Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence

Mohammed Rafi, the greatest humanitarian and singer, breathed his last forty years ago today, on July 31, 1980, due to multiple heart attacks while rehearsing for an album at home. Over 20,000 people, including film people, attended his funeral amidst heavy downpour. Rafi’s versatility; his command over different genres; his modulating techniques to suit a vast variety of actors lip-syncing to his playback singing; but also his principles; his passion for work without monetary greed; his humility; generosity; his smooth relationships with peers; and his popularity among his generation, and even among the new generations have assured him an immortal place not only in South Asia’s music history but also worldwide.

Rafi has thousands of songs to his credit. I have not heard all of his songs nor have I come across all of them as yet. He sang in many languages, but most in Hindi/Urdu. It was a humongous mental exercise to select 100 songs of Rafi which I like the most. It was like a person with a small house trying to fit in way too many guests utilizing every nook and cranny and still refusing entry to so many. I failed miserably too; so I increased the number to 200 — even that was not enough. I added 25 more songs for Karan Johar (see below) and used many others as examples to accommodate as many songs as I could. Finally, I decided to let go so many of the Rafi songs but not without consoling myself that there is always a next time.

I have made heartfelt effort to do justice to Rafi’s incredible range, by selecting his best from different genres, keeping in mind to include the vast array of actors on whom they have been picturized.

Rafi sang so many different kinds of songs and in a multitude of distinct ways that one never tires of listening to him. In these troubled times when nature has bestowed through Covid-19 a well-deserved break from the clutches of greedy capitalism that has turned most into a dog-like working-slave constantly-consuming creatures, and where the motto: Work/Consume/Die has taken root, we can enjoy down time by listening to Rafi’s songs and introduce others not familiar with Rafi, to his songs from the Golden Era of South Asian music. This kind of music may never come back as the world has turned commercial where the more music you produce the more money you make is the modus operandi and thus the more the quality deteriorates.

I have given many working urls in this article but if any do not work, copy the words and paste on a search site for videos of the song. Have fun because as Rafi said aji aisA mokA phir kahAN milegA.

Initial journey

Rafi was born in Kotla Sultan Singh, then a village in the Amritsar district of Punjab, India, to Allarakhi and Haji Ali Mohammad on December 24, 1924. Rafi’s interest in music developed at an early age when he heard a fakir (ascetic) pass his neighborhood begging for alms while singing a Punjabi song. Rafi was ten years old then, but this fakir ignited in him a life long passion for singing. He liked the fakir’s voice so much that he would follow him. Although, initially, Rafi’s father opposed his interest in music but as Rafi said “the music won.”

Around 1941, Rafi moved to Lahore where his father, who had moved there earlier, found a job for Rafi in a barber’s shop where he worked while singing folk and country songs of Punjab for the customers. A program executive of music at All India Radio (AIR), Lahore, Jiwan Lal Mattoo heard Rafi singing while he was passing by the salon. Mattoo was very impressed and invited Rafi to sing for radio. Rafi’s joy knew no bounds. In March 1943, Rafi joined AIR after passing audition. He got trained in classical ragas as Basant, Malhar, Bhairavi, and Pahadi by Mattoo. Musician Master Inayat Hussain exposed Rafi to intricacies of folk singing. He also got music lessons from Budh Singh Taan. Rafi held Bhai Samund Singh of Nankana Sahib (birth place of Guru Nanak; the most important religious place for Sikhs) in high esteem. Ustad Barkat Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Waheed Khan were also some of his music tutors.

A rising music director Shyam Sunder heard Rafi on the radio and asked him to sing for his Punjabi language film Gul Baloch. Meanwhile, Abdul Hameed, a friend of Rafi’s elder brother Mohammed Deen, who had observed Rafi’s singing early on, persuaded his family to let Rafi go to Bombay (Mumbai). In 1944, he took Rafi to Bhendi Bazaar in south Mumbai where they rented a 10×10 foot room. Poet/lyricist Tanveer Naqvi introduced Rafi to several producers and directors.

