Tuesday, December 4, 2007


MOHAMMED RAFI – The Last Decade - Rising of the Phoenix.

In our previous post of this article we made a passing reference to the controversies or tiffs between singers and or music directors. Before we begin with the Seventies, it would be pertinent to point these out. Rafi Sahaab who had given so many hit numbers under the baton of O.P. Nayyar in the Fifties and the Sixties found himself at the receiving end one day when once he was late at the recording of a song from "Saawan ki Ghata" (1966). Despite his explaining that he could not arrive on the dot because of repeated retakes at the recording sessions of Shankar-Jaikishen, the somewhat eccentric O.P. would just not listen to reason and called for a pack-up just as Rafi Sahaab entered the studio. This delay of two hours on part of Rafi Sahaab resulted in two-three years of divorce between him and O.P. Nayyar.    At least we have that beautiful Rafi number: ZULFON KO HATAA LE CHEHRE SE in that movie though we lost out on MERI JAAN TUM PE SADQE (sung by Mahendra kapoor). Humsaya (1968): DIL KI AWAAZ BHI SUN was one of the last great hit of theirs. It was Rafi Sahaab who initiated the truce and the reunion was a very emotional one. O.P. Nayyar admitted that Rafi Sahaab was a thorough gentleman, polite, and a very professional singer and there was no serious problems between them.   Indeed, it appears that the answer to this mystery lay in the maxim: Cherchez La Femme, and this was in fact confided by the music director to a friend of his.  For Rafi Sahaab, O.P. Nayyar was one of the most outstanding music directors. In 1972 O.P. Nayyar recorded Rafi Sahaab's voice for ZAMAANE KI AANKHON NE for Ek Baar Muskuraa Do. But much damage had been done - damage to O.P. Nayyar's career arising from his own ego-centric moods and behaviour and also declining popularity ever since he abandoned Rafi Sahaab. Even many years years later after the demise of Rafi Sahaab, O.P. Nayyar openly confessed his error of shutting out Rafi Sahaab from his recording room. However, O.P. Nayyar's preference for Rafi Sahaab is too well-known. The glowing tributes that he paid Rafi Sahaab by saying that if there were no Rafi there would have been no O.P. Nayyar speak volume for the composers unstinted love for Immortal Rafi Sahaab.  According to him,  all that a composer had to do was to tell Rafi the words.  He would infuse emotion and life into it like no othe would.

Lata Mangeshkar who had had her fair share of tiffs with Raj Kapoor (for whom she did not sing for his Mera Naam Joker and also during the making of Satyam Shivam Sundaram where she finally sang 'Yashomati maiya se bole Nandalala' ); Music Directors such as S.D. Burman (1957-62); and Shankar (of Shankar-Jaikishen duo) fell out with her too. This happened during the recording of the romantic duet, TASVEER TERI DIL MEIN JIS DIN SE UTAARI HAI (Maya 1961).  Lata knew very well which music directors vibed with her well. Lata lost her temper during the recording of a certain stanza of that song. Was it some last minute improvisation by Rafi Sahaab? Probably not since Rafi Sahaab always deemed his songs composers or music directors as his Gurus. Or was it Lata who perhaps wanted to start with "Pancham" (i.e. the fifth 'Swar' of the scale: PA) as she had earlier done for the Madhumati song (AAJA RE PAREDESI) - the suggestion that had been accepted then by Salil Chowdhary? And to to which perhaps Rafi Sahaab objected? Or was it that while rendering the song Lata' Didi's voice tended to sound shrill specially while rendering "...NAINON KA KAJRA...," while Rafi Sahaab's rendition of the 'Antara' was controlled? Or was it the last straw on the camel's back coming as it did after lots of heat had been generated by the explosive question of accepting the royalty or not. The picture is not clear. To make the matter worse, the music director, Salil Chowdhry sided with Lata. Rafi Sahaab who had been gaining greater ascendency in the early Sixties felt aggrieved. He had not anticipated that both Lata Mangeshkar and Salil Chowdhary belonged to the mutual admiration club. What happened thereafter is the TASVEER that went down to the bottom of hearts of the two great singers was not a romantic one but the one that sowed the seed of differences. Lata avowed not to sing with him with Rafi Sahaab following suit. No doubt Lata Mangeshkar had great clout in the film industry. But there was certainly no reason for him to submit to the dictates of Lata and to translate into practice that song's line: JAHAAN HAIN QADAM TERE WAHIN MERA DIL... since Lata too was not keen to stand by her lines: NAYN KIYE NEECHE NEECHE, RAHOON TERE PEECHCHE PEECHHE, CHALU KISI MANZIL MEIN.  It would take me

