Wednesday, December 15, 2010


The charm of Sufi is his humility!

The servants of the All-Merciful are those who walk on the earth in modesty, and if the impudent offend them, they continue their way saying: “Peace” (Qur’an: 25:63)

This one is a very well-known trait of Rafi Sahaab. According to Rafi Sahaab, humility is a must for one to be successful in any field. He took care never to hurt someone’s feelings for whoever does that will never be successful in life:
Hamne kisi ka dil dukhaayaa naheen. Jo kisika dil dukhaata hai voh zindagi mein kabhi tarakki naheen kar saktaa.”

As Pyarelal of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo stated, Rafi Sahaab always looked down while talking and no matter with whom he talked he did so in the same tone. I must make it clear for the western readers that keeping the eyes lowered is a sign of humility and a great virtue recommended by the Holy Quran. For him everybody was the same. “He was the ‘Farishta’.” Once after he had recorded Woh jab yaad aaye (Parasmani), both Laxmikant and Pyarelal touched his feet. Rafi Sahaab told them he does not sing well out of his own volition but that Allah makes him sing well.

Rafi Sahaab’s voice has been called the “Voice of God” by his fans. For some his voice was a miracle; for some it was magic. Easily, he was the most mellifluous playback singer in the film industry with a voice that could move mountains. The powerhouse of his voice was such that he could easily sing in three octaves without veering out of control. As Naushad Saab stated, even after scaling highest notes he would stay at that peak without shaking his voice, remaining firm there. He was also the most versatile singer. His repertoire included the peppy and energetic songs, Rock ‘N’ Roll numbers, romantic and sad songs, lullabies, ‘bidai’ songs, ‘Heer’, folk-songs, semi-classicals, ghazals and nazms, bacchanalian songs, patriotic songs, devotional songs including bhajans, shabads, bhangras, naats, munajaats, and qawwalis and what not! He could sing in many Indian languages, including Urdu, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Kannada, Telugu, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Konkani and even English. He won 23 Filmfare nominations and won 6 times. Of course, if the Awards for singing had been constituted earlier than 1959, he would have won many more awards. He won three Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards, each in 1957, 1965 and 1966. He won the National Award twice, one in 1968 and the other in 1977. Though he deserved better, in 1965 he condescended to accept the Padma Shri Award from the Government of India. As early as 1948, he had won a Silver Medal that was handed to him by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of the newly independent India,. In 2001, he was posthumously honoured as the Best Singer of the Milleneum by Hero Honda and Stardust film magazine. However, as has been stated before, Rafi Sahaab attributed the magic of his voice to God. Therein lies his true humility which is one of the characteristics of a real Sufi.

In the film industry we do come across instances of humility but mostly they are phoney or cultivated with the aim of satisfying personal interest. Once the interest is served then the do-gooder is forgotten. Here, one can cite the big names in Bollywood by way of examples but we won’t. Rafi Sahaab’s humility was such that he gave respects not only to the seniors but also to the juniors. He was eager to learn and despite his immense knowledge of songs and music and his stature in Bollywood, he considered the music director whose songs he sang as his Guru.

For example, during the Dil Deke Dekho days, Usha Khanna, who had made her debut as music director with this movie, fought shy to suggest some nuances to Rafi Sahaab in certain song. How could she! She was just two years old when from 1944 to 1959, i.e. when that movie was released, Rafi Sahaab had sung songs the number of which was more than combined number of songs of all the other male singers during the period. However, Rafi Sahaab put her at ease by telling her that she had not learnt the song from him but that he had learnt the song from her. Now, how many famous people can crush their ego to such an extent, and that too, before a novice? Hardly! That was Rafi Sahaab.

This had happened earlier too with Shankar-Jaikishan who had made their debut in Barsaat (1949). The young Rafi had already made waves post Saigal-Age, when he went on the spree of matching his voice to the cinematic content, reaching the perfection in the Nineteen Sixties. He, along with Suraiya, was a hot favourite of their Gurus, the first musical duo, Husnlal-Bhagatram. Rafi Sahaab told the debutants that they were the composers and he would sing their composition the way they wanted. Hence, Main zindagi mein hardam rotaa he rahaa hoon was recorded. The trio of Rafi-Shankar-Jaikishan was to rule the Bollywood music for two decades and bring a romantic flamboyance to the way the music was composed.

In regard to money matters, Rafi Sahaab gave donations or charities through his Secretary as we shall see later. Naushad Saab, the ace music director once asked him why he did so. The answer he received from Rafi Sahaab was typical of a saintly humility: “Main denewaaale kaun hoon? Denewaalaa to Allah hai.” (i.e. Who am I to give? The Giver is God). Thus he did not assign charity to himself but to God. He believed in the deed – not in Glory.

