A tribute to Rafi on his 36th death anniversary (24 December 1924 – 31 July 1980)
Rafi is arguably the best male playback singer of Hindi films, and Shankar-Jaikishan are, by any yardstick, among the greatest music directors. In any case they have been commercially the most successful and dominant figure over two decades (1950s-60s). Therefore, one would expect that any compilation of Rafi’s greatest songs would have a good number of SJ compositions. However, when I think of the best of Rafi, SJ do not pop up in my mind instantly. At the top in my reckoning are Naushad, Roshan, SD Burman and OP Nayyar, followed by a platter of Madan Mohan, Ravi, Chitragupta and Khayyam; thereafter, an assortment of Ghulam Mohammad, Hansraj Bahal, Husnlal-Bhagatram, and even ‘Forgotten Composers’ such as C Arjun, Lachchiram, Iqbal Qureshi etc. Surely, SJ cannot be dismissed in such a peremptory manner. To make sure that I was not missing something, I went through the entire list of Rafi songs closely.
A journey down the list of Raf-SJ songs makes me somewhat ambivalent. Rafi appears from the very first film of SJ – Barsaat (1949) with Main zindagi mein hardam rota hi hun, picturised on Raj Kapoor as a background song. But Barsaat became famous for long-lasting partnership between Raj Kapoor, Mukesh, Shankar-Jaikishan, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. While Mukesh became synonymous as the voice of Raj Kapoor, Rafi remained as ‘also there’. In the RK’s next magnum opus, Awara (1951), Rafi again gets to sing two songs – a boatman song Naiya teri majhdhar picturised on Prem Nath, and an atmospheric song Zulum sahe bhari Janakdulari, but the film is known for Awara hun, Hum tujhse mohabbat karke sanam etc. In the first five years of SJ, Rafi appeared regularly, but Mukesh got to sing songs which became iconic. SJ also created memorable songs for Talat Mahmood during this period in Daag (1952), Aas, Patita and Shikast (1953).
Starting 1955/1956, Rafi gets songs which show his true mettle in films like Seema, Basant Bahar, Halaku and Rajhath. Love Marriage (1959) can be seen as a turning point when SJ present Rafi as the voice of Dev Anand which was very different from SD Burman’s. SJ continue their success formula for some more Dev Anand films, such as Jab Pyar Ksis Se Hota Hai (1961) and Asli Naqli (1962). Around the same time, SJ-Rafi heat up the Box Office with Junglee (1961). Shammi Kapoor had been given an image makeover a few years earlier in Tumsa Nahi Dekha (1957) with Rafi songs by OP Nayyar. SJ deserve the credit for making him completely wild with a series of superhit songs by Rafi in Dil Tera Deewana, Professor (1962), Rajkumar (1964), Jaanwar (1965), Budtameez (1966), An Evening In Paris, Laat Saheb (1967), Brahmachari (1968) and Prince (1969). Thus, Shammi Kapoor’s screen persona owes a great deal to Rafi songs by SJ.
Another revolution was taking place in parallel. A most unlikely hero quietly went on to become the Jubilee Kumar with crazily popular songs in Sasural (1961), Hamrahi (1963), Ayi Milan Ki Bela, Zindagi (1964), Arzoo (1965) and Suraj (1966). Quite honestly, you cannot think of Rajendra Kumar without Rafi songs composed by SJ.
SJ used Rafi as the voice for several other heroes convincingly, such as Sunil Dutt, Bharat Bhushan, Manoj Kumar, Joy Mukherji, Biswajit etc, coming up with one hit song after another.
With this close look, what is my final assessment of Shankar-Jaikishan songs for Rafi? It is clear they had perfected a hit machine, creating songs which immediately caught people’s attention. Their tunes were easy, their orchestration pleasant and the films they did became superhits, their songs playing a big part in their success. One can also say they probably composed more ‘hit’ songs than any of their peers. With all that, my assessment about their relative position remains the same: The best of the Elite Four –Naushad, Roshan, SD Burman and OP Nayyar – is a notch above SJ’s, but a fair view would be to make room for one more at the top, making SJ the fifth member of the Elite Group.
There are a large number of SJ-Rafi songs I am greatly fond of. Continuing the Shankar-Jaikishan celebrations, here are some of my favourite songs as a tribute to Rafi on his 36th death anniversary.
1. Jo ek baar kah do from Pooja (1954), lyrics Shailendra
Among their early songs I am especially fond of Jo ek baar kah do. This song has two versions: happy and sad. This one starts deceptively with a slow recital prelude making you think that it is the sad version. But as the recital ends, fast instrumental prelude starts followed by this very peppy song.
2. Kahan ja raha tu ae janewale from Seema (1955), lyrics Shailendra
Having faced ill-treatment from her uncle and aunt, Nutan plays the role of a wild, unruly girl in an orphanage to perfection, which fetched her her first Filmfare Award among several to follow later. The in-charge Balraj Sahni’s attempts to reform her have been futile. When she leaves, Balraj Sahni’s plaintive pleading shows his sadness at his own failure. This makes Nutan pause and think. A recent book, which has created some controversy, has suggested that Rafi resorted to artificial tremolo in his voice to create sadness whereas Mukesh and Talat Mahmood had natural pathos in their voice. One can count several songs to disprove this view. Rafi has a natural sadness in this song.
3. Aye bahar ban ke lubha kar chale gaye from Rajhath (1956), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
This song shows SJ could also compose extremely soulful ghazals at par with the best of anyone. Sadly, they are known more for their songs churned out by their hit machine.
