Published On: Fri, Jul 31st, 2015

Mohammed Rafi, The Greatest Singer Of Indian Cinema.




July 31 marks the 35th death anniversary of Mohammed Rafi, the greatest singer of Indian cinema.

“Agar koi khuda ki awaz hai toh woh hai ” (If anyone has the voice of god, it is Mohammed Rafi).
Remembering Mohammed Rafi: ‘There Cannot Be Another’.
Mohammed Rafi is a legend in the realm of Indian film music. In a career spanning 35 years, Rafi sahab, as he was fondly known, crooned his way into the heart of millions of Indian music buffs with scores of soulful renditions. As a playback singer Mohammed Rafi’s virtuosity was unsurpassed and thirty five years after his death, his classic numbers still hold their own in the burgeoning Hindi film music industry.



The versatile genius that he was, Mohammed Rafi formed formidable pairs with almost all the composers he worked with. From Naushad to O. P. Nayyar, from Laxmikant-Pyarelal to Ravi, the noted composers of Bollywood made a beeline to work with Mohammed Rafi. Rafi’s voice also led credence to the film characters played by actors such as Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Guru Dutt, Shammi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna.



In spite of his unrivaled stature in the music industry, Mohamed Rafi was humility personified all his life. Adulations and accolades never had an impact on his unassuming persona. Rafi Sahab would surely be remembered as one of the titans of Indian film industry.

11825122_755418584566646_2794157715579211957_nMohammed Rafi was one of the favourite singers of Naushad Ali. Together they created memorable melodies, songs of lasting value, which remain etched in our minds forever.
Could there be another Naushad? Another Rafi? Certainly, never again are we going to get a classical combination like Naushad-Rafi in something so mainstream as popular cinema.
Here, Naushad speaks on Mohammed Rafi:
“Speaking about Rafi Saab’s singing qualities, I have always been of the opinion that he was very sentimental and worked extra hard at songs which were raga based and melodious. Though people call him versatile, which he was in many senses of the term, I feel he was not happy singing cacophonic songs. This was because there are two distinct types of singing: one from the throat and another from the heart. Rafi used to sing melodious songs from the heart but this heart was never there in the other types of songs.

11822688_755428691232302_431906246987971033_nRafi use to falter slightly in lower tones. If he was asked to sing in low tones, his voice used to become loose but in the high tones his voice was just like an arrow.
He loved to rehearse his songs. At times he would rehearse as long as five days before turning up for recording. He used to let the song sink completely in his psyche. But if the music director or lyricist wanted to change a word here and there then Rafi would need an hour to adjust as he had already taped the songs in his mind.
Rafi started to sing for me immediately when he came to Mumbai. Since he hailed from Punjab, his Urdu accents were not clean and clear. As such, I had to explain to him first to make his Urdu diction suitable for songs. He was so studious, intelligent and painstaking person that he grasped the required tonal accents in a short time. While grooming him I realised that he had tremendous range but he was singing initially in the low tone since K. L. Saigal was his ideal. I recorded some of his songs in low tone itself in films like “Anmol Ghadi”, “Mela”, “Dillagi”, “Jadoo”, etc. but slowly I started using his voice in higher pitch in films like “Deedar” and “Aan”. However till “Baiju Bawra” even I never had the opportunity to make full use of it.


Suman Kalyanpur, Lyricist Prem Dhawan (standing second from left), Salil Chowdhury, Salilda’s younger brother Samir Chowdhury (next to Salilda) Producer Padma Trivedi, Mohammed Rafi and others during the song recording of the film ‘Mitti Ka Dev’, which was never released.

It was from “Baiju Bawra” that people realized the tremendous potential of his range.
Rafi Saab’s greatest asset was that even after scaling highest notes he would stay at the peak without shaking his voice and used to remain firm at it. But again, if he didn’t like the tune he would falter and take a longer time to record it. But if the tune was to his liking, one could get a perfect take in the first round.


11822720_755412424567262_7123436095440816750_nAs a person he was one of the finest persons I have known. I had a very long association with him. He was very modest. He had a perfect sense of time. He never came late for any song recording and used to meet people around always with a smiling face.
The last song he recorded for me was a gazal “Jis raat ke khwab aaye” in a film called “Habba Khatoon”. He was so enamored with the lines and the tune that immediately after recording it he came to me and enveloped me in his arms and said, “After a very long time, I got the opportunity to sing such a beautiful song. Otherwise I had to make sounds of cats and dogs in my recent songs”. He was so happy with my song that he even did not accept payment for the song. Such a great person he was!”


