Last week, a Bangladeshi musician claimed that Mohammad Rafi was not given his rightful due in India. In a week-long series rediff.com finds out if
the great Rafisaab was indeed ignored by the Hindi film industry and the government.
Today: Raju Bharatan, doyen of India's film journalists, salutes a legend.
It happened at the height of the Rajesh Khanna wave --- in the
after-1970 Aradhana glow when Mohammed Rafi's confidence
was at its lowest ebb. The Mohammed Rafi who had sung, for
Naushad, a total of 149 songs (81 of them solo) through 35 years.
That ace composer had heard about how sheer nonentities, in the
recording room, had begun dictating to Mohammad Rafi.
small-time composer's Rafi recording, therefore, Naushad quietly
slipped into the sound recordist's booth at Mehboob Studios in the
Bandra suburb of Bombay. As he sat through the recording, Naushad
felt aghast to find striplings, in the recording room, telling a
stalwart like Rafi how to sing.
Whereupon Naushad discreetly moved out, leaving word that his pet
performer should call on him, without fail, at his
Ashiana Bandra home -- on the singer's way back to
Rafi Villa after the recording.
As Rafi entered his mentor-composer's home, Naushad first took him
severely to task. The burden of the Naushad song -- "Who are these
people to tell Mohammed Rafi what to do? Isn't Rafi too trained a
performer to submit to anyone but the song composer?"
Having heard out his benefactor, Rafi explained to Naushad in
detail how, through three years, they had sapped his will to
perform -- as his own man. Naushad's counter to that -- "Never
ever forget that you are Mohammed Rafi, a performer whose
seasoning, by now, far exceeds that of any male singer in the
industry. Always remember, Rafi that the singer you identify as
your rival, now, has no classical background at all. So how
possibly could he be competition to you, Rafi? Go back, confident
like before, to the recording room. Just sing like my Rafi always
Having said that, having identified Kishore Kumar as no classical
competition to Rafi, Naushad instinctively realised that something
more tangible had to be done to restore to Rafi his known niche in
our song lexicon.
To this end, Naushad hurried with a recording due for My
Friend (1974) and summoned Rafi, for a song-rehearsal, for
that film. For a solo cast in the Naushadian Bhairavi mould. As
Naushad thus put Rafi through his performing paces afresh, for the
My Friend Bhairavi classic going as Naiyaa Meree
Chaltee Jaaye Sahare Tere Badhte Jaaye, Rafi instinctively
regained performing poise.
Almost concurrent with that happening came the Film World
magazine awards and Rafi, here, was very much in the running for
the Best Singer citation. Bombay's Shanmukhananda Hall was
jampacked that serene evening as it came to be announced that
Mohammed Rafi had been voted Best Singer for his empathetic
rendition of Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke
Baad -- as written by Saawan Kumar and tuned by Usha Khanna
to go on Anil Dhawan in Hawas. The moment -- to the
backdrop of the Teree Galiyon Mein number playing --
Mohammed Rafi was pronounced the winner, this singer, in walking
up to the stage, was a man metamorphosed.
All of Rafi's shaken singing confidence thus returned in one
stroke --- it was his first award in years. The same Mohammed Rafi
who had made it a habit of bagging the prestigious
Filmfare Best Male Singer award every other year.
had won it for Ravi's Pahadi beauty on Guru Dutt, Chaudhvin Ka
Chand Ho (Chaudhvin Ka Chand), in 1960. For
Jaikishan's Teri Pyaari Pyaari Soorat Ko on Rajendra
Kumar (wooing Byrappa Saroja Devi) in Sasural (1961). For
Laxmikant-Pyarelal's 1964 DostiChahunga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere. For
Jaikishan's Bahaaron Phool Barsaao on Rajendra Kumar in
Suraj (1966). For Shanker's Main Gaaon Tum So
Jaao on Shammi Kapoor playing Brahmachari (1968).
Also Read: Did Rafi get his due?