Thursday, December 16, 2010


                        The moral of the Sufi is beneficence:

“….but never refuse to bless and help the needy and the poor,
the widow, and the orphan, if they come to your door.”
Khwaaja Moinuddin Chishty.

Rafi Sahaab could be called a great philanthropist because within the limited income from his playback singing career and despite the responsibility of his huge family and relatives, he donated substantial sums of money to the needy who were not necessarily poor but still deserving whether in the film industry or elsewhere.

Whenever some music directors approached him for help and a request that if he sang for them the film producer would hire them for his film, he always acceded to their requests. In order to preserve their moral integrity and also give a boost to their nascent career, he would nominally charge just a Rupee, and give them his blessings too. To top it, he always gave out his best renditions even when he was not paid at all. His song, Chanda kaa dil TooT gaya hai (KHOJ) for Music Director, Nisar Bazmi, who finally migrated to Pakistan in 1962 is a case in point. The truth is that if Rafi Sahaab had not have been generous or made “adjustments” in his fees, we would have missed many lovely songs that Rafi Sahaab sang for such Music Directors as Iqbal Qureshi in CHA CHA CHA (Subha naa Aayee); Sonik-Omi (of Dil ne Phir Yaad Kiya fame) in MAHUA (the thundering Donon ne kiyaa thaah pyaar magar); Dulal Sen for in BLACK PRINCE (Nigaahen naa phero chale jaayenge hamm ); Lala-Assad-Sattar in SANGRAM (Main toh tere haseen Khayaalon me.n ); Sardar Malik in BACHPAN (Mujhe tumse mohabbat hai); G.S. Kohli in ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (Maanaa mere haseen sanam): C. Arjun in MAIN AUR MERA BHAI (O Gori zulm kare zulf ka bikhar jaana); or in PUNARMILAN the song filmed on Jagdeep as the hero (Paas baiTho tabiyat bahal jaayegee); Pandit Shivram in OONCHI HAVELI (Daulat ke jhooThe nashe mein ho choor); Babul in NAQLI NAWAB (Tum poochhte ho ishq bala hai ke nahin hai; and Chhedaa jo dil kaa fasaana); and for his colleague Bipin Datta whom Rafi Sahaab helped produce KYA YEH BAMBAI HAI and also sang for him the cruising waltz of Yeh bambai shahar ka baDaa naam hai par gaDbaD  ghoTaale kaa har kaam hai... filmed on comedian Maruti (father of Guddi Maruti); Prem Dhawan in Pavitra Paapi (Allah hi Allah kar pyaare bhayy ); Sapan-Jagmohan’s maiden musical venture in BEGAANA (Phir voh bhuli si yaad aayee hai) and in TERI TALASH MEIN (Teri aawaaz ki jaadugaree se).

Regarding the last-named song above, an interesting anecdote was related by Sapan-Jagmohan over the Vividh Bharati Radio Station. The musical duo wanted to record a song in a male voice but definitely not in Rafi’s since they knew that the producer would not be able to afford the Legend’s fees. On the other hand, the producer being a die-hard fan of Rafi Sahaab told them that he would be able to arrange the money for Rafi Sahaab. So they scheduled a recording session for Rafi Sahaab who promptly attended the studio in time. However, the worried look on the faces of the producer and the musical duo told Rafi Sahaab that something was amiss with the team. On enquiry he learnt that the producer had not been able to arrange for his payment. Had there been anyone else in place of Rafi Sahaab he would have there and then gone away.  But not Rafi Sahaab!  The saint that he was, he put the entire team at ease and recorded the song giving out his best as usual.  He left wishing them all the best. No one remembers the movie but only the song.  Such was the “Jaadugaree” of his voice and generosity.

According to Pyarelal, Rafi Sahaab was the only singer who never took money for the first song that he recorded for a new composer. It is known that Rafi Sahaab did not charge Laxmikant-Pyarelal for their maiden venture CHHAILA BABU (1960)(Tere pyaar me.n mujhe Gham milaa) and for PARASMANI that was released first (1963). Even for DOSTI (1964), he had just a token payment. The musical duo acknowledged that “Har dukh mein Rafi Sahaab ne hamaaraa saath diyaa.”