The Big break

After struggling initially, Rafi made it big when he sang a duet with the already established singer Noor Jehan for 1947 film Jugnu, produced and directed by her husband Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. Rafi was nervous when he faced Noor Jehan who asked him:

“So, little chap, you have finally come to Bombay. Welcome, welcome. How are things in Lahore.”

Rafi gathered his strength and answered:

“Things are not bad in Lahore. Everyone over there is missing their baby Noor Jehan.”

Noor Jehan started working at a young age and was called Baby Noor Jehan then.

The song was yahAN badlA wafA kA bewafAi ke sivA kyA hai with Noor Jehan and Dilip Kumar, a famous actor by then. Rafi also did a cameo in that film on a comic song woh apni yAd dilAne kosung by him (Rafi appears in the video at 1:00 minute and Dilip Kumar at 1:39). Rafi couldn’t forget during the rehearsals that he was with Noor Jehan; so after the recording, he asked for a retake as he was not sure about his singing but the music director Feroz Nizami OK’d it as he didn’t see anything wrong. Authors Raju Korti and Dhirendra Jain in their excellent book, Mohammed Rafi: God’s Own Voice, point out that Rafi’s “insistence on many takes and rehearsals can be traced to this song.”

With the death of K. L. Saigal, the first super star/great singer, in January 1947, music directors like Husnlal-Bhagatram (duo), Sajjad Hussain, Shyam Sunder, Naushad Ali, and famous drummer Ustad Allah Rakha started fine tuning Rafi as his voice had an elasticity and adaptability that could be used on various actors.

By the early 1950’s, Rafi was a singer that people and music directors alike were in awe of.


The year 1947 witnessed the gory partition of Indian subcontinent into two countries: India and Pakistan and the killing of over a million people – Muslims killing Hindus and Sikhs, and Sikhs and Hindus murdering Muslims while migrating in the opposite direction. Over 10 million people became refugees. Amrita PritamSahir LudhianwiSaadat Hasan MantoFaiz Ahmad FaizJosh Malihabadi, and several writers/poets depicted their anguish at this gory tragedy in their work.

Rafi, a gentle person without a single atom of communalism in his body, was very disturbed by the hate and mayhem, that was more pronounced in his home state of Punjab because it was divided between India and Pakistan. He expressed his heart wrenching grief in the 1948 Film Pyar Ki Jeet song ek dil ke tukde hazAr hue, lamenting the heart of India being broken, that was set to music by Husnlal-Bhagatram to words penned by Qamar Jalalabadi.

(In 1958, Independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had warned that the “communalism of the majority is far more dangerous than the communalism of the minority.” After more than seventy years, both Pakistani and Indian governments have embraced communalism on a large scale and minorities are discriminated against without much outcry.)

1948 saw assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, also known as Mahatma, by a Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse. This was another shock for India’s secular minded people including Rafi, a secular practicing Muslim. Rafi expressed his love for Gandhi in suno suno ae duniyAwAlo bApu ki ye amar kahAni, a two-part biographical song, written by Rajendra Krishan with music by Husnlal-Bhagatram. It also fell on Rafi to sing an eulogy meri AwAz suno to Gandhi’s right hand man Jawaharlal Nehru, when he died in 1964. The song was written by Kaifi Azmi for film Naunihal with music by Madan Mohan.

A great human being

A great human being is a mixture of: humility, principles, generosity, peaceful nature, secure, maintain good relations with all including competitors, and without greed among others.

When Rafi was growing up in a small village of Punjab, he was a simple, God-fearing, honest and content. His move to Mumbai was not to become rich and famous, but was to pursue his passion: singing. In his new city, Rafi remained the same simple man. Tinsel towns, Mumbai’s film world, Bollywood, Hollywood, Lollywood or any other wood, are oceans of egos. But Rafi was devoid of ego and greed. He was very humble until the very end. The more money he made, the more he gave away to the poor and needy, including the film people going through hard times. People took advantage of his generous nature but he allowed them cheerfully. Once, a producer who owed Rafi money for a long time, saw him at another recording and tried to avoid him; Rafi sensed the producer’s discomfort and told him:

“Why are you hiding from me? Don’t worry, there are many more before you who need to pay me.”

