Mohammed Rafi (24 December 1924 – 31 July 1980) is considered to be one of the greatest Indian playback singers of the Hindi film industry. In his lifetime, he was awarded the National Film Award, Best National Singer Award and six Filmfare Awards. In 1967, he was honoured with the Padma Shri award by the Government of India.His singing career spanned about 35 years. Rafi is noted for his ability to sing songs of different moods and varieties. They ranged from classical numbers to patriotic songs, sad lamentations to highly romantic numbers, qawwalis to ghazals and bhajans. He is best known for romantic and duet songs and, as a playback singer, his ability to mould his voice to the persona of the actor lip-synching the song.
In his early career, Rafi associated with many contemporary music directors, most notably Naushad Ali. In the late 1950s and 1960s, he worked with other composers of the era such as O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan, S.D. Burman and Roshan.
As per Naushad, Rafi came to him with a letter of recommendation from Naushad's father.Rafi’s first song for Naushad was "Hindustan Ke Hum Hain" ("We belong to Hindustan") for the film Pehle Aap in 1944. The first song for the duo was the soundtrack of the movie Anmol Ghadi (1946). Before Rafi, Naushad’s favorite singer was Talat Mahmood. Once Naushad found Talat smoking during a recording. He was annoyed and hired Rafi to sing all the songs of the movie Baiju Bawra.
Rafi's association with Naushad helped the former establish himself as one of the most prominent playback singers in Hindi cinema.Songs from Baiju Bawra (1952) like "O duniya ke rakhwale" and "Man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj" furthered Rafi's credentials.Rafi ended up singing a total of 149 songs (81 of them solo) for Naushad.
In the 1960 film Mughal-E-Azam, Mohammed Rafi sang "Ae Mohabbat Zindabad", composed by Naushad, with a chorus of 100 singers.
S. D. Burman patronized Rafi as the singing voice of Dev Anand and Guru Dutt. Rafi worked with Burman in movies like Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969), and Abhimaan (1973). S. D. Burman was also another music director besides Naushad who used Rafi prolifically to sing for most of his songs.
Rafi's partnership with Shankar Jaikishan was among the most famous and successful in the Hindi film industry. Under Shankar-Jaikishan, Rafi produced some of his songs for actors like Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar. Out of six Filmfare awards, Rafi won three for S-J songs — "Teri Pyari Pyari Surat Ko", "Baharon Phool Barsao", and "Dil Ke Jharokhe Mein". The song "Yahoo! Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe" was sung by Rafi, only to be matched a fast-paced orchestra and a composition by Shankar Jaikishan. S-J made Rafi give playback for Kishore Kumar in the film Shararat ("Ajab hai daastan teri yeh zindagi"). Rafi sang a total of 341 numbers (216 solo) for Shankar-Jaikishan.Among the films of this combination are Basant Bahar, Professor, Junglee, Suraj, Brahmachari, An Evening in Paris, Dil Tera Deewana, Yakeen, Prince, Love in Tokyo, Beti Bete, Dil Ek Mandir, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Gaban and Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai.
Rafi got his first Filmfare Award for the title song of Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), composed by Ravi. He got National Award for the song "Babul Ki Duaen Leti Ja" from the filmNeel Kamal (1968), also composed by Ravi. Rafi wept during the recording of this song. He admitted this in his interview to the BBC in 1977.
Ravi and Rafi produced several other songs in the films China Town (1962), Kaajal (1965), and Do Badan (1966).
Madan Mohan was another composer whose favorite singer was Rafi. Rafi's first solo with Madan Mohan in Ankhen (1950) was "Hum Ishq Mein Barbad Hain Barbad Rahenge".They teamed up to produce many songs including "Teri Aankhon Ke Siva", "Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil" and "Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho".
Rafi and O. P. Nayyar (OP) created music in the 1950s and 1960s. O. P. Nayyar was once quoted as saying "If there had been no Mohd. Rafi, there would have been no O. P. Nayyar". He and Rafi created many songs together including "Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan". He got Rafi to sing for singer-actor Kishore Kumar – "Man Mora Baawara" for the movie Raagini. Later, Rafi sang for Kishore Kumar in movies such as Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat. O. P. Nayyar used Rafi and Asha Bhosle for most of his songs. The team created many songs in early 1950s and 1960s for movies such as Naya Daur (1957), Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), and Kashmir Ki Kali (1964). Rafi sang a total of 197 numbers (56 solo) for Nayyar.The songs "Jawaaniyan yeh mast mast" and the title song "Yun to humne lakh hansee dekhe hain, tumsa nahin dekha" of the film Tumsa Nahin Dekhawere hits. They were followed by songs like "Taareef karoon kya uski jisne tumhe banaya" from Kashmir ki Kali.