Now, unlike others, Rafi Sahaab would go for the recording at the appointed time or even before, so that producers may not be saddled with extra costs. After the job was done he would go back home without ensuring that his fees had been paid or not. A film-producer knew this habit of Rafi Sahaab. So when the song recording was over, the producer absconded without paying or even saying thank you. Once it so happened that one day the producer found himself in the same studio as Rafi Sahaab. He tried to flee. However, the generous soul that he was, Rafi Sahaab asked him to take it easy. He told him not to worry since there were many others in line before him, who had yet to pay him. Rafi Sahaab, in fact, used to “forget” if someone owed him money.

It also happened that when some such film producers paid him the fees he returned the same to them as gifts for their children. Once after finishing the recording of a song Rafi Sahaab came out of the studio and made his way towards his car. There he found the producer standing by the car. He had kept the money wrapped in a handkerchief. He handed it over the bundle to Rafi Sahaab. Rafi Sahaab found the handkerchief contained soiled and crumpled notes of various lower denominations. Rafi Sahaab understood that the producer had collected the money from various sources in order to pay him. Acknowledging the payment which was not even half of what the producer had promised him, he handed it back to the producer.  Rafi Sahaab told him that he should consider it as a gift from him for his children. It is difficult to say whether the film-producer was more astonished or more grateful - or both!

Of course, as far as the commercial film-makers were concerned, they could afford to pay his price and Rafi Sahaab did insist on the payment from them. However, money was not the criterion for him to accept any movie. Once C.V. Nagaiah, the famous personality of the Telegu films, invited Rafi Sahaab to sing in his new venture BHAKTA RAMADASU which had been considerably delayed for want of funds since Mr. Nagaiah's benevolence had been selfishly exploited by unscrupoulous people.   Rafi Sahaab recorded the song Dil ko hamaare darshan dena that was to be picturised for the character of Kabir in the film. Considering the background, he refused to take the payment. Instead, he selflessly asked Mr. Nagaiah whether he needed any financial help for completion of his movie. Rafi Sahaab had known Mr. Nagaiah only cursorily through the Hindi screen version of MEERA and yet he took the pains to travel down South at his cost with the aim of helping out Mr. Nagaiah.

As the yester-year’s popular Bollywood hero, Jeetendra, stated during the recent launch of the Rafi Academy in Mumbai, Rafi Sahaab sang hundreds of songs free for film producers who were not able to pay him money. Accompanying Jeetendra on that occasion was Rakesh Roshan, and this reminds me that the latter had started out as actor and then graduated as producer-director. For his AAP KE DEEWAANE, Rafi Sahaab sang the title song for free just because he himself liked the song and it was a one liner anyway. How many singers would do that?  Thus it was that Rafi Sahaab helped film producers and upcoming music directors who could not afford even his reasonable fees.

At this juncture, it is also essential to apprise the dear readers that it is not that all such producers are innocent of mal-practices.  It is a well-known fact that some of them deliberately delay payments to the staff and artistes so that if the movie flops, they can wash their hands off,  citing the loss.  Of course, this can never be the ground for not paying the artistes but this is being done.  Mohammed Rafi Sahaab definitely knew about all this hanky-panky business.  However, he never worried on that account because he was happy when someone succeeded and was grieved when someone suffered a loss.   A concrete example can be cited:  Everyone remembers HUMSAYA (1968) for Rafi Sahaab's soulful song:  Dil kee aawaaz bhee sun.  Joy Mukherjee was the producer and director and also the movie's hero along with Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore as his heroines.  I remember that the movie was premiered at the Maratha Mandir Cinema.  Despite the lilting compositions  of O.P. Nayyar the movie bombed at the box-office.  Joy Mukherjee was devastated.   When this news reached Rafi Sahaab he at once met Joy and handed him an envelope that contained Ten Thousand Rupees that he had received as his fees.   Joy was reluctant to accept it.  Seeing his reluctance, Rafi Sahaab sang: Dil kee aawaaz bhee sun to him.  Hearing this, Joy couldn't refuse Rafi Sahaab!    Now how many singers or artistes can go to that extent in this dog eat dog world!