In 1961, the music duo Laxmikant Pyarelal, who were assistants to Kalyanji Anandji, decided to go independent. The duo called Rafi with a request:

“Please sing this ghazal for us. The producer is keen that only you should sing this ghazal, so that it will have the desired effect. But he doesn’t have money enough to pay you.”

(Quoted in Rediff from Yasmin K. Rafi, Mohammed Rafi: My Abba — A Memoir. (Yasmin K. Rafi is Mohammed Rafi’s daughter-in-law. Her husband was the late Khalid Rafi.)

Rafi knew the duo and used to greet them during recordings. Without hesitation, Rafi agreed. After the recording of the ghazal tere pyAr ne mujhe gham diA, the producer gave an envelope to Rafi which he gifted the duo, without even opening it.

“Go buy yourself some sweets, the two of you. This is a reward for your lovely composition.”

Laxmikant told Korti and Jain (pp.335-6)

“Rafi would never ask what he was going to be paid for a song. Apart from waiving off payments, he even helped some producers financially. He gave without thinking of the returns.”

Coincidentally, it was Laxmikant-Pyarelal who recorded Rafi’s last film song tere Ane ki As hai dost for J. Om Prakash‘s film Aas Paas.

In 1980, even after over three and a half decades in the film world Rafi’s humility was displayed. After recording a song, which was to be his last, Rafi was about to leave when the film’s director Jay Om Prakash called him. Rafi stopped and asked: “Did my song go bad?” The director replied he wanted to add one more couplet to the song Rafi just recorded but forgot. Rafi could have produced any excuse to leave; with his name and fame, he could have left without any excuse. No, Rafi didn’t do that.

Amitabh Bachchan and other film people were doing a two day show in Siliguri, West Bengal. On day one Mohd Rafi entertained the audience with his songs and next morning he left for the airport. Then the organizers learned that the other singer was not coming. Amitabh Bachchan and others rushed to the airport to learn that Rafi had already settled in the plane. They requested the authorities to let them enter the plane to see Rafi. Once they were allowed to enter, they explained their dilemma and asked if he would mind doing the show for the second day.

In Amitabh Bachchan’s words what happened next.

“You know, the man just left his chair, came down, without saying a word. Performed the next day as well. Just simply, no, no fuss at all. I just admired his simplicity.”

Amitabh Bachchan’s views of Rafi.

“Rafi Sahab was a very decent man. I haven’t seen such a decent person in the [film] industry. Very peaceful natured. So caring and so loveable. No airs about him. Very simple man. And just so kind hearted.”

One of his co-singers and a music director Usha Khanna, told an interviewer, she met Rafi first time when she sang a song for him whose music she had composed. Rafi liked it very much. She was nervous and scared but Rafi said:

“Right now, you’re my teacher and I am your student. I am going to sing the tune you have prepared and you’ll teach me how to sing that tune, not any tune that comes to my mind.

Once Rafi and Asha Bhosle were recording a duet composed by Usha Khanna, Rafi noted her gesture and so Asha and Rafi inquired as to what was the matter. She said everything is fine. Rafi sensed that something has gone wrong with the song so upon his insistence, Usha Khanna pointed out where Rafi had gone a little off. Rafi said:

“Usha, if you don’t tell me, how am I going to sing. You have made the tune and if we are not singing it properly, then correct us.”

Usha Khanna’s favorite song of Rafi under her music is meiN ne rakhA hai muhabbat.

