Rafi and Roshan – The Magically Mellisonant Combo
A man with a divine voice and golden heart, he was a master of singing and a thorough gentleman, deeply revered by his contemporaries and artistes of the subsequent generations. The purity of his heart always reflected in his voice and hence, it always sounds unadulterated – rightly described as ‘angel’s voice’! He ruled the kingdom of playback – as the undisputed emperor for more than two decades, and as one of the emperors for the other two. He was bestowed with inherent versatility and had gained mastery over classical music. Romantic, melancholic, devotional, comedy, classical – no genre was out of his reach. His playback suited the heroes, the side actors, the old, the young, everyone. His voice effortlessly blended with the style of any composer like water taking the shape of the container, as though he was made only for that composer. Always kind to the composers and producers with little adamance about the commercials, he was a preferred singer for many composers and never fell short of work. Sometimes he was alleged with playing it to the gallery. But he could never say no to anyone due to the innate kindness.
Yes, it’s none other than the legendary playback singer Mohammed Rafi, our beloved Rafi Saahab!
The golden era of Hindi film music saw an ensemble of many talented and innovative composers, each one having his / her unique style in most cases marked by strong classical foundation, petrichor of the land of the composer’s origin and a pinch or two of western music. While all the golden era composers composed unforgettable music fondly remembered even to date, only some of them who had a good business knack could achieve a huge commercial success. Others remained true to the art, for them quality always preceded over the quantity.
Roshan Lal Nagrath (popularly known by his mononym Roshan) was one such composer. Starting with Kidar Sharma’s Neki Aur Badi (1949), he composed music for more than fifty films in his career spanning across three decades. If the remuneration, number Filmfare awards and ranking and frequency of appearance in Binaca Geet Mala are the measuring rods, Roshan was barely successful. However, if connoisseur appeal and purity of art are the measuring rods, he was far ahead of many of his compeers. Indian classical music was at the helm of his style marked by pleasant and soft melodic phrases comprising closely intertwined notes fluttering like a group of colourful butterflies flying together (remember the oscillating melodic phrases in the line “Hum intazar karenge tera qayamat tak”, for instance?). Albeit identifiable, his style does not seem monotonous. Generous use of the Indian instruments like flute, sitar and sarod is seen in his compositions, though he also used the western instruments like saxophone and violins conspicuously many a time. Many of his compositions create a pleasant aura and satisfy the listeners to the core. For the current generation readers, the last name of their its heart throb Hrithik Roshan is not his family name, it’s the brand that his grandfather Roshan built decades ago.
Mohammed Rafi, being fluently malleable, has brought the profuse softness and soulfulness in Roshan’s melody-focussed compositions to life proficiently. Though Roshan was not a Rafi-centric composer and has used other male singers like Talat Mahmood and Mukesh also frequently, the songs that Mohammed Rafi has rendered under his baton certainly stand out in repertoires of both. Rafi appears in Roshan’s music noticeably in the 1960s. Let us have a quick glance at some of the Rafi solos sung for Roshan.
1. Zindagi Bhar Nahin Bhoolegi Wo Barsaat Ki Raat (Barsaat Ki Raat – 1960)
This is a soft romantic song penned by Sahir Ludhinavi and set to music on the notes of raag Yaman by Roshan with beautiful use of sitar, jal tarang and sarangi. The music and Rafi’s rendition ooze the romance copiously.
The song has another version, which is duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi.
2. Maine Shaayad Tumhen Pehle Bhi Kahin Dekha Hai (Barsaat Ki Raat – 1960)
Another beautiful Rafi solo from the same film, the song is orchestrated by Roshan with sarod, sarangi, jal tarang and muffled yet catchy rhythm. Sahi Ludhianvi’s lyrics have some unique similes like “Waham se bhi jo ho nazuk, wo yakeen lagti ho” (you seem like a faith that is more delicate than a misconception).
3. Tum Ek Baar Muhabbat Ka Imtehaan To Lo (Babar – 1960)
This song written by Sahir Ludhianvi expresses a lover’s urge for being tested for his love and dedication. Mohammed Rafi’s rendition with subtle touches of pathos effectively conveys the feelings.
4. Ab Kya Misaal Doon Main Tumhare Shabab Ki (Aarti – 1962)
In this romantic and mellifluous Rafi solo filmed on the protagonists Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar describes her beauty in Majrooh Sultanpuri’s rich and Urdu laden words.
5. Jo Baat Tujhmein Hai (Taj Mahal – 1963)
Here, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (Pradeep Kumar) expresses through Sahir Ludhianvi’s apt lyrics his inability to reflect through his painting the divine beauty of Mumtaz (Bina Rai), of which he has got just a glimpse. Mohammed Rafi’s rendition is mind blowing.
6. Man Re, Tu Kaahe Na Dheer Dhare? (Chitralekha – 1964)
Through this soulful solo by Rafi, Aryaputra Samant Bijgupt (Pradeep Kumar) is trying to stabilise his fickle mind that has fallen in love which would not fructify. Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics convey a deep philosophy is simple words. Roshan’s composition based on raag Yaman and orchestrated with flute, sarod and violins transports us to a different world. Mohammed Rafi’s rendition is mesmerising. This is perhaps the best joint creation of Mohammed Rafi and Roshan.
7. Jane Wo Kaun Hai, Kya Naam Hai Un Aankhon Ka? (Bheegi Raat – 1965)
This is romantic Rafi solo filmed on Pradeep Kumar, Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri. Mohammed Rafi’s rendition is soft and pleasant.
The film has another quite popular Rafi solo “Dil jo na keh saka”, which is a tandem song with the other version sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
8. Swapna Jhare Phool Se (Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal – 1966)
The film depicts the story of the students at a university who are misguided with a propaganda and made to believe that politics is patriotism. The song expresses the agony that the students end up in after realising that it is too late, and the irreparable harm is already done. The lyrics are written by Neeraj and serve as an epitome of his rich poetry. Both, Roshan’s composition and Mohammed Rafi’s rendition, are touching.
9. Hum Intazaar Karenge Tera Qayamat Tak (Bahu Begum – 1967)
The song portrays the intense pain of a heartbreak in Sahir Ludhinavi’s strring lyrics set to music in a commensurate tune and orchestration by Roshan. The poignancy in Mohammed Rafi’s rendition is as effective as the romance in his rendition of the happy version of this song, a duet with Asha Bhosle.
10. Mile Na Phool To Kaanto Se Dosti Kar Lee (Anokhi Raat – 1968)
Roshan passed away suddenly when he was scoring the music for this film. It is said that his wife Ira Roshan completed the work of the soundtrack. That is why perhaps the songs, although mellisonant, sound different and a tad louder than Roshan’s usual style. This touching Rafi solo is penned by Kaifi Azmi.
Coincidentally, a good deal of movies for which Roshan composed music have the trio Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar and Ahsok Kumar in the lead roles, for example, Barsaat Ki Raat, Aarti, Chitralekha, Bahu Begum, and Bheegi Raat.
Hope you enjoyed the musical magic that Rafi and Roshan have jointly created. Had Roshan not breathed his last suddenly due to a heart attack in 1967 when he was just 50, we would have been lucky enough to have more aural treats from him.