Though Mohammed Rafi Sahaab began his playback singing career way back in 1941 (Gul Baloch) the system of conferring awards to film industry artistes had not been devised. It was only in 1954 that the Filmfare Awards (then called Clare’s award after a promiment film critic) came to be instituted, and were to be given to honour and encourage artistes for outstanding performance in the films that had been released the previous years. There were just five categories: Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Music Director. The best playback singer award was instituted 1959 onwards but for a single category of male OR female singer. It was during this single-award phase that Rafi Sahaab won the Best Singer Awards for the years 1960, 1961 and 1964. From 1966 onwards the Filmfare Awards were further enhanced to include both the categories, i.e. Male and Female Singer Awards. Thus Rafi Sahaab won the Awards in 1966, 1968 and 1977. He was nominated as many as 21 times. Strangely, he was not even nominated for 1959 Awards. They had conveniently forgotten the monumental ..tuu Hindu baneNgaa naa Musalmaan baneNgaa… from Dhool ka Phool. Then, according to a minority opinion certain common error has crept in regarding Rafi Sahaab’s Award-winning number for the year 1968. He had won it for maiN gaauun tum so jaao.. (see clippings with the photo) and not for ..dil ke jharoke meN… Indeed that lullaby assures us a peaceful sleep, making us ready for the morrow with an everlasting hope of a better world. It is noteworthy that Rafi Sahaab won all the three nominations that year – a feat which would be repeated in 1980, the last year of his life, when he was nominated for 1. Maine poochhaa chaand se; 2. Mere dost qissa yeh kyaa ho gayaa; and 3. Dard-e-dil dard-e-jigar… They were the best songs of 1980. It is a little surprising, therefore, that neither one of the three got the Filmfare Award.
Lastly, it goes without saying that had the Filmfare Best Singer Awards been instituted in 1953 itself, Rafi Sahaab would have won many more Awards. Who can forget his duniya ke rakh waale … and mann taRpat hari darshan ko aaj…. in Baiju Bawra (1953)! Or O duur ke musaafir from Uran Khatola (1954); daulat ke jhooTe nashe meN ho choor from Unchi Haveli (1955); maine chaand aur sitaaroN kee tamanna kee theeh from Chandrakanta (1956) and for the same year duniya naa bhaaye mohe from Basant Bahaar; and yeh duniya agar mil bhee jaaye toh kyaa hai from Pyaasa (1957)!
Yes, we have restricted ourselves only to the Filmfare Awards and not the other Awards such as the National Film Awards that Rafi Sahaab won in 1964, 1966, 1967, and 1977; the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards in 1957 (Tumsa Nahin Dekha), 1965 (Dosti) and 1966 (Arzoo); Sur Sringar Award for Chitralekha in 1964, among other Awards. In 1974 he was awarded the World Film Magazine Best Singer Award for his song in Hawas: teree galiyoN meN naa rakkhenge qadam… In 2001, Mohammed Rafi Sahaab was honoured with the Best Singer of the Millennium Award by Hero Honda and Stardust Magazine. In 2013, Rafi Sahaab won the CNN/IBN poll for the Greatest Voice in Hindi Cinema. From the world of Hindi Cinema released between 1940-2010, Rafi’s bahaaroN phool barsaao from Suraj (1966) was voted the Best Song from a list of top 100 songs by the BBC Asian Network.
We all know that the young Rafi was honoured with the Silver Medal by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on the First Anniversary of Indian Independence Day. In 1965 he was conferred the Padma Shri Award by the Government of India. No other playback singer had bagged that Award before. The list of Awards and Achievements of Rafi Sahaab both as the Singer and an exceptionally good human being is very long and cannot be discussed in this short article. There have been appeals to the Government of India to confer the Bharat Ratna Award on the Legendary Rafi Sahaab and our FB friend, Sanjeev Dixit, is at the forefront in organizing such events and writing appeals. Indeed, it is high time for the Government to look into Rafi Sahaab’s considerable contribution to the world of cinema and entertainment.
As I had once said somewhere that value of Rafi Sahaab’s singing prowess can only be evident to those who have climbed up the higher wrung of musical appreciation. The higher one goes, the better and positive impression one gets about Rafi Sahaab. This is the reason why Manna Dey, a great playback singer himself, lost no opportunity in praising his colleague whether in his book or on the stage whenever he was asked about Rafi Sahaab. The Legendary Yesudas and Balasubramanium too have spoken very highly about Rafi Sahaab. As for the millions of Rafi Sahaab’s fans, we instinctively love his songs so that successive generations are being mesmerized by his divine voice - which explains his popularity even after 36 years of his sad demise.
Today, I have posted in YOU’RE A THEME FOR MY DREAM RAFI SAHAAB some 22 of the choicest songs for your listening pleasure. Do visit the group in FB.