Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A Humble Tribute to the Greatest Playback Singer of all times – by Nasir.

The year 1948 was a shocker. India and Pakistan were at war, their first one, over Kashmir. In 1948, the State of Israel was carved out of the Palestine State, thus driving out the Palestinians Arabs and rendering lakhs of them homeless. On 30th January 1948 Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in a well pre-planned murder by Nathuram Godse. No one was ready for such a rot that had set in right at the dawn of India’s freedom. While the fascists organisations in India celebrated this tragic event, the entire world was weeping. The Indian film industry’s reaction was no exception to the Gandhian tragedy.

The newcomer, Rajinder Krishan penned a song on the Mahatma, which went SUNO SUNO AY DUNYAA WAALON BAAPU JI KI AMAR KAHAANI. Husnlal-Bhagatram, the first musical duo, composed the four-part song. It was given to Mohammed Rafi. Before that no one had attempted to sing such a long song. What an emotional singer Rafi Sahaab was! The tide of his emotions swept away whoever heard the song. The song was a rage in India for many years and still holds us in thrall.  More than a million copies of  the set of two 78 RPM records were sold within a month!  The first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru, evidently having heard of the awesome singer, invited Rafi to his residence to sing to him that lyrical obituary relating to the Father of the Nation - that Bapu who was as venerable as the waters of the holy Ganga: “POOJYA HAI ITNA JITNAA GANGA MAA KA PAANI”. There was, perhaps, no one to record how many precious tears the Indian Prime Minister must have shed on listening to the deep, rich voice, that heart-rending pathos... On the Independence Day celebrations in 1948, the Prime Minister awarded the young Rafi with a Silver Medal. For many years this song used to be faithfully aired on the radio stations in the country on every 30th of January.

Dilip Kumar’s touching performance in Jugnu, a year before, had made him the heartthrob of the nation. Rafi-Noor Jehan duet, YAHAAn BADLA WAFA KA... had skyrocketed the young Rafi.  Following on its heel in 1948 were his other super-hits movies such as Ghar Ki Izzat with Mumtaz Shanti, Mela and Anokha Pyaar with Nargis, and Nadiya Ke Paar and Shaheed with Kamini Kaushal.  Mohammed Rafi in the Nineteen Forties was not actually the voice of Dilip Kumar. Mukesh and Talat Mehmood were preferably used to playback for the tragedy king. Anil Biswas used Mukesh in Anokha Pyaar. Naushad used Mukesh in Mela and later in Andaz (1949) to playback for Dilip Kumar.  However, in Andaaz, Rafi's song was filmed on another upcoming legend, Raj Kapoor.  This song was actually a duet with Lata: YOOn TOH AAPAS MEn BIGArTE HAI KHAFAA HOTE HAIn... Another of their duet was, sadly not included in the movie: LO DIL KAA AFSAANA HO DUNIYA DIL KII BASAAKE NAA BHOOL JAANA... What a melody!  As for Mela, it had the lone Rafi’s number: YEH ZINDAGI KE MELA but it was filmed on an unknown character.  But this song has remained etched in music lover's memory.  Ghar ki Izzat too had a background song filmed on Dilip Kumar, WAH RE ZAMAANE composed by Pandit Govindram, just as the Dastaan (1972) song, NA TUU ZAMEEN KE LIYE was in the background but was picturized on him.   By the way, I couldn't help noticing the style of Dilip Kumar in WAH RE ZAMAANE, where he puts his hand in his pocket while walking and staring at the ground below because I noticed the same style in Amitabh Bachchan and in fact this is very much popular with him.    

Now coming back, only C. Ramchandra had a Rafi-Lalita Dewulkar duet, MORRE RAAJA HO LE CHAL NADIYA KE PAAR, which was filmed on the leading pair Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal in Nadiya ke Paar which was produced and directed by Kishore Sahu.  Ghulam Haider’s WATAN KI RAAH MEIN WATAN KE NAUJAWAA.N SHAHEED HO had the Rafi and Khan Mastana duet number along with the chorus in the fast-paced song filmed on Dilip Kumar and another artiste in the ennobling patriotic Filmistan movie, Shaheed. This movie was a rage in India, especially in Bombay where it ran to packed houses at the Roxy Cinema.  Now, WATAN KI RAAH MEIN has another version that has only Rafi' voice,  but again it is played in the background when the dead body of the martyr Ram (Dilip Kumar) is borne to the cremation ground by a crowd of thousands. When Rafi says: HAI KAUN KHUSHNASEEB MAA...in that song, we can feel the lump in our throat.

