Tuesday, November 11, 2008


By Nasir.

One need not be a Warren Buffett, or a Billy Gate, or a Rockefeller, or a even Carnegie, in order to be a philanthropist – a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with Charity. What matters is the spirit of goodwill towards others and malice towards none and can be used for any private action done for betterment of friends, neighbours, and fellow-humans at large. Rafi Sahaab was a family man with many responsibilities of his kith and kin. Yet within the limited framework of his own time and income, he was moved with simple compassion and made sincere efforts to bring joy, happiness and self-esteem to one and all with whom he interacted professionally as well as those who were strangers to him. It’s this aspect of Rafi Sahaab that makes him a great philanthropist.

In Part I, we have already noted the incident highlighting the philanthropical disposition of Rafi Sahaab. Many such instances we shall never know for he never publicised his good deeds but on the contrary insisted that they should be kept a secret. He never believed in giving for media attention.

Rafi Sahaab would always help the needy, but would ensure that the money was handed over by his secretary, Zaheer. Naushad Ali, the late Legendary music composer once asked him once why he made donations or charities through his secretary. The answer he received was not in the least expected. Raf Sahaab replied, “Main denewala kaun hoon? Denewala toh Allah hai!” (“Who am I to give? God is the Giver.”) The attribute of giving he did not assign to himself but to God. For him, “the deed was everything; the glory naught”. Such humility and lofty ideals put Rafi Sahaab on a saintly pedestal, looking to the fact that he worked in the world’s largest film industry where usury is rampant, cut-throat competition and backbiting a fact, bitching and gossiping a norm, wining, dining and womanising a convenience. Rafi Sahaab himself never gave in to those temptations of the film industry, but devoted himself to ‘Riyaaz’ and ‘Namaaz’. Attributing his fame and success to Allah, Rafi Sahaaab used his hard-earned money for not only fulfilling his family obligations but also for the good cause of helping out his friends and the needy.

A singer (name suppressed) who was out of job most of the time during that period, was picked up by Rafi Sahaab in his car outside the Mehboob Studio. He knew that the singer was going through a financial crisis. Rafi Sahaab had with him Ten Thousand Rupees that he had received as his fees. Without much ado, he quietly put that amount in the carry-bag of that singer. A third person who was also in the car then asked Rafi Sahaab why did he not put that amount directly in the hand of that singer. Rafi Sahaab replied: “I didn’t want to embarrass him by giving money in the presence of a third person.” Such was the way that Rafi Sahaab gave.

Rafi Sahaab was never a person who would turn down the offer to sing, just because the music director could not afford to pay him. Neither was he a person who would not give his hundred percent just because he had received a smaller amount or no amount at all from his music directors. This sterling fact is borne out by the many songs of Rafi Sahaab that have pushed the names of many lesser-known music directors into the Hall of Fame for posterity.

Do you remember the Jalgaon-born Nisar Bazmi? Despite his talents as a music composer of nearly 40 Indian films, his life was a struggle. For 15 long years he could never make it to the “A Grade movies” in Bollywood. Willy-nilly he had to migrate to Pakistan in 1962 where, finally, he made his fortune and career, winning many Nigar Awards as the best composer. But during those initial years when even Laxmikant-Pyarelal used to be his musicians, there were times when he was hard-up for money and did not have any money to pay to his musicians and singers. On one such occasion, rather than turning him down, Rafi Sahaab just charged him only One Rupee (i.e. about one-fiftieth of a U.S. Dollar) and sang his musical composition. In India, Nisar Bazmi is best remembered for his composition of Rafi Sahaab’s song: TOOT GAYA HAICHANDA KA DIL in a 1953 flick, Khoj.

Unlike Nisar Bazmi who was a veteran music composer, there were many new music directors who were trying their luck in Bollywood film industry. They would approach Rafi Sahaab and request him to sing for them, as in their opinion, if he sang for them they would get a firm foot-hold in the film industry. Rafi Sahaab would not only oblige them but to top it, he would gift to them his own earnings that he received from producers for such songs. In fact, he would send anonymous cheques to music directors who were going through bad times. This fact was divulged only after the sudden demise of Rafi Sahaab, when the cheques stopped coming.

