That it was Rafi Sahaab's Voice that led to the immortalization of the Bollywood movie, "Dosti", is only an under-statement.
Mohammad Rafi’s was a huge name when Laxmikant Pyarelal began their journey as music directors in 1963. Even then their musical venture, right from 1963 to 1965 atleast, was confined to the “B” grade movies such as Chaila Babu (late release 1965)), Parasmani, Harishchandra Taramati, Sati Savitri, Sant Gyaneshwar, Mr. X in Bombay, Lootera, Ham Sab Ustad Hain, and Aaya Toofan. The music of these films, however, is what makes the names of those movies appear in print today . The exception is the low-budget movie Dosti which was Rajshri Productions’ second Black and White movie.
Looking to the plot of Dosti, most of the music directors had rejected the assignment as they did not want to do anything with the story of friendship between a blind boy and a lame boy suffering life’s privations. The main roles were enacted by unknown faces and even the romantic lead, if it could be called as such, was provided by the tall, lean and handsome Sanjay Khan who was a rank newcomer and an unknown face. So it was music that was the source of strength for this movie. But then who could give life and expression to the efforts of Majrooh Sahaab and Laxmi-Pyare? Only Rafi Sahaab could do that. His was the only voice that looked natural to the known or unknown actors lip-syncing songs on the screen. Then those songs required "Soz" pathos as well as ebullience, plus the power to render high octave. The compositions of the songs were mostly in Raag Pahadi which were fine-tuned to appeal to the masses. All the songs were rendered by Rafi Sahaab, except one which was sung by Lata Mangeshkar:
-Chaahunga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere... Mohammad Rafi
-Mera To Jo Bhi Qadam Hai.. Mohammad Rafi
-Koyi Jab Raah Na Paaye.. Mohammad Rafi
-Jaanewalo.n Zara Mud ke Dekho Mujhe... Mohammad Rafi
-Raahi Manwa Dukh Ki Chinta.. Mohammad Rafi
-Gudiya Ham Se Roothi Rahogee .. Lata Mangeshkar
Rafi Sahaab’s magical rendition of the songs breathed life and spirit in the movie for without it, the movie would have just been a lifeless exercise in morality. Rafi Sahaab himself was so impressed with the songs that he refused to take any remuneration. However, to honour the dignity of the duo, he took just One Rupee as a token amount. To think of it, Laxmikant-Pyarelal had very nearly rejected the "Chaahonga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere" number but for Rafi Sahaab. It was Rafi Sahaab who predicted the success of this song. He knew pretty well how a little more than a decade ago Naushad Sahaab had composed O Duniya Ke Rakhwaale...in Baiju Bawra. That song has been considered a landmark achievement in Rafi Sahaab's career. Thanks to the magical voice of Rafi Sahaab and his own touch of nuances to the lyrics, "Chaahoonga Main.." became the nation's craze fulfilling the prophecy of Rafi Sahaab. Laxmikant-Pyarelal won the Filmfare Award for best music directors and Rafi Sahaab himself was awarded the Filmfare Lady for the best singer of 1964. Incidentally, Dosti also won the President’s Award and six more Filmfare Awards in other categories.
Yes, the songs of Dosti sent the nation in tizzy. Luckily for most of us then, that was also the time when Juke Boxes had been installed in most of the restaurants in Bombay and as such were a great source of listening to the songs of one’s choice. In my many personal surveys, I used to sit with a cup of tea in a cosy corner of restaurants and watch every customer walking up to the juke box and selecting ALL Rafi Sahaab's Dosti songs almost to the exclusion of all other songs though that year we had amazing number of hit songs from other movies as well. In pure joy I used to witness the scene as the listeners in the cafe went into raptures on hearing those songs of Rafi Sahaab. We just couldn’t have enough!
It will be pleasant for Rafi Sahaab's admirers and fans to know that even the Dosti songs have spawned other singing legends in their own right. S.P. Balasubramanium, before he landed his career as a playback singer, always used to sing JAANE WAALON ZARAA MUD KE DEKHO MUJHE in various musical competition. It was the Telegu music director, Kondapani, who gave SPB the required break after hearing him sing this song. No doubt, then, that SPB considers Rafi Sahaab "The Ultimate."
This success of Dosti is to be viewed in juxtaposition with the following great musical movies of 1964: Sangam, Woh Kaun Thi, Leader, Kashmir ki Kali, Zindagi, Dooj Ka Chand, Sharabi, Beti Bete, Ghazal, Shabnam, Jahan Ara, April Fool, Aap ki Parchhaaiyaan, Door Gagan ki Chhaon mein, Kohra, Cha Cha Cha, Dulha Dulhan and Chitralekha to name just a few. Those who know the melodious songs of these pictures will realize how intense must have been the craze for Rafi Sahaab's Dosti songs. The only sad part to the episode was that Rafi Sahaab's "Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padh Kar..." which was from Sangam and easily the most romantic song of 1964 lost out in internecine competition.
"Dosti" had cemented the bond of friendship between Rafi Sahaab and Laxmi-Pyare in real life as well. The bond of respect and friendship between Rafi Sahaab and Laxmikant-Pyarelal grew day by day lasting till the great legendary Rafi Sahaab breathed his last on 31st July 1980. Even on this very day Rafi Sahaab had recorded his last song for Laxmikant-Pyarelal for a film called Aas Paas.