years to find out what the matter was.  According to a senior journalist, Mr. Raju Korti, Rafi Sahaab had this habit of giving as many rehearsals and takes as possible until he was personally satisfied that he had got it perfect.  That was it.  Significantly, Salil Chowdhary used him very sparingly thereafter in such movies as Jhoola (1962) where only two lines of Rafi Sahaab are heard at the end of the film. Also there is a Rafi-Lata duet: AAG PAANI MEIN LAGI. In 1965 we had Rafi-Suman duet: TUMHE DIL SE CHAAHA. Thereafter Rafi Sahaab sang one song under Salil Da's baton and that was for Poonam Ki Raat (1965) DIL TADPE TADPAAYE since only this versatile singer could do justice to the mood of that song which had a typically composed falsetto background for this story of mystery and haunting.

Aaye Milan ki Bela (1963) under the batons of Shankar-Jaikishen appears to have been the last movie for which Rafi Sahaab and Lata Mangeshkar recorded their duets. This opened up a great opportunity for Suman Kalyanpur to sing many duets with Rafi Sahaab, while Asha Bhonsle also continued to sing with him, getting a greater share. S.D. Burman finally brought about a rapprochement between them. Or as Lata Mangeshkar stated that Jaikishen finally engineered a patch-up between her and Rafi Sahaab. The result was a happy outcome with the fruition of one of the most romantic duets of all times: DIL PUKARE, AA RE AA RE in the 1967 popular flick, Jewel Thief. 

The wordings of this Rafi-Lata duet also seemed to rise to the occasion: "BARSON BEETE DIL PE QAABU PAATE PAATE, HAMM TO HAARE TUM HI KUCHH SAMJHAATE." But there would be another hurdle of misunderstanding to cross in the sixties itself.

As noted above, the issue was about charging of the royalty fee over and above fees for the songs. While Lata fiercely advocated "royalty" the stand of Rafi Sahaab was entirely a moral one as he thought that once the payment had been made to a singer he had no right to charge the producers more. At the instance of Nargis Dutt they finally made up at a concert, where each of them had been singing only solos, and sang the same DIL PUKARE number together on the stage. It is interesting to note that the issue of royalty continues to this day among the Bollywood playback singers. Sonu Nigam, one of the currently popular playback singers, says why not charge people who can afford royalty and sing free for some poor producers? Babul Supriyo, on the other hand, feels that the royalty issue is null and void since any singer can quiety sign up the deal with any big time producer without anyone getting wiser about it. He remembers that once Lataji fought to get singers a share of royalty for every recorded song and "Mohammad Rafi saab had opposed her stance. Today when Sonu claims to have taken over Lataji's fight, I realise how Rafi saab must have felt."

By the time we come to the last decade in the career of the legendary playback singer, Mohammed Rafi, we find him having filled the void, that had been created by K.L. Saigal, in the early Fifties itself. We also find him scaling newer heights and consolidating his position as the most versatile playback singer in the Sixties when he had become the singing voice for most of the Bollywood's major heroes as also the newcomers who, when they lip-synched his numbers, themselves became the heart-throbs of the nation.

