As I pen down my thoughts, I try hard to remember the first time I truly fell in love with that voice. I went for a walk, I climbed the highest mountains… I even stood under the shower, getting drenched under the cold pouring water but of no use. I just cannot recall. But I won’t be flogged in open for this nor will I be summoned to court. What matters is the truth. Who is the greatest Indian playback singer? The answer still remains Mohammed Rafi. It is so difficult to precisely state the one thing about his voice which clicks with your soul. Exactly 33 years earlier, on July 31, 1980, Rafi left for the heavenly abode due to heart attack. We bring back some memories of his soulful voice…
THE REASONS FOR HIS GREATNESS
The process towards finding the perfect reason for liking Rafi is yet not been found. Calling his honey-dipped and naturally romantic voice as God’s gift to mankind would be an understatement. What made it more impressive was that it was a well-trained voice. It just made Rafi sound better. There is not an iota of lie when I say that Rafi could just about sing any song and make it more refined than what the music director could have probably imagined. For example, though RD Burman (Pancham) favoured Kishore Kumar, no one can deny that his songs in Teesri Manzil achieved dizzy heights only thanks to the spunk put in by Rafi. Senior Burman, SD, favoured Rafi and they were made for each other. He became the voice of Shammi Kapoor.
Rafi could just about sing any number which you thought was impossible for him. You want a romantic song to woo your love and you have Bahaaron Phool Barsao or Teri Pyari Pyari Soorat Ko Kisi Ki Nazar Na Lage. For the romantic yet teasing song, croon Bagon Mein Bahaar Hain. The madcap love song gets better in Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe… and the fun song for Mehmood – Hum Kale Hain Toh Kya Hua Dilwale Hai.
RAFI VERSUS KISHORE
You like sweet, I like sour. You think Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ showed Indian poverty to the West, while I think it was actually ‘The Song of the Little Road’ – just like its name. The point is people might differ on who or what they consider good or bad. The battle between who was a bigger singer, Rafi or Kishore Kumar, has been going on for decades. But without taking any credit from Kishore, who happens to another favourite of mine, even he could not achieve half of what Rafi could achieve. Songs by Kishore had shades of popular. Experiments did come his way with songs like Badi Sooni Sooni Hai (Milli). On the other hand, Rafi’s kitty had numbers ranging from classical (Baijju Bawra) to typically bubbly numbers (Teesri Manzil). No wonder, even Kishore considered Rafi a better singer who could not be touched by anyone. This is what one could call true sportsmanship.
MY FAVOURITE RAFI NUMBERS
My personal top favourite is Hum Bekhudi Mein from Kala Pani. The meaningful lyrics and soothing music make you stop and listen. Pyaasa became a masterpiece also due to some fabulous music by SD Burman. Three of the film’s songs became my Rafi favourites, Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein, Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par and Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye Toh Kya Hai. Later, came the much-talked about ‘Kagaaz Ke Phool’ and the song Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari became the masterstroke to define the film’s theme. You pranced around with Dev Anand in Dil Ka Bhanwar (Tere Ghar Ke Samne) while your feet just move with Aaiya Aaiya Karu Mein Kya Suku Suku (Junglee).
There is a philosophical touch to Din Dhal Jaaye (Guide), while two songs from Kashmir Ki Kali – Deewana Hua Badal and Hai Duniya Usiki – showcased how versatile Rafi could be. My personal favourites also happen to be from Rishi Kapoor-Ranjeeta starrer ‘Laila Majnu’ – Tere Dar Par Aaye Hai and Iss Reshmi Paazeb Ki Jhankar. Both were filled with the different sides of love – one despair while the other discovery. I loved Kya Hua Tera Wada (Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin) for popularity sake while Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho (Hanste Zakhm) was for drinking down that romantic emotions which hits you once in a blue moon. Do listen to his Konkani song Maria, if you want to really talk about his reach throughout India. And how can we forget Mein Zindagi Ka Saath from Hum Dono?
Despite the fact that he was overshadowed by Kishore at the end of the 60s and throughout the 70s, till his death, Rafi still remained on the top. I would like to end with the song where Rafi defined the world and its attitude the best – Yeh Duniya Jahaan Aadmi Kuch Nahi Hai, Wafa Kuch Nahi, Dosti Kuch Nahi Hai, Yahaan Pyaar Ki Qadr Hi Kuch Nahi Hai,Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To Kya Hai. He just gave and never expected anything in return.
Photo Credits: www.indoscopy.com, krazzycollections.blogspot.com, mrandmrs55.com, anuradhawarrier.blogspot.com, soundcloud.com and huesofsanity.blogspot.com