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Discerning Few : Rafi Sings For Bachchan

Today is Rafi’s 29th death anniversary. Hope his soul is in peace.

na fankaar tujh sa tere baad aya
mohammed rafi tu bahut yaad aya

– A song from movie Kroadh

Just the other day I was watching the song and something struck me. I felt that the song was ironical in so many ways. Although its a tribute to Rafi Saab, it was sung by Md.Aziz, a so-called Rafi clone, whose voice is such a far cry from the soothing and melodious voice of Rafi. And the fact that the song was filmed on Amitabh Bachchan, whereas Rafi hardly sang a dozen songs for him.

That got me thinking of all the songs which Rafi Saab rendered for AB. Among the pearls of Kishore da songs, I really had to try hard to find the gems that Rafi had sung. And quite truly I found very few of those. I still wonder why the legendary singer was given such few songs to sing for the megastar. While I do agree that Kishore had become the defacto voice for AB, but you still had Mukesh singing for him in Kabhi Kabhie, Manhar Udhas sang a song in Abhimaan, Shabbir Kumar sang a dozen of them during the mid-1980’s in movies like Coolie and Mard, Md.Aziz sang for him in Khuda Gawah and more, Kumar Sanu gave us a nasal AB in Jaadugar and Geraftar; then why did music composers of 1970’s not give more songs to Rafi Saab? Anyways, instead of cribbing about what did-not and could-not happen, let us just enjoy whatever little that’s available of this actor-singer combination.

While I was making a quick list of the songs, much to my surprise I found that Manmohan Desai was the only director who got Rafi Saab to record for a lot of those BigB songs. And invariably, Laxmikant-Pyarelal was the music composer for the Desai flicks like Desh Premee, Naseeb and Suhaag. In fact, even outside of Manmohan Desai films, LP made use of Rafi’s tones for Dostana and Ek Nazar.

Let me start with one of the most melodious duets of Indian cinema, Teri Bindiya Re, what a composition it is! Everytime I hear it, I go into a wonderland of my own dream sequence. Lata-Rafi, at their very best, just take us back to the basics of classical training; and without straining a single chord deliver such fantastic melody. SD Burman, the music director who made this possible, should be given huge credit for this evergreen song. I only wish that Majrooh Saab had written a few more stanzas so that Lata-Rafi could cast a longer spell of magic. Why the hell is this song so short? Under 4 minutes! Ok, here I go cribbing again….forget it. Let me enjoy, thanking God for those little mercies that the song still exists in the hearts and minds of people.

Another Lata-Rafi duet, which did not get much airtime because the movie did not do well, was the song Patta Patta Boota Boota from the movie Ek Nazar. It was a LP composition, much in sync with the movie but not with the times that were. Its a forgotten song which comes up only when people talk about Mir’s poetry and/or Rafi’s voice and the effortless rendition. What a fine song, and it does not look odd on Bachchan’s persona either.

Let me stepback for a minute, one of the first songs which Rafi sang for BigB was for the movie Parwana and the song was Yu Na Sharma . Madan Mohan was the music composer and the situation was party-like where Kishore da sang the happy version of the song picturized on Navin Nischol. The same song is later sung in a sad version by Rafi for AB. The mood changes, the flavor changes, the voice changes, face changes but the melody remains. AB’s sullen expression and Rafi’s tones of dismay makes for such a beautfiul watch.

Another somber song which Rafi rendered wonderfully for AB was Mere Dost Kissa Ye Kya ho Gaya in Dostana. The strained relationship between AB and Shatru is brought out so well in this song. A restrained Rafi and a clean-shaven, boyish hair-cut and yet a grave-looking Bachchan was a treat. There is so much emotion in those words sung by Rafi and the expression on AB’s face is just unforgettable. In fact, except for this song, all other songs of Dostana were sung by Kishore da; including the title song, Dillagi Ne Di Hawa etc. And yet, for this song LP chose Rafi who did total justice to this gloomy song.

