Mohammed Rafi’s 40th death anniversary! Revisiting the heartfelt tributes by some legends

Noted film historian Subhash Chheda pulls out some memorable tributes in honour of the legendary singer

By Subhash Chheda

Edited by Ruchika Shah

31 July marks the 40th death anniversary of legendary singer Mohammed Rafi whose voice brought to life hundreds of melodies.

One of India’s most revered singer, Mohammed Rafi passed away at the age of 55 in 1980 and has left behind an unparalleled legacy amongst Indian singers.

His burial was one of the largest funeral processions in India with over 10,000 people in attendance. Such was this singer’s popularity that his death prompted the Indian government to announce a two-day public mourning in his honour.

Since then, the singer’s countless song aficionados don’t miss an opportunity to be part of any tribute or event that is paid in his honour and the media has time and again kept his memory alive. He is payed tribute twice annually, on his birth and death day, by his legion of fans.

Mohammed Rafi is remembered as a genial person who was the epitome of gentleness, humility and kindness. His singing repertoire went through the gamut of numerous Indian languages including belting out two English songs parodied from his Hindi ones. He can truly be called a timeless singer.

On the late singer’s death anniversary his die-hard song aficionados’ conglomerate at his grave, then pay homage at the Mohammed Rafi chowk, Bandra (Mumbai) and some handful ensconce themselves at his residence where his surviving members reside to partake in the niceties offered in his immortal memory.

The quintessential Rafi bhajan, Man Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj from Baiju Bawra [1952], picturised on Bharat Bhushan beautifully portrays the angst-ridden soul imploring his deity to hear him out and relieve him of the anguish that has engulfed him.

Over the years many esteemed personalities, celebs and the media have paid tribute to this great singer.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also a great fan of Rafi Sahab, had quoted lines of his favourite song of the singer in the Parliament. He stated that Rafi is indeed immortal and always felt he is around and, in our hearts, and soul.

Noted Film historian Subhah Chheda, DATAKINO – Research and Documentation on India cinema, pulled out some heartfelt, some sweet tributes to the legend.

R. D. Burman, Music Director –

“Jab bhi mere geet ki recording hoti to RAFI sahab Bhindi Bazar se Halwa laate aur ham sab ek sath baith ke khate the.” (When he recorded for my films, Rafi sir would get halwa from Bhindi Bazar and we all had it together)

Asha Bhosle, Singer –

“His greatest ability was that he could sing at a high pitch and shift to a low pitch immediately. He could manage that very well. One of his songs which I love is “Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki, Naa Jaane Tum…”

Manna Dey, Singer –

I, Kishore & other singers fought for No. 2 position, becoz No.1 position is already occupied by Rafi Sahab, even till today.

Rafi was such a gentleman. He was better singer than me. Rest were all great singers, but had their limitations, but Rafi has no limit.

O. P. Nayyar, Music Director –

I loved Mohammed Rafi. His death was a big loss to me. When I composed for Shammi Kapoor or Johnny Walker, he managed to sound like them. He sang so many wonderful songs for me. Rafi miyan was a wonderful person. Nobody can ever be compared to him.”

Johny Walker, Comedian, Actor –

“Rafi Sahab was such a dedicated singer that he would take time to meet with the actors & to study the actors’ personalities so that he could match his singing style with the actors’ style, accent and pronunciation. Jab Rafi Sahab mere liye gaate, tab aisa lagta ki main khud ga raha hoon (When Rafi Sahab sang for me, it seemed like I was singing)”.

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