The Glory of Muhammad Rafi.
Muhammad Rafi was born in Amritsar. He later moved to Lahore where his father ran a men's salon. The talent in Rafi was spotted by his elder brother's friend, Abdul Hameed, who persuaded the family to let Rafi move to Mumbai (Bombay then) in 1944. He sang a K.L Saigol song in his first public appearance at the age of 13 in Lahore. Rafi also appeared in two films. He was initially influenced by the singers of that era, notably K.L Saigol and C.M Durrani. With the latter he sang a few duets too.
The Rafi-Naushad team was a superhit as it produced songs for films all the way from Baiju Bawara to Mere Mehboob. S.D Burman perfected Rafi as the singing voice of Dev Anand and Guru Dutt. Rafi also enjoyed great personal and professional rapport with Shankar Jaikishan (Junglee, Suraj, etc.), Ravi (Chawdveen ka Chand, Neel Kamal), Madan Mohan, partnership that led to such classics as Teri ankhon ke siwa', yeh dunya yeh mehfil' and tum jo mil gaye ho'. O.P. Nayyar was once quoted as saying, If there had been no Rafi, there would have been no O.P. Nayyar." The Rafi-OP songs in films like Naya Daur (1957), Tumsa Nahi Dehka (1957) and Kashmir Ki Kali, were all-time Binaca Geet Mala hits.
Rafi sahib's voice had amazing versatility. He changed the tonality, sound, bass and rhythm to suit the requirements. He made a special effort to ensure that his voice suited the on-screen actor. For Rajendar Kumar there were such melodious hits, Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam' (Mere Mehboob) or the Filmfare award winning song from Sooraj, Baharon phool barasao mera mehboob..' Rafi's sweet tone and clear voice matched the typical line delivery of Dilip Kumar for whom he sang several hit songs ranging from Maang ke saath tumhara' (Naya Daur) to Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salaami le le..' (Ram aur Shayam). Rafi very ably used to change his mellow and smooth voice to suit Shami Kapoor's boisterousness. Whether it was Yahoo! chahe koi mujhe jungle kahe' (Junglee) or Aasman se aaya farishta' (An Evening in Paris), for the audience it Shami Kapoor singing!
Muhammad Rafi was naturally endowed with musicality and melodic innovation. For Dev Anand he sang very differently. Amongst the many, the most popular songs were Tu kahan ye bata'. (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne), Din dhal jaye (Guide), Hum bekhudi mai tum ko pukare chale.' (Kala Pani) and the most lilting, Tere mere sapne' (Guide).
Guru Dutt's first choice for male playback singing for himself and for his movies was only Rafi sahib. Chawdween ka chand ho' is still sung by the young and old. Rafi's numbers in CID (Ankhon hi ankhon mai ishara ho gaya) or in Mr. and Mrs. 55 (Keh do jee keh do is dil mein.) were tremendous hits of that era.
Lata recalls in many of her interviews of how her misunderstanding with Rafi sahib developed, ultimately leading to their not singing together for a good three years. "Talat sahib, Mukesh bhaiya and I used to discuss this issue of royalty. All of us agreed that today our voices are in top form and money keeps rolling in but who can predict what is in store for us tomorrow" Lata says.
The recording companies reacted against this ganging up of singers. Some agreed to pay, some flatly refused. They approached Rafi sahib and persuaded him not to join the bandwagon. Lata tried her best to prevail upon Rafi but in vain. Much later, Lata said in an interview, One day, Mukesh Bhaiya took me for a drive in his car and explained everything. He said that while Rafi sahib was a well meaning soul - he did what he said and said what he did - but some others were a bunch of two-timing squealers who readily agreed with us and then quietly slinked away for a recording behind our backs. Thus an effort was made to create two factions in our association and it even succeeded. The result was that music lovers were denied three long years of duets by the two geniuses.
Following rapprochement, Lata and Rafi thumped back in 1964 with Jo wada kya who nibhana pareyga' in Taj Mahal. What a success this lilting number was! Lata's poignant gesture to the memory of Rafi sahib was that in every program she appeared after his fading away, she would sing this song in his memory. Lata has sung the highest number of duets with Rafi sahib, 440 in all, followed by Kishore Kumar which are only 327.
In search of Lata Mangheskar'- a biography by Hirish Bhimani, the writer, speaking of Rafi Sahib, remarks, "Rafi- a humble, God-fearing, family loving man.. Rafi associated well with his contemporaries, singing duets or singing for them. It is believed that after several failed retakes by Kishore Kumar of the song Ajab hai daastan teri aye zindagi..' the song was given to Rafi at the behest of Kishore, who remarked, Rafi sahib will sing this one better than me.' Similarly, he sang with many contemporaries like Talat, Manna Dey and Mukesh.
The mellifluous, euphonious, musical, sweet and dulcet voice of Rafi was used by a galaxy of renowned musicians and composers like Shankar-Jaikishan, O.P Nayyar, Naushad, Lakshmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandji, S.D and R.D Burman, Anil Biswas, Chandergupt and Hemant Kumar. Some of the famous songs of Rafi are, Din dhal jaye raat na aye (Guide), Suhani raat dhal chukee (Dulari), Le ke pehle pehle pyar (CID) , Likhe jo khat tujhe' (Kanyadaan) Ye ankhen uff yumma..' (Jab pyar kisi se hota hai) and of course the classical (although he wasn't trained in classical music) Madhuban mai Radhika nache re..' filmed on Dilip Kumar in the film, Kohinoor.' The duet with Lata, Do sitaron ka zameen par hai milan aaj ki raat..' is a rare gem of Indian film music.
Many of his songs became a signature for the actors he sang for like Chalkaye jaam' (Dharmendra), Yahoo, Chahe koi mujhe, (Shammi Kapoor), Likhe jo khat tujhe' (Shashi Kapoor) and Aane se uske aaye bahar' (Jitendra). Rafi earned several awards, including the prestigious Filmfare award' seven times.
When Rajesh Khanna acquired the superhero status in the mid-seventies, he found Kishore's voice more suitable for his screen image. Rafi Sahib went under a cloud but only a few years later, he roared back with songs like Kya hua tera wada' (Hum kisi se kum nahi) , Main ne poocha chand se' on Feroz Khan (Qurbani) or Ye jo chilman hai' He was an amazing singer.
July 31, 1980 - a Thursday night in the holy month of Ramadan, Lata is informed by a journalist that Rafi Sahib has passed away and Lata in a sad tone reacts, What can I say I cannot fathom whether the moon has set in the sky or the sun has set on the horizon of film music'
Whatever it is, Rafi Sahib wherever you are, to quote from the same melodious number, Chawdhween ka chaand ho ya aftaab hojo bhi ho tum khuda ki qasam lajawab ho' You are and you were lajawab.