However, when we reach the seventies, we find a wind of change blowing in the Hindi film industry. The term "Bollywood" first came to be used at about this time. Most of the heroes of the Fifties and the Sixties were aging and their appearances as a hero thus became restricted. Some of them began opting for supporting roles or became content with the role of a character artiste. Romance was giving way to violence. The Information and Broadcasting Minister banned violence in the movies during the Emergency of 1975 - indirectly giving a big boost to the violence-laden western spaghetti Sholay. Idealism was on decline. The chocolate heroes made way for He-Men or actions heroes. Action, buffoonery, and violence which were once considered to be the hall-marks of B-Grade movies began to be promoted in a big way in big-budgeted movies and blockbusters. Bruce Lee’s, Enter the Dragon, (mid-seventies) caused a revolution of sort in India and abroad and the younger generations were lured to more violence albeit in the guise of learning self-defence. The Hippie culture of rejecting established institutions, championing of sexual liberties and use of psychedelic drug and music also corrupted the Indian scene in the seventies. Thus, towards the end of this decade the people were brainwashed willy-nilly into accepting lower standards in life which reflected in the fields of music and cinema. New breed of actors such as the “Phenomena” Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Navin Nischol were knocking at the door of Bollywood. The Original Silver Screeen Legend, Dilip Kumar, took ‘Bairaag’ or a Sabbatical leave, in the mid-seventies, only to reappear in the next decade (1981). Also, most of the music directors who were a hit in the Fifties and the Sixties were gradually on their way out. There was also the final breakup of Shankar-Jaikishen team though their joint names continued to appear in the print thereafter. O.P. Nayyar, we've seen, was also sliding downhill, especially after he stopped recording his compositions with Rafi Sahaab and his own personal problems. There was the emergence of R.D. Burman in the Seventies, while Laxmikant-Kant Pyaarelal continued to hold sway in their own style. Despite the R.D.Burman-Kishore Kumar-Asha axis, this duo continued to utilize Rafi Sahaab in a big way though not completely.

The year 1970 opened for Rafi Sahaab in the same manner as the previous decade had opened: with his losing the Filmfare Award: previously it was Mukesh (SAB KUCHCH SEEKHA HAMNE in Anari) in 1959, and this time it was Kishore Kumar bagging the best singer FilmFare Award for 1969 for his song, ROOP TERA MASTANA in Aradhana. Rafi Sahaab's nomination in 1969 was AANE SE US KE AAYE BAHAAR from the Jeetendra starrer, Jeene ki Raah. (This number is still popular. But so are many of his other 1969 numbers). So what were the panelists and jury looking for when deciding the best song for the Award? See the samplings of Rafi Sahaab's assortment of mixed songs for that year: Fast racy numbers: BADAN PAY SITAARE  LAPETE HUWE (Prince) and KIS KO PYAAR KAROON (Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai) ; Romantic numbers: MAIN KAHIN KAVI NA BANN JAAOON (Pyar hi Pyar) and JANAM JANAM KA SAATH HAI (again from Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai) and 'GAR TUM BHULA NAA DOGAY (Yakeen); National integration and Patriotic numbers: NA MAIN SINDHI (Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai); MERE DES MAIN PAWAN CHALE PURWAAI (Jigri Dost); Philosophical: BURA MAT KAHO and MAAJHI CHAL (Aaya Saawan Jhoomke) EK BANJAARA GAAYE (Jeene Ki Raah) CHALE JA CHALE JAA (Jahan Pyaar Mila); Sentimentals: O NANHE SE FARISHTE (Ek Phool Doh Maali), JO UNKI TAMANNA HAI (Inteqaam) and TUM MUJHE YOON (Pagla Kahin Ka); and the powerful, thunderous, mythological: DONO NE KIYA THA (Mahua). As the Sixties came to an end in 1969, there were no fewer than about 110 super hit songs (i.e. not including all his songs) of Rafi Sahaab in comparison with Kishore Kumar's 20 hits. It is, therefore, amazing why Rafi Sahaab's songs, listed above, were ignored while considering the Award.

