Mohammad Rafi: The Controversy That Troubled the Legend -Part 3
In an otherwise non-controversial career, the row over the payment of royalty is what irked the even-tempered Mohammed Rafi. In the early 60s, Lata Mangeshkar demanded a half-share from the 5% royalty that a film’s producer obtained from the music company. But Rafi did not support her in this argument. A man who continued to be modest about his achievements, Rafi always felt that the playback singer was only re-creating a song and that the credit belongs to the lyricist and the composer. This led to a royal war of words between them prompting Rafi to declare to Lata that he would not sing with her. Lata retorted that she was more than happy not to sing along with him. 
 
The Lata-Rafi spat led to a spate of female singers to their moment of glory, though short-lived, in Bollywood due to Lata’s absence from the scene. Music director Salil Chowdhury was recording the song “Tasveer Teri Dil Mein” for Maya (1961).  Lata ended up quarreling with Rafi over the rendition of a certain passage of the song. Chowdhury took Lata’s side which hurt Rafi. It was music director Jaikishen, who brought them together after almost a decade but things were never the same. The personal rapport that they shared was lost forever.
 
Again, a few years before his death, Rafi contested the claim of Guinness Book of World Records that Lata had recorded the highest number of songs, that is, 25,000 songs. Music aficionados have rubbished this number saying that this is highly exaggerated. But Rafi lost his battle with the Guinness Book.
 
He passed away at 10.25 pm on 31 July 1980 following a massive heart attack. The last film for which he sang was Ramanand Sagar’s Aas Paas (1981) that starred Dharmendra, Hema Malini and Prem Chopra. The film bombed at the box office. 
 
Over 10,000 people attended his burial. It is not clear if Rafi had undergone any preventive health checkups – had he undergone them, he could have lived for some more years – but can you deny that he had literally overworked himself? The government of India announced a two-day public mourning in his honor.
 
 
Lata Mangeshkar, after the singer’s untimely death, profusely praised Mohammed Rafi commenting that the latter’s vocal range was much superior to any other singer. Manmohan Desai likened Rafi’s voice to that of God. Today, Mohammed Rafi has a huge fan following. His songs move his legions of fans.
 
Rafi was fond of playing badminton, carrom and flying kites. His wife Bilquis Bano was his pillar of support throughout. She was completely distraught after he passed away all of a sudden.
 
 
though Rafi accepted the Padma Shri bestowed on him even though many felt that he deserved a Padma Bhushan. Rafi wasn’t too happy when the government of Maharashtra announced 1967 as the year of silver jubilee of Lata Mangeshkar.
 
In hindsight, it appears that Rafi was the only one who took on Lata Mangeshkar even as everyone else cowered under of the clout wielded by Mangeshkar who literally called the shots in Bollywood then.
 
There have been singers like Anwar, Shabbir Kumar and Mohammed Azeez who tried to sing like Rafi. But Rafi himself was astounded that Anwar’s voice matched his. Rather than feeling jealous about it, Rafi encouraged Anwar.
 
Today, Mohammed Rafi has become an icon in Indian film music.  There were certain songs that only Rafi could sing because of his innate nature suffused with humanity and egalitarianism. There were no controversies surrounding him despite the fact that he sang with so many women during that era. Female playback singers doted on him because of his protective nature – he was like a guru, a mentor to them. Usha Timothy, Sudha Malhotra, Kamal Barot, Suman Kalyanpur, Sulakshana Pandit - these female singers shared a great rapport with Mohammed Rafi. Mahendra Kapoor remained his devoted chela mentee till he passed away on 30 September 2008.
 
The Lakshmikant-Pyarelal duo remained forever grateful to Rafi for singing the songs of Dosti and Parasmani – two films that overnight made the composer pair a musical sensation. “Woh Jab Yaad Aaye” and “Chahoonga Main Tujhe” remain eternal favorites among all the music lovers. The love for music transcends all geographical and language barriers and Rafi’s popularity stands testimony to this fact.
 
It has been more than 40 years since Rafi passed away but the very fact that he is still remembered by all his fans across the world speaks volumes about the great singer that he has. But more than that, he was a great human being. This is what makes him so endearing to all of us.
 
