I was reading a biography of Mohammed Rafi by Sujata Dev. I chanced upon this book and wanted to read for the following reasons.
1) All my growing years, I was a huge fan of Kishore Kumar and the songs sung by him. Even though I would listen to a lot of Mohd. Rafi songs, I just never paid special attention to them. I was also a big fan of Talat Mohammad and Manna Dey at different times but there was never a "Rafi" phase. It seems that Rafi phase has chosen to manifest itself in my life right now. It is very late, yes, and also slightly unfair considering how legendary his talent is.
2) One of my aunt's is a big fan of Rafi sahib and the title for this blog is one of her favorite Rafi songs. Her love for Rafi is what made me stop and take notice of Rafi Saheb's talent.
3) Sonu Nigam and his love for Rafi Saheb. He never walks out of an event or an interview without talking about Rafi saheb. It is quite endearing really.
4) Whoever talked about Rafi Saheb always mentioned his down-to-earth personality and his humility. They talk bout his passion for his profession and his commitment. These things are important to me as well as his talent so I wanted to know more about him.
Don't get me wrong! I am well aware of a lot of the songs sung by Rafi Saheb. I just never thought about them for too long. So, in an effort to know more about the singer, his struggles and his art, I started reading the biography. Few notes about the singer and the book.
1) He really starts on the streets of hard knocks and struggles hard with a singular focus of making it big in the music industry. He leaves his home town, moves to a small accommodation in Mumbai and goes through the trials and tribulations of an unknown person trying to make it in the industry. Naushad ji is the musician to give him first break and that relationship continues throughout his career. Rafi saheb got a letter of recommendation from Naushad ji's dad and he was given a chance to sing in the chorus for a song.
2) Zaheer is his friend and brother-in-law that was there with every step of the way. You don't see that kind of support and dedication in these days.
3) I got a sense that Rafi saheb really enjoyed the job of singing a song and did not care about the size of the project. He sang for famous musicians and new comers with the same level of professionalism. How many singers would be comfortable being the background voice for comedians, in this day and age? And yet there was Rafi saheb, with some of his famous songs picturized on Johnny Walker and Mehmood.
4) At one point of his career, when everything was going well, he approached a musician to help him become a better ghazal singer. He worked very hard to improve his ability to sing ghazals.
5) The length and breadth of his work was amazing. He sang romantic songs, patriotic songs, ghazals, sad songs, comedic songs, teasing songs, and every other genre of song that can be imagined. That is an amazing resume.
6) His diction was amazing and equally impressive was the mood he would add to the song. His had a way of laying stress on a word or a phrase to make a regular song a legendary one.
7) He seemed like a very humble soul and a simple human being. He also put in a lot of hard work and seemed like a perfectionist at heart.
I went through all these years of my life without thinking much about him and all of a sudden his art and his love for music just hits me. And it is overwhelming to take in this much talent. I am so glad that I am able to sit and reminisce this legendary artist and his music. I am a little disappointed that I did not think much of his work until recently.
A note about the writer: The book was well written. It is a very thorough compilation of facts and remembrances from various music personalities. The book has a very detailed summary and statistics of his work with various music directors, song writers, actors, and other singers. While that information was helpful, I felt that it was a tad bit monotonous and more detailed than I was interested in. What was missing though was a certain warmth in the story telling. There was no build-up, no drama, and no attempt at painting a picture. It was devoid of any gossip, which was a good thing. But at the same time, there was no enamor or empathy or emotion in the unwrapping of his life story. The tone of the book was very matter-of-fact and to-the-point. That was a little bit of disappointment. It read more like a resume of Rafi saheb and not so much a connection to the person that he is. I feel like I am more connected to the singer when I listen to a five minute interview by Sonu Nigam than I did from reading an entire book about him. Everything about his life is documented in this book, don't get me wrong. But that is all it is, a documentation. Not an unveiling of the persona that is Mohd. Rafi, just a documentation of his life events. I also felt like the book was a collection of various people's memories of Rafi Saheb than a story of his life. I guess a seasonaed biographer would have probably done a better job of picturizing his life as it unfolded itself rather than presenting it from a vantage point of recollection by various film personalities.
Have a read if you don't know anything about the singer and want to.
Here is a list of my favorite songs of Mohd. Rafi. This is a tough list and is not limited to the songs copied here. It is very difficult to pick few songs from the 1000s he has sung. Each one of these songs is special to me for different reasons. Hope you will enjoy listening to them.