Hope and disillusionment Monday, Mar 2 2009 

The lyrics of two Hindi film songs written ten years apart show starkly how the dreams nurtured by Indians of life after independence from British rule came crashing down to earth. 

In 1948, Nazim Panipati wrote a song expressing absolute glee over the British departing from India. It went: ‘ab Darane kii koii baat nahiin, angrezii chhoraa chalaa gayaa’ (film: ‘Majboor’, music: Ghulam Haider, singers: Mukesh and Lata). The joyful mood of the song is clearly evident from the very fact that the much-hated Englishman is referred to as ‘angrezii chhoraa’ (‘English boy’) and ‘vo goraa-goraa’ (‘that fair one’)!

Right in the beginning, the poet declares ‘ab Darane kii koii baat nahiin’ (‘there’s no need to fear now’). Why? Because, the poet says, ‘thaa jinakaa Dar vo gaye chale’ (‘the ones whom we feared have left’). Hope of better days is expressed in these words: ‘ab nahiin hai raaj firangii kaa / lo jhanDaa lagaa tirangii kaa / ab nahiin zamaanaa tangii kaa’ (‘British rule is no more / the tricolour is in place / the days of scarcity are over’). The numerous troubles that the British gave us were expected to go with them: ‘dukh-dard firangii laaye the / hamen laakhon rog lagaaye the / gaye vahiin jahaan se aaye the’ (‘the British brought with them sorrow and pain / they gave us numerous afflictions / (what a relief that) they have left whence they came’).

In 1958, Sahir Ludhianvi wrote a bitter satire on the state of the young republic in the song ‘chiin-o-arab hamaaraa, hindostaan hamaaraa / rahane ko ghar nahiin hai, saaraa jahaan hamaaraa’ (‘China and Arabia are ours, India is ours / we don’t have a place to stay, but the whole world is ours’) (film: ‘Phir Subah Hogi’, music: Khayyam, singer: Mukesh). It was a bitter, but brilliant, take-off on the poet Iqbal’s poems ‘Tarana-e-Milli’ and ‘Tarana-e-Hind’ (i.e., ‘saare jahaan se achchha’).

What is the state of the common man in India ten years after the ‘angrezii chhoraa’ left?

They are deprived of shelter and education: ‘kholii bhii chhin gayi hai, benchen bhii chhin gayi hain / saDakon pe ghuumataa hai, ab kaaravaan hamaaraa’ (‘our rooms and our (school) benches have been forced from us / we now roam the streets’).

The authorities have become oppressors: ‘jeben hain apanii khaalii, kyon detaa varnaa gaalii / vo santarii hamaaraa, vo paasabaan hamaaraa’ (‘our pockets are empty, why else would / that sentry, that protector of ours (the police) abuse us?’).

Capitalists dominate the economy: ‘jitanii bhii bilDingen thiin, seThon ne baant lii hain / fuTapaath bambaii ke, hai aashiyaan hamaaraa’ (‘all the buildings are distributed among themselves by the wealthy / the pavements of Bombay are our refuge’).

Common folk find it difficult to get work: ‘taaliim hai adhuurii, milatii nahiin majuurii / maaluum kyaa kisiiko, dard-e-nihaan hamaaraa’ (‘our education is incomplete, we don’t get work / who does know our pain?’)

Even if this is an overly pessimistic scenario, Nehru’s mixed economy seems to have produced dissidents in the very first decade of independence.

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 6 Monday, May 21 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

Text in box brackets [ ] is added by me.

SHAILENDRA

ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa

Whence did Shailendra get these words – ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa? He had been to a dhaba for food. There, the proprietor called the waiter by his name – Ramaiyaa, and Shailendra was so intrigued by this odd-sounding name that he made an opening line (mukha.Daa) of a song using it. And what immortal words he employed to follow these unique words? mai.nne dil tujhako diyaa.

[Alternative version: I have heard an alternative version of this anecdote. Shailendra had gone to a Goanese restaurant, but with either Shankar or Jaikishan (or perhaps, both). Apparently, ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa means mai.nne dil tujhako diyaa in Konkani or some other language or dialect, and Shailendra heard those words in the restaurant and was charmed by them. This version of the anecdote has the merit that it can be easily verified by checking whether ramaiyaa vastaavaiyaa really means anything in any language. Besides, what is so odd about a person with the name Ramaiyaa?]