(This is the concluding part of a three-part series)
 
 
 
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
 
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    COMMENTS

    prime

    2 days ago

    Thank you Bhagyalakshmi for the great writeup and details. Motivates me to try and see these movies just for the songs.

    Harish C Kohli

    3 days ago

    Please check the last para "It has been more than 40 years since Rafi passed away".

    Mohammad Rafi: ‘Tum Mujhe Yun Bhula Na Paoge’- Part 2
    31st July happens to be the 40th death anniversary of Mohammed Rafi. Here is a look at some of the things not many people may know about the legendary singer, in a three-part series. This is second part of the series.
     
    Did you know that when Rafi was recording “Babul Ki Duayein Leti Jaa” for the film Neelkamal (1968, directed by Ram Maheswari, music by Ravi), he couldn’t control his emotions and broke down? Aptly, he won the national award for this song.
     
     
    The unique relationship that Madan Mohan shared with Lata Mangeshkar is well-known Lata had made Madan her raakhi brother. But Madan Mohan was equally fond of Rafi too.
     
    Some of Madan Mohan’s excellent songs like “Teri Aankhon Ke Siva”, “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil”, “Kar Chale Hum Fida”, “Meri Awaaz Suno” and “Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho” were sung by Rafi.
     
    It is also a strange coincidence that all the three top singers of Bollywood, namely Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and Rafi died of cardiac arrest.
     
    OP Nayyar famously remarked once, “Without Rafi, there is no OP Nayyar.” 
     
    All the musicals that were released between the late 50s and 60s and mostly shot in Kashmir (and often featuring Asha Parekh, Sadhana, Sharmila Tagore etc) had music composed by OP Nayyar, with Rafi lending the vocals for the male lead. 
     
    Sadly, the two had a fallout during the recording of “Sawan Ki Ghata” because Rafi reported late for the recording but the immensely talented and highly egoistic OP Nayyar couldn’t digest this. They did not work together for the next three years but by the early 70s the Nayyar magic had completely waned. His fallout with Asha Bhosale made matters worse for him.
     
    The songs of Parasmani (1963) and Dosti (1964) were immortalised by Rafi’s voice. Lakshmikant Pyarelal hit paydirt with the music that they composed for these songs. The music director duo had humble beginnings in Bollywood as music assistants and arrangers but no one could stop their talent from rising. Unlike the eccentric Kishore Kumar who would do anything to recover his dues, Rafi was more understanding when a producer faced a financial setback.
     
    The film Amar Akbar Anthony was special because in one of the songs “Hum Ko Tumse Ho gaya hai pyar” Rafi sang along with Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar. This was perhaps the first and last time that all the singers came together to sing one song.
     
    Rafi’s bonding with Khayyam
     
     Music director Khayyam was soft-spoken and wasn’t very prolific. But he produced musical gems that stand testimony to his immense talent. Rafi lent him ample support. The song “Kahin Ek Masoon Nazuk Si Ladki” from Shankar Hussain (1977) remains an immortal classic.
     
    Khayyam had scored music for Bibi (1950) and Rafi’s rendition of a ghazal from the movie became a hit. Though Khayyam and Rafi worked only in a few films, their friendship lasted until the singer’s death due to cardiac arrest. Khayyam remarked that Rafi’s dedication was unparalleled and that his humility was his most endearing quality.
     
    The compassionate singer lent his voice to even C-grade films never bothering about his market price. Rafi desired to sing a few bhajans and asked Khayyam to compose them. Rafi was always a student of music keen to learn about the intricacies of music, ragas and mixing. He adapted his voice to the characterisation on the screen and this is what made his songs so special.
     
    Though a throat infection in the 70’s resulted in a brief lull in his career, Rafi still managed to sail through. Some of his songs in the early 70s still top the popularity charts.
     
