Yonder Peaks Beckon

Hello to All & Sundry, Thank you for viewing my blog. I am an itinerant purveyor of good cheer and I dare say, a little bit of erudition. This space is primarily an outlet for me to jot down my rambling thoughts and give my brain a little bit of airing, which it really does need!:) I hope you have a good read! Tallyho!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Mohammed Rafi

The article was publised on rediff but they made a hash of the editing! The rediff article is on http://in.rediff.com/movies/2004/jul/30rafi.htm

The original is below, slightly opinionated but with good reason!

What does one write about the great Mohammed Rafi? I run the risk of penning meaningless platitudes in an attempt to do so. The fact that his mellifluous voice worked wonders for many songs for more than 30 years, that his playback singing enhanced the careers of many a star like Shammi Kapoor, Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet etc. is well known.

In my opinion, Rafi’s ability to generate the complete range of emotions and draw the listener into the song, the mood and the character is unsurpassed - and all this is accomplished without resorting to antics like yodeling. Mukesh had the pathos, Talat the delicate tremor, Kishore, the zany songs as well as the gravitas. Rafi had all the above plus a certain extra, a certain ‘je ne sais quois’ as the French call it.

Just a cursory glance at Rafi’s repertoire shows us his mind boggling versatility. Who else, other than Rafi, could have sing patriotic songs(Kar Chale Ham Fida - Haqeeqat), romantic songs(Aye Husn Zara Jaag – Mere Mehboob), bidai songs (Babul Ki Duwayen – Neel Kamal), melancholy songs (Yaad Na Jaye – Dil Ek Mandir), philosophical songs (Yeh Mahlon Yeh Takhto Yeh Tajon Ki Duniya – Pyasaa), devotional songs(Duniya Na Bhaye – Basant Bahar), classical songs (Nache Man Mora,– Meri Soorat Teri Aankhen) , qawwalis (Na To Karvan Ki Talash – Barsaat Ki Raat) and several other genres with so much fervour and effortless ease.

This effortlessness is perhaps his unique quality. Other than heavy classical songs, I have not heard a Rafi song where he struggles through an octave or to convey the nuance of the song exactly as intended by the lyricist. Indeed, there isn’t a genre of Hindi film music that is not embellished by one or the other Rafi classic.

The 1950s and early1960s were unquestionably the golden age of Hindi Cine Music. The 1950s particularly so because of the simplicity, lightness and melody of the compositions, the great variety infused into music by such diverse composers like Shankar-Jaikishen, S.D.Burman, C.Ramchandra, Anil Biswas, Sajjad Hussain, Madan Mohan, Naushad etc. There were great lyricists and more importantly great lyrics for composers to work on. The great stars of Hindi cinema were too at their peak till about the mid to late 1960s. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that Rafi’s golden age lasted till the replacement of melody by rhythm, the decline of the great composers and more importantly the decline of the great stars that Rafi sang for like Rajendra Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand etc. Kishore Kumar & Rajesh Khanna took India by storm with Aradhana and sadly pushed Rafi into the back row, his few hits in the 1970s for Laila-Majnu, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sargam, Karz etc. notwithstanding.

Some readers may be surprised to find Dev Anand mentioned above. The popular mythology of Hindi Cinema puts forth the view that Kishore Kumar was the voice of Dev Anand. This is disputable. Rafi’s songs for Dev Anand in movies like ‘Nau Do Gyarah’, ‘C.I.D.’, ‘Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai’, ‘Asli Naqli’, ‘Love Marriage’, ‘Gambler, ‘Hum Dono’, ‘Kala Bazaar’, ‘Kala Paani’, ‘Tere Ghar Ke Saamne’, ‘Guide’ etc. are of extremely high quality. Guide, in fact, is a very interesting example from the point of view of comparing Kishore’s and Rafi’s singing for Dev Anand. Kishore has a ‘Gata Rahe Mera Dil’ while Rafi has three solos ‘Din Dhal Jaye’, ‘Tere Mere Sapne’, ‘Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya’. It is interesting to note that S.D.Burman chose Rafi for these 3 pivotal songs in the movie which are also heavy on pathos(din dhal jaye & tere mere sapne) and drama (kya se kya). The songs are at very important points in the film and Rafi’s singing completely outshines Kishore Kumar’s. In fact the quality of Rafi’s work for Dev Anand, in my opinion, far surpasses Kishore Kumar’s even when they sing in the same movie e.g. ‘Guide’ and ‘Nau Do Gyarah’. It would have been very interesting to get S.D.Burman’s views on his choice of either Rafi or Kishore for the Navketan banner.

