Mohammed Rafi was undoubtedly one of the finest male playback singers that country had ever heard and though it’s been more than four decades that he died a premature death, his popularity, if anything, seems to be increasing. His fan club continues to add newer members, many of whom are millennials, who are becoming his diehard fans, in spite of being fed on an overdose of what’s popularly called as fusion music.
More surprisingly, when he died, he was not exactly at the peak of his career. He ruled the decades of 50s and 60s, but by the time 60s were paving way for 70s, a new phenomenon called Kishore Kumar had stormed the playback industry, sweeping away all the veterans – Rafi, Manna Dey, Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor. Combining with the then newly crowned superstar, Rajesh Khanna, there was a monopolisation of playback scene that was hitherto unseen. There are stories of how even great Rafi had started wondering whether he needed to change his style to match Kishore’s.
However, you could not keep a good thing down and even at the peak of Kishore era, there were few songs that only great Rafi could sing and this was endorsed by none other than the reigning champion Kishore himself. By the time the decade was reaching it’s end, Rafi had almost reclaimed his unmatched status in the industry.
However, the great man died at the age of 56 plunging the nation into deep sorrow. While his death led to an eruption of clones imitating him – Shabbir, Munna Aziz etc, the original man was simply irreplaceable. What is a matter of far greater pleasant surprise is that as aforesaid, more than 4 decades after his death, the man’s popularity and idol worship has only gone up. I have seen so many vlogs, talk shows, fan clubs and even a temple dedicated to the great man, all flourishing in last few years, much after Rafi’s death.
In his lifetime, he was simplicity personified, a deeply religious man with his feet firmly on the ground. He was extremely humble and generous to an extent that his finances had to be dealt with by his wife’s brother as the great man himself was shortchanged easily. A simple plea of lack of resource would make him sing without any fee for that particular producer or music director.
The idea for this blog came to me from an article that I came across that celebrated several great achievers who were not felicitated enough during their lifetime. They either died of heart break or with deep grudge of not having received their due. I think it’s more important to create a body of quality work than to crave for immediate or at least delayed recognition within one’s lifetime. Mohammed Rafi’s life is an example of divine performance and understated personality that’s being celebrated more and more with the passage of time!
Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare – these lines amply testify the man that Rafi was – truly great but highly satisfied who treated his work as worship without any craving for any reward.