Having mentioned the above songs, let me now come to the Manmohan Desai and LP combo. Desh Premee was quite a long winded movie with so many twists and turns, typical of any Desai movie. The movie was based on patriotism, regional, caste, creed and racial differences. Kishore da sang the fun songs Khatoon Ki Khidmat Mei, Gore Nahi Hum Kaale Sahi etc. But it was Rafi’s song of unity in diversity that won hearts. The title song, Nafrat Ki Lathi Todo, was symbolic of Desai’s movies. Though this song may not count among best of Rafi songs, but its the perfect song for national integration. And keeping in tradition with all the patriotic songs that Rafi has sung.

Teri Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi song, which later gave the title to Adi Chopra’s movie, was sung by Rafi for another Desai movie Suhaag, with music by LP. BigB in the disguise of a ek tara strung sardar and Rekha behind the garb for almost the entire song could have spelt disaster. But AB and Rekha carried it off, with Rafi crooning this playful number and Shailendra Singh lyrically rebutting him.

Another song from the same movie was the dandiya number, Sabse Bada Tera Naam O Sherowali, was devotionally sung by Rafi. Much later, Mehul Kumar copied the same sequence in Krantiveer, where the hero sings for Maa Sherawali while waiting for the villain to arrive on the scene. Anyways, Suhaag was an exceptional case where Rafi sang entirely for AB. There were two other songs, Athra Baras Ki Tu Hone Ko Ayi filmed on AB and Rekha in her kotha; and Aye Yaar Sun was a silly song where AB was training a blind Shashi Kapoor to ride a bike on his instructions, basically AB literally doing a backseat driving. Nowhere in the movie do we feel that Rafi’s voice does not suit BigB, at least this movie should have opened more doors for this combo. But probably the box-office report and producer’s superstition held them back from doing so.

Betwixt Desh Premee and Suhaag came Desai’s Naseeb. And much before the Hey-Baby’s and the Om-Shanti-Oms, there was John Jaani Janardhan. A star-studded song which was opportunistically filmed during the golden jubilee celebrations of Desai’s Dharam Veer. Desai made the best of the situation by shooting the song as guests kept coming in; they swayed a little, lip-synced a little and the song created history. This was another song which is a symbol of Desai’s secular credentials and all-inclusive approach. And Rafi singing to the tunes of LP was icing on the cake. He gave the song the much required gaiety and enjoyment without missing a single beat. It was one of the more overtly commercial songs of Rafi that went very well with AB’s merriment.

I would like to mention two more songs which were not sung for AB, but nevertheless AB was the proxy of the voice. The song was filmed on unknown faces, but the thoughts and feelings were of AB. One of the song is Deewane Hain Deewano Ko Na Ghar Chahiye from Zanjeer which reflected AB’s thoughts in the movie; and the other is Ruthe Rab Ko Manana Asaan Hai from Majboor. Both songs were sung with great enthusiasm by Rafi Saab, although they were not to be shot on the main lead. That goes on to show the humility of this man who valued the song for what they were, nice compositions.

Amidst all these amusement let me not forget one of my favourite romantic songs of Rafi which also happens to be picturized on AB, which is Tumse Door Rehke. The movie was Aadalat and the music composer was Kalyanji-Anandji, perhaps the only time that the duo got Rafi to sing for AB. The song has such a nice ring to it, filled with fondness and yearning and the magic of Rafi’s voice and expression.

Although Kishore da has sung more songs of AB, memorable ones too, I cherish these Rafi tracks as well. These songs should not be lost in the vast ocean of AB songs.

This post was first published on PFC

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2009 in bollywood, movies

 

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Prakash Mehra – Rote Huye Aate Hain Sab, Hasta Hua Jo Jayega

Location – Railway Station
Scene-1, Take-1:

A disappointed youngman, totally down and out, failed in his endeavours and wishing to return home, is about to board a train. That’s when a small time director, with a bit of success, appraoches the youngman and advices him to stay on; asks him to be positive and not just that, he also offers him a role in his next upcoming movie. The youngman shows faith in the director and decides to give it one last shot. The movie is made, goes on to become a super-duper hit, the youngman eventually carves a place for himself in the annals of history; and as usual, the director who gave the country an angry-youngman, dies in oldage with lot less than deserved or credited for.