It is interesting to note that it was the humility of Rafi Sahaab that made the mega-star Amitabh Bachchan bow down with respect and touch the feet of the singing legend. This happened before the recording of the Rafi-Amitabh duet, Chal mere bhai, for Naseeb (1980). A day before Laxmikant-Pyarelal , the music directors for Naseeb, told Amitabh Bachchan that Rafi Sahaab was very punctual and therefore he should report for recording on time. The next day both Rafi Sahaab and Amitabh Bachchan reported at almost the same time at 12.30 p.m. Rafi Sahaab noticed that Amitabh was shaky and his eyes were bloodshot.  On asking him the reason, Amitabh revealed that he had been listening to Rafi Sahaab’s voice from the time he was ten years old. And now that he was scheduled to sing with him he had spent a sleepless night. Hearing this Rafi Sahaab laughed. He let him into his own secret. He told Amitabh that he too had spent a sleepless night thinking that he will be singing with a much taller superstar. Amitabh Bachchan was deeply touched by the answer of Rafi Sahaab and he spontaneously bowed down to touch Rafi Sahaab’s feet for blessings.

In an interview of Amitabh Bachchan by Rahul Bajaj on Sahara TV Channel of 20th August, 2007 the former was asked to say something about Rafi Sahaab. Speaking about Rafi Sahaab, Amitabh Bachchan said:

"Rafi Sahaab bahut hee sajjan insaan theh, itna sajjan insaan maine aaj tak naheen dekhaa.”

He then went on to narrate an incident where he was on a tour for two days. Rafi Sahaab was the main attraction and he was to sing on Day One. Another singer was to sing on Day Two. After finishing his assignment on the first day, Rafi Sahaab left for the airport. In the meantime, to their shock, word reached them that the other singer was not coming. This would have definitely marred the show on Day Two. They were nervous. They dashed to the airport only to learn that Rafi Sahaab had already boarded the plane. They were granted the permission by the authorities to emplane and speak to Rafi Sahaab for a few seconds. They informed Rafi Sahaab about their predicament. After hearing them out, Rafi Sahaab did not utter a word. Without any fuss he simply got up and disembarked from the plane. Such was the grace and personality of Rafi Sahaab. After narrating this incident Amitabh added: “And on the top of this, what a voice! What a singer!”

Amin Sayani, the very popular compere and radio-host of yesteryears pointed out the sense of justice and quality of Rafi Sahaab. If he travelled with the artistes or troupe, he would insist on sitting with them in the economy class, rather than choose the luxury of the executive class. He followed the same trend of lodging in the same hotel as them.

Film star Nanda too fondly recalls her recording stint with Rafi Sahaab. This was for Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) and the song was Ek thaah gul aur ek theeh bulbul. The readers will remember that the song contains laughter and certain utterances of Nanda. Someone introduced her to Rafi Sahaab as “Baby Nanda.” We know that she began her career as a child artiste in her father’s home production, Mandir, and the word “Baby” continued to be tagged after her name despite her attaining the womanhood and stardom. Babies grow up but the habit dies hard and we cine-goers used to continually call her as Baby Nanda. This was also the case with “Baby” Naaz. Anyway, she was a great fan of Rafi Sahaab and told him so. Instantly, Rafi Sahaab too said that he was a great fan of hers. According to Nanda, “I couldn’t believe it. I was flabbergasted. It was the biggest compliment of my life!”

Next, an incident was narrated to a friend of mine by an eye-witness which does proud to the word, Humility, itself:  During a concert at Calcutta some four decades ago, this person heard an eminent playback singer shouting that “If you have Rafi for the show, why bring me in!” Later that person  followed the singer to the Green-Room where he saw that singer having a cup of tea.  In walked Rafi Sahaab for tea.  When a cuppa was brought to him, he ignored it. Instead, he  just picked up the cup of that singer who had been sipping tea from it.  Putting that cup of to his lips he began to sip tea saying: Perhaps, I will get the ‘Sur’ (note of the musical scale) by drinking the remainder of the tea (‘jhuThaa’)from this cup!”  On hearing what Rafi Sahaab said, tears welled up in the eyes of the singer for he was a good man at heart.  From that onwards he himself became a great fan of Rafi Sahaab.

Lata Mangeshkar, the Nightingle of Indian Melodies, while paying him a tribute on the occasion of his 30th death anniversary, stated: “"Rafi bhaiya was not only India's greatest playback singer but also a wonderful person. I am yet to come across another artist so modest, dignified and unassuming.”

According to Thespian Dilip Kumar: “Is shakhs me.n kabhee ahankaar kee, naa ghamand kee, koee boo baas nahee.n theeh. Kabhee kisee ne Mohammed Rafi Sahaab ko kisee par naaraaz hote nahee.n dekhaa naa koee baat sunee….”

To conclude.


No comments:

Post a Comment