Usha Timothy, Rafi’s co-singer, who accompanied him as a female singer for duets on musical tours, expressed her admiration for him:

“So what’s wrong if he was often–and rightfully– called a farishta (seraph)? A man so pure at heart, so full of simplicity and blessed with a voice that the Almighty had specially gifted to him! … Never ever said one word in praise of self! I never even saw him uttering the word Main [i.e., I], he was just devoid of human failings.”

It is customary to talk good and pay high tributes to departed souls by family, friends, colleagues – sometimes with a bit too much exaggeration. But Rafi deserved all tributes paid to him by many people. Actor Jeetendra experienced how principled Rafi was. His production company was making a movie named “Deedar e Yaar” which took about five years to make and was the most expensive movie of his home production. The first song was recorded in Rafi’s voice who was paid Rs 4,000. The last song of the film Rafi was asked to sing a duet with Kishore Kumar who was paid Rs 20,000. Jeetendra sent the same amount for Rafi too, but Rafi charged the song at the old rate and returned Rs 16,000 (at 4:30 in the video) back.

Dedication to singing

Rafi used to do riaz, practice music, in the early morning. His passion was music and he had three hobbies: playing badminton, enjoying carom with his children, and flying kites – at which he was not good, according to Manna Dey, who used to beat him regularly.

Rafi’s dedication to his work can be gauged by the way he prepared for a particular song. Many actors have acknowledged that before the recording he would consult them as to how they were planning to act during the song, and accordingly he would modulate his voice.

  • Jeetendra said Rafi’s expressions did half the work for him and noted that actors did just half of the acting; Rafi’s voice did the rest.
  • Actor Shammi Kapoor relates an incident where he was out of the country and so Rafi couldn’t consult him regarding the AsmAn se AyA farishtA song for the film An Evening in Paris. When Shammi returned and saw the song he was very impressed; he asked Rafi (at10:45 in the video) as to how he did that. Rafi explained that he imagined how Shammi will act on the song: one of his hand will be flying in the air in one direction, other one in the opposite direction, one leg he’ll be kicking in the air and will rise up in the video) head up. (In his personal life, Rafi was so soft spoken that people somtimes had difficulty hearing him. He was also a very shy person. This video shows how a question about his marriage made him nervous.)
  • Many actors used to notice Rafi’s facial expressions while recording and reenacted them on the screen.
  • Rafi considered his music directors as teachers and so would not make any suggestions himself; he just did what they wanted him to do.

Rafi’s fans

Rafi’s fandom is huge and is global. Rafi is like a God to many of his fans. Korti and Jain’s book Mohammed Rafi: God’s Own Voice has a chapter about Rafi’s fans with a heading God And His Devotees.

There is a fan in Gujarat named Umesh Makhija who has turned one of the room of his three bedroom house into a Mohammed Rafi Mandir or Temple. It’s world’s first temple dedicated to Rafi. Every morning, Makhija burns incense (a common practice in South Asia) in front of Rafi’s photo and offers prayers. The Temple gets many film and non-filmi people. Indian and foreign news media have covered the Temple. Like Rafi, Makhija also preaches a message of peace, unity, and brotherhood.

Rafi’s contribution to music is immense, so demands made by his fans in comment sections of online sites that play Rafi’s songs are understandable. Fans are also involved in writing letters to the editors and appearing in the news media, putting pressure wherever they can to urge the government in giving Rafi a Bharat Ratna posthumous award . But most awards given these days are not to appreciate the work of the recipients, but to gain political mileage for officials giving them or undeserving people wanting the award to profit from it. Rafi’s talents, humanity, humility, and honesty are pristine compared to the stained Bharat Ratna. Rafi’s real Bharat Ratnas are people like Makhija who are keeping Rafi’s name and art alive.

Who knows Prime Minister Narendra Modi may decide to shower Rafi with Bharat Ratna and remind liberals and Muslims that he gets criticized as a communalist Hindu but it is he who gave Bharat Ratna to the Muslim Rafi, not the Congress Party. (Modi got the triple talaq law passed in 2019 which had the support of many Muslim women.) Lata Mangeshkar received the Bharat Ratna in 2001.