No singer had such an emotional impact before. Happily, there was a promise in this song that Rafi Sahaab would be excelling in the genre of patriotic songs too – the promise that would be more than fulfilled the same year as we have seen and in the years to come, as we all know.
In passing, it is a cruel irony of fate that Khan Mastana who has also provided music for some films under a different name and was also a singer of repute, would die decades later on the streets of Mumbai, begging near the Mahim Dargah. I learn that the same fate awaits his son too near the said Dargah.  Some of his beautiful songs are PANGAT PE EK CHHABEELEE in Main Hari (1940), ZINDAGI HAI PYAAR SE with chorus and two others in Sikandar (1941), a duet with Parul Ghosh, KANTE LAAGE RE SAJANWA MOSE RAAH CHALI NA JAAYE in Basant (1942),  HAMM APNE DARD KA QISSAA SUNAAYE JAATE HAIN in Muqabla (1942) and even as late as 1959 in Nek Parveen: MAULA KI REHMAT SE HOGI HAR MUSHKIL AASAAN.  

My deceased father, may Allah grant him the Jannatul Firdaus, often used to say: BANEE KE CHEHRE PE LAAKHON NISAAR HOTE HAIN, BANEE JO BIGADTEE HAI TOH DUSHMAN HAZAAR HOTE HAIN. In English, this can be tersely stated as: Prosperity brings friends, Adversity tries them!  The world will go but we won't be there.  Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics sung by Rafi sang in Mela (1948): YEH ZINDAGI KE MELE DUNYAA MEIN KAMM NA HONGE AFSOS HAMM NAA HONGE, are true for all times to come.

[Seen in the above pix is young Rafi singing Yeh Zindagi ke Mele...from Mela under the baton of Music Director Naushad.  On the tabla is young Abdul Karim and behind him is Mohammed Shafi on the sitar.  There were no Sound Studios then. ] 

Some of the other 1948 songs of Rafi are:


Shyam Sunder provided the music, while J.Naqshab wrote the lyrics. Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was another lyricst for this movie which had Rehana and Prem Adib in the lead roles while the story was written by K.A. Abbas.  Najam Naqvi was the director.  In Bombay, the movie  was premiered at the Novelty Cinema. 


Music Director was Datta Devjekar. Mahipal was the lyricist.


The unforgettable solo,  MOHABBAT MEIN KHUDAAYA AYSE GUZRE ZINDAGI APNI,  and AY DIL TUJHEE KO NEEND NAA AAYE. Then there were four duets with Amirbai Karnataki who was also the music director for Shehnaz: TERE NAZDEEK AATE HAIN; and NAZAARON SE KHELOON. These two songs and the 2nd solo were written by Pilbheeti. Then, we have ZINDAGI KEE RAAH MEIN TEZ CHAL and the first solo penned by Devbandi. Fiza Kausari wrote the duet MUJHE TUMSE MUHABBAT HAI.

Lal Dupatta:
This was a Madhubala starrer and a movie of "Dances, Songs  and Love".  Sapru and Ulhas also figured in this movie which was released at the Opera House in Bombay.  The two duets of Rafi with Shamshad Begum are: CHALO JAMNA KE TEER and ARREE O ALBELI NAAR. The first one was penned by D.N Madhok and the second one by Manhar Khanna. Gyan Dutta was the music director.

Rehnuma (The Guide):

It had two solos: QISMAT SE KOEE KYAA BOLE and SULTAAN-E-MADINA. The two duets were: EK AISA MAHAL BANAAYEN with Rekha Rani, and EK ABRE SIYAAH CHHAAYAA with Shamshad Begum. The last song was written by Dhumi Khan and the others were written by Habib Sarhadi. It was Dhumi Khan who provided the music.

Amar Prem:

Rafi had two duets here. One was with Raj Kumari: AAO CHALE MANVAA MORE DUUR and the other was with Rekha Rani: YAMUNAA KE TAT. Music was by Datta Thakar and the lyrics were written by Mohan Mishra.


The music for this film was composed by C.Ramchandra who was also a singer. Rafi sang with him and Shamshad Begum in AJI MERAA BHEE KOI HAAL SUNO (which cites FIFTY-FIFTY as the solution to all problems of the world), a comedy song. The tune of just the two words, FIFTY-FIFTY reminds me of a Shabnam (Dilip-Kamini-S.D. Burman) song of Shamshad Begum: PHIR DEKH MAZAA! Another song, KHUSHIYAAN MANAAYEN KYOON had Rafi sing along with him again and with G.M. Sajan and chorus. The songs were written by P.L. Santoshi.


