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Mohammed Rafi (1924-80)

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Mohammed Rafi

One of the most versatile playback singers of Hindi cinema, Mohammed Rafi had a rich and trained voice laced with a purity that was moving. Rafi was born in Kotla Sultan Singh village and trained under musicians Khan Abdul Waheed Khan, Jeevanlal Matto, and Ghulam Ali Khan. He arrived in Bombay in 1944 and got his break with the film Pehle Aap. However, it was Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi that launched Rafi’s success story as a playback singer.

From then on to the late 1960s, Rafi was the undisputed king of playback singing. He was the voice of almost every star in the 1950s and 1960s, notably Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Rajendra Kumar, and Shammi Kapoor. Interestingly, he also lent his voice to Kishore Kumar in Rangoli and Shararat.

Rafi’s amazing range and brilliance as a singer is demonstrated in the variety of songs he rendered — from the ghazal Hum bekhudi mein in Kala Pani to the rock and roll strains of Aaja aaja in Teesri Manzil, to the heartbreaking Suhani raat dhal chuki in Dulari, and the romantic Khoya khoya chand in Kala Bazaar. While his classical training made it easy for him to render songs such as Madhuban mein Radhika (Kohinoor), Rafi was equally adept at the "yahoo" songs of Shammi Kapoor.

Rafi’s most notable association was with music director Naushad who refused to work with any other playback singer. Their association resulted in classics such as Deedar and Baiju Bawra, among others. If Naushad tapped Rafi’s talent as a classical singer, music directors Shanker-Jaikishen and O.P. Nayyar gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his range in light numbers particularly in films starring Joy Mukherjee, Rajendra Kumar, and Shammi Kapoor.

Rafi’s other major association was with S.D. Burman for whom he rendered the immortal classics in Pyaasa and Kaagaz Ke Phool, arguably the zenith of his career, as also the musical hits under Dev Anand’s Navketan banner — Guide and Tere Ghar Ke Saamne.

With the increasing popularity of Kishore Kumar after Aradhana, Rafi yielded his position as the leading singer to him. However, he did sing some gems such as Dard-e-dil in Karz and Kya hua tera vaada in Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, which fetched him the National Film Award for the Best Playback Singer, in 1977.

Mohammed Rafi was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri in 1965. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer six times, for the films Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Sasural, Dosti, Suraj, Brahmachari; and Hum Kisise Kum Nahin – (Source :- Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema)

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