11828806_754942687947569_4419839566081699174_nThe Awards and Achievements won by Mohammed Rafi make for a long list.
Here are the complete list of Awards and Achievements of Mohammed Rafi.
Rafi was honored with the “Best Singer of the millennium” by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine in Mumbai January 07, 2001. Rafi won the 70% of the votes.
Government Awards:
1948: Rafi received a silver medal from the Indian Prime Minister Jawhar Lal Nehru, on the first anniversary of the Indian Independence Day.
1967: Honored with the Padmashri by the Govt of India.
National Awards:
1964: National Film Award for the Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Chahoonga Main Tuje” from the movie ‘Dosti’.
1966: National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Baharon Phool Barsaao” from the movie ‘Suraj’.
1967: National Film Award for the Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Babul Ki Duayen Leti Jaa” from ‘Neel Kamal’.
1977: National Film Award for the Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Kya Huva Tera Waada” from the movie ‘Hum Kisise Kum Naheen’.
Filmfare Awards:
1960: Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Chaudhvi Ka Chaand Ho”.
1961: Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Teri Pyari Pyari Surat ko”.
1964: Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Chahoonga Main Tujhe”
1966: Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Baharon Phool Barsaao”
1967: Filmare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Babul Ki Duayen Leti Jaa”
1968: Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Dil Ke Jharoke Mein Tujko Bithakar”
1977: Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer for the song “Kya Huva Tera Waada”.
Filmfare Nominations:
1961: Nominated for the song “Husnwaale Tera Jawab Nahi” from the movie Gharana.
1962: Nominated for the song “Aye Gulbadan Aye Gulbadan” from the movie Professor.
1963: Nominated for the song “Mere Mehboob Tuje Meri Mohabat Ki Kasam” from the movie Mere Mehboob.
1965: Nominated for the song “Chu Lene Do Nazuk Honto Ko” from the movie Kajal.
1968: Nominated for the song “Mai Gaaoon Tum So Jaao” from the movie Brhamchari.
1969: Nominated for the song “Badi Mastani Hai Meri Mehbooba” from the movie Jeene Ki Rah.
1970: Nominated for the song “Khilona Jaan kar Tum To Mera Dil” from the movie Khilona.
1973: Nominated for the song “Humko To Jaan Se Pyari Hai Tumhari Aankhe” from the movie Naina,
1974: Nominated for the song “Achha Huva Dil Toot Gaya” from the movie Maa Behan Aur Biwi.
1977: Nominated for the song “Parda Hai Parda” from the movie Amar Akbar Anthony.
1978: Nominated for the song “Aadmi Musafir Hai” from the movie Apnapan.
1979: Nominated for the song “Chalo Re Doli Uthaao Kahan” from the movie Jani Dushman.
1980: Nominated for the song “Mere Dost Kissa Yeh Kya Hogaya” from the movie Dostana.
1980: Nominated for the song “Dard-e-Dil Dard-e-Jigar” from the movie Karz.
1980: Nominated for the song “Maine Poocha Chaand Se” from the movie Abdullah.
Bengal Film Journalists Association Awards:
1965: Best Male Playback Singer for Dosti.
1966: Best Male Playback Singer for Arzoo.
1957: Best Male Playback Singer for Tumsa Nahin Dekha.




Mohammed Rafi’s was a voice that had enthralled people from Prime Ministers to the last row audience.
Mohammed Rafi was once invited by the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to sing at his house. Rafi received a silver medal from Jawaharlal Nehru, on the first anniversary of the Indian Independence Day.






11822350_755434387898399_467872374569934997_nEven before ‘Chhote Nawab’ happened in 1961, RD Burman had already chosen Mohammed Rafi for his first independent assignment under Guru Dutt Productions’ ‘Raaz’ in around 1957. A 18 year old Pancham had selected Hemant Kumar, Geeta Dutt and Rafi as his first set of singers for his first film. Unfortunately, the movie was not released. ‘Chhote Nawab’ was an album – all full of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi songs. Three beautiful duets and an overtly emotional song was what RD Burman had to offer for Rafi in ‘Chhote Nawab’.



Rafi saheb’s happy moments with his family.


It won’t be an understatement to say that Rafi was RD Burman’s main voice in the sixties. Rafi, in the helm of his career and ruling the industry like a colossus , featured in almost all the movies of RD Burman in the sixties, except – Bhoot Bangla(1965), Pati Patni(1965) and Padosan(1968).
Mohammed Rafi passed away in 1980, creating a vacuum in the film music industry. A great singer who had a marathon career of 35 years in the industry and gave us some of the evergreen melodies ever, left a legacy we cherish even today. R D Burman, also has left us a treasure of melodies to spend our lifetime with, and a good chunk of that treasure was contributed by Mohammed Rafi’s voice as well!


11825240_754927961282375_7578021960116576702_nThe legendary singer Mohammed Rafi loved playing badminton, flying kites and playing carrom with his children.
If he was at home, he would go to bed at 9 pm and get up at 4:30 am and start his riyaz. Then he would go to the Bandra Gymkhana and play badminton with Naushad, Dilip Kumar and Anand Bakshi.
Sometimes he would come home late at night totally stressed out because of too many recordings that day.
He never went for parties; he loved spending time with his family. The only events he attended were weddings and award functions.

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology

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