Absent-mindedness

Shailendra was so absent-minded that he lost attention toward his cigarette. Shailendra had a unique style of smoking a cigarette and shaking off ash. Once, there was a classical meet at music director Shankar’s place. In addition to the entire R. K. group, Dilip Kumar was also present there. Shailendra became so engrossed in sitarist Ravi Shankar and vocalist Ustad Amir Khan sahab‘s dual performance that he forgot to take puffs from his cigarette. His fingers were about to get burnt by the lighted cigarette when Raj Kapoor noticed. He exclaimed, “Pushkin, mind your cigarette!” (Raj Kapoor called Shailendra by the name Pushkin, after the Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin, who lay at the foundations of the people’s revolution.) The poet snapped out of his musical reverie when Rajsa’ab alerted him. And once, he had lighted a second cigarette while the first one was already lighted and between his lips. This may be all right - as a poet, one can consider him absent-minded, but shouldn’t there be a limit to it? Once he went to Sundarbai Hall with his wife to watch a play, and came back alone at night!

Song from ‘Amrapali’

In the song jaao re jogii from the film ‘Amrapali’, Shailendra conveys a profound thought with a simple, short line:

gyaan kii kaisii siimaa gyaanii, gaagar me.n saagar kaa paanii!

Shankar-Jaikishen had the tune of this song ready. But Shailendra was at a loss for words. The director, Lekh Tandon, took Shailendra to the National Park in Borivli. After four hours, the poet returned without having put down a single word in his 200-page notebook, his constant companion. But after arriving at the recording studio and listening to Shankar-Jaikishen’s full composition, Shailendra wrote the song in just 5 minutes, in a stanza of which he presented reality to ascetics with these words:

jiivan se kaisaa chhuTakaaraa, hai nadiyaa ke paas kinaaraa

[Alternative version: I have heard Lata Mangeshkar say, on the Vividhbharati radio channel, that the words of this song were ready, while Shankar-Jaikishen were unable to agree on a tune for the mukha.Daa. It was Lata who suggested how to take up the words jaao re, jogii tum jaao re, and then the composition fell into place.]

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 5 Wednesday, May 16 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

MAJROOH SULTANPURI

Tuning with S. D. Burman

That Majroohsa’ab had developed good tuning with Sachin-da, not only professionally but also personally, was seen during the making of ‘Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi’. It was decided that Majrooh Sultanpuri would write the lyrics to S. D. Burman’s music for this Guru Dutt film. Sachin-da became bed-ridden after a sudden heart attack. Guru was requested to wait for a month or so. But Guru Dutt did not accede to this request. So Majrooh took the position: “No Burman-da, no Majrooh”. At last, O. P. Nayyar came in as music director for ‘Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi’ and the songs were written by Kaifi Azmi in place of Majrooh.

Borrowed lines

The roots of the song,

झूम झूम के नाचो आज, गाओ ख़ुशी के गीत
आज किसी की हार हुई है, आज किसी की जीत

jhuum jhuum ke naacho aaj, gaa_o Kushii ke giit,
aaj kisii kii haar hu_ii hai, aaj kisii kii jiit

written for Mehboob Khan’s film ‘Andaz’ that starred Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Nargis, lay in lines created by Prem Dhawan at the time of the country’s independence. Music director Naushad had obtained permission from Prem Dhawan to allow Majrooh to use these lines in the mukha.Daa.

Peer pressure

Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the song ‘zi.ndagii bhar nahii.n bhuulegii vo barasaat kii raat‘ keeping Madhubala in mind. Roshan provoked Majrooh, saying he did not have it in him to write such a song. In reply to this provocation, Majrooh wrote for Meena Kumari in the film ‘Aarti’:

अब क्या मिसाल दूं मैं तुम्हारे शबाब की
इन्सान बन गई है किरन माहताब की

ab kyaa misaal duu.N mai.n tumhaare shabaab kii
insaan ban ga_ii hai kiran, maahataab kii

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 4 Wednesday, May 16 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

MAJROOH SULTANPURI

First impression

[Senior poet Jigar Muradabadi had brought a young Majrooh to Mumbai mushaayaraa]