I became a devoted Rafi fan quite by accident. I was in Class7, I think, when my Father bought a new Phillips cassette player and my brother who was already a Rafi fan bought an HMV cassette with Rafi’s solos. At that time, I was fascinated by Kishore Kumar’s yodeling and his songs for Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. My fascination for Kishore diminished quite rapidly as I listed to Rafi’s gems like ‘Aise To Na Dekho’ (Teen Devian, S.D.Burman), ‘Aaye Bahar Banke Lubha Kar Chale Gaye’ (Rajhath, Shankar-Jaikishen), ‘Hain Duniya Usiki’ (Kashmir Ki Kali, O.P.Nayyar).

Making a list of Rafi’s songs that I like is not a happy proposition. There are literally hundreds of songs of his that I adore. However, years of being a fanatical Rafi fan helped me to discover some real gems in Rafi’s large body of work that are not often heard, yet showcase his remarkable talent and are of exquisite quality. I present below some of my personal favourites.

Song Movie Composer
Tera Husn Rahe Mera Ishq Rahe Do Dil Hemant Kumar
Kabhi Na Kabhi Sharabi Madan Mohan
Yeh Hasrat Thi Nausherwane Adil C.Ramchandra
Karvan Guzar Gaya Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal Roshan
Mohabbat Zinda Rehti Hai Genghis Khan Hansraj Behl
Us Paar Is Deewar Ke Jo Saiyyan Sajjad Hussain
Tujhe Kya Sunaon Main Dilruba Aakhri Dao Madan Mohan
Meri Kahani Bhoolne Wale Deedar Naushad
Kahan Ja Rahe They Love Marriage Shankar Jaikishen
Ham Tum Jise Kehta Hai Kagaz Ke Phool S.D.Burman

For the purists, Mohamed Rafi may not have been the most technically gifted singer. Indeed, many talk about Talat Mehmood, Mukesh and even Kishore Kumar as better singers than Rafi. Without denigrating these other greats, I would invite fellow fans of Hindi Cine music to rediscover Rafi’s versatility. For fans of Kishore’s energetic and bubbly songs, I present a fitting riposte by Rafi. ‘Lal Lal Gaal’ from Mr.X, ‘She Ne Khela He Sey Aaj Cricket Match’ the crazy cricket song from Love Marriage. For fans of Talat Mehmood’s dulcet voice, I present ‘Meri Mehboob Kahi Aur Mila Kar’ from Ghazal and the beautifully picturised ‘Apni To Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai’ from Kala Bazar. Listen to Rafi as he matches, nay surpasses Mukesh’s pathos, in ‘Gham E Hasti Se Bas’ from Vallah Kya Baat Hai and ‘Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par’ from Pyaasa.

During my early years, listening to ‘Chayageet’, ‘Aap Ki Farmaish’ and ‘Bela Ke Phool’ every evening on Vividh Bharati was like a religious ritual. Listening to radio has perhaps nurtured several generations of Hindi Film Music buffs. However, these days, most people of the present generation seem to prefer the pretenders and clones of the great singers of yesteryears as video and form seem to have surpassed content and melody in importance.

Its been 24 long years since that fateful 31st July 1980 when Rafi passed on, leaving behind thousands of songs and millions of mourning listeners. I hope forthcoming generations will have the inclination to savour the richness of Hindi Film Music of the 1950s and early 60’s. Sadly the great music directors, lyricists and singers like Mohammed Rafi have been lost forever. It is like Rafi once sang in Dil Ek Mandir, ‘Jaane Waale Kabhi Nahi Aatey, Jaane Waale Ki Yaad Aati Hai’. There will never be another Rafi, yet his songs will continue to make us smile, laugh, cry, feel sad and experience life in its myriad hues.


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