shivani sathiwrote on Nov 6 2009 11:49AM
Mohammad Rafi (December 24, 1924 – July 31, 1980) was a legendary Indian playback singer whose career spanned four decades. Rafi was a versatile singer and sang in many Indian languages including Hindi, Urdu, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Kannada and Telugu. He also recorded English and Persian songs. He is primarily remembered, however, for his Hindi-Urdu songs, which still remain very popular in India today and also among the Indian diaspora. He was the leading male singer in the Bollywood music industry from the 1950s to the 1960s.
In 1944, Rafi moved to Bombay (now Mumbai), where poet Tanvir Naqvi introduced him to some of the leading film producers of the time such as Abdul Rashid Kardar, Mehboob Khan and actor-director Nazeer. Rafi contacted the famous music director Naushad, who initially used him as part of the chorus. Rafi's first song with Naushad was "Hindustan ke hum hain" with Shyam Kumar, Alauddin and others, from A. R. Kardar's Pehle Aap (1944). Around the same time, Rafi recorded another song for the 1945 film Gaon ki Gori, "Aji dil ho kaaboo mein". He considered this song his first Hindi language song.In 1945, Rafi married his cousin Bashira, nicknamed "Majhi", in his village.
In 1945, Rafi appeared on the screen for the song "Tera Jalwa Jis Ne Dekha" in the film Laila Majnu. He sang a number of songs for Naushad as part of the chorus, including "Mere sapnon ki rani, Roohi Roohi" with K. L. Saigal from the film Shahjahan (1946). Rafi was first noted for the song "Tera Khilona Toota Balak" from Mehboob Khan's Anmol Ghadi (1946). His duet with Noor Jehan in the 1947 film Jugnu, "Yahan Badla Wafa Ka" became a hit. Following partition, Rafi decided to stay in India and had his family flown to Bombay.
In 1948, Rafi sang "Sun Suno Aye Duniya Walon Bapuji Ki Amar Kahani", written by Rajendra Krishan, which became a huge hit. He was invited by the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to sing at the latter's house. In 1948, Rafi received a silver medal from Nehru on the Indian Independence Day. In 1949, Rafi was given solo songs by music directors such as Naushad, (Chandni Raat, Dillagi and Dulari) Shyam Sunder (Bazaar) and Husnalal Bhagatram (Meena Bazaar).
The 1960s witnessed the straining of relations between Rafi and the leading female playback singer in Hindi films, Lata Mangeshkar. Lata had wanted Rafi to back her in demanding a half-share from the five percent song royalty that the film's producer conceded to select composers. But Rafi took a diametrically opposite view, and believed that a playback singer's claim on the filmmaker ended with the payment of the agreed fee for the song. During the recording of "Tasveer Teri Dil Mein" (Maya, 1961), Lata argued with Rafi over a certain passage of the song. Rafi felt belittled, as music director Salil Chowdhury sided with Lata. The situation worsened when Lata Mangeshkar declared that she would no longer sing with Rafi. Rafi stated that he was only so keen to sing with Lata as she was with him. Later, at the insistence of S. D. Burman the two decided to reconcile and sing duets; on a personal level, there was still tension. During his last years, Rafi was involved in a controversy over Lata Mangeshkar's introduction in to the Guinness Book of World Records. In a letter dated June 11, 1977 to the Guinness Book of World Records, Rafi had challenged the claim that Lata Mangeshkar has recorded the maximum number of songs ("not less than 25,000" according to Guinness). After receiving a rather escapist reply from Guinness, in a letter dated November 20, 1979, he wrote: "I am disappointed that my request for a reassessment vis-a-vis Ms Mangeshkar's reported world record has gone unheeded.".After Rafi's death, in its 1984 edition, the Guinness Book of Word Records stated Lata Mangeshkar's name for the "Most Recordings" but also stated: "Mohammad Rafi (d 1 Aug 1980) claimed to have recorded 28,000 songs in 11 Indian languages between 1944 and April 1980." Many fans of Rafi state that he has sung over 28,000 songs. However, according to the available figures, Rafi has sung 4,516 Hindi film songs, 112 non-Hindi film songs, and 328 private (non-film) songs from 1945 to 1980. The Guinness Book entries for both Rafi and Lata were later removed in 1991.