Talking Rafi

Journalist Vinod Viplav documents the life and times of Mohammed Rafi


TRACKING FOOTSTEPS The book chronicles the career of Mohammed Rafi 

Some things just refuse to go out of fashion. One of them is Mohammed Rafi’s voice. Watch any talent hunt these days on television and you will find youngsters barely out of their teens zestfully trying to emulate the illustrious singer. Howeve r, few know that Rafi was equally peerless as a human being.

“Had he opted for any other profession, he would have still managed to create space for himself in the hearts of people,” observes Vinod Viplav, a senior journalist who has come up with a book on Rafi. Called Meri Awaz Suno, the book is an attempt to analyse the life and times of Rafi. “There are compilations of his songs, but there is hardly any book which looks into his life and analyses his songs.”


He cites examples of his magnanimity, “He promoted many music composers and helped those who were going through bad times. Laxmikant Pyarelal feared that Rafi would refuse to sing for their first film Parasmani, as he was at h is peak at that time.But he not only sang but sang for free. He used to send anonymous cheques to music composers who had fallen on bad times. These people discovered only when Rafi passed away and the cheques stopped coming.”

Similarly, he was always accessible to his fans. “Once a fan came to see him from Amritsar. When he was about to go Rafi asked him if he wanted his autograph and then took out a hundred rupee note and signed on it.”

On the competition with Kishore Kumar, Viplav feels Rafi had more variety than Kishore. “Rafi had sung all kinds of songs, including bhajans and qawwalis. Also, if we look at their career graphs, Kishore had sung some 300-odd songs till Aradhana. Up till Aradhana, Rafi enjoyed unrivalled success. It’s only when Mere Sapno Ki Rani happened and Rajesh Khanna became a superstar that Kishore’s demand swelled. People started callin g Kishore the new voice. In fact, a troika of Rajesh Khanna, R.D. Burman and Kishore Kumar emerged.”

There is another angle to the story. “During this period Rafi went for Haj and it occurred to him that singing film songs is against Islam. It required a lot of cajoling from the family members before Rafi returned to recording studios.”

When he returned he found support from his friends in the industry. Madan Mohan insisted that Rafi would sing for Laila Majnu, though Rishi Kapoor wanted Kishore. Similarly, Laxmikant Pyarelal, despite all opposition, signed him for Sargam. Soon his qawwali in Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin became a hit and he was at par with Kishore.”



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