Think old Hindi songs and you think of Rafi’s voice! For over three decades, he was the singing voice of generations of heroes. His melodious voice could soar into high notes for a passionate song or dip down into the low notes for a ghazal, adapt itself equally well to a qawwali, a classical song, a Rock-n-Roll number, or a bhajan. It wasn't just his vocal range and melodious voice that made him such a popular singer. There was also that elusive quality – Charisma with a capital C - in his voice (a quality that onscreen stars had cause to be grateful for!). And then of course, as Filmi Girl points in her awesome podcast, he was also a consummate actor. He could make you laugh and cry, tug on your heartstrings, make you feel blue, or ready to dance. 29 years after his death, his voice is still fresh and charismatic as ever!
So, here’s a post dedicated to my favorite singer on his 29th Death Anniversary. Since it's impossible to do a list of my favorite Rafi songs or even favorite Rafi solos/duets, (those lists would run into the hundreds), I’ve decided to do a Rafi song for each letter of the alphabet.* Just to make things more interesting, I decided to restrict myself to his duets or group performances from B/W films. So here goes…(The songs are all in a YouTube playlist.)
A. Achha ji main haari (Kaala Pani) – with Asha Bhosle
Madhubala is trying to mend fences with a visibly angry Dev Anand. It's hard for me to understand how anyone can stay mad at Madhubala when she sings and emotes like that, but maybe it helped that Rafi couldnt see her?
B. Bade hain dil ke kaale (Dil Deke Dekho) – with Asha Bhosle
Shammi Kapoor can't imagine how anyone could find him a black-hearted devil, though he concedes that his face does not quite live up to the goodness of his heart, and invites Asha Parekh to come check it out. Much to my relief, Asha decides to trust his face and forego the invitation to perform an open heart surgery on Shammi!
C. Chori chori ik ishaara (Basant) – with Asha Bhosle
More Shammi… this time its a foot-tapping, meltingly romantic number with Nutan, and the two are secretly exchanging their hearts. But how can it stay secret when Rafi and Asha are broadcasting it to the world?
D. Do akalmand hue fikarmand (Akalmand) – with Kishore Kumar
Two brainy people (Kishore Kumar and I. S. Johar) explaining why they are getting worried, with some socialist sentiments thrown in for good measure. Hmm… I would be just as worried as Kamal Kapoor seems to be, if these “brains” were following me around.
E. Ek tera saath humko do jahan se (Wapas) – with Lata Mangeshkar
A newly married couple (Alka and Shekhar Purohit) pledging undying devotion to each other in a very romantic song. I suspect that its the kind of undying devotion that ends up in the divorce courts or something equally tragic.
F. Falak milega tujhe kya humen mitaane se (Ghar Ghar Mein Diwali) – with Lata Mangeshkar
A ballad of undying love that sounds like a presage of tragedy. I could only find an audio clip. I hope one of you can enlighten me about the actors this was filmed on.
G. Gora rang chunariya kaali (Howrah Bridge) – with Asha Bhosle
Real life siblings – danseuse Minoo Mumtaz and comedian Mahmood -are playing sweethearts in this song, and flirting with each other! Now, that's a pretty unusual combination. Even Madhubala is puzzled, and she only came over to hide behind the car.
H. Humen koi gham hai (Bhagam Bhag) – with Asha Bhosle
Rafi sings for Kishore! Its interesting to see how well Rafi’s voice suits even Kishore, right down to reflecting his horrified rejection of Shashikala’s advances. O well, Shashikala, keep trying. Kishore just might change his mind!
I. Iran humne dekha dekha hai cheen humne (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena) – with Asha Bhosle.
“I have seen Iran and China, but never found anybody as beautiful as you anywhere”, a smitten Joy Mukherjee assures an unimpressed Sadhana. “My friend speaks Turkish and I speak none”, she says disdainfully. But Joy isnt about to give up easily, and who can blame him?
J. Jane kahan mera jigar gaya (Mr and Mrs 55) – with Geeta Dutt
Johnny Walker has misplaced his heart and needs the help of Yasmin to find it. Any guesses where he will find it?
K. Koi bata de dil hai jahan (Main Chup Rahoongi) – with Lata Mangeshkar
Sunil Dutt and Meena Kumari pledge their love with palm leaves! OK no, that's not true. They merely fan themselves with it. Clearly their love is exothermic enough for them to need to cool down!
L. Laagi chhute na ab to sanam (Kali Topi Lal Roomal) – with Lata
A tragi-love song and a mouth organ! Shakila is clearly puzzled. Shouldnt the mouth organ be part of a more fun song, she asks Chandrashekhar, who merely continues singing and playing his mouth organ!