Tales abound as to how it could have been Rafi Sahaab singing ROOP TERA MASTANA, because he was the one who was originally assigned to sing all the songs of Aradhana under the baton of S.D. Burman who was 62 years old then. Two duets of Rafi Sahaab had already been recorded: one with Lata (BAAGHON MEIN BAHAAR HAI) and the other with Asha (GUNGUNA RAHAIN HAIN BHANWRE – both great hits. The ill-health of the maestro, however, had changed all that and now it was R.D. Burman who was calling the shots. Thanks to R.D. Burman, he assigned all the other numbers (except the title track) to Kishore Kumar. The days of Chhote Nawab (1961) had been conveniently forgotten! Even so, visualise for a while the Film Fare Award ceremony or celebration. Imagine for a moment that at one end of the stage ROOP TERA MASTANA and at the other end BADAN PE SITAARE LAPETE HUWE being played or sung by the masters. The latter songs definitely scores on account of its punch, raciness, poetical gems, philosophical touches, and above all, the ebullient and evocative vocalization by Mohammed Rafi Sahaab. It appears to me that in selecting the Aradhana song the Committee of Experts derived vicarious pleasure of the hot scene where the male protagonist (Rajesh Khanna) goes on pointing out the “Roop Tera Mastana” (Your Lusty Body) of the sizzling Sharmila wrapped in sheets while waiting for the “Bhool” (a slip of youth) to be committed. And along with the "Bhool" of both hero and the heroine in the story, Filmfare also committed a monumental "Bhool" (faux pas) of their own in their decision, forgetting that it was not the song per se, but the imaginative picturisation which had made the song popular.

Rafi Sahaab did sing for R.D. Burman in the Seventies in the following movies: The Train (1970): GULAABI AANKHEN; Raaton ka Raja (1970): title track; Caravan (1971) super duets such as KITNA PYAARA WAADA and GORIYA KAHAAN TERA DES RAY; Mela (1971) the lovely Rafi-Lata duets: GORI KE HAATH MEIN, and RUT HAI MILAN KI; Yaadon ki Baaraat (1972): the unforgettable Rafi-Asha duet: CHURA LIYA and YEH LADKA HAAY ALLAH –where he makes an excellent late entry.


Of course, Rafi Sahaab won the best playback singer Filmfare Award and the National Award in 1977 for his KYA HUWA TERA WAADA (see inset)  in Hum kisi se Kam Nahin - a Nasir Hussain Movie for which R.D. Burman provided the music. However, on the whole, the selection process of choosing the songs for the Filmfare Award shows unsympathetic and wilful deselection of Rafi Sahaab's choicest songs for consideration of the Award.       
Let’s go through the Filmfare Awards of 1970 through 1980. By the way, it must be remembered that in the golden olden days, this was the only prestigious award – a far cry from today when a dime a dozen awards are sponsored. The Filmfare Awards were intiated in 1953. Award for the best playback singer category started as late as 1958, and only after the "Chori Chori" incident when Lata refused to sing RASIK BALMA on the stage. The Award was not given in 1962 and 1965. But it was from 1967 only that separate categories for both male and female singers commenced. In our post (ref. on the Sixties) of this article we have mentioned the awards won by Rafi Sahaab in that decade. As far as the Seventies and the awards for the best male playback are concerned, Mukesh won the Filmfare Best Singer Award for SAB SE BADA NAADAAN in Pechaan in 1970. Manna Dey won in 1971 for AI BHAI ZARAA DEKH KE CHALO in Mera Naam Joker. Mukesh won the Award again in 1972 for JAI BOLO BEIMAAN KI in Beimaan. Narendra Chanchal was the winner in 1973 for his BESHAQ MANDIR MASJID TODO in Bobby. Mahendra Kapoor won his second Award in 1974 for AUR NAHIN BAS AUR NAHIN in Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan. Then in 1975 Kishore Kumar won the Award for DIL AISA KISI NE MERA TODA in Amaanush. Then the following year in 1976 Mukesh won the Award for the title track of KABHIE KABIE. The only time Rafi Sahaab won the Filmfare Award in this decade was for his KYA HUA TERAA WAADA in Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin in 1977.   In 1978 and 1980 Kishore Kumar won this category Award respectively for KHAIKE PAAN BANARAS WAALA in Don and HAZAAR RAAHEN (duet) in Thodi Si Bewafaai. Yesudas got the best playback singer Award in 1979 for DIL KE TUKDE TUKDE KARKE in Dada. In 1981, it was Amit Kumar who got the Award for YAAD AA RAHI HAI in Love Story.