    1.     Kaan Mein Jhumka (Sawan Bhadon, 1969)
    2.     Tum Mujhe Yun Bhula Na Paoge (Pagla Kahin Ka, 1970)
    3.     Jhilmil Sitaron Ka (Jeevan Mrityu, 1970)
    4.     Gulabi Aankhen (The Train, 1970)
    5.     Yunhi Tum Mujhse Baat (Sachcha Jhuta, 1971)
    6.     Itna To Yaad Hai Mujhe (Mehboob ki Mehndi, 1971)
    7.     Mera Man Tera Pyasa (Gambler, 1971)
    8.     Kitna Pyara Wada (Caravan, 1972)
    9.     Chura Liya Hai Tumne (Yaadon Ki Baraat, 1973)
    10.   Na Tu Zameen Ke Liye (Dastan, 1972)
    11.   Saare Shehar Mein Aapsa (Bairaag, 1976)
    12.   Aaj Mausam Bada Beiman Hai (Loafer, 1973)
     
    He won the National Award for “Kya Hua Tera Wada” from Nasir Hussain’s bumper hit “Hum Kisi se Kam Nahin” (1977). 
     
     
    In 1978, Rafi gave a performance at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1980 he performed at the Wembley conference centre. 
     
     
    From 1970 until his death he toured around the world extensively giving concert performances to packed halls.
     
    (This is second part of a three-part series)
     
     
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
     
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    COMMENTS

    pmbhate

    2 days ago

    Lata Mangeshkar: 10+ as a singer; 10- as a human being
    Mohammad Rafi: 10+ in both

    shafique.rahib

    5 days ago

    Wrong information about Lata Rafi dispute. Lata ji refused to sing with Rafi Sahab and consequently replaced with Suman and ASHA Bhonsle. Lata is very egoist and proudy. She also had disputes with S.D.Burman and others. Although she's a great singer but she caused to spoil career of many talented singer like Mubarak Begum, Suman Kalyanpur etc.

    REPLY

    sarbani.pal08

    In Reply to shafique.rahib 4 days ago

    I totally agree with you. Many great singers are there, but no one like Rafi Saab, he was a great singer as well as a beautiful human being, rather to say a farishta

    radhikaparadkar16

    In Reply to shafique.rahib 4 days ago

    Rafi Saab was truly humble and a blessed great human being too ...

    radhikaparadkar16

    In Reply to shafique.rahib 4 days ago

    True that ... I agree and I had heard that from the older people in my house ..
    Though Lata is a great singer she is very egoistic and proud in vain ...

    Mohammad Rafi: A Great Singer, a Humble Man -Part 1
    31st July happens to be the 40th death anniversary of Mohammed Rafi. Here is a look at some of the things not many people may know about the legendary singer.
     
    Rafi was the second of six sons born to Haji Ali Mohammad. The family belonged to Amritsar. His nickname was Pheeko. He made his debut in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch (1944). Shyam Sunder was the music director.
     
    Rafi made his Hindi film debut in Gaon Ki Gori in 1945. When he moved to Mumbai, he initially lived in the Bhendi Bazaar area. He was a chorus singer in the movie Shahjahan (1946) that featured the then tragedy king (Devdas) KL Saigal. Rafi then got an opportunity to sing in Anmol Ghadi (1946), a Mehboob Khan film that starred Surendra, Noor Jehan and Suraiyya.
     
    It was only in 1949 that Rafi began getting solos (Dillagi, Dulari, Chandni Raat, Meena Bazaar).
     
    Rafi was greatly inspired by KL Saigal and GM Durrani. After Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, Rafi teamed up with Husanlal Bhagatram and Rajendra Krishan to create the song “Suno Suno Ae Duniyawalon Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani”. India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited Rafi to his house to sing.
     
    Rafi worked with many music directors (including the lesser known ones) such as Naushad, SD Burman, RD Burman, Roshan, Sardar Malik, Sapan Jagmohan, Sonik Omi,  OP Nayyar, Chitragupt, Shankar Jaikishan, Kalyanji Anandji, Jaidev and Lakshmikant Pyarelal.
     
    Rafi shared a special rapport with Usha Khanna – one of the first female music directors in Bollywood. He sang for her the songs of Dil Deke Dekho (1959). Fifteen years later, when Rafi sang for her in Hawas (“Teri galiyon Mein Na Aayenge Sanam”), Ms Khanna wasn’t too happy about a few nuances in his singing but felt inhibited to say so to the singer. When Rafi came to know this, he was upset and gently chided Usha Khanna, reminding her that as a music director she had every right to correct him. Such was the humility of the legend!
     
