Wednesday, May 2, 2012


This was an impromptu letter I shot back to a FB Group Member  in response to the latter’s  assertions  regarding  Rafi Sahaab’s lean period  and to the statement, unbelievable as it may sound,  that a couple of  male playback singers made complaints  to the Playback Singers Assocation in   Nineteen Sixties alleging certain re-recording of their songs.  I thought it was worth publishing  on this Blog which is dedicated to Mohammed Rafi sahaab, the Legendary Indian Playback Singer (1924-1980). 
"Dear (name withheld):
With due respect and very briefly,  since you were or are on the inside, we would like to know: Was the Playback Singers Association established to protect a singer’s interest? What was the year of its establishment and when was it dismantled, if at all.   Was it established keeping the Royalty issue in view?   
As you know, between 1950 and 1970, Rafi was the most sought after singer in Bollywood, and  at the zenith of his career during 1960-1968.  Therefore, this must have definitely invited professional rivalries against him.   One such episode was the Rafi-Lata tiff over Royalty issue.      Lata Mangeshkar wanted Rafi to back her in demanding a half-share from the five percent song royalty that the film's producer conceded to select composers.  But Rafi Sahaab believed that a playback singer's claim on the filmmaker ended with the payment of agreed fee for the song.  It is not surprising therefore that he must have found himself all alone at one end, with the rest of the singers  backing   Lata Mangeshkar   since money was at stake.   When Lata Mangeshkar  chose to stop singing with Mohammed Rafi  then the  Music Directors,  who wanted Mohammed Rafi , had to get Suman Kalyanpur  and Asha Bhonsle for the duets (Check out the earliest April Fool and Leader, for example, both 1964 films).     We know that Rafi Sahaab never hankered after money or wealth.  He simply did not want anything over what the Music Directors paid him.  In fact, it is well-known that he never even  asked  what he was going to be paid for a song.  Apart from waiving off payments, he even helped producers financially. He’d help out the needy. He always gave without thinking of the returns.  If a producer was in a tight spot,  Rafi Sahaab   wouldn’t accept any money from him.  He was a God fearing man. He felt he was an instrument through whom God was singing."   [There are many instances of his philanthrophy and altruism which have already mentioned in several articles in this Blog.]
"You stated that it  is on record of the association that Mohd Rafi was twice warned in the General Body Meeting (GBM) not to do such re-recordings in future as the complaint was made by the singers Mahendra Kapoor and Talat Mehmood.  We would like to know what were those songs.  Again, how do we know whether  the concerned Music Director or Producer had apprized Rafi Sahaab of any such previous recording?  How can we be sure that the MD had not done a live recording?  As against this we have the history of Rafi Sahaab picking up Manhas Udhas from the Chorus and granting him opportunity for independent playback as it happened during RAJA SAAB (Kisi Mehrbaan kee nazar dhoondhte hain..) Or maintaining the dubbing of Anwar for his song in Mere Gharib Nawaz (Qasme.n hamm apnee jaan kee…).  Whenever he was extra busy, Rafi Sahaab would ask the producer to give the song to another singer and we just came across some evidence here in FB through Manasji  that MD Ravi confided to him during a show in Calcutta (2005) that Rafi Sahaab had asked him to give the HUMRAAZ (1966) songs to Mahendra Kapoor.   If such occasions arose then it should have arisen in case of PALKI, (1967) when the leading man Rajendra Kumar insisted upon Rafi Sahaab for the playback against Talat Saab.  This was the moment of embarrassments for Rafi Sahaab especially since Naushad Saab wanted him to speak over with Talat Saab who relented.  We don’t know whether Talat Saab had complained.  Then, why no complaint was lodged when Actor Manoj Kumar insisted upon Mahendra Kapoor giving the playback for Kaisee haseen raat aaj bahaaron kee raat hai – which is a duet with Rafi Sahaab who playbacked for Dilip Kumar?  Talat Saab had to remain satisfied  with the audio version only.  It is surprising to believe you when you say that Mahendra Kapoor had complained  against Rafi Sahaab whom, as we all know,  he acknowledged as his Guru and mentor!   As for the much earlier BHABHI (1957) song, Chal u.d jaa re panchee, it  was a background version and perhaps for that reason Chitragupt had the Talat version.  But it appears that Producer’s choice to have the version of Rafi Sahaab for the background version as well along with the Chali Chali re Patang meree…and Jawaan ho yaa Budhiya. 
"By 1970, the older   stars such as Dilip, Shammi, Rajendra Kumar and others were fading out.  Dev switched to Kishore Kumar for almost ten years or so, except for Gambler, Prem Pujari and Man Pasand (MEETHA MEETHA BOLO).  In 1970 onwards, Rafi Sahaab was engrossed in religious duties such as performance of Haj whereafter he voluntarily cut down his recording sessions and even shifted  to London.  Naturally this fuelled the myth of his “decline”.   There were other bitter things that cannot be told frankly here, except that JHUMRI TALAYYA became a centre for  the manipulated “Farmaish”.     Naushad Saab chastised Rafi Sahaab saying, `Is there any male singer today, who’s even a fraction as good as you are? You still have the ability to beat the daylights out of all of them’.  At the peak of the Kishore wave in the seventies O.P. Nayyar was quoted as saying. ‘How I wish I had just one film in hand to settle all this nonsense, they’re talking about Rafi. Always remember one thing.  That if there had been no Rafi, there would have been no Nayyar’.  The Thespian Dilip Kumar has gone on record to say that Rafi Sahaab was not at all insecure during those days.  Lata Mangeshkar herself recently stated that it was wrong to say that Kishore Kumar had overtaken Rafi Bhaiya who, according to her, was the greatest playback singer and a wonderful person.
"Otherwise, too, the mammoth myth of Rafi Sahaab's lean phase was amply exposed by a prestigious Indian weekly magazine named SCREEN in one of their publications: "The reduction in Rafi’s visit to the recording studios did not necessarily imply that Rafi was down. And ironically it was the high quantum of Rafi’s song in the pre-Aradhana phase that helped to fuel this myth. In actual fact it was during 1971-76 period that Rafi’s standing almost paralleled Mukesh’s.  For Rafi had greater than ever percentage of hits…” The weekly goes on to emphatically state how Rafi Sahaab’s impact gave a permanent place in Bollywood musicals to even smaller composers during that period.  It concluded triumphantly: 'Rafi and down? Haven’t we heard that titans go down only in history!'