Now as against the so-called winning numbers let’s dwell on Rafi Sahaab’s numbers: Consider Rafi Sahaab’s songs of 1970: KHILONA JAAN KAR in Khilona (Nominated); and other songs such as PONCH KAR ASHQ (Naya Rasta); JHILMIL SITAARON KA (duet): Jeevan Mrityu; MERE MITWAA MERE MEETH RE (Geet) and YEH DUNIYA YEH MEHFIL in Heer Ranjha. Everyone of these is a gem. The title track of Khilona sung by Rafi Sahaab is singularly the best song of that year. This was the song that established Sanjeev Kumar in social roles and brought him out of the rut of ‘Talwaar Baazi’ roles. The plaintive cry of Rafi Sahaab “O…..KHILONA” and the pauses in single lines (KHUDA KA…..WAASTAA… DEKAR…MANAA LOON DOOR…HOON LEKIN..) are something extraordinary that matches the character of a mentally-challenged (Sanjeev Kumar) who is shown singing the song on the screen to excite the womanly emotions of forbearance, forgiveness and pity in Mumtaz who has been deflowered by him in madness. Could there have been a better winning number than this? For the year 1971 just consider these: NAFRAT KI DUNIYA (Haathi Mere Saathi); CHALO DILDAAR CHALO (duet in Pakeeza); JAB BHI DIL UDAAS HOTA HAI (Seema); THODA RUK JAAYEGA (Patanga): MERA MAN TERA PYAASA (Gambler); Title Track of AAP AAYE BAHAAR AAYI; GORI KE HAAT MEIN or RUT HAI RANGEELI (both duets) in Mela; and host of other songs of 1971. Coming to 1972, we have NA TU ZAMEEN KI LIYE (Daastan); BADE BEWAAFA HAIN (Roop Tera Mastana); DIL NE PYAAR KIYA HAI (Shararat)and others.. Astonishingly, none of these songs were even nominated for the said Awards. In fact there were at least 130 hit songs of Rafi Sahaab in 1971 and 1972. For 1973 Rafi Sahaab’s HAMM KO TO JAAN SE PYAARI HAIN (Naina) was nominated though at least two other songs could have well been nominated: AAJ MAUSAM BADA BEIMAAN HAI (Loafer) where the voice of the eternal lover, Rafi Sahaab, weaves a spell on the listeners by taking them on a guided tour of the verdant ambience of hills and dales, and through the valleys, meadows and gardens of eternal romance in search of his ladylove; TUM JO MIL GAYE HO (Hanste Zakhm) that Rafi Sahaab renders ecstatically, transporting the listeners to a different, carefree world. There were duets too for consideration such as the evergreen blockbuster, CHURA LIYA HAI TUMNE JO DIL KO (Yaadon ki Baaraat); and TERI BINDIYA RE (Abhimaan). In 1974, Rafi Sahaab’s ACHHA HI HUWA DIL TOT GAYA from Maa, Behen Aur Biwi was nominated despite the fact that TERI GALIYON MEIN NA RAKHENGE QADAM (Hawas) would have been the best choice, followed by NAIYYA MERI CHALTI JAAYE (My Friend). In 1975 and 1976 we don’t have even the nominations of Rafi Sahaab’s songs. MAIN JAT YAMLA PAGLA DIWAANA (1975) could easily have been at least nominated for the Award. As for the year 1976, can anyone have forgotten the Laila Majnu numbers what with such songs as BARBAAD-E- MUHABBAT KI DUA, TERE DAR PE AAYA HOON, and LIKH KAR TERA NAAM ZAMIN PAR? As we've seen before, the following year, 1977 Rafi Sahaab won the Filmfare Award for the best male playback singer for KYA HUA TERA WAADA (Hum Kisisi Kam Nahin) against his another nomination PURDA HAI PURDA HAI (Amar, Akbar, Anthony). We do have nominations of Rafi Sahaab’ songs for the following years: AADMI MUSAAFIR HAI (Apnapan - 1978); CHALO RE DOLI UTHAAO KAHAAR (1979); while in 1980 we have nominations of Rafi Sahaab’s songs: MERE DOST QISSA YEH KYA HO GAYA (Dostana); DARD-E-DIL DARD-E-JIGAR (Karz) and MAINE POOCHHA CHAAND SE (Abdullah). But these excellent songs of Rafi Sahaab for the years 1978-79-80, were ignored for the Award. The worst fear "MUJHE TU DAGHA DE YEH MUMKIN NAHIN" voiced in the Dostana song unfortunately came to be realized. Again, the songs of 1980 are easily the best ones and it is shocking that a mushy sentimental like THODI SI BEWAFAAI got the Award. So much for the Filmfare Awards.
To continue in next post….


