Sunday, October 11, 2009


Concluding Part of the Tribute to the Greatest Playback Singer of All Times – by Nasir:

Here on the Bollywood music scene in the Forties, Mohammed Rafi surmounted all competitions and emerged as a winner. According to statisticians, when the Forties ended, Rafi Sahaab had sung more songs than the combined songs of all the male playback singers, including Mukesh, Talat Mehmood, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, C.Ramchandra and Kishore Kumar. Similarly, by the end of the decade Zohrabai would top the chart for the most popular female singer, recording three times more songs than either Lata Mangeshkar or Geeta Roy. Asha Bhonsle was nowhere in the reckoning.

In the Fifties, it would be a tough going for Mohammed Rafi what with Mukesh competing for the sad songs plus mainly the Raj Kapoor songs, Talat Mehmood competing mainly for ghazals and nazams and romantic songs plus Dilip Kumar songs, Manna Dey competing mainly for classically-based songs, patriotic songs and the Bhajans, with C. Ramchandra also trying to fill in the gaps wherever he could, Hemant Kumar competing for Pradeep Kumar songs, and coming out with beautiful romantic solos and duets and ‘loris’ (lullabies), Kishore Kumar competing for comedy songs plus mainly Dev Anand's songs and the compositions of S.D. Burman. Happily, Naushad would revise his preferences for one reasons or another in the Fifties and stand by Mohammed Rafi like a solid rock. But that alone would not do. Rafi Sahaab had to work his way around all the music directors if he were to survive. This he did very deftly by keeping himself abreast of the times by always being a learner and cultivating good habits such as hard work, punctuality, genuine humility, and giving 100% to the songs whether they were composed by the mighty music directors or by the small ones, or even by little known artistes who wanted to cling to his name in order to seek their bread and butter in the film industry. Thanks to his understanding of the classical Hindustani music and his versatility to sing all genres of songs, his “adaaygi” his pure diction and “throw” of words to suit the mood of the songs, backed by his powerful but soft and mellifluous voice, Mohammed Rafi Sahaab left all of them in awe whoever heard him.

By the mid-Fifties and towards the end of that decade he would not only fill in the void left by the previous legend, K.L. Saigal, but with passage of time he would also acquire the irrefutable position of being the Greatest playback singer of all times in the annals of the Indian film industry. By adapting himself to the changing face of music, he left an undelible impression on the music itself, setting up excellent standards for the aspiring singers. His voice never sounded monotonous despite the thousands of songs that he left to posterity. That's amazing!

Despite the very stiff competition for Rafi Sahaab, history was to repeat itself by the next decade too. When the Fifties ended, Rafi Sahaab again, had recorded more songs than the combined figures of Talat Mehmood, Manna Dey, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar, C.Ramchandra and Kishore Kumar. So when the time permits we’ll have a dekho of the Nineteen Fifties!

In conclusion, it will be interesting for us to know how the film industry people found Mohammed Rafi when they saw him for the first time. Who else could be the most qualified in this respect than the Thespian Dilip Kumar himself, the most revered acting legend in the sub-continent of India and Pakistan!

According to Dilip Kumar, he found Mohammed Rafi a very handsome man when he first set his eyes on him at the Bombay Talkies, in the Nineteen Forties. He found his personality impressive and there was something in his eyes which attracted Dilip Kumar to him, telling him that “he would have a nice tuning” with this newcomer. When Dilip Kumar heard Mohammed Rafi sing for the first time, he immediately felt that this was no ordinary singer, for here was the young man who had come into the field of playback singing fully prepared. The emotions in the singing voice of Mohammed Rafi that Dilip Kumar heard for the first time were such that he could never forget even after decades had passed away. How could he? Was it not Jugnu(1947) that heralded the arrival of these brightest stars on the horizons of singing and acting? He believes that all the emotions made Mohammed Rafi’s singing “complete” in all respects, and therefore he could sing with complete ease whether it was a tragic or sad song, a light peppy song, a classical song or a romantic duet. Even after five decades, the song MADHUBAN MEIN RAADHIKA NAACHE RE (Kohinoor – 1960) doesn’t fail to overwhelm Dilip Kumar on whom the song was beautifully picturised. He says that Rafi’s voice had tremendous talent, and with Naushad his voice used to reach even greater heights.

However, Dilip Kumar feels that since Mohammed Rafi was a simple person who could not say no, this “Emperor of Voice and Melody” was exploited by some music directors who made him sing some third-class songs. He remembers that in 1969 and the early Seventies when people were talking of how Kishore Kumar had “dismantled the position” of Mohammed Rafi, the latter was not even slightly affected by it. Nor did he reply those critics with words. “It was always his voice and songs that used to do the talking.” Surmises the Tragedy King: “Rafi is not among us today but his voice and his songs are still there with us.”

One could go on writing about the Legendary Mohammed Rafi Sahaab forever, for such was his persona and charisma as well as the impact on the Indian film industry, its films, music, musicians and film stars. As long as there are people who love good songs and music, and take pride in the rich heritage of our films and musical traditions; as long as there are people who value sterling personal character, altruism, charity and faithfulness; as long as there are people who are moved by pain and sufferings of humanity, as long as there are people who are in quest of true songs of love, romance, philosophy and devotion, the name of Mohammed Rafi Sahaab will always come to the fore to emblazon the cultural and humane side of Bollywood.



Note: Thanks are due to the internet sources for the pictures published in these articles.


  1. Nasir ji, what a great conclusion to an extremly well written series on Rafi sahab. Simply great.

  2. Parag sahaab, Aap ki zarrah nawaazi hai.
    I'm glad you liked the series. Thank you so much!