It was the year 1945. A gala was organized on the grounds of Mumbai’s Sabu Siddiqui Institute. The mushaayaraa (poets’ council) was dull despite Sagar Nizami being the compere. Syed Shahabuddin Desanvi, the organizer, also looked on in despair. At this juncture, Majrooh was introduced as the shaagird (disciple) of Jigar Muradabadi and thrust in front of the cool audience of that Mumbai evening. The fair, well-built novice poet, dressed in a black closed-neck sherwani and white Lakhnavi trousers, approached the microphone and started to recite a ghazal. What happened then was similar to the events in a film (or, what happened next in Majrooh’s real life was perhaps repeated in films). Without a preface, Majrooh began:

शब-ए-इन्तज्ञार की कश्मकश में, न पूछ कैसे सहर हुई
कभी इक चराग़ बुझा दिया, कभी इक चराग़ जला दिया

shab-e-intazaar kii kashmakash me.n, na puuchh kaise sahar hu_ii,
kabhii ik charaaG bujhaa diyaa, kabhii ik charaaG jalaa diyaa

Amidst shouts of “Bravo!” and “Encore!”, that evening belonged to Majrooh.

Extra credit on debut

All ten songs of the film ‘Shah Jahan’ were credited to Majrooh, but the fact is that three of them were written by the poet Khumar Barabankvi (chaah barabaad karegii; ai dil-e-beqaraar jhuum; bedard na kar).

Jailed

Majrooh was married to Firdaus on May 5, 1948. So his family expanded, and expenses were going to increase. Yet, instead of getting to work, the poet went to jail. The reason? A workers’ agitation was on in Bombay in those days. In one such labourers’ rally, Majrooh made a speech and called Jawaharlal Nehru “a slave of the Commonwealth” and “a Hitler”. Majrooh recited the following controversial lines:

अमन का झंडा इस धरती पे
किसने कहा लहराने न पाए
ये भी है हिटलर का कोई चेला
मार ले साथी, जाने न पाए!

aman kaa jha.nDaa is dharatii pe
kisane kahaa laharaane na paa_e
ye bhii ko_ii Hitler kaa hai chelaa,
maar le saathii, jaane na paa_e!

An arrest warrant was issued in his name by the Government of Bombay State. Majrooh went underground. He eluded the police. But when a meeting of progressive writers was held to protest the wrong implication of playwright Sajjad Zaheer – Raj Babbar’s fathe-in-law and Nadira Zaheer’s father – in the Rawalpindi conspiracy, Majrooh came out of hiding. His was a strong voice in the meeting, and he was arrested by the police as soon as he descended from the stage. He was lodged in the Arthur Road Jail for an year.

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 3 Monday, May 7 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

SAHIR LUDHIANVI

Controversy involving fellow-poet 

Sahir was not a sycophant himself, but he could not do without his own courtiers. Nida Fazli has noted that the well-known poet Jan Nisar Akhtar was among these courtiers. In a 1984 interview to a Karachi-based newspaper, Majrooh Sultanpuri had alleged thus: “Some of Sahir’s songs were penned by Jan Nisar Akhtar. Jan Nisar being poor, Sahir paid him Rs. 500 a month”. Publication of excerpts of this interview by a Delhi-based Urdu periodical caused quite a stir in the world of Urdu literature. 

Romantic poet 

Kaifi (Azmi) used to categorize Sahir as a “fundamentally romantic poet”. Despite consistent talk of revolution, farmers and labourers in Sahir’s poetry, Kaifi held a different view. Without naming names, Kaifi used to say that those poets who didn’t know whether a worker in a textile mill worked in the standing or the sitting position, or was unaware of the harvest season for wheat, or the quantity of water required for paddy cultivation, talk of the labour-farm revolution only fashionably. 

Song of self-esteem 

Remember the song of self-esteem from the film ‘Humraaz’ that Sunil Dutt sings in front of Army jawans? 

मुंह छुपा के जियो, और सर झुकाके जियो,ग़मों का दौर भी आए तो मुस्कुराके जियो 

na mu.Nh chhupaa ke jiyo, aur na sar jhukaake jiyo,Gamo.n kaa daur bhii aa_e to muskuraake jiyo 

This song had such an impact on Army jawans that they named an Army post the ‘Sahir Ludhianvi post’ during the Indo-Pak war. Sahir considered this honour by Army jawans to be greater than any of the prestigious awards he got – the Padmashri, the Soviet-Nehru Award, the UP Sahitya Akademi Award, or the Maharashtra State Award. 