Greatest singer

It is the toughest thing to bestow a title of greatest singer on any one individual as the field is filled with singers of high caliber as:

Suraiya: jab tum hi nahiN apnerahiye ab aisi jagAhtere naino ne chori kiAmast AnkhoN meiN sharAratyeh kaisi ajab dAstAN ho gai hai.

Mehdi Hassan: Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s ghazal guloN meiN rang bhare, Munir Niazi’s kaise kaise log hamare  ji ko, Himayat Ali Shair’s khudAvandA, ye kaisi Ag si jalti hai sine meiNsAmne Ake tujh ko pukArA nahiN, Sehba Akhtar’s tanhA thi aur hameshA se tanhA hai zindagi.

Manna Dey: insAn kA insAn se ho bhAichArAphool gendwA na mArohato kAhe ko jhoothipuchho na kaise maine rein bitAiae bhAi zarA dekh ke chalo.

Geeta Dutt: Aj ki rAt piyAAj sajam mohe ang lagA lomerA dil jo merA hotAwaqt ne kiA kyA haseeN sitamtadbir se bigadi hui taqdeer banA le.

Noor Jehan: man mandir ke devtAkuchh bhi na kahA aur keh bhi gaeitum zindagi ko gham kA fasAnA banA gayeAja meri barbAd muhabbat ke sahAreA dekh mohanjo dAro meiN.

Lata Mangeshkar: chalte chalte yunhi koi mil gayA thAJab pyar kiya to darnA kiyalag jA gale ke phir ye haseeN rAt ho na homAee re meiN kAse kahuNAegA Aega Aega AnewAlA.

K. L. (Kundan Lal) Sehgal, Begum Akhtar, Gulam Ali, Mubarak Begum, Talat Mehmood, Roona Laila, Saleem Reza, Naseem Begum, G. M. Durrani, Mukesh, and so many others are part of this field.

Rafi’s greatness, however, lies not only in his powerful and mellifluous voice, but also in his range and modulation, to suit any actor’s lip-syncing the song on the screen. Rafi excelled in his range of singing from different genres including romantic, children’ songs, ghazals, and devotional. He had the ability to mold himself in any actor’s style and his control over various pitches was remarkable.

Department store of voices

Rafi’s capability to mold his voice to resemble the actors’ lip-syncing was so vast that one could say Rafi was a sort of department store of custom made voices of high quality which he lent to new and seasoned actors, alike. Many came with little or no amount of money, but Rafi would put his soul in the song, regardless.

Rafi lent his voice to dozens of actors, including MotilalOm PrakashSujit KumarMumtaz Ali (comedian Mehmood’s father in film Kunwara Baap), AjitParikshat SahniAghaJagdeepI. S. Johar,Sanjay KhanKiran Kumar (son of actor Jeevan), Manoj KumarRamesh DeoMahipalBhagwan DadaAnil DhawanUttam KumarRajesh KhannaJoy MukherjeeJeevanRajendra KumarSudhirSwaroop DuttMehmoodDilip KumarJohnny WhiskeyKumarDev AnandRaj Babbar, Raj KapoorPranNazir HusseinDharmendraShatrughan SinhaVinod MehraShahshi Kapoor,Naseeruddin ShahJeetendraAmitabh BachchanAltaf KhanBiswajeet, PrashantRaja GosaviRakesh RoshanRehmanDeepak KumarDeb MukherjeeRandhir KapoorPremnathVinod KhannaDara SinghKishore KumarGovindaSachinSunderO. P. Ralhan (film director who sometime did a cameo role), KashinathBrahmachari (also check this out from costar Tabassum), Tarun BoseShiv KumarSudesh KumarVijay Dutt, (Sardar Singh) RandhawaMithun ChakravartyChandrashekharManmohan KrishnaA. V. M. Rajan (Tamil actor), Dilip DuttVijay AroraWastiRajendranathJayantMehmood Jr.AsraniBharat BhushanSohan Kapila.