  1. SD Burman had experimented with different singers during his tenure in bollywood films including Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle. Among them he had special respect towards Lata due to her melodious voice. Lata had sung the songs “piya to se naina lage re” and “aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai” composed by SD Burman

  2. I love bollywood songs! Check out this site… it has awesome lyrics from thousands of songs.

  3. Rafi sahab is beyond rat race,,,Rafi sahab was saintly in nature and hence had many times been treated unfairly by glamour loving world of film industry!

  4. Indeed Ayesha!
    In this world, where tall talks and speaking lies have assumed an art-form, simplicity is simply not considered a virtue - especially if it happens to be the tinsel world of Bollywood.
    I believe that Rafi Sahaab only did what brought about the harmony of the soul with music without bothering about who's Who, or even any monetary consideration.

  5. Silk Road Communications ( http://silkrd.com/ ) offers you preview of the new songs by Mohd Rafi, mp3 downloads and a bonus audio documentary to discover the extraordinary story on why these songs are released after 30 years. clic here:

  6. this tirade that Rafi did not get his due and others received only puts Rafi in poor light...70's was a decade where many golden voices begun to fade away, people wanted to listen to new voices and new voices were given awards...Rafi's voice if you listen to songs from 70's are no match to his superfluous quality of 50's and 60's...you cannot compare kishore and rafi..each had his own share of market. I am saddened that you have put Rafi in such poor light

  7. Could you tell me Madhav who were those new voices that the people wanted to listen?
    Perhaps you have Yesudas in mind? He is not a new singer. This is what he says: I did not want to tie myself down to Carnatic music and that is why I have learned Hindustani. Mohammed Rafi is my guru and one of my most important idols.

    You say I have "put Rafi in such a poor light." Oh yes! I wished I had more power to aptly describe the genius of Rafi Sahaab!

  8. Nasir Ali- Hi, are you the same , who is a co-member of the Wo Din Yaad karo group on f b. Very well written, with appropriate insertion of songs. Would love to read more such blogs if you provide the link. Thanks for providing this link on f b

    1. Yes, Dilip Apte ji. I am also a co-member of Wo Din Yaad Karo Group on FB, plus I have my group You're a Theme for My Dream Rafi Sahaab on the FB. I am so glad you liked the article my friend. Thanks for dropping by.

  9. Nasir sahab, I feel indebted to you for exposing the discriminations Rafi the Great was sorely subjected to in various matters including Film Fare Awards.
    The film industry had its celestial music eclipsed through a choice of a Kishor "Roop tera mastana" ignoring the Rafian racy number "Badan pe sitare". Shockingly it was out of 20 Kishor songs. But out of more than 110 Rafi numbers none was deemed worthy of the Award😒😒😒
    Neeraj Anand

  10. Nasir sahab.
    Thanx for exposing the perfidious injustices Rafi the Great was sorely subjected to in Filmfare Awards.
    Kishor da's "Roop tera mastana" was selected over Rafi sahab's "Badan pe sitare" for 1969 Filmfare. There were a scanty 20 Kishor number that were vis a vis 110 Rafi songs that year.
    A couple of years Rafian songs were not deemed even for nominations 😒😒😒

    From Anil Biswas to Salil Choudhary to R D Burman all hatched conspiracy upon conspiracy to in their failed attempt to disgrace Rafi sahab.