Rafi, following the sensational turn his career took, with his
emerging as the classical voice of Bharat Bhooshan with Naushad's
Baiju Bawra (1952), had risen from the ranks on the
humble principle that his claim on the film's maker ended with his
being paid his agreed fee for the song. After that, if the film
proved a hit, good luck to the movie's maker, he was welcome to
keep the Gramco (HMV) royalty he earned from it.
If the song failed to click -- argued Rafi -- he had already been
paid his fee for rendering it, so that the film's maker and he
There was deadly logic in Rafi's reasoning running as: "We
playback artistes don't create the song, we merely re-create it on
the screen, as guided by the music director. We sing, they pay, so
there the commitment of both sides ends."
Rafi was talking robust commonsense, but Lata viewed his stand as
her royalty stumbling block. Lata dramatically said she would no
longer sing with Rafi. Whereupon Rafi, greatly daring, observed
that he, from thereon, was only so keen to sing with Lata as she
was with him. "If Lata is number one, Mohammed Rafi, too, is
number one!" claimed our Trojan in a rare burst of
Rafi perhaps nursed the sneaking feeling that Lata, in reality,
was not prepared to acknowledge his late-earned suzerainty. While
the two, for example, were rendering Tasveer Teri Dil
Mein (to go on Mala Sinha-Dev Anand in Maya: 1961),
Lata had even lost her cool with Rafi in a certain passage of the
Rafi here felt belittled upon seeing Salil Chowdhury siding with
Lata. Certain composers were not all out for Rafi and Lata knew
it. Yet just hear, afresh, Tasveer Teri Dil Mein and you
just cannot tell where Rafi is anything less than Lata.
For years after that royalty ruckus, therefore, Lata-Rafi refused
to compose their dueting differences. Even when they finally made
up, it was only a professional reunion. After all, why let
Mahendra Kapoor and Suman Kalyanpur advance further, when
producers still wanted Lata-Rafi as the supremo duo?
Do always remember that, even in the case of a Son Of India
Naushad duet (in Yaman) like Dil Tod Ne Waale (1962),
Ae Dil Ke Sahare Rafi had to be paid the same Rs 5,000 as
Lata. This is the norm in the industry. Even a line by Rafi in
the duet and the charge became Rs 5,000 for the male -- as for the
female. A payment of Rs 5,000 might sound peanuts today. But it
was a lot of many when colour had still to gain a firm foothold in
the industry. If Lata's price rose to Rs 15,000 for song with
colour taking root in our cinema by 1964-1965, Rafi too now
commanded a matching fee.
Rafi therefore saw no reason to submit to Lata any longer. For
years he had played second fiddle. Now that his hour had come,
Rafi was no longer prepared to undervalue himself. He held firmly
to his royalty conviction and the industry -- especially the big
music-director brigade in it -- was with Rafi! That the same
industry ditched the same Rafi after 1969, in the
post-Aradhana era, is the way of the film world.
line of heroes was taking over from Dilip Kumar and Rajendra
Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Sunil Dutt, even Joy Mukerji was no
longer the box-office talisman he used to be opposite Asha Parekh
or Saira Banu.