Similarly, had it not been for Rafi Sahaab’s generosity in reducing his fee to a ludicruous extent, or even “adjustments” that he made for some of the music directors, we would have missed many of his gems of a song. Check out some of the following golden nuggets he sang for the music directors who could never make it into the big league:

• MAIN TOH TERE HASEEN KHAYAALON MEIN KHO GAYA from Sangram (1965) from the trio of Lala-Assad-Sattar;
• the peppy - O GORI ZULM KARE from Main Aur Mera Bhai (1961) or the ghazal a la Madan Mohan - PAAS BAITHO TABIYAT BEHEL JAAYEGI from Punarmilan (1964) to name just two of C.Arjun’s compositions;
• the chartbuster - DAULAT KE JHOOTE NASHE MEIN HO CHOOR from Oonchi Haveli (1955) – Music Pandit Shivram;
• the philosophical - TUM POOCHHTE HO ISHQ BALA HAI KE NAHIN HAI from Naqli Nawab (1962) –Music Babul;
• or the other philosophical – ALLAH HI ALLAH KAR PYAARE from Pavitra Papi (1969), Music Prem Dhawan;
• the waltz-style - YEH BAMBAI SHEHAR KA BADA NAAM HAI from Yeh Bambai Hai – Music Bipin Datta (of Bipin-Babul);
• the patriotic - PYAAR KI RAAH DIKHAA DUNIYA KO from Lambe Haath (1960) and the romantic - MAANA MERE HASEEN SANAM from Adventures of Robin Hood (1965) to name just two of G.S. Kohli’s breezy compositions;
• the thunderous, DONO NE KIYA THAAH PYAAR MAGAR from Mahua (1969) – music Sonik-Omi;
• the sad - NIGAAHEN NA PHERO from Black Prince(unreleased) –Music Dulal Sen;
• the romantic - MUJHE TUMSE MUHABBAT HAI from Bachpan (1963) - Sardar Mallik;
• or the melodious songs of Rafi Sahaab from CHA CHA CHA (1964) – all great hits, that had Iqbal Qureshi as the music director, and so on.

Mohammed Rafi, the playback singer who has been imitated the most, would often agree to sing for the producers who couldn’t afford him. As recounted by Sapan-Jagmohan over the Vividh Bharti Radio Station, one producer who was a die-hard fan of Rafi Sahaab had given the assignment of musical direction of his film to Sapan-Jagmohan who, on their part, wanted to record a solo song in the voice of some male singer other than Rafi, since they felt the producer would not be able to afford Rafi Sahaab’s fees. The producer, however, assured them that he would somehow manage to arrange for the payment. So Rafi Sahaab was booked by them. When Rafi Sahaab came promptly on the day and the time of recording he noticed a worried look on the faces both the Music Directors and the Producer. It took some time and some courage to tell Rafi Sahaab that they were not in a position to pay him after recording. They wanted to postpone the recording till such time as they could get the amount to pay him. Hearing this, Rafi Sahaab said: “Is that it? No problem”. As a rejoinder he added in a jest: “It wouldn’t be me the other way around who would do the paying Na?” Thus making light of the situation for both producer and music directors, Rafi Sahaab recorded the song. He wished them good luck for the film and departed without taking any fee but “the eternal gratitude of the producer” and leaving behind another great song: TERI AAWAAZ KI JADUGIRI... from Teri Talash Mein (1968). Much earlier, Rafi Sahaab had recorded the duo’s best composition, PHIR WOH BHOOLI SI YAAD AAYI HAI.. (Begaana – 1963) for a ludicrously lower amount. But the way he sang that composition made it better than their best, with the heart-rending emotions and pain of an unrequited lover, thus making their names unforgettable.

Once O.P. Nayyar asked Rafi Sahaab that as he was singing for the new and upcoming music directors were they paying him as much as he did. Rafi Sahaab informed him that such music directors told him that even if he sang one song for them their careers would be made. He further added: “Now, if just by one song of mine their careers take off, what remuneration can be greater this!”

It cannot be contradicted that Rafi Sahaab rendered great support to Laxmikant-Pyarelal during their initial struggling days and when he himself was at the zenith in the film industry. Pyarelal dispels the notion that they got their first break as the music directors because of Lata Mangeshkar. She never recommended their names to any Producer or Director according to him. Laxmikant-Pyarelal, who made their mark as music directors with Parasmani (1963) had in fact recorded their first song with Rafi Sahaab, earlier than that, for Chhaila Babu (which was released years later than Parasmani). The song was: TERE PYAAR ME.N MUJHE GHAM MILAA.... Rafi Sahaab was so much moved by this compostion that he refused any payment for the song. It is also said that Rafi Sahaab did not charge for his songs in Parasmani. Even for those great songs of Dosti (1964), it is said that Rafi Sahaab did not accept payment. But in keeping with the traditions of accepting payment for professional singing, he just charged them One Rupee only.

In passing, it’s said that the tune for one of the Dosti songs, CHAAHUNGA MAIN TUJHE.. was first made with a female singer in mind but the musical duo was told that it would be Rafi Sahaab who would be singing their tune. The duo even contemplated scrapping this composition but for Rafi Sahaab who prophesised its success. How right he was when the same song won Rafi Sahaab the Filmfare Best Playback Singer award, while the best music director award went to this musical duo. On the aside, having witnessed the musical trends of the Sixties, I would like to reiterate that the “Dosti Mania” or the craze was singularly due to the great voice and pathos of Rafi Sahaab who had rendered five of the six solo songs. Laxmikant-Pyarelal never looked back after this. In any case, the movie, Dosti, was not the usual run- of- the- mill type of story involving a hero and a heroine and there is no situation as such in the movie where a female voice is required for that song. As for the other story that the lyrics sounded to be more of Aashiq and Maashooq (Lover and his Lass) type and therefore needed to be scrapped, well, I wouldn’t like to comment on that since this is not our subject here. If there would have been no CHAAHUNGA MAIN TUJHE..., the Sangam song, YEH MERA PREM PATRA PADHKAR...which was also by Rafi Sahaab under the baton of Shankar-Jaikishen, would have easily won the Filmfare award. For Pyarelal, there was never a greater male singer than Rafi Sahaab. True. But it was also the innate charitable desire, efforts, and good wishes of Rafi Sahaab for the new team of music directors that led to their triumph. It was this song that put Laxmikant-Pyarelal in the big league of music directors. The bond of ‘Dosti’ (friendship) that was created between them and Rafi Sahaab lasted till the last breath of Rafi Sahaab when they recorded the Aas Paas song in 1980. No doubt, then, that the duo considered Rafi Sahaab “Pita Samaan” or a father-figure with whose passing away the very life went out of their music. In their words: “Laxmikant-Pyarelal ke Sangeet Se Jaan hee Chali Gayi Hai.”

The musical duo of Laxmikant-Pyarelal had rightly observed that Rafi Sahaab gave without thinking of returns. According to them: “Rafi Sahaab Ne Har Dukh Mein Hamara Saath Diya.” That is, he helped them at every stage of grief. Pyarelal recollects how once during their bad patch his father had taken him to Rafi Sahaab’s house for some monetary help. Pyarelal also recollects that he owed Rs.500 to Rafi Sahaab and when during the recording of Rafi-Lata duet, Yeh Dil Tum Bin Lagta Nahin (from Izzat – 1968) he reminded him about it, Rafi Sahaab did not “recall” giving any money to him. Giving without thinking was indeed the hallmark of Rafi Sahaab’s generosity and large-heartedness.

There were also times when Rafi Sahaab did not charge any money not because of the inability of the music director to pay, but because of a long- standing friendship. Therefore, when the producer-director-music director, Kishore Kumar (the popular singer,too) approached Rafi Sahaab for a song or two in his Chalti Ka Naam Zindagi (1981 release). Rafi Sahaab refused to take any payment. He just charged a token of One Rupee.

Rafi Sahaab had always considered Ashok Kumar, the veteran actor of Hindi silver screen, as his elder brother. Ashok Kumar, too, as a producer of his 1958 movie, Ragini, never took any objection when O.P. Nayyar made Rafi Sahaab playback the semi-classically-based song, MAN MORA BAAWRA..., for Kishore Kumar, the actor-singer brother of the producer. A decade later, Ashok Kumar’s son- in-law produced a movie called Yakeen (1969), for which Rafi Sahaab was the chosen male singer under the batons of Shankar-Jaikishen. When the time came for recording the songs, Devan Varma said In a jeu d’ spirit: “Rafi jee, I’m like your son-in-law. I won’t pay for the songs.” Taking a cue from this Rafi Sahaab said: “You’ve revealed my mind, my friend. I verily consider you my son-in-law.” On this note he recorded the songs. What romantic numbers were they, too! Can we forget, ‘GAR TUM BHULA NA DOGE and the catchy BAHAARON KI BAARAAT AA GAYEE? These were not the only instances of Rafi Sahaab’s cheerful acquiescence.

Whenever Rafi Sahaab liked any musical compostion which he rendered in his rich voice, he would refuse payment. Habba Khaatun is an unreleased film where Naushad Ali composed music. This film also happens to be the last film where both Naushad and Rafi Sahaab worked together. So much was Rafi Sahaab moved by the musical composition, that he refused any payment for his work. The song happened to be: JIS RAAT KE KHAWAAB AAYE.

Naushad Ali recounts how S.U. Sunny the Producer of Kohinoor (1960 release) wanted MADHUBAN ME.N RADHIKA NAACHE RE, composed in Raga Hamir, scrapped on the ground that it was a difficult composition. Rafi Sahaab picked up the gauntlet, prophesying that the song would be a hit. Rafi Sahaab was ready to forgo his singing fee, but stated that he would charge double the amount if the song proved a hit. S.U. Sunny agreed. However, the latter lost the best when that song indeed proved a great hit and is still a very well-known number despite being nearly 50 years old. But true to his nature, Rafi Sahaab refused the remuneration by saying that he had received the payment by way of rewards from the music lovers who had made this song a great hit.

The father of Hrithik Roshan, Rakesh Roshan who besides being an actor had started out as producer-director with Aap ke Deewaane. Rafi Sahaab sang the title song of this movie. But he did not charge Rakesh Roshan anything since Rafi Sahaab liked the song and it was a one-liner anyway. Tell us, how many singers are there who just dole out their songs for free?

Rafi Sahaab was the only man in the film industry who did not remind the film producers but rather “forgot” about his dues when their films did not do well. He even returned his fee-amount or earnings in such instances.

Once, it appears that a film-producer named S.P. Solanki had the gumption of using Rafi Sahaab’s voice for the songs in his movie. But when it came to paying, he played the truant. Several years later, this very producer happened to be in the same recording-room as Rafi Sahaab. On seeing him, the producer tried to make good his escape. Rafi Sahaab, however, asked him why he wanted to flee. The producer felt trapped. Blushing, he told Rafi Sahaab: “I owe you some money.” With his usual characteristic smile, Rafi Sahaab replied: “So what? You’re way behind in the line. There are many other producers before you in the line. “ So kind and charitable was Rafi Sahaab.