Rafi Sahaab’s beneficence is also borne out by the fact that he did not charge for the songs in case the movie was produced by a colleague such as Kishore Kumar. For his songs in CHALTI KA NAAM ZINDAGI, (Band muTThee laaakh kee) released 1981, he just charged One Rupee.

Then, who does not remember, Madhuban mein radhika naache re (Kohinoor – 1960)!  When Rafi Sahaab heard the tune that Naushad Saab had composed in Raga Hamir, Rafi Sahaab got so much carried away that he only took a token-payment of One Rupee for his masterly rendition. He let go of the bet amount that he won from S.U. Sunny, the film producer who initially wanted to delete this number but retained it after Rafi Sahaab predicted the thundering success of the song.

Similarly, he refused to take money from Naushad Saab for recording the ghazal, Jis raat ke Khwaab aaye (in the unreleased HABBA KHATUN). Incidentally, this was his last work with Naushad Saab for soon thereafter, Rafi Sahaab was no more. Naushad Saab recounts that after hearing the composition in Raga Patdip Rafi Sahaab began to weep. He had liked it immensely. After the recording of the song, he started to weep again out of the sheer impact of the ghazal. When Naushad Sahaab insisted to pay him, Rafi Sahaab refused saying that the joy that he had derived from singing the ghazal was much more than what the money could give him. He went away saying: “Main paise naheen loonga, main paise naheen loonga…”

Music Director Anu Malik (son of Sardar Malik of SARANGA fame) remembers Rafi Sahaab as the kindest human being he ever knew and as the “Giving Person” who often refused to accept money.

There are also instances when he left huge sums of money in his bag for the benefit of some older singers who had fallen on bad days, without even letting them know about it. At times he recommended them to music directors. He also encouraged new talents without bothering in the least that they would be a competition for him.  But this merits a topic by itself and is not being dealt here. 

Rafi Sahaab would distribute sweets after every recording session and would also ask the musicians if they needed anything. This scene was witnessed and committed to memory by at least one person who had attended the recording of the Rafi-Manna Dey duet in ABHILASHA:  Ek jaanib shamme mahfil. While his colleague had gone away after the recording, Rafi Sahaab spent lots of time with the musicians,  asking them if they needed any help.

Rafi Sahaab never publicized his charity. He used to mail cheques to the deserving lots of filmy people regularly without mentioning his name or address. The veil of secrecy was lifted only after Rafi Sahaab went to meet his Lord. When the cheques stopped coming, the beneficiaries realized that it was Mohammed Rafi Sahaab who had been helping them monetarily by sending them the cheques down the years. Additionally, every month a queue of the needy people formed outside his house. Rafi Sahaab would then hand over Rupees 100 or Two-Hundred to the people without bothering for their names.

During the holy month of Ramadan, it was usual for Rafi Sahaab to pay the Zakaat (i.e. compulsory tithe of two and a half percent of the income) annually to the deserving and the needy. Packets of money were prepared in advance of this month and the names or a designated numbers of each of the hundreds of the recipients were written down on the packet in order to ensure that none was left out. The packet would be given to the recipients when they gave out their names and numbers. The distributor of Rafi Sahaab’s zakaat generally happened to be his Secretary, Zaheer, who was also his brother-in-law. There was no pomp or show and no hassle.