4. Jaane kahan gayi from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960), lyrics Shailendra
Street dance songs on minor actors have been generally very successful, and often the most memorable song of a film. DAAPP has been famous for wrong reasons. This was the beginning of SJ’s surprise Filmfare wins over some landmark scores. There are many who, however, believe that there is nothing shocking in this film winning the Filmfare Award for the best music over Mughal-e-Azam. Leaving that controversy aside, I am a great fan of Jane kahan gayi picturised on Raj Kishor.
5. Jiya ho jiya ho jiya kuchh bol do..Jab pyar ksis se hota hai from Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
SJ create a blast for Dev Anand in Rafi’s voice. This was quite similar to Shammi Kapoor-style of their songs. Teri zulfon se judai to nahi maangi thi was another superb Rafi in the film.
6. Chheda mere dil ne tarana tere pyar ka from Asli Naqli (1962), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
SJ follow up their great success with Dev Anand in JPKSHH with another superhit in their next Dev Anand film. The dapper Dev Anand is in his elements with the bevy of beauties.
7. Humne zafa na seekhi unko wafa na aayi from Zindagi (1964), lyrics Shailendra
SJ’s contribution in the making of Rajendra Kumar as the Jubuilee Kumar started in 1961 with Aas Ka Pnachhi and Sasural, and they continued the great run with Humrahi, Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Ayi Milan Ki Bela and Zindagi (1964). From the large number of well-known Rafi songs from these films, I am especially fond of Humne zafa na seekhi and Pahle mile the sapnon mein from Zindagi. The former has a more complex tune which showcases the modulation in Rafi’s voice better.
8. Ae nargis-e-mastana from Arzoo (1965), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
SJ’s magic run with Rajedra Kumar continues further with Arzoo (1965) – Ae nargis-e-mastana, Ae phoolon ke Rani baharon ki malika, Chhalke teri ankhon se sharab aur zyada; Suraj (1966) – Bahaaro phool barsaao, Chehre pe giri zulfein; and some more very popular songs in Aman (1967) and Jhuk Gaya Aasman (1968). This group contains a controversial cult song Bahaaro phool barsaao – any dissent about this song has generated violent reactions on some sites. Since SoY is a more tolerant forum, I can safely say here that I am frankly puzzled by all the greatness bestowed on this song. There are other songs in this group I like more. SJ-Rajendra Kumar-Rafi deserve at least one more. Here is a song which could be only done by Rafi, and is my special favourite. That was the time when Kashmir was literally jannat where romance bloomed in many films.
9. Laal chhadi maidan khadi from Jaanwar (1965), lyrics Shailendra
If Rajendra Kumar was a good obedient boy, standing first in the class and going on to become a doctor, Shammi Kapoor was his exact opposite. When he burst forth on the screen screaming Yahoo…chaahe koi mujhe jungle kahe, it created a sensation. His elder brother’s Awara and Shree 420 was a soft romantic, who had strayed on the wrong path because of the circumstances. But no hero before had proudly been a Junglee, Jaanwar or Budtameez. Among this genre of songs I am very fond of Laal chhadi maidan khadi. Shammi Kapoor teases the hell out Rajshree, but in the end the girls always melted.
10. Tumne kisi ki jaan ko jaate huye dekha hai from Rajkumar (1964), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
Shammi Kapoor crawls and spreads his hands as his jaan leaves him. The wild and crazy man was also a romantic.
11. Radhike tune bansuri churayi from Beti Bete (1964), lyrics Shalendra
Shankar-Jaikishan had already displayed their prowess for heavy classical-based songs in Basant Bahar (1956). They have also used classical Ragas in several other songs. Chandrakanta.com identifies Radhike tune bansuri churayi as Adana which, as the readers are aware, is full of gusto and joy compared to its close cousin Darbari, which is grave and ponderous. Sunil Dutt lip-synchs Rafi perfectly to the dancing duo B Saroja Devi and Jamuna performing a Radha-Krishna dance. In my last post on Mukesh we have seen a few excellent songs in which the man sings and the woman dances. It seems SJ had special fascination for this type of dance songs too. These can now be seen as extension of my two posts on his dance songs, one for Lata Mangeshkar and the other for female duets.
12. Khayaalon mein jai hungama..Hum kaale hain to kya hua dilwaale hain (with Mehmood) from Gumnaam (1965), lyrics Shailendra
From the serious let us move to completely crazy and comic, and who can do it better than Mehmood? Except the initial words Khayalon mein and some interventions in-between by Mehmood, Hum kale hain to kya hua dilwale hain is out and out Rafi show. Gumnaam was based on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Hum kale hain became a craze consolidating the position of Mehmood as the top comedian of his era. The child artiste Naeem Sayyed who danced to this song in Brahmchari (1968) became forever known as Junior Mehmood.
13. Unke khayal aaye to aate chale gaye from Laal Pathar (1971), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri
From Mehmood’s comic khayal, now you have the same word used very seriously. At a time when SJ aura was all but over they compose this great classical ghazal. The stern and misogynist zamindar Raj Kumar is surprisingly charmed by a woman and brings her home, more as one of his hunting trophies. Years later, he falls for another, much younger woman. The resulting complications unhinges him. Playing the tabla is his way of getting away from it all. In one of the great ironies of the film world, the minor actor on the tanpura, lip-synching Rafi, is GM Durrani, once Rafi’s idol and a leading singer to whom Rafi gave chorus support in some songs in the beginning of his career.