A duet with Geeta Dutt was: PHOOL KO BHOOL KE LE BAITHA KHAAR. The solo of Rafi, SAB KUCHH LUTAAYAA HAMNE AAKAR TERI GALI MEIN, placed the music director Hansraj Behl among the top class music directors of the day. This movie saw Asha Bhonsle singing her first Hindi line in Chunariya under Hansraj Behl. Mulkraj Bhakri was the lyricist.


Rafi had three duets with Beena Pani: KYAA YAAD HAI TUMKO; MERA DIL GHAAYAL KARKE; and DIL WAALE SAAHAB GHAZAB KAR DAALA. The lyricists were Surjit Sethi and Sevak.


A duet with Suraiya: TAARON BHARI RAAT HAI which was written by D.N. Madhok. Music was by Ghulam Mohammed.

Rang Mahal:

Again, a duet with Suraiya, ROOTHO NAA TUM BAHAAR MEIN, composed by K. Dutta.

Bhakt Gopal Bhaiya:
This was the movie that exclaimed that it was for the mothers of today and the generations of tomorrow.   Rafi had two solo Bhajans: RADHE SHYAM, RADHE SHYAM RADHE SHYAM TUU GAAYE JAA and BHAGWAAN HAMM CHEEKH RAHEN HAIN, and there was ASSI BARAS KA BUDDHA BAABA, all written by Ramesh Gupta. Music was by S.R. Vyas.

Then we have the solos: BUJH GAYE DEEPAK was penned by Mahipal (yes, who later became a famous hero of the Arabian fantasy films especially in the Middle East)  and composed by Purshuttam in Mere Lal; DOOBEE NAIYA AAKE KINAARE in Jeene Do, written by Shevan Rizvi and composed by Shaukat Hussain;  Bhajans  composed by S.N. Tripathi in Shri Ram Bhakt Hanuman: MADHUR RAM KA NAAM, and O JAG KE BASAANE WAALE,  which were  written by B.D. Mishra; MUJHE JAANE TUMSE KYOO.N PYAAR which was written by B.R. Sharma and composed  by Hansraj Behl in Mitti ke Khilone.  Then there was NIGAAHEN MILAANE KO JEE CHAAHATAA HAI in Paraayi Aag, which had music by Ghulam Mohamed and the lyrics by Tanvir Naqvi.  In Narsinha Avatar, we have Rafi's NARAAYAN JAAGO JAAGO KARUNA that was written by Pandit Narendra Sharma and composed by Vasant Desai.  (Vasant Desai was to reach his zenith in Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje and Goonj Uthi Shehnai in the Nineteen Fifties). 

Raj Kapoor’s directorial venture, Aag, had Ram Ganguli as the music director besides three heroines: Nargis, Kamini Kaushal, and Nigar Sultan. There was only one song here for Rafi and that was a duet with Shamshad: SOLAH BARAS KI BHAYEE UMARIYAA penned by Bahzaad Laknawi.  This movie, however, bombed at the box-office despite the three heroines. 

Not just Feroze Nizami and Shyam Sunder were smitten by the singing voice of Mohammed Rafi. The musical duo of Husnlal-Bhagatram was another addition to the growing influence of the young singer. Bhagatram who had an earlier association with Master Madhavlal teamed up later with his brother Husnlal. Rafi was their favourite singer along with Lata and Suraiya. They were also responsible for giving break to Surinder Kaur with four songs in a row. Pyar ki Jeet (1948) put them in forefront of the music directors. Rafi’s IK DIL KE TUKDE HAZAAR HUWE was a chartbuster, giving a new dimension to sad songs. This song which was penned by Qamar Jalalabadi, as indeed he wrote so many other songs for the duo. It was initially written for the 1941 flick Sindoor. S.Mukherjee the director of Sindoor rejected this song, terming it as “useless.” Husnlal-Bhagatram did their best to make this composition a hit, and the pathos in the voice of Rafi perfectly suited the song as well as the musical temperament of the duo. Picturisation was altered to suit the demand of the song.  After this, there was a flood of offers coming the way of young Rafi.  Music Director Khayyam proudly calls the duo as his Gurus. It would be his fortune to be associated with Mohammed Rafi in the ‘Fifties-Sixties, beginning with Biwi where he provided music under a different name. The song, AKELE MEIN VOH GHABRAATE TOH HONGE in Biwi (1950) proved very popular. In the meantime, Husnlal-Bhagatram would utilize Rafi more and more and churn out hit songs in 1949.


Continued in 10...

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