I was humming, Tere Hum O Sanam to myself. Memories of this lilting hit of mine with Mohammad Rafi Saab tuned by Sardar Malik flocked my mind. I was a new entry in the 60s to the world of playback singing. Mohd. Rafi was already the nationally acclaimed best playback crooner. A well-trained classical singer, Rafisaab was versatile. No other singer suited the voice of so many actors like Rafisaab did. While singing he delved deep into the philosophy of each song and understood well the acting style of the actor who was lip-syncing the song.
I am an introvert and shy person. I stuck to my singing and avoided mingling with film people. A truly affectionate senior, Rafisaab understood my nature well. When we rehearsed, he was very cooperative. During recordings, Rafisaab lent a divine touch to every song. Never did he try to dominate any singer who rendered duets with him. His diction was perfect and he could raise his vocal octaves to the highest pitch effortlessly. Similarly, he could bring down his voice equally well. The viberetto he used singing Aaja Re As Zara is still peerless.
I shared many sweet memories with the legendary Rafisaab. He was very seldom in pensive moods. Even if Rafisaab was not in a good state of mind he was never ill-behaved or whimsical. An emotional person, Rafisaab was a pious soul. Not a single day did he miss his prayers or riyaz. He believed in perfection and stuck to it.
There are many memorable duets Rafisaab sang with me composed by Shankar Jaikishan, Khayyam, Kalyanji Anandji, and Laxmikant Pyarelal. Each of these composers had their styles and was highly gifted. The duets which I remember fondly are Aap Ko Dil Mein, Na Na Karte Hue, Aajkal Tere Mere and Jaan Chali Jaye. To me, my eternal favorite is the climax song Dil Ek Mandir Hai from the film with the same name. As Rafisaab rendered the lovely Aa Aa Aa in the song I noticed tears in his eyes. So involved was he in singling.
I don’t believe in comparing creative people. Rafisaab, Mannada, Hemantda, Mukeshji, and Kishoreda are all institutions. They can never be compared. Just as S.D. Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, Kalyanji Anandji and Laxmikant Pyarelal are incomparable. Rafisaab admired my Marathi and Bengali songs. He was especially fond of the innocent romanticism conveyed by my solo Mone Koro Ami Nei in Bengali tuned by Ratu Mukhopadhyay. Rafisaab always said, “Ek Sachhe Phankar Ko Apne Gane Mein Dil Aur Dimag Dono Ka Sahi Istemal Karna Chahiye.”
No one ever said anything undignified about Rafisaab. He was a gem of a human being. Forty-one years ago when he passed away on this date, I was rendered speechless in grief. I remember the solo, Chale Ja Jahan Pyar Mile. Rafisaab rendered the male version and I the female one. I am sure he is now in that heavenly land where only love exists. There will never be a second Mohd. Rafi.
As told to Ranjan Das Gupta