M. Munh se mat laga (Johnny Walker) – with Manna Dey
When’s the best time to lecture your best buddy on the evils of drinking? When you are all drunk, of course! That's when he can safely assure you that you are mistaken about his drinking, and you’d be too drunk to counteract it. That's what Johnny Walker is doing (in a film that is also called Johnny Walker!) but his buddies don't seem convinced, inspite of their own advanced state of inebriation.
N. Nashe mein hum nashe mein tum (Black Cat) with Suman Kalyanpur
Johnny Walker packs in some more alcohol, this time in a good cause, and Shammi is very supportive of his drink-n-sing caper. Even the club dancer doesn't seem to mind – hey, its RAFI’s voice, how can she?!
O. O mama o mama (Parvarish) with Manna Dey
Two devoted nephews (Raj Kapoor and Mahmood) want their uncle to know that he can always believe them. A rare bromantic song for Raj Kapoor and gosh, the guy can really dance!
P. Parbaton ke pedo par (Shagoon) – with Suman Kalyanpur
Waheeda Rehman with the man she married in real life (Kanwaljeet)! I love this song, it invokes sunset in the mountains so vividly, even without the video.
Q. Qismat phati hui thi (Alibaba and the Forty Thieves)
I couldn't find the video for this, so all I can tell you about it is that Rafi seems to be lamenting a torn luck which he is trying to mend, one stitch at a time. Good luck with that, Rafi!
R. Ruk ruk ruk kahan chali (Do Ustad) – with Asha Bhosle
Stop, stop, stop, goes Raj Kapoor. And can you blame him? Its MADHUBALA, he is after. Worry not, RK. She isn't going far. OK?
S. ‘She’ ne khela ‘he’ se aaj cricket match (Love Marriage) - with chorus
When “she” and “he” played a cricket match, it was the heart that got caught out. Hmm… I’ve heard of people being bowled out, but LBW (leg before wicket) is a new one on me. This film had the loveliest and also the funniest songs ever (Check this one – Dev Anand and I have the same opinion of modern music!)
T. Tumhen husn deke khuda ne (Jabse Tumhen Dekha Hai) – with Manna Dey, Asha Bhosle and Lata Mangeshkar
“The good lord has given you so much beauty but no feelings”, go the Kapoor siblings (Shammi and Shashi) while the beauties in question (Kum Kum and Shyama) are merely glad that such godless people remembered God for once! Aah you two – HOW can you resist the combined Kapoor assault on your affections?!!
U. Uden jab jab zulfen teri (Naya Daur) – with Asha Bhosle
A paean to male beauty! Thats certainly unusual. No wait, the man (Dilip Kumar) isnt far behind in praising his beloved (Vyjayanthimala), either. Equal opportunity, thats what this song is all about! :-D
V. Vrindavan ka krishan kanhaiya (Miss Mary) – with Lata
A lovers’ spat played out through singing of the sparring between mythological lovers Krishna and Radha. Huh! Krishna was notoriously inconstant in affairs of the heart, so I wouldn't advise the use of his example to justify my doings. Gemini Ganesan though, never asked me, and consequently had a lot of trouble wooing Meena Kumari!
W. Woh apni yaad dilane ko (Jugnu) – with unknown singers
This is one of Rafi’s earlier efforts, and he even shows up on screen for a few brief moments. The lyrics are hilarious – a men’s dorm seems to have acquired items of female toilette and are singing about them. There is a super handsome Dilip Kumar, and I can spot a very young Rashid Khan too. Can you recognise anyone else? Can anybody identify the other singers?
X. Kali ke roop mein (Nau Do Gyarah) with Asha Bosle
OK, so this song doesn't begin with “X” – but then, how many songs do? I’ll just use this letter to sneak in another fun Rafi duet – this one picturised on Dev Anand and Kalpana Kartik. He wants to know where she’s off to and she tells him that she’ll go anyplace where he isn't. That's right, tell him off, bring him down a peg or two!
Y. Yahan badla wafa ka (Jugnu) with Noor Jehan
The only duet I could find online where Rafi sang with Noor Jehan. Its a lovely song (though very pessimistic – “in this world love can only be repaid by betrayal”) picturised on Dilip Kumar and Noor Jehan.
Z. Zara saamne to aao chhaliye (Janam Janam Ke Phere) – with Lata Mangeshkar
“Come out of hiding o deceitful one, whats the point in deceiving by hiding?” - is Manher Desai calling to Nirupa Roy or God? Your guess is as good as mine!