Rishi Kapoor remarked on Rafi’s versatility: when he sang for Dilip Kumar, it felt like he was singing in Dilip Kumar’s voice. Ditto with Shammi Kapoor, Johnny Walker, and me. He noted:

“Rafi Sahab also lent his voice [for the song pardA hai pardA] to me, and it seemed like Rishi Kapoor was singing. So this is what the playback singing is.”

One of Rafi’s music directors and co-singers Usha Khanna once said:

“Rafi would act with his voice and when he sang on stage, you could visualize on whom the song was picturised.”

Here is one example of how Rafi acted with his voice when singing sad songs to suit different actors and situations to express pain, sorrow, or grief. Listen how Rafi expresses agony in voices that feel very different but mirror feelings according to the styles of the characters.

  • le ja uski duAeiN ois a lament of Ranjha losing Heer. (Heer Ranjha is a tragic story like Romeo Juliet).
  • Whereas in lagta nahiN hai dil merA, India’s last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar is grieving in Burma (Myanmar) where he was forced into exile from his native India by the Britih.
  • Playing in background, bAbul ki duAeiN leti jA expresses feelings of loss for a father during the bride-giving ceremony. (Rafi was sobbing during the recording of this song because around that time his eldest daughter Pareen (his favorite, according to Rafi’s daughter Nasreen), was getting married.
  • jAne kyA dhundhti rehti hai ye AnkheiN mujh meiN is a plea from a lover to his beloved whose marriage is arranged to another person.
  • muhje le chalo Aj phir us gali meiN has the protagonist longing to meet his beloved.

Also, in the film Pyasa, Rafi’s voice is used for Guru Dutt, a struggling poet who had been cheated out of his worth and fame but is also used for Johnny Walker, who has a totally comic role. Sachin Dev Burman was a very good music director and wouldn’t have used Rafi’s voice for both actors playing diametrically opposite roles but he was convinced Rafi would do total justice to both melodies. Just take this song, jinheiN nAz hai hind per woh kahAN hai where the hero is lamenting the condition of women in the red light district and the indifference of country’s leaders to women’s plight. Now compare that with sar jo terA chakrAae song where the character is a street masseur who is singing to attract customers.

Here are two poem recitations by Rafi from two different films with two different actors: tang Aa chuke haiN and unheiN qissA-e-gham. This is Rafi’s magic, to sound as if it’s the actor’s voice, not his.

One more instance of Rafi’s magical versatility modulating voice for different members of the Kapoor clan:

ireerA rAkA, AkA kA bAkA, bAkA kA dAkA, Worli kA nAkA Raj Kapoor

ai ai A karuN maiN kyA suku suku Shammi Kapoor

kehne ki nahiN bAt Shashi Kapoor

Tayyab Ali pyAr kA dushman Rishi Kapoor

Different moods and genres

Lata’s Trumpian claim

Lata demanded rolyalty on songs and asked Rafi to join her cause; he politely declined. In 2012, in an interview with the Mumbai Mirror, she was asked how she made up with Rafi after a tussle over a royalty issue. Lata Mangeshkar’s reply was a trumpish lie – i.e., say whatever comes to mind without worrying about providing evidence, that is always non-existent.

“Composer Jaikishen [of the Shankar Jaikishan duo] took the initiative. I asked him to get a written apology [about a clash over the royalty] from Rafi Saab. I got the letter and ended the cold war. But whenever I’d see him, the hurt would return.”

Rafi’s son Shahid Rafi called a press conference and challenged Lata to produce the so-called letter.

“My father was a national property. His fan following is bigger than any artist. If she can prove that my father had written an apology letter to her, then she should come out and produce it. In case she does, I am ready to apologise to her.”

“I think she (Lata) is insecure of my father’s fan following and that is why she has done this.”

The insecurity thing has a ring of truth to it. Rafi’s song bahAro phool barsAo was voