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How fair were they to Mohammed Rafi?

August 23, 2006
Here is where the Kishore Kumar factor intervened for Rafi to be able to win the Filmfare prize, again, only in 1977 -- ironically for R D Burman's Kyaa Huaa Teraa Waadaa in Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin. I recall Pancham, in his Santa Cruz music room, pointedly telling me that he never really cared for Rafi. So did Anil Biswas and C Ramchandra, at times even Salil Chowdhury, not vibe with Rafi. Still these master composers were 'the Rafi exceptions'.

Such was this tenor's Lata-matching dominance, through 1959 to 1969, that even Kishore-rediscoverer S D Burman firmly pitched for Rafi --- on Dev Anand, if you please --- with the 1958 Kala Paniclassic, Hum Bekhudi Mein (set in Chhayanat).

A baton-wielding Dada Burman was even viewed to pat Rafi on the back as that singer put over this SD gem at Bombay's premier hockey ground facing Marine Drive!

Indeed SD had originally wanted Rafi for that Raag Sindhura Talat Mahmood nugget on Sunil Dutt, Jalte Hain Jis Ke Liye, in Bimal Roy's Sujata (1959).

Take the same S D Burman's Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen Ashok Kumar starrer as the Bhairav-Bhairavi clincher in the matter. In this 1963 Ashok Kumar-Asha Parekh movie, all talk still is about the way Manna Dey gave measured emotional expression to Puchcho Na Kaise (in Ahir Bhairav). But, in a sense, no less testing to render, in the same film, is SD's Naache Man Mora Magan Tig Da Dheegee Dheegee. If only because Rafi here has to keep Bhairavi pace with the virtuoso tabla of Samta Prasad (in my view, a wizard even superior to Alla Rakha).

In fact, Dada Burman had all but settled for Rafi, as his main singer, when Aradhana happened. The supreme irony here lay in the fact that, even in Aradhana, Rafi had been Dada's first choice, as playback, for Rajesh Khanna!

As should be manifest from the fact that the first two duets recorded for the film, Baaghon Mein Bahaar Hai and Gunguna Rahen Hain Bhanwre, are in the caressing voice of Rafi.

Lucklessly for Rafi, after these two recordings, S D Burman fell seriously ill. That left the field free for R D Burman -- as Dada's chief assistant still. Never a Rafi votary, Pancham promptly brought in Roop Teraa Mastana Kishore Kumar on Rajesh Khanna (opposite Sharmila Tagore) in Aradhana. The rest is song history!

Also Read: 'My dad Rafisaab did get his due'

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