Mohammad Rafi’s death anniversary falls on July 31.
Watch any of the singing competitions on TV, no episode passes without a Rafi song. Current generation singers look up to him and want to mimic him. Close your eyes and think of five old Hindi songs you like the most. At least one will be a Mohammad Rafi song. Without this talented singer, history of Hindi music industry would have had a gaping hole in its history.
Rafi is romance personified. Most of my favorite Rafi songs are romantic songs. Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, Choolene do naazuk honthon ko, Abhi na jao chodkar, Aapke Haseen Rukh Pe, Deewana Hua Baadal are some of the songs which I have listened to and fantasized. Rafi could modulate his voice so well to suit the mood of the song. The sensuality in Choolene do, little naughtiness in Abhi na jao chodkar, innocence in Yeh Mera Prem Patra Padhkar shows the excellent command Rafi had over his voice.
The next category of songs where Rafi has left his indelible mark is the sad songs. The emptiness in the hero’s life is so evident in Din Dhal Jaaye, Haaye Shaam Na Jaaye. Kya Hua Tera Wada, Man Re Tu Kahe Na Dheer Dhare, Chahunga Mein Tujhe Saanjh Savere, Hum Tum Se Juda Hoke are some of the songs which highlight Rafi’s handling of melancholic mood. The best, of course, is Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari and O Duniya Ke Rakhwale. The irony of life in the former song and the extreme longing in the latter could not have better expressed. In fact, these two are few of the songs which I think only Rafi can do justice to. Even though Kishore Kumar is my favorite, I don’t think he would have come close to Rafi in these songs.
Rafi’s songs like Yeh Mausum Bada Beimaan Hai, Mein Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya, Wadiyan Mera Daaman, Pukarta Chala Hoon Mein celebrate life. One immediately starts feeling good about the things around after listening to these songs. Nain Lad Jain Hain, Mein Jat Yamla Pagla Deewana, Sar Jo Tera Chakraye put Rafi in a different league. With these songs, he proved that he is not far behind Kishore in singing humorous and light-hearted songs.
Rafi has a range of ‘haaye’. One is used in romantic songs, a ‘haaye’ that the hero utters clutching his heart, mesmerized by his lady love. Another one is where the hero remembers his lost love, takes a gulp from his glass and utters a ‘haaye’. Rafi gives such a distinct ‘haaye’ in every genre of song, the hero need not emote at all! All the emotion needed is right there in Rafi’s voice.
Apart from giving us the unforgettable songs, probably the best contribution of Rafi’s is providing playback for Shammi Kapoor. The hero who had a totally different style of acting and dancing, no singer could have lived up to this madness. There is a passion in Rafi’s voice that suits Shammi Kapoor’s eccentricity.
With Rafi’s demise on July 31 1980, Hindi music industry has lost its dearest singer and is on a lookout for a replacement. Any new singer on the block is looked at and wondered if he can be the next Rafi. Sonu Nigam, who has a style of his own, confessed that he tries to bring in Rafi’s magic in his songs. He is constantly compared with Rafi and Sonu Nigam does justice to this comparison. If anybody can replace Rafi, it has to be Sonu Nigam.