Again, a producer called Malkeit Thakur had produced a film called Aulad ki Khaatir. (1990 release) It appears that he had Rafi Sahaab sing two songs for this movie for a fee of Four Thousand Rupees. After the recording, Rafi Sahaab left the studio, and was moving towards his car when he saw the producer waiting for him. He had wrapped some currency notes, meant for Rafi Sahaab, in a handkerchief. The amount, which had some torn notes, however, was just Fifteen Hundred Rupees. Rafi Sahaab was not angry, for anger seldom touched him. Nor did he ask him why he was paying less than half the amount. On the contrary, he was moved by seeing those torn notes and the gesture of the producer. Treating him to a cup of tea, he told him: “Consider these Fifteen Hundred Rupees as my gift to your children.” Rafi Sahaab was well-known for giving gifts out of generosity.

Joy Mukherjee had produced and directed a movie called Humsaya which was released at the Maratha Mandir Cinema in 1968. It had great music by O.P. Nayyar. One song especially stood out from the rest: DIL KI AWAAZ BHI SUNN... It was a chartbuster from Rafi Sahaab. Unfortunately, the film bombed at the box-office and Joy Mukherjee who was also the hero of that movie, ran short of money. On learning about the shortfall of Joy Mukherjee, Rafi Sahaab discreetly visited his home to refund the amount that he had got for his singing assignment. The former, however, refused to take the money when Rafi Sahaab said: “DIL KI AWAAZ BHI SUNN”. So overwhelmed was Joy Mukherjee that he took the money. We learn that later on he did refund this amount to Rafi Sahaab. But how many of us can come forward to give unstintingly out of conviction to help others in times of need?

He used to help producers in completing their shelved films. Once such movie was Pandit Aur Pathan which was released in 1977.

Once the famous all-round and respected personality of Telegu films and the maker of Tyagaiah, Mr. C.V. Nagaiah, invited Rafi Sahaab to sing the songs for a character of Sant Kabir in his venture, Bhakta Ramdas. Bhakta Ramdas, by the way, had been many years in the making since the producer was in financial problems which was simply due to his own benevolence which used to exceed the limits. Rafi Sahaab recorded DIL KO HAMARE DARSHAN DENA, KAAHE KA RONA and RAM NAAM SE for this movie. When his fee was given, Rafi Sahaab not only returned the amount to Mr. Nagaiah, but also asked him if the latter needed any financial help for completion of the movie. He had also paid for his own air-fare from Madras to Bombay. Such was Rafi Sahaab’s unselfish concern for Mr. Nagaiah whom he knew only through the Hindi screen version of Meera.

How Rafi Sahaab was propelled more towards the general good rather than seeking his own benefit finds echoes in his stand on the question of “royalty” for the songs. This is the well-known issue that led to the rift between Rafi Sahaab and Lata Mangeshkar in the early Sixties. This was not on a personal matter but was based on principles alone. The view of Rafi Sahaab was that once the singers were paid their remuneration there was no need for any royalty. Lata Mangeshkar was of the view that royalty must be earned by the singers in addition to their remuneration, backed as she was with all the other playback singers. At that time, Music Directors used to get royalty for their musical compositions, based on the number of records sold. Both the views were right; only their perspectives were opposing: One was from a spiritual point of view; the other was from the materialistic point of view. The relevance of this is that no matter what, Rafi Sahaab was always a giving person. Otherwise, too, there was a positive outcome of this rift which lasted for about three years: This period saw the emergence of Suman Kalyanpur on the one hand; and recordings of more duets of Lata with Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor, on the other. Asha Bhonsle, too, stood to gain as she got to sing still more duets with Rafi Sahaab. Above all, no dent had been made in the career of Rafi Sahaab.

Rafi Sahaab made lots of donations to various institutions. It was he who imported and donated the first dialysis machine to the Bombay Hospital at Marine Lines. But most of the stories about his charity will never be known since he practised the maxim of donating with right hand in such a manner that even his left hand wouldn’t know about.

Rafi Sahaab’s acts of altruism, charity, kindliness, and benevolence are evident not only from his financial help that he used to render so off and on, but are also further evident from his interaction and concerns for the people within the film industry and without. But then, that’s another story.


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