Fans fondly remembered Mohammed Rafi at a show in the city recently.
Yeh Zindagi ke mele, duniya mein kam na honge, Afsoos! hum na honge....
--- A Mohammed Rafi song
MOHAMMED RAFI is one lucky man in history. The adoration for this legendary singer, who died 23 years ago, is phenomenal by all standards. Accepted by the connoisseur and the layman alike, Rafi's posthumous fame has been greater than what he enjoyed during his lifetime. Rafi fans outnumber those of any contemporary singer.
Even people who compered his shows, such as Shahid Bijnori, became famous after Rafi's demise (the compere's sole claim to fame being that he was a part of Rafi shows). All the more reason for the organisers of a commemorative programme on `Rafi saab' to be careful about the choice and presentation of songs and singers.
About 20 singers featured in a Rafi remembrance show organised in the city recently by the Swaralaya and the Mohammed Rafi International Foundation. Veteran playback singer K. J. Jesudas inaugurated the show.
Unfortunately, this much-awaited programme, performed to a packed hall, fell victim to unimpressive selection of songs and poor diction. The introduction to the songs too was naive.
Knowledge of Hindi becomes a drawback while attending such programmes, since the chances of the lyric being mutilated are aplenty.
Only a few singers such as Pradeep Somasundaran, K. K. Naushad, Thoppil Anto, Babu Thunderbirds, Imtiaz, Manjari and Bombay S. Kamal got their diction right.
The songs of Rafi are known not only for their achievements in music but also for their lyrical richness. Rafi belonged to the golden age of Hindi lyrics, when the likes of Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Hazrat Jaipuri and Majrooh Sultanpuri were in full form.
On the face of it, many of the singers at the show went in without doing their homework. B. Arundhati, who was supposed to sing Ehsan tera hoga mujh par (the masterpiece from `Junglee') preferred the word `Pehchan' to `Ehsan', to the utter disappointment of the language lover. She sang Tum ne mujh ko sapna dikhaaya; rone kahooge, ro lenge ab... (meaning `You showed me dreams; I'll shed tears if u want me to...!) instead of Tum ne mujho hasna sikhaya; rone kahooge ro lenge ab (meaning `you taught me how to laugh; I'll cry if you want me to... ')!
Adding to the woes of listeners was the introduction to each song, with flawed phrases that kept the audience guessing.
Another drawback was the selection of songs. Of the 26,000-odd songs that Rafi rendered, the ones chosen were the oft-repeated.
No effort was made to unearth the not-so-popular gems from Rafi's corpus. None of the Guru Dutt classics was touched.
Nevertheless, the show was made memorable by some very good rendering by Pradeep Somasundaran, Yassin Nissar, Sainoj and Gopan. The find of the evening was K. K. Naushad, who hails from Kozhikode. Naushad chose to sing the hit, Duniya ke Rakhwaale, from `Baiju Bawra'. He modelled his rendition on that in Rafi's London concert (1979), which has, of late, become more popular than the original track.
Vijay Jesudas, singing Baharon Phool Barsao. (`Suraj') and Aaj kal tere mere pyaar ke charche (`Brahmachari'), was technically sound, but the emotional content of the songs never came through. Gopan did an excellent job with Man re tu kahe na dheer dhare (`Chitralekha'). So did Pradeep Somasundaran, with Madhuban mein radhika nache. (`Kohinoor'). Yassin Nissar, who sang Chahoonga main tujhe (`Dost'), did a perfect job except for the undue stress on technicality.
Remembrance is an art in itself. As Jesudas said in his inaugural address, "Studying Mohammed Rafi can help a budding singer more than any textbook on music do."
Rafi songs are not only the gateway to sublime music but also the treasure trove of language.
A Rafi song leaves in the mind of the listener a feeling of goodness and love. His immortality lies not merely in the huge number of songs to which he lent his voice, but also in the way he approached each of his 26,000 songs.
Yaad na jaaye...
MASTERS ALL: (From left) arranger Sebastian, singer Mohammed Rafi, flautist Sumantraj, composer Shanker and director Raj Kapoor during the recording of `Ramaiyya Vastavayya'
Mohammed Rafi was born in Lahore, on December 24, 1924. He took his lessons in music from Ghulam Ali Khan. The break in films came in 1944, with `Gul Baloch', which was directed by Shyam Sunder.
Rafi peaked in the Sixties. His voice was identified with almost all film stars of the day, including Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Shammi Kapoor and Guru Dutt.
Rafi was awarded the Padmasri in 1965.
Recipient of a number of awards including the National Award and the Filmfare Award, Rafi ruled over his contemporaries like an emperor. With the emergence of Kishore Kumar in the first half of the Seventies, Rafi's career suffered a major setback. Kishore Kumar came to be accepted as the `voice of Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan'.
Rafi staged a brilliant comeback in the latter half of the Seventies, with Kya hua, tera vaada (`Hum Kissi Se Kam Nahin') and Ramji ki nikli sawari (`Sargam').
He went on to deliver hits such as the ones from the Bachchan starrers, `Naseeb', and `Dostana'.
Rafi's last song was recorded by Lakshmikant-Pyarelal for `Aas Paas': Tu kahi aas paas hai dost...
V. G. MURALIKRISHNAN
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