Friday, December 14, 2007


The Last Decade - Rising of the Phoenix.

A Humble Tribute by Nasir Ali: 

A year after Rafi Sahaab had won the Film World Magazine Award for the Hawas song: "TERI GALIYON MEIN NA RAKHENGE QADAM" destiny had a surprising turn of events for him in store -which began with "Emergency."
Often we come across the word, "Emergency," while discussing Rafi-Kishore episode during that period. So it's better to get the hang of it but without going into intricate political details. Indira Gandhi had already exploded India’s first nuclear bomb in 1974 that also resulted in the fizzling out of the All India Railway Strike of George Fernandes. Soon the Allahabad Hight Court had declared Indira Gandhi guilty of corrupt practices in election. Emboldened and being surrounded by sycophant Ministers who gave her a distorted picture of governance she clamped Emergency in India on 26.6.1975. The Fundamental Rights of the citizens were suspended. Under the MISA (which can be compared to later decades' POTA and TADA) the police were given powers to arrest any suspect without warrant. Police brutality stooped to the lowest level. Freedom of Press was curtailed. The opposition leaders went underground. Some, like Jayaprakash Narayan, were arrested. In the meantime, Sanjay Gandhi, Indira's maverick son, gained considerable clout and was commonly known to throw his weight around so much so that even Ministers were at his beck and call. On his orders many shops and dwellings around the Jama Masjid in Delhi were razed to the ground in the name of beautification. In order to achieve the Family Planning targets sterilization camps sprang up everywhere and people irrespective of age-group were taken to these temporary camps and sterilized. It was said that even 70-year old men were not spared. Government servants too were warned to limit their family-size. No one dared to oppose Sanjay Gandhi. Violence in Bollywood movies was banned to a ludicrous extent. Even some songs and characters came under the scrutiny of the Board.
But there are always two sides to a coin. During the Emergency, the crime rate dropped to an all-time low. Smugglers, including the powerful Haji Mastan (who afterwards turned over a new leaf and formed a political party of his own), were put behind the bars. Prices of foodgrains were regulated. Investors in real estates were suitably restrained and so cost of apartments, especially in and around Bombay, came crashing down so that people could now afford them. Thus it was also called an "an era of discipline." On the positive note, politically speaking, for the first time in the history of independent India the people got united to bring down the repressive Indira Congress government. The Janata Party came to power in 1977 ending the 19 months of Emergency.
Now, as is very well known, during the above period it so happened that Kishore Kumar was summoned by Sanjay Gandhi to sing at his function and dinner party. He just did not go. Whether that was the result of his refusal to tow the party line or his prior commitment to his studio-recording session in Bombay and being found out later as such, is immaterial. The fact remains he couldn't make it. What is generally not divulged is the fact that soon thereafter the nation woke up one fine morning to Rafi Sahaab’s soulful, mellifluous, and golden-toned strains on the ubiquitous radio. The noteworthy thing this time was that Rafi Sahaab’s songs began to be aired on All-India Radio and national media one after another continually for weeks together to the immense delight of his fans. It appeared as if suddenly the sun had come shining out of the clouds; or on a pitch dark night the stars and the moon suddenly made their appearance; or a desert weary and thirsty traveler had suddenly chanced upon an oasis. It was a heavenly feeling. Those beautiful melodies of the great music directors was pervading the Indian nation in the voice of Rafi Sahaab. It was such a heavenly feeling indeed. In the words of Wordsworth: "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive..."
In the meantime, it became public knowledge that Kishore Kumar was banned from the national media. And wonders of wonders! It was our Rafi Sahaab who was the foremost amongst those who got the ban removed from his collegue, whom he always used to address as Kishore Da. Yet, when Rafi Sahaab's humanitarian and fellow-feelings are discussed they say they have nothing to do with it, forgetting that a person needs to be a better human being before he can be an excellent singer. Some of of those who claimed they too were against the ban were more interested capitalizing the situation and forming their own political party. Dev Anand was one such person and was disillusioned later. Good for him too! The Janata Party hardly survived for two years and the people of India brought back Indira Gandhi triumphant.
Post 1975 the jinx of Jhumri Talaiyya was broken. Also, the axis of RDB-KK-RK was jolted. If "Laila Majnu" had given the fillip to Rafi Sahaab, the "Emergency" had accelerated his career. The "Era of Discipline" opened up the floodgates of the immortal songs of Rafi Sahaab for the public and thus disciplined their ears and memories which had been lulled into accepting even the ordinary cacophonies. Many music directors now sought out Rafi Sahaab and we have already provided their names before. The old faithfuls, Laxmikant-Pyarelal had continued with Rafi Sahaab all along and were amply rewarded for their trust.  R.D. Burman came back to Rafi Sahaab in a big way with such movies as Balika Badhu, Chor Ho To Aisa, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, Chandi Sona, Ghar, Devta, Shalimar, Phandebaaz, Kasme Vaade, Mukti, Naya Daur, Naukar, Abdullah, Shaan, Bulandi, Takkar, Phir Wohi Raat, Jal Mahal, The Burning Train, Heeralal Pannalal, Kaalia, Gehra Zakhm, Harjai, Jail Yatra, Daulat Ke Dushman, Ganga Meri Maa, Chameli Memsaab, Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, Biwi O Biwi, Aan Aur Shaan, Jaane Jaan (Nikamma), Shiva ka Insaaf, and Faisla. Rafi Sahaab's KYA HUA TERA WAADA won him the Filmfare Award as well as his second National Award in 1977. Thus, those who had come to scoff remained to pray.
Thereafter there was no turning back and we have mentioned before all those nominations of Filmfare Awards that this extraordinary singer was cited for. In 1980 three of his songs were nominated for the said Award. These songs were easily the best of the lot. In 1980, the weekly Binaca Geet Mala programmes too reflected Rafi Sahaab's increasing popularity. For example, in the programme dated May 28, 1980 we had ten songs of Rafi Sahaab compared to the two of Kishore Kumar out of the total sixteen songs. Rafi Sahaab was all set to revive the glory of the early Sixties.
Yes, the moment had arrived when he could translate into practice what he had sung before:
To continue.

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