His last bow 

(Sahir had collapsed at his friend and personal physician Dr. Kapoor’s house on 25th October, 1980)

Javed Akhtar, the son of long-time personal friend Jan Nisar Akhtar, made arrangements for an ambulance to shift Sahir’s dead body to his Juhu residence ‘Parchhaiyan’. When Javed’s maternal uncle Majaaz (Lucknowi) had died, Sahir had similarly made arrangements for an ambulance to carry Majaaz’s body.

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 2 Monday, May 7 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

SAHIR LUDHIANVI

Amrita Pritam and Sahir 

Amrita-ji’s poetry collection ‘Sunehde’, which she had written keeping Sahir in mind, was declared the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1957. When she received the news on the phone, Amrita-ji reacted thus: “Oh God! I did not write these सुनेहड़े (suneha.De) for any award. The one whom I had written it for (Sahir) didn’t read them. Now what do I care if the whole world reads them?” What happened subsequently has made her affinity towards Sahir even more well-known. 

On the declaration of the award to ‘Sunehde’, a press photographer arrived to photograph Amrita Pritam. The photographer instructed Amrita-ji to pose for the photo in the fashion of poets, pretending to write something on a blank sheet of paper. Amrita-ji writes in ‘Rasidi Tikat’: “कलम लेकरएक अचेत-सी दशा में उसका नाम लिखने लगी, जिसके लिये सुनेहड़े लिखे थेसाहिर, साहिर, साहिरसारा काग़ज़ भर गया!” “kalam lekar… ek achet-sii dashaa me.n usakaa naam likhane lagii, jisake liye suneha.De likhe the… Sahir, Sahir, Sahir… saaraa kaaGaz bhar gayaa!” (Taking a pen (in hand), quite unconsciously, I began writing the name of the one for whom I had written these सुनेहड़े (suneha.De)… Sahir, Sahir, Sahir… and the entire sheet was filled!). The entire sheet was covered with the chanting of Sahir’s name. 

 

On the origin of a song 

Sahir, Amrita and Imroz (Amrita’s husband) met for the first time, had drinks together and dispersed. That night, Sahir recited a creation of his to Amrita on the phone: “मेरे साथी ख़ाली जाम, तुम आबाद घरों के बासी, हम हैं आवारा बदनाम” “mere saathii Kaalii jaam, tum aabaad gharo.n ke baasii, ham hai.n aavaaraa badanaam”. Connoisseurs of film songs will quickly recall the song from the 1964 film ‘Dooj ka Chand’, composed by Roshan and rendered by Rafisa’ab:  

महफ़िल से उठ जानेवालों, तुम लोगों पर क्या इल्ज्ञाम मेरे साथी, मेरे साथी, मेरे साथी ख़ाली जाम 

mahafil se uTh jaanevaalo.n, tum logo.n par kyaa ilzaam,mere saathii, mere saathii, mere saathii Kaalii jaam

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ – From the Book – 1 Monday, Apr 30 2007 

Translated from: ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ by Salil Dalal, published by Satya Media. Permission for putting up this post has been sought from Satya Media via email. No response has been received as yet. If Satya Media decides to disallow posting of this passage, this post will be taken down.

SAHIR LUDHIANVI

The Case of the Borrowed Song

Krishna Chander was the dialogue-writer for the film ‘Doraha’. His was a big name in Urdu literature. He obtained permission from Prem Dhawan, the film’s lyricist, to get Sahir an entry in the film as another lyricist. But Prem Dhawan is rumoured to have extracted a favour in return. Nobody is quite certain, but one song was mentioned in hushed tones in this context. Like ‘Doraha’, the Dilip Kumar-Madhubala starrer ‘Tarana’ also had music by Anil Biswas. Prem Dhawan is said to have borrowed a song from Sahir – who was eager to gain a foothold in films in those days – and credited himself with it. Those who have heard and known Sahir’s poetry and Prem Dhawan’s other songs, at least the other ‘Tarana’ songs, can realize that the poetry in this song was coloured by Sahir’s style. Which is that song?

