Incomparable Music Of S D Burman Transcends Generations
Madan Mohan: The Composer of the Classes
The Pathbreaking Non-conformist – The Music of RD Burman
‘The Music Director Knows which Voice would do Full Justice to his Composition’ – In Conversation with Hemant Kumar
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