"Once Rafi Sahaab was persuaded by his own family members, he came back with a bang. 
From 1970-1976, Rafi's output was less, but he sang many hit songs during this period. Some of his hit songs in early 1970s were with music directors like L-P, Madan Mohan, R. D. Burman and S. D. Burman. Some of Rafi's popular songs from this period include Gulabi Aankhen from The Train; Jhilmil Sitaron ka from Jeevan Mrityu; Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil from Heer Ranjha (1970), Chura Liya Hain Tumne from Yaadon Ki Baarat, Yeh Jo Chilman Hai and Itna to Yaad Hai Mujhe from Mehboob Ki Mehndi, Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho from Hanste Zakhm;  Aaj Mausam bada Beimaan hai from Loafer (1973).   In 1974, he won the Film World magazine Best Singer Award for the song Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam (Hawas),   composed by Usha Khanna.  
"Post Laila Majnu (1976), many music-directors  sought out Rafi Sahaab.  The old faithfuls, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, had continued with Rafi Sahaab all along and were amply rewarded for their trust.  R.D. Burman came back to Rafi Sahaab in a big way with such movies as Balika Badhu, Chor Ho To Aisa, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin, Chandi Sona, Ghar, Devta, Shalimar, Phandebaaz, Kasme Vaade, Mukti, Naya Daur, Naukar, Abdullah, Shaan, Bulandi, Takkar, Phir Wohi Raat, Jal Mahal, The Burning Train, Heeralal Pannalal, Kaalia, Gehra Zakhm, Harjai, Jail Yatra, Daulat Ke Dushman, Ganga Meri Maa, Chameli Memsaab, Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, Biwi O Biwi, Aan Aur Shaan, Jaane Jaan (Nikamma), Shiva ka Insaaf, and Faisla. Rafi Sahaab's KYA HUA TERA WAADA  from Hum Kisise Kam Nahin won him the Filmfare Award as well as his second National Award in 1977.   Rafi did playback for Rishi Kapoor in films like Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Sargam (1979) and Karz (1980). The qawwali Pardah Hai Pardah from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) was a superhit. Rafi gave many other hit songs in late 1970s, notably for the films Laila Majnu (1976), The Burning Train (1977) Apnapan (1978), and Qurbani, Dostana, Abdullah (1980).  Thus, those who had come to scoff remained to pray. 
"Thereafter there was no turning back and we have mentioned before all those nominations of Filmfare Awards that this extraordinary singer was cited for. In 1980 three of his songs were nominated for the said Award. These songs were easily the best of the lot.   In 1980, the weekly Binaca Geet Mala programmes too reflected Rafi Sahaab's increasing popularity. For example, in the programme dated May 28, 1980 we had ten songs of Rafi Sahaab compared to the two of Kishore Kumar out of the total sixteen songs. Rafi Sahaab was all set to revive the glory of the early Sixties.  Rafi Sahaab gradually began over-taking Kishore Kumar and by 1980 he had clearly outstripped him in matters of sheer numbers and popularity.  According to an interview given by Nitin Mukesh sometimes after the Legend Rafi Sahaab had passed away, music directors were pursuing Rafi Sahaab to such an extent that at least the singers like Nitin could have been out of job for a number of years.  But it was the icy hand of death that snatched Rafi Sahaab away from our midst halting his triumphant march!"
Thus the letter ended. However, since there was no reply, it is safe to assume that it is possible that certain misunderstanding arose looking to the peculiar circumstances of those times.  But certainly there could have been no  complaint against the august personality of Rafi Sahaab and also looking to the high calibre of the alleged "complainants". 


  1. One of the best article written on RAFISAAB.

  2. It is indeed a very nice thing to remember RAFISAAB

  3. Boss , hats off !! Impressed. Actually I was also not accepting that Rafi sahib lost his glory till 1980. The article clearly indicates how he crossed Kishore Kumar by 1980 again. The example of Binaca Geetmala testifies your claim. Thanks for such good article.

    1. I am glad you liked the above article on Rafi Sahaab. Thanks Bhaskar.

  4. Great article and a tribute to the legend. Many will come and go. Rafi will remain alive in our lives and generations to come. Such a great name and sublime personality. May Allah bless him with highest place in jannah and forgive his sins. Amen