Rafi and OP had a fallout during the recording for movie "Sawan ki Ghata". As disclosed by OP during one of his interviews; Rafi reported late to the recording stating that he was stuck in Shankar Jaikishan's recording. OP then stated that from now on he too did not have the time for Rafi and cancelled the recording. They did not work together for the next 3 years.
The composer duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal (L-P) patronized Rafi as one of their singers, right from their very first song by him from the film, Chaila Babu-1967. Rafi honoured the affection and commitment of the duo by accepting no payment for the song "Tere pyaar ne mujhe gham diya" . Rafi and L-P won the Filmfare Awards for the song "Chahoonga Main Tujhe Saanjh Savere" from Dosti (1964). Rafi rendered the maximum number of songs for the music director duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal: 369 numbers (186 solo) for L-P.
Once, when composer Nisar Bazmi (who had migrated to Pakistan) didn’t have enough money to pay him, Rafi charged a fee of one rupee and sang for him. He also helped producers financially. As Laxmikant (of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo) once observed – “He always gave without thinking of the returns”.
Between 1950 and 1970, Rafi was the most sought after singer in the Hindi Film industry.He sang for many male stars in Hindi films.In 1965, he was honoured by theGovernment of India with the Padma Sri award. Rafi recorded two Hindi songs in English on 7" release in 1968. He also sang a song in Creole while on his visit to Mauritius in the late 1960s.Rafi recorded two English albums as well. One of them is Pop Hits.
Association with his Contemporary Singers
Rafi associated with several of his contemporaries, singing duets with them and sometimes for them (as in case of Kishore Kumar who was also an actor). Rafi sang the maximum number of duets with Asha Bhonsle (female), Manna Dey (male) and Lata Mangeshkar (female).
In the song "Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai Pyaar Kya Karein" (Amar, Akbar, Anthony), Mohd Rafi sang with Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh,the most legendary singers in Bollywood - all in one song. This was probably the only time that all of them rendered their voices for one song.
In 1977, he won both Filmfare Award and the National Award for the song "Kya Hua Tera Wada" from the movie Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, composed by R.D. Burman.Rafi sang for Rishi Kapoor in films like Laila Majnu (for which music was given by two composers Madan Mohan, and after his death by Jaidev), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Sargam(1979) and Karz (1980). The qawwali "Pardah Hai Pardah" from Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) was a superhit. Rafi's notable renderings in the late 1970s and early 1980s includeBairaag (1976), Laila Majnu (1976), Apnapan (1978), Suhaag (1979), Qurbani, Dostana (1980),The Burning Train (1980),Naseeb (1981), Abdullah (1980), Shaan (1980), Asha(1980), Aap To Aise Na The (1980), and Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai (1982). The fact now was Rafi saab was back being the number one singer of India. True talent could not be put down!
Rafi is Primarily noted for his songs in Hindi.He also sang in other indian languages including Assamese, Konkani, Marathi, Bhojpuri, Punjabi etc,
From available figures, Rafi sang 4,516 Hindi film songs, 112 non-Hindi film songs, and 328 private (non-film) songs from 1945 to 1980.
Rafi made a comeback as a leading singer in 1974. That year, he won the Film World magazine Best Singer Award for the song "Teree Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Qadam Aaj Ke Baad" (Hawas, 1974) composed by Usha Khanna.
Awards – National Film
Kys Hua Tera Wada
Hum Kisise Kum Nahin
Awards – Filmfare
Chaudhvin Ka Chand Ho
"Teri Pyaari Pyaari Surat Ko"
"Husnwale Tera Jawab Nahin"
"Aye Gulbadan Aye Gulbadan"
"Mere Mehboob Tujhe"
"Chahunga Main Tujhe"
"Chhoo Lene Do Nazuk Hothon Ko"
"Baharo Phool Barsao"
"Mein Gaaon Tum Sojaao"
"Dil Ke Jharoke Mein"
"Badi Mastani Hai"
"Khilona Jaan Kar"
"Hum Ko To Jaan Se Pyaari"
"Achha Hi Huva Dil Toot Gaya"
Maa Bahen Aur Biwi
Qamar Jalalabadi, Vedpal Varma
"Kya Hua Tera Wada"
"Aadmi Musaafir Hai"
"Chalo Re Doli Uthao Kahaar"
"Mere Dost Kissa Yeh"
"Maine Poocha Chand Se"
Rafi died at 10:50 p.m. on 31 July 1980, following a heart attack. His last song was "Shaam phir kyun udaas hai dost" (Aas Paas), which he had recorded with Laxmikant-Pyarelal a few hours before his death.