सीने मे सुलगते हैं अरमां, आंखों में उदासी छाई है
ये आज तेरी दुनिया से हमें तकदीर कहां ले आई है

siine me.n sulagate hai.n aramaa.N, aa.Nkho.n me.n udaasii chhaa_ii hai,
ye aaj terii duniyaa se hame.n taqadiir kahaa.N le aa_ii hai

This song, rendered by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar, though credited to Prem Dhawan, was actually created by Sahir. This fact became well-known later in the world of film music. ‘Tarana’ had three lyricists: D. N. Madhok, Prem Dhawan, and Kaif Irfani. A fourth name – that of Sahir – could have been added. With सीने मे सुलगते हैं अरमां (siine me.n sulagate hai.n aramaa.N) becoming the most popular song of the film, the strength of Sahir’s pen in achieving popularity was tested successfully, although in another’s name!

Note: Devanagari script typed on Monusoft Type Pad

‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ Monday, Apr 30 2007 

This was the title of a Gujarati book I read recently. The book, written by Salil Dalal, comprises biographical sketches of 9 premier lyricists in Hindi film history. The author has been a film columnist in various newspapers and periodicals for more than three decades.

What makes this an endearing book is that the author keeps it unpretentious. He does not make this a highly analytical critique on the poetry or the music in Hindi films. Instead, this is a personal journey through the world of Hindi film music in general and lyrics in particular, from adolescence onwards. So the reader encounters personal remiscences associated with particular songs or films from time to time.

The nine lyricists covered are: Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shailendra, Shakeel Badayuni, Rajendra Krishna, Hasrat Jaipuri, Kaifi Azmi, Indeevar, and Anand Bakshi.

Each sketch covers the life and times of a lyricist, concentrating more on his work and his personal qualities. The prose is simple and weaves together the work of each lyricist well. The author uses a lyricist’s own lines to describe some personal quality of his, some incident in his life, etc., which is a nice touch. Best of all, the book is full of anecdotes involving personalities from the Hindi film world, anecdotes that are amusing, touching, awe-inspiring and satisfying the curiosity of trivia-hunters.

There are some errors in the book. One may not agree with all the author’s opinions and statements. One may have heard alternative versions of certain anecdotes. One may not like the non-standard and inconsistent way in which Hindustani words have been transliterated in Gujarati. Nevertheless, this remains a nice, quick and informative read.

There were many anecdotes in the book with which I was unaware and which I would like to translate and place here.

DeclarationPermission for putting up translated passages from the book has been sought from the publishers - Satya Media – via email. No response has been received as yet. However, what I will translate and place here is a small fraction of the content of the book, and I will not claim it to be my original work.

Realism Sunday, Nov 26 2006 

Hindi filmmakers could depend on Sahir Ludhianvi’s trenchant pen to bring the audience down to earth from the escapism of mainstream cinema. In that disillusioned decade of the 1950′s, when independence suddenly didn’t seem to be that great a boon, Sahir wrote many a lyric for Hindi cinema that conveyed the pent-up frustrations of the Indian public.

But among all of them, the following lines are truly notable for the fact that they appear in what could have been a romantic song, a song of longing. The male character makes this reply to the female character’s line, at once an expression of resignation and longing: tum mujhe bhuul bhi jaao to ye haq hai tum ko, meri baat aur hai maine to muhabbat ki hai (film: ‘Didi’, composer: Sudha Malhotra):

zindagi sirf muhabbat nahin kuchh aur bhi hai,
zulf-o-ruKsaar ki jannat nahin kuchh aur bhi hai,
bhuukh aur pyaas se maari hui is duniya men,
ishq hi ek haqiiqat nahin, kuchh aur bhi hai…

Very roughly translated:

Life is not about romantic love alone, there is more to it,
It’s not just a heaven of flowing tresses on pretty cheeks, there is more to it,
In this world wracked by hunger and thirst,
Romantic love is not the only reality, there is more to it…

Of restraint & control Tuesday, Oct 31 2006 

Critics of master singer Mohammed Rafi most often harp on one thing – that Rafi was often very loud. I must say you can produce many songs as evidence that this was so. Many music directors, I guess, have composed songs based on a very high pitch and with loud accompaniment mainly to take advantage of Rafi’s ability to scale those high pitches. Mahendra Kapoor’s case is even more stark, and he has sung some mind-bogglingly high-pitched songs (na munh chhupaa ke jiyo, I am sure, has some ultrasonic frequency components).