The scene may not have played out as was written above, but that’s how the legend has it. The youngman was none other than Amitabh Bachchan, the one-man-industry; the movie was Zanjeer and the director was Prakash Mehra. Prakash Mehra passed away today in illness, and its a big loss to the film industry.

Let’s just re-play his life, his achievments, his dreams, his movies and his success story. Mehra started out as a production controller, in the late 1950′s, with movies like Ujala which came in 1959 and Professor in 1962. He graduated to become the assisstant director of Majboor in 1964, starring Biswajeet and Waheeda Rehman. His moment finally arrived in 1968, when he turned director with Haseena Maan Jayegi which starred Babita and Shashi Kapoor in a double role. The movie had a decent story with war as a dropback, where one look-alike replaces another, in an inconvenient manner. It has a murder suspense, an emotional drama with Babita playing the wife who is faced with the dilemma of probably living with a man who may not ber her husband, but a look-alike. The movie had two lovely songs, Kabhi Raat Din Hum Door The and Bekhudi Mei Sanam. The film was a good directorial debut and it did very well at the BO, giving much confidence to Mehra.

His next movie as a director came 3 years later, in 1971. Mehra got an opportunity to direct both the Khan brothers together, Feroz and Sanjay, in Mela which released in 1971. The movie was set in a village and we see here the seeds of a typical masala potboiler, which later became his forte, where 3 men revolt against the current panchayat setup of the village. All the characters in the movie were diverse – a man from a lower caste wishing to marry a brahmin girl, an orphan who is brought up by a muslim woman, a daaku who will not allow any women from the village to tie the nuptial knots because the thakurs had raped and killed his sweetheart. The orphan was played by Sanjay and Feroz played the disgruntled daaku, and added to this is the twist of the lost-and-found saga where 20 years back Feroz had lost his sibling in a fair. Mehra probably hit the winning formula with this movie, with a great mix of characters, secular touch, cast/class barriers and the lost-found story. The movie was well received at the BO.

Before Mehra turned producer with Zanjeer in 1973, he directed a few other movies like Samadhi and Ek Kunwari Ek Kunwara. Neither of the movies did very well, but Samadhi did have one zingy number which later became popular after being remixed, Kanta Laga.

Finally Mehra decided to produce movies and Zanjeer was his first venture. This movie catapulted Amitabh Bachchan to stardom and gave us the man who would go onto become the superstar of the millenium. There is so much to write about this movie, but it may not be possible right here. All I would like to say is that Mehra directed this movie with utmost honesty and it showed. He portrayed actual anger and not just undertones of it, as was seen in movies of 1960′s and 70′s. The manner in which BigB does not let a criminal occupy a seat in the police station, the way in which he displayed smouldering anger when he was jailed on false charges and the way BigB interacted with the anti-elements of the society was brilliant. He did it, without playing to the gallery; he later lost this art.

After the unpredicted success of Zanjeer, Mehra directed Haath Ki Safai in 1974. This was another lost-and-found story where a young Raju is orphaned and separated from his elder brother Shankar. Raju becomes a small time pickpocket while Shankar becomes a don. In what circumstance they meet again, how a stolen necklace brings them together forms the rest of the movie. Randhir Kapoor played Raju and Shankar was played by Vinod Khanna. Mehra, by now, had mastered the art of making such masala movies and as was expected this movie also went on to become a big hit. The song Waada Karle Saajna, from the movie, remains one of the most romantic songs.

Two years later, in 1976, came Hera Pheri starring Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna; the movie was produced by Mehra himself. This was the second time that Mehra directed BigB and Vinod Khanna, but the first time he was directing them together. The movie had a convoluted storyline about two friends who are petty thiefs who have a secret past which leads to familial revenge drama. Although the movie was not good, it rode on the waves of BigB and VK. The movie had lots of comical moments, silly laughs and gags and a few funny songs as well. Mehra handled his stars well, but went over-the-top in all departments.

