An Attempt To Slight Mohammad Rafi
By Sumit S Paul, The Milli Gazette Online
Published Online: Sep 27, 2012
I don't like this tendency of talking disparagingly of those who're no more. Recently, Lata Mangeshkar said in an interview to Subhash K Jha that Mohammad Rafi apologised to her and wrote a letter of apology. This never happened. Even his son, Shahid Rafi, pooh-poohed Lata's outlandish claims.
It's a well-known fact that Lata and Rafi parted ways over royalty in the sixties. All the insecure male-female singers, barring Rafi, wanted to get a cut from the producer, director etc. Lata was too vocal on this count. She saw penury. So did Rafi. Rafi also lived in a chawl (shanty) till 1956 when 'Aan' catapulted him to stardom.
Despite Lata's indubitable greatness, there's no gainsaying the fact that she has always been very scheming, manipulative and morbidly vindictive. There were two female singers, who challenged her hegemony: Her sister Asha and Suman Kalyanpur. Following the tiff with Lata, Rafi continued getting offers for duets with Asha and Suman. And they sang some of the immortal duets like 'Thahariye, hosh mein aa loon' (Rafi-Suman, composer-Khayyam) and 'Bahut haseen hain tumhari ankhein’ (Rafi-Suman, S. Mohinder). This made Lata insecure and she wanted to patch up with the great Rafi. She approached Jaikishan and the matter was sorted out.
But Rafi never apologised. He was a man of principles unlike Lata. She harboured a lifelong grudge against Rafi and when Rafi had a lull period in the late sixties and early seventies, thanks to Kishore's meteoric rise, Lata even gave an interview to the now defunct 'Madhuri' (a Hindi film magazine) that Kishore was much greater than Rafi which embarrassed Kishore and Rajesh Khanna, for whom Rafi had lent his voice in Chetan Anand's 'Akhari Khat' (1966) and 'Raaz' (1966). Rajesh Khanna always accepted the fact that it was Rafi's immortal 'Aur kuchh der thahar aur kuchh der na ja' (Akhari Khat) that got him the footing in the industry.
Because of a very powerful Bengali lobby comprising S D Burman, his useless son R D Burman, to some extent Kishore and Shakti Samant with Lata's tacit support, Rafi's singing career suffered a temporary setback.
Uttam Kumar (one of the closest friends of Rafi) and Salil Chaudhury knew this very well that a strong Bengali lobby with Lata's behind-the-curtain support was working against Rafi and they conveyed this to him (Rafi). In fact, Rafi never got his due in his lifetime. He was a far better singer than all male singers put together and greater than Lata and Asha. Just hear his duet with Asha in 'Bambai ka babu' (1963), 'Deewana mastana hua dil jaane kahan ho ke bahar aayee' (Majrooh, S D Burman). Asha's voice clearly trembles when pitted against Rafi's. The students of music with understanding of tenor and timbre and baritone will detect the glaring error in Asha's voice or listen to one of Rafi's last numbers, which he sang with Lata in Chambal Ki Qasam: 'Simti hui ye ghadiyaan' (Sahir and Khayyam, 1979).
Lata couldn't compete with Rafi. Her voice faltered. It's really painful to read when an excellent singer like her talks so casually about a fellow singer whose voice is considered to be one of the finest voices in the history of music and who never said anything against anyone.