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