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“Rafi-Saab worshipped music, also enjoyed kite-flying, loved to watch ‘kati-patangs’ descend”, shares his son Shahid Rafi

Senior film and music journalist Chaitanya Padukone revisits fond memories of attending Mohammed Rafi-Saab’s live recording of ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’.



Mohammed Rafi

By Chaitanya Padukone

Today 31st July is legendary revered Samaritan playback singer Mohammed Rafi’s 42nd death anniversary. But for crores of Rafisaab’s ardent loyal fans, he reigns ‘alive’, in their hearts. What with dozens of his evergreen soulful songs like ‘‘Woh Jab Yaad Aaye, Bahut Yaad Aaye,’ and ‘Tum Mujhe Yunh, Bhulaa Naa Paaoge’, ‘Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye Toh Kya Hai’.  And a large number of peppy fast-tempo songs like ‘Badan Pey Sitaarey Lappete Huey’ and ‘Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyar Tera’ and of course the classical raga-based ‘Madhuban Mein Raadhika Naache’.

So versatile was Rafi-Saab that he would mold the tonal octave pitch scale and frequency and throw off his singing voice to perfectly match the top star-actors visuals on screen. So when you saw Guru Dutt singing ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chaand’ or Johnny Walker with his quirky antics humming ‘Sar Jo Tera Chakraaye’ or Dharmendra singing ‘Aaj Mausam, Bada Beimaan’ or Rajesh Khanna swinging to ‘Gulabi Aankhen Jo Teri Dekhi’ or Dev Anand swaying to ‘Dheere Dheere Chal–Chaand’ or Amitabh Bachchan crooning to ‘Teri Bindiya Rey’ you could appreciate Rafi-Saab’s fabulous vocal diversity.

Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rahman in Chaudhvin Ka Chand

Dev Anand and Mala Sinha in Dheere Dheere Chal song

Rajesh Khanna and Nanda in Gulabi Aankhen song

As a very young student, in the late ‘70s, I had the privilege to attend a ‘live’ recording of Rafi-Saab at Mumbai-Tardeo area Film Center (2nd floor) under the baton of genius composer R D Burman. The fabulous song was ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’, which much later, fetched Rafi-Saab, both the Filmfare Award and the National Award. When the gentle, soft-spoken benevolent Rafi-Saab, entered the hall, where the musicians were rehearsing, they all stood up voluntarily out of sheer respect and affection. Later it was a ‘surreal’ moment for me when unassuming Rafi-Saab saw me sitting in a corner and walked towards me, and spoke to me courteously for a couple of minutes.

Rafi-saab (right) with R D Burman at song-recording

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Obviously, I was jittery and I fumbled. Sensing my nervousness, the modest iconic singer Rafi-Saab asked the Film Center third floor canteen boy to get some snacks for me and instructed him not to ask for money from me.  As the rehearsals were being conducted, Rafi-Saab very politely asked me whether I took interest in Hindi film music. When I nervously told him film music is my passion, he advised me—music ko apna jigri dost banaa lo—aapka saath kabhi nahin chhodega.( Make music your best friend—it will never leave you. Then he asked me about what I wished to do in my career. It was such an unnerving yet humbling, unforgettable experience for me.

Chaitanya Padukone with Shahid (Mohd.) Rafi and composer Anandji-bhai

Cut to the present—his enterprising singer-son Shahid Rafi, goes into nostalgia mode, “Abbujaan (Rafi-Saab) always lived and breathed music, but he also enjoyed sports, especially badminton. They had formed a team comprising Yusuf-Saab (Dilip Kumar), Naushad-Saab, lyricists Anand Bakshi and Badayuni Shakeel-Bhai and of course, my dad who would play often at the local gymkhana. He was also a carrom champ and an expert at kite-flying. He would be elated at watching a kati patang descend, but would also feel sad that woh kite ‘out’ ho gaya. Listening to cricket commentaries was another passion,” recalls Shahid, whose family has displayed sentimental memorabilia at Rafi Mansion in Bandra, which includes his precious harmonium.