The success of Hera Pheri prompted Mehra to bring the two stars together again, this time in a new-age Devdas version. The movie was Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, produced and directed by him. The movie was mediocre at best, but no one notices the flaw when the package is this good. Mehra roped in Amjad Khan, Rekha and Rakhi; and added his twists to the story. Rekha played out Chandramukhi while Rakhi was happy playing Paro; the twist was that both of them had admirers. Vinod Khanna was the love interest of Paro, who pulls her out of BigB’s space of affection and love. Amjad Khan was the local goon who likes Chandramukhi, so you must have understood that BigB was the sulking Devdas. The movie had some beautiful songs like O Saathi Re, Salaam-e-Ishq and the title song; all set to tunes by Kalyanji-Anandji. The movie did whopping business, cemented BigB’s position in the industry and turned Mehra into a director with golden touch.

Mehra and BigB went on to give 3 more blockbusters to the industry; Laawaris in 1981, Namak Halaal in 1982 and Sharaabi in 1984. Although, all these movies did wonderfully well at BO, they lacked a sense of script and drama. Namak Halaal had a myraid of comical scenes scattered throughout the movie – the party scene [totally inspired by Peter Seller’s movie The Party], the interview scene about cricket commentary, the dinner table scene with the fly and of course the drunk scene. It was BigB’s performance that pulled in the crowds, enthused the movie-goers. Mehra should be given the credit for taking the best out of BigB, tapping his emotional and comical talent to great effect.

Sharaabi was a movie inspired by Arthur, but the movie succeeded due to BigB’s brilliant portrayal of a drunk yet happy and graceful man who is out to help the needy. His emotional detachment with his father, how he drowns himself in alcohol and desires no part of his father’s wealth went very well with the audience. They laughed, they cried, they sympathised with him and loved him so much that they made the movie a huge success by watching it again and again. Similarly, in Laawaris too, the audience sympathised with BigB and totally understood his angst. Mehra could literally feel the pulse of the fans and the normal movie watchers, and showed Amitabh Bachchan in all those roles which would appeal to them. All three movies lacked a sense of purpose, was not good cinema but just entertainers which went on to do well only because BigB starred in them. Mehra directed these movies which were totally over-the-top, but credit must go to BigB for carrying-off these mediocre roles with such panache.

Another thing that went in Mehra’s favour was the music of the movies. All the movies had songs that are sung to this day – Pag Ghungroo Baandh, Raat Baaki, Aaj Rapat Jaye, Jahan Char Yaar, De De Pyar De, Inteha Ho Gayi Intezar Ki, Kabke Bichhde, Mere Angne Mei and many more. All these songs were picturized well and BigB came to the forefront as a true entertainer.

In 1989, Mehra directed BigB for the last time in Jaadugar. The movie was weak in all departments, the script was bad, the dialogues were plain, setup was horrible and everything about it had ‘flop’ written all over it. But BigB did the movie in good faith, never ever questioning his directors. The movie tried to portray him as a messiah of sorts, and BigB’s get-up was matched up to resemble Jesus and so were the long drawn sermons. Only a die-hard fan of Amitabh can sit through the movie, and I have not just sat through it but have watched it quite a few times.

The last directorial venture of Mehra came in 1996, Bal Bramhachari which was the debut movie of Rajkumar’s son Puru Rajkumar and co-starring Karishma Kapoor. The movie was a non-starter at the BO, and Puru could never really recover from his bad debut.

Nevertheless, Mehra’s contribution in the industry is immense. He will be remembered for the great association he had with Amitabh Bachchan and the way they enthralled the audience for a decade. He will be remembered for giving Alka Yagnik her singing debut in Mere Angne Mei and for the fantastic antics of BigB in that song penned by his father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan. He will be remembered as a man with a big heart, who made movies king-size, conjured up images that audience would not just relate to but also lap it up. He will be remembered everytime we play out those funny sequences from Namak Halaal and Sharaabi, everytime BigB delivers the emotional lines from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar and everytime a police station scene is shot. He will be remembered as a great entertainer who gave us BigB.

zindagi to bewafa hai, ek din thukrayegi
maut mehbooba hai apne saath lekar jayegi
mar ke jeene ki ada jo duniya ko dikhlayega
wo muqaddar ka sikandar jaaneman kehlayega

May his soul rest in peace.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2009 in bollywood, movies

 

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