Rafi Saab’s singing was divine – Suman Kalyanpur

Recently, it was Mohd. Rafi's 41st death anniversary. Bollywood's one of the most loved singer Rafisaab's duet partner Suman Kalyanpur recalls his divine singing and persona

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 MeinNa 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

Ranjan Das Gupta

is a Kolkata-based independent journalist. He has been doing freelance work for more than 3 decades and writes on arts & culture, cinema, politics, healthcare and education

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  1. Truly a Gem of a person and a Fantafabulous singer. His work is peerless and he can never be replaced

  2. Whatever one says about Mohd Rafi Sahab will never be adequate. It is delightful to hear what respected Suman Kalyanpur jee said about her memories with Rafi Sahab as her partner of so many beautiful songs this pair have sung together.

  3. Rafisaab was Peerless..The fact that even today generations listen to him.(even those who were not even born when he died) and idolizes him is a proof that Rafisaab will be remembered even 50 or 100 years from now.

  4. Who can differ with the feelings of Suman kalynpur about the great rafi Saab.not in past,not in present and not even in future can any one be equal to rafi Saab in terms of singing. At the top of this he was a great human being.

  5. Great human being, great personality with Golden silky velvet voice. Entertained all of us when he was alive and still people all around the world enjoying his soulful songs even after 41 years. Truly he King of Voice.

  6. Rafi Saab’s singing was immaculate and peerless.He rendered song to almost all the actors of Hindi film industry and for every actor he sang in differently which suited them effortlessly.His modulation of each word was different when the word came again.That was the genius of Rafi Saab.Even today Rafi saab song are aired more in numbers when ever old songs are played on Radio Ceylon, Vividh Bharti,and Even FM station.Rafi saab has given max background song in many movies and all are in different shades and matchless.Immortal Rafi Saab.His has always given pleasure to us

  7. There is no one who is not a fan of Mohammad Rafi,a legendary singer ,a classical singer par excellence and above all compassionate gem of a human a big fan of RAFI Sahab.As long as music is alive on this Earth ,Rafi’s voice will b heard all over,such is his charishma..🙏

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