Rafi Sahaab’s was well-known for his munificence even to the ordinary folks in the vicinity and other cities. They knew that if anyone approached him, he would give them the needed assistance. There was this lady from Hyderabad who was related to Fazal Nawaz Khan Jung Bahudur (d.1964), the Finance Minister of the erstwhile Nizam’s Hyderabad. She had the cancer of thyroid and came down to Mumbai for surgery at the J.J. Hospital. She went from door to door of film personalities and businessmen for financial assistance. When she approached Rafi Sahaab, the latter donated Rupees Ten Thousand without bothering to ask for any receipt. This was the highest amount she had received from any individual. This was in the early Seventies – the so-called “lean period” of Mohammed Rafi Sahaab. Remember that as we near the year 2011 in two weeks’ time, the sum of Ten Thousand Rupees can still be considered as a substantial amount for charity. Then, it is also a well-known fact that it was Rafi Sahaab who was the first person who had got dialysis equipment imported from abroad for donation to the Bombay Hospital for the kidney- patients.

Next, I may briefly point out that there was this man who had four daughters. How he, a total stranger, approached Rafi Sahaab for monetarily help and how Rafi Sahaab gave him money for getting not one but all his four daughters married goes to prove beyond the pale of doubt that he was a man with a golden heart, and a “Sakhi Hatim”.  Rafi Sahaab had told the man that he should not reveal the matter to anyone.  However, that grateful man revealed this fact only after the passing away of Rafi Sahaab. (For details please see the Philanthropic Side of Rafi – Part 1 in this Blog at http://tinyurl.com/3yc7bjm)

Rafi Sahaab also used to give something more: Anup Jalota remembers Rafi Sahaab teaching him how to maintain his posture before the microphone and how he should throw his voice into it. As such Anup Jalota also learnt to make distinct pronunciation of each of the words that he sang. To his ardent fan, Mahendra Kapoor who used to copy Rafi Sahaab’s singing style and even the way he talked, walked and dressed, Rafi Sahaab advised him to learn classical training and forge his way ahead with original singing voice. Even Bhupinder benefitted from Rafi Sahaab during the recording sessions of Haqeeqat. Rafi Sahaab introduced Mahendra Kapoor to the Chopras, while he instructed Kalyanji of Kalyanji-Anandji musical duo to remove Manhar Udhas from the chorus singing while recording Kisi mehrbaan ki nazar DhoonDhte hain (RAJA SAAB), to the latter’s shock. He, however, felt relieved to learn from Kalyanji that Rafi Sahaab had recommended him as a full-fledged playback singer.  In fact, extra lyrics were written to the same song to accommodate the solo rendition of Manhar Udhas whose career saw a rising graph. Mubarak Begum recollects how accommodating Rafi Sahaab was! Though it was in 1963 that their duet, Mujh ko apne gale lagaa lo (HAMRAHI) became famous, a decade earlier when they were recording a DAERA song, Devta tum ho meraa sahaaraa, she couldn’t match Rafi Sahaab’s pitch and requested him to lower it, which he willingly did. Nitin Mukesh recently disclosed that his dad, the legendary playback singer Mukesh, had advised him: “Tuu Rafi ke gaane gaa. Gaanaa seekhna hai, Gaane waala banna hai, achchaa Gulukaar banna hai, Mohammed Rafi ke gaane gaa.” He adds that his father was right! According to Yesudas, "Studying Mohammed Rafi can help a budding singer more than any textbook on music can do."

There are too many such incidents, but all of them cannot be recounted here. Many we would never know. Thus Rafi Sahaab essentially practised the morality of Sufism.

To conclude, Rafi Sahaab was a God-fearing man who maintained an impeccable conduct and behavior in his dealings with God and man. He was of a spotless character and free from anger, lust, greed, and egotism. Simple living and high thinking were natural to him. What emerges unequivocally is that Rafi Sahaab was sensitive and full of feelings for others. He had the betterment of others at heart. He was generous to a fault and considerate towards every person he came in contact with. He was active in rendering help whether in cash or kind to the people around him and even to the total strangers. Expecting no returns for his favours , he remained as humble as ever to the last despite his legendary status of the most revered and greatest playback singer in the Indian sub-continent. Indeed, wherever he went his presence brought a whiff of fresh morning breeze even to the dark pockets of the filmdom, serving them as a role-model, so that the people benefitted from his association, altruism, philanthropy, charities, and devotion to work.

Indeed, Mohammed Rafi Sahaab was a true Sufi who graced the Indian film industry called Bollywood.



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