Here I wish to point out that Mohammed Rafi was actually a master of the soft, restrained, controlled songs as well. I list below ten very restrained Rafi songs, executed with breathtaking control by him. Most of the songs remain in the lower sur‘s throughout, and have a vilambit taal, as far as I can tell. Each one has been tuned by a different music director, and have been selected so as to note that this forte of Rafi was widely noticed and made use of. This is by no means an exhaustive list of such songs.

1. man re, tu kaahe na dheer dhare (music: Roshan, lyrics: Sahir, film: Chitralekha)
Hailed by Asha Bhosle as the best male playback song in Hindi ever composed, this has also been chosen as the best Hindi film song ever, period, by a panel of 20 judges from the film music industry in a recent poll by Outlook magazine. But regardless of these opinions, listening to this song, you get the idea of perfection in human effort. Lyrics, composition, singing come together brilliantly to convey the intensely philosophical mood of the song.

2. koi saaGar dil ko bahalata nahin (music: Naushad, lyrics: Shakeel, film: Dil Diya Dard Liya)
The Naushad-Rafi combination did not hold as much charm in its later years as in the late ’40s and early ’50s. This ghazal is an exception. The measured tones and Rafi’s great command over the drunken mood drive home the unremitting despondence in the words of the ghazal.

3. apani to har aah ik tuufaan hai (music: S. D. Burman, lyrics: Shailendra, film: Kala Bazaar)
This is one mischievous song. Picturised in a train (or, maybe, in a set of a train), it is apparently philosophical and addressed to God (uparwala), but is actually addressed to the lady in the upper berth. Here Rafi’s voice is extra-soft, making a plea, and makes the song thoroughly enjoyable.

4. koi sone ke dilwala, koi chaandi ke dilwala (music: Salil Chaudhary, lyrics: Majrooh, film: Maya)
This song makes you wish there were many more Salil-Rafi songs, but unfortunately, Salil Chaudhary himself did not share this enthusiasm. This piano song has a breezy pace and Rafi glides on a velvet carpet throughout. The easygoing pace of the song is a musical euphemism, since the words convey disillusionment (mehfil ye nahin teri, deewane kahin chal).

5. ik haseen shaam ko dil mera kho gaya (music: Madan Mohan, lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, film: Dulhan ek Raat Ki)
This is Rafi at his utterly romantic best, starting from the humming in the prelude to the end. Rafi displayed a great felicity in enunciating certain words, such that those words seemed to acquire new meaning. The shaam in the mukhda is pronounced so beautifully here that it makes the environment of a romantic evening come alive.

6. huii shaam unka khayaal aa gaya (music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal, lyrics: Majrooh, film: Mere Humdum Mere Dost)
Laxmikant-Pyarelal had some wonderful tunes up their sleeves in the initial years of their career. In this reflective song of remembrance, notice that Rafi pronounces shaam more conventionally (with less improvisation) compared to the earlier song.

7. akele men vo ghabarate to honge (music: Khayyam, lyrics: ?, film: Biwi)
This beautiful song is from the early days of Rafi and the very early days of Khayyam. The latter’s mastery over tunes and the slight classical tint that he gave to so many songs are both visible in this song.

8. ham aur tum aur ye samaa (music: Usha Khanna, lyrics: Majrooh, film: Dil Deke Dekho)
I can imagine how proud Usha Khanna must have felt on composing this fantastic song in her debut effort. Rafi used to make an extra effort for new and less renowned music directors, and he imbues this song in blissful romance.

9. jaag dil-e-deewana, rut jaagi vasl-e-yaar ki (music: Chitragupt, lyrics: Majrooh, film: Oonche Log)
Feroze Khan was immensely fortunate to have this longingly romantic song picturized on him. Chitragupt has tuned this exceptionally well, and Majrooh has written magnificently. Rafi does justice to both, conveying the pining of the hero in the slight vibrations in his voice while starting each stanza.

10. vo ham na the, vo tum na the (music: Iqbal Qureshi, lyrics: Neeraj, film: Cha Cha Cha)
What a superlative song this is! If you ever wanted to listen to the so-called silken voice of Rafi, listen to this song. Brilliantly written for a melancholy mood, this song is sung in an extremely cultured voice, reflecting the great amount of work singers used to expend in preparation for songs in those days. The other great Rafi solo from this film is more well-known – subah na aayee, shaam na aayee, and it reaches the high, high pitch that I started off referring to.

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