This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Aadesh Shrivastava, who has had the good luck to meet Rafi and play on his songs under several senior composers, puts it simply, "Every song I compose has Kishoreda’s feel and Rafisaab’s gaayaki somewhere within my subconscious mind. And by gaayaki I mean his sharp harkatein, which would be as sharp as the edge of a sword, and everything else." Aadesh adds, "If you say Mora piya has that ambience, I agree completely. And my semi-classical Baawri piya ki (Baghban) was made with him in mind – 101 per cent! Ravi Chopra, my director, and I discussed this song and we kept saying, ‘Kaash! Agar yeh gaana Rafisaab gaate!’, though Sonu Niigaam was brilliant. The song in my mind’s eye when I composed this one was Tu Ganga ki mauj from Baiju Bawra. Whenever Rafisaab would go high-pitched in a song and take a sapaat (broad) taan, incredibly his expression quotient would never change or get diluted. There was no showmanship. It was all so natural – and beautiful." Shantanu Moitra agrees that Rafi is in-built in the composers’ psyche. "These are schools that we have to study to compose for Hindi cinema, and regardless of favourites, we have to look at all the various schools like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and so on. I had Rafisaab in mind straightaway in two scores of mine – Parineeta and Khoya Khoya Chand – in addition to other songs in many films. These are virtually my tributes to Rafisaab. For the song O re paakhi from the latter, the song that came to mind was Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye from Pyaasa. In this song, the sequence in the film has a crowd of people, and through all this and the orchestral accompaniment, Rafisaab managed the difficult job of sounding lonely, as he was supposed to, as if he was oblivious of everything else just like the hero. I have been told that Rafisaab would always want to know who the actor was and about the character, so that he could modulate his voice. This quality needs to be emulated by today’s singers – to change from a Tu Ganga ki mauj to a song for Johnny Walker and sound equally apt! This can only happen when you give your 100 per cent to each song." Shantanu recalls Sonu and him discussing the Pyaasa classic and Rafisaab a lot for the song. The trick was in making a composition that went on the path in its own way, and for Sonu, it was a tightrope about how Rafi would have sung it, and how he could make it his own song and not an imitation while keeping within the broad parameters." Sajid, of the Sajid-Wajid duo, declares that you do not have to keep Rafisaab in your mind at all. "Woh zahan mein na hokar bhi zahan mein rehte hi hain (Rafi remains in your subconscious even when you do not consciously remember him)!" Our Kya Yehi Pyaar Hai, especially the title-track, and the songs of Mujhse Shaadi Karogi clearly demonstrated this. Even today when we compose a Saanchi saanchi nazar for Dabangg or Meherbaniyaan and Taali maar de in Veer, we somewhere have within our minds the quality Rafisaab imparted to his songs – which could be called the punch of a real hero. The genius of Rafisaab lay in also understanding a song, and the character. There are good singers today, but they must master this art." Shekhar Rajviani of Vishal-Shekhar also agrees with his colleagues. "Vishal and I make songs that we always think could be sung by both Rafisaab and Kishoreda. But paradoxically, I do not understand the term "Rafi’s style". What is that?? Rafi could sing any song, and has done so. We missed him terribly in Aankhon mein teri and Main agar kahoon in Om Shanti Om. We have fantastic singers even today, but Rafisaab would have taken these songs to the skies!" The last word comes from Himesh Reshammiya, who has composed the Rafi-like ace Tum chain ho qaraar ho in the just-released Milenge Milenge. "Rafisaab would have rocked even today. A song like Chura liya hai tumne from Yaadon Ki Baraat can give a run to any chartbuster today. I have had three or four stages in my career so far, in terms of the kind of music I composed, and the first two stages are completely dedicated to Mohammed Rafi, till perhaps Tere Naam and even a bit beyond, when I used Udit Narayanji and Sonuji a lot. These legends are our roots, our inspirations. Jo kaam hua hai woh hamesha rahega! Rafi is not yesterday’s legend but the forever "voice". He will continue to shape and influence film music for ever." Screen India
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