Mohammed Rafi and his ‘Singles’

On the 43rd death anniversary of Mohammed Rafi, here is a look at his memorable one-off associations. Photo: Publicity Photo

After reading (and writing) so much about the peerless Mohammed Rafi, whose 43rd death anniversary falls today, I was in a quandary: What new can I write about Hindi cinema’s most prolific and versatile playback singer in a career that lasted 37 years? During this phase, he recorded over 7,000 songs, spanning, besides Hindi and Urdu (Hindustani), several languages and dialects such as Konkani, Assamese, Bhojpuri, Odia, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Kannada, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Magahi, Maithili and even foreign languages, including English, Farsi, Arabic, Sinhala, Mauritian Creole and Dutch.

And then, as I examined and re-examined Rafi’s peerless career, I mentally hollered a musical ‘Eureka!’ when I found what I was looking for: Rafi’s ‘Singles’!

Let me explain—this is not the conventional musical connotation of that word, though it fits some songs here. What I meant was, simply, his association with luminaries in a song (or film) that happened only once. Here we go.

Aap To Aise Na The / 1980

The hit song, Tu iss tarah se meri zindagi mein shaamil hai remains Rafi’s only song for actor Deepak Parasher. It is also probably Rafi’s lone song that had two other versions, one male and one female, which were all sung by different singers—Manhar snag for Raj Babbar and Hemlata for Ranjeeta. The music was by Usha Khanna.

Chhoti Si Mulaqat / 1967

This was Bengali megastar Uttam Kumar’s Hindi debut as actor as well as producer. And Rafi was his only voice. Uttam acted in a few Hindi films later, but Rafi never sang for him again. Shankar-Jaikishan scored music.

Dangal (Bhojpuri) / 1977

Phoot gaile kismatiya, written by Kulwant Jani and composed by the debut-making duo, Nadeem-Shravan, remains the only song rendered by Mohammed Rafi for the pair that rocked the 1990s and early millennium. As Bhojpuri is a dialect of Hindi, the song was easily comprehensible. It was a duet with Asha Bhosle.

Mohammed Rafi’s last songs were released eight (Soorma Bhopali) and nine (Farz Ki Jung) years after his death. Photo: Publicity Photo

Dil Hi Dil Mein / 1982

This was Rafi’s only film with music by Mandhir-Jatin—Jatin was later the senior half of the popular Jatin-Lalit duo and Mandhir is their elder brother. What’s more, with one solo and three duets (including a qawwali), Rafi, again, was the only male singer on this album.

Farz Ki Jung / 1989

Rafi had sung the romantic solo, Phool kya shabab kya, composed by Bappi Lahiri, for a film that was shelved. Nine years (!) after Rafi’s death, the same producer released a new film, Farz Ki Jung, and used the song in it. Needless to say, Rafi’s voice sat perfectly on Govinda, on whom Rafi’s clones, Shabbair Kumar and Mohammed Aziz, had already sung, for the actor had made his debut six years after Rafi had passed away!

Fukrey Returns / 2006

This time, technology led to Rafi singing for millennium actor Pulkit Samrat, Ali Fazal and Varun Sharma! Parts of the song, O meri mehbooba, composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal for Dharam-Veer (1977), were sampled in the track Mehbooba re-created by Prem-Hardeep, and Rafi thus ended up lip-synching a line for all of the young faces who were born years after he left this planet! But the highpoint was that Rafi’s voice still matched them all!

The youngest actors on whom his voice fitted perfectly were Govinda, Pulkit Samrat, Ali Fazal and Varun Sharma! Photo: Publicity Photo

Garam Khoon / 1980

Mohammed Rafi had sung several duets with Sharda, but this time there was a difference. The popular Pardesiya tere des mein from Garam Khoon, though a duet with the film’s heroine and singer, Sulakshana Pandit was written by Sharda, making her debut as lyricist under the name of ‘Singhar’!

Ladies Tailor / 1981

Kavita Krishnamurthi Subramaniam recalled how her only song with Mohammed Rafi, Ab yeh jaana ke isse kehte hain aana dil ka from Ladies Tailor had a brief portion of hers after Rafi sang the entire song. But the veteran singer graciously waited for her to record her part before leaving the recording studio. Earlier, Kavita had sung Tera sheeshe ka samaan from Chacha Bhatija with Rafi when she was a ‘dubbing singer’—which meant that her portion would be later re-recorded by Lata Mangeshkar. Both these films had music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal.

Lal Patthar

Rafi had recorded his career-first Hindi song with actor-singer G.M. Durrani under composer Shyam Sunder for Gaon Ki Gori, though that film was released after Pahele Aap, which had his first Hindi song. Rafi considered Durrani as one of his idols, and had even sang some more songs with him later. But time took its toll, and the classical classic (!), Unke khayaal aaye to aate chale gaye from Lal Patthar, was sung by Rafi and enacted in a cameo by the then well-past-his-prime Durrani! It was composed by Shankar-Jaikishan.

Poonam / 1981

This film marked the independent debut of Anu Malik, who had earlier composed one song in his father’s Hunterwali. This time, Mohammed Rafi got to sing three lovely songs, Laagi lag jaaye, Mohabbat rang laayegi (with Chandrani Mukherjee) and Paas aa mere humnasheen.

Shaan / 1980

Rafi has sung dozens of songs for R.D, Burman, but the song Yamma yamma marked the only song he recorded live with the composer as co-singer. While Rafi went on Shashi Kapoor, R.D. sang for Amitabh Bachchan.

Soorma Bhopali / 1988

The epic song filmed on Danny Denzongpa, Makhmal ho ya taat ka parda, was heard in Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen’s debut Soorma Bhopali. Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen deny that this Rafi song is their composition, as they arrived on the scene eight years after Rafi’s death. Producer-director Jagdeep, who voiced some passages in this song, apparently had this song and used it. That means that this remains the only film song of Rafi whose composer is unknown!

Zakhmee / 1975

Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Bappi Lahiri sang Nothing is impossible for Zakhmee, again Rafi’s only song with Bappi as a co-singer, though there are many songs Rafi has sung for Bappi as composer. Bappi once revealed to me that he was extremely nervous at the recording, as he was singing with two heavyweights. But he never forgot Rafi’s statement to him: “You are nervous because you are singing with the Mohammed Rafi and the Kishore Kumar. But tomorrow, other singers will be similarly nervous about singing with the Bappi Lahiri!”





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