The first song that ever made me cry was Dilip Kumar singing Toote hue khwabon ne, in Madhumati. Something about the hopelessness of his predicament tugged at my heartstrings, but it was the emotion in the singing that brought on the tears. After Madhumati, Mohammed Rafi, along with Lata Mangeshkar, epitomised music, and as I went back in time to listen to his songs from Baiju Bawra or Basant Bahar, my commitment to film music was sealed. Now, Yasmin Khalid Rafi’s memoir on her father-in-law has me moving from Yahan badla wafa ka, to Tu ganga ki mauj; singing along with the pages of her chronicle of his career and life.
Yasmin Rafi’s book will strike a chord in every reader, who, like her, thrilled to Hindi film music’s golden era. Yet, unlike most of us for whom the singers were only names, Yasmin would not only marry into her idol’s family but end up being among his favourite bahus. It gave her a ringside view of the legend’s life. Yasmin traces her own life, first as a child growing up in a strict Muslim family in small-town Madhya Pradesh, where she developed a love for film music and listened to it all day on the old Murphy radio. Her favourite singer was of course Rafi, whom she imagined would be a bit older than herself. In a school competition she sang Rafi’s Baar baar din ye aaye and won the first prize. When she did meet her idol, it was as a prospective bahu, and though there was an initial disappointment in his being so much older than his voice, the fact that she would be part of his family naturally made her happy. Despite living with her husband in London, the link with Rafi’s music remained strong. She speaks with candour about the loneliness of living without Binaca Geetmala, and the joy she feels when Rafi visits, occasions when she can listen to him singing.
Rafi’s love of cars, which he painted in bright colours; his generosity; his love of shows overseas and his soft-voiced rehearsals in the garden are some of the other stories detailed for us. Giving us an insight into what it was to live with a legend, Yasmin writes of a man who wanted nothing more than a home-cooked meal, the company of his family and his music, and accepted the fact that while the world loved his voice, to his wife, Bilquis, he was just her husband.
Other little-known facts also come to light in the process—such as her maternal uncle, writer Salim Khan, who started his career as an actor and lip-synced Rafi’s songs on screen. Rafi’s disagreement with Lata Mangeshkar is also explained, and for once the family disagrees with their star singer’s stance on the issue of royalties. It centred around the fact that singers get almost no royalty, and Lata was among those who suggested that they should ask this as a right. But Rafi did not agree. His attitude was ‘our job is to sing and we get paid for it, let us not get greedy’. They fell out, each saying they would not sing with the other.
Rafi’s family disagreed with him too, as they felt he, and later they, would be robbed of a sizeable amount of money as royalty. Yasmin deals with the death of her husband Khalid and that of Mohammed Rafi with restraint. Yasmin’s account of the crowds at his funeral, of recording studios being shut for three days in mourning, are touching reminders of what was. A leitmotif of regret runs through the book, of having had and then losing. But by sharing her story and rare photographs, Yasmin has done the singer’s legion of fans a huge favour. She has given the man behind the voice a persona that is as endearing as it is real.
The most naturally matching voice, for any actor and singer was Mahmood and Manna Dey for 'Aao Twist Karen'. I feel, it must have dawned on Lucky Ali, that he must sing, because another man could sing just like his father, and people might think his father sang the song.
The point is Talat Mahmood got to sing really profound lyrics, and when one matches the melody with his lyrics, specially with his voice, it seems really, that the idea was to understand the lyrics were profound later, when you weren't thinking about them, or listening to them. The best song of Manna Dey is, 'Tu pyaar ka saagar hai'.
Rafi has enriched Indian music and so many lives, who got their daily kick out of listening to him. May he continue to live forever through his music (as he already does)!!
This also brings to my mind the cheap behaviour of S. Janaki, a female singer from 'South'.
She turned down Padmashree and considered herself fit only for Bharat Ratna!!!!
Look at Rafi who deserved far more than Padmashree that was given to him. Have we heard of him cribbing at any point of time? With a pan India admiration and with a fan following across the globe, Mohammed Rafi humbly accepted the award as a small gesture of appreciation.
I always admired Mohammed Rafi, ever as a singer and even more as a human being. May the Janakis and Yesudas learn their lesson. Yesudas once tried to prevent orchestras from singing his songs unless they paid him royalty, as if he owned the song, lyric and the music!!! If he were allowed to have his way, perhaps he would have patented raagas as well!!! And to think that he considered Rafi as his role models!!!!
Mohammed Rafi is a true example of Indian Muslim, not Shah Rukh Khan.
We shall ever be proud of our greatest Mohammed Rafi and sooner SRK is forgotten, better it is for India.
Rafisaab, you shall ever live in our hearts. We eagerly await your rebirth!!!!
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