    No other playback singer has mentored so many other singers as Rafi has had. Mahendra Kapoor was always proud of the fact that he was Rafi’s protégé. Usha Timothy, Suman Kalyanpur, Kamal Barot and Sudha Malhotra were singers with whom Rafi shared a great rapport. Ironically, Lata Mangeshkar is the only playback singer with whom he had a huge tiff – the scar that it left in his soul was immense. Rafi was at ease singing with Sulakshana Pandit (“Sona Re Tujhe Kaise Miloon” from the 1978 film Aankhon Dekhi) and with music director Shankar’s protégé Sharda.
     
    When the Lata-Rafi team broke up, it was Suman Kalyanpur who benefited the most. In the 1966 release Mamta, there were two versions of the immortal song – “Rahen Na Rahen Hum Mehka Karenge” – one sung by Lata and the other a duet by Rafi and Suman. Among the many gems that Rafi and Suman co-created is (Jab Se Hum Tum Baharon Mein – from the 1962 release Main Shaadi Karne Chala that starred IS Johar and Saeeda Khan in the lead with Feroze Khan, Tabassum, Mumtaz and Parveen Choudhury forming part of the supporting cast). Produced by Wadia brothers and directed by Roop K Shorey, the film—a rib-tickling comedy—was a moderate success at the box office. Chitragupta was the music director.
     
    The 1952 release Baiju Bawra established the careers of music director Naushad, actress Meena Kumari, actor Bharat Bhushan and singer Rafi. The heart-rending tale of Baiju who challenges the court singer Tansen to avenge his father’s death was a golden jubilee hit.
     
    Rafi was the voice of Dev Anand until the actor took a special liking to Kishore Kumar. Unfortunately, music director Jaidev’s wavelength did not match with that of the Anand brothers and so Bollywood lost a great talent. Jaidev never composed music for the Anands after the 1961 release Hum Dono. (Rafi’s songs “Abhi Na Jao Chhodkar” and “Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya”) need no introduction.
     
    Rafi and Hemant Kumar were the voices of Guru Dutt. Rafi shared a great rapport with SD Burman due to which even in an era when Kishore Kumar reigned as the king in playback singing, Burman never forgot to give Rafi what he deserved (Aradhana, Abhimaan). RD Burman had a distinct bias towards Kishore but he did use Rafi for Yaadon Ki Baraat the 1973 box-office hit directed by Nasir Hussain that gave a new lease of life to Zeenat Aman’s fledgling career in Bollywood.
     
    Shammi Kapoor and Rafi created magic on screen. Rafi would put himself in the shoes of Kapoor when he sang for him. Kapoor would diligently visit the recordings of his songs by Rafi.
     
    In the film Shararat Rafi gave his voice to Kishore Kumar on screen! But the film tanked at the box-office.
     
    Rafi also sang for Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra, Biswajeet, Navin Nischol, Shashi Kapoor and Manoj Kumar. Contrary to what the media keeps writing, Rafi produced some of his best songs even after 1969 when Kishore Kumar was riding high on the success of Aradhana. That Rajesh Khanna favoured Kishore Kumar over Rafi was a kind of a blow to Rafi but he accepted it with grace.
     
    His song – “Apni Aankhon Mein Basakar” for the 1974 release Thokar is a case in point. The film was a B-grade venture starring Baldev Kosa (actor turned politician and Sunil Dutt’s cousin), Shiv Kumar and Alka and the music was composed by Shyamji-Ghanshyamji. This is an example of how humility won and Rafi never allowed the ignominy of being ignored by a superstar come in the way of his singing.
     
    (This is first part of a three-part series)
     
     
    (After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)
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    COMMENTS

    Ramesh Popat

    7 days ago

    Great! Rafi also sung for Kishor in Ragini(Man mora bawara..).
    in non-filmy, i remember, 'tere bharose, a nandlala...

    s5rwav

    7 days ago

    Respect the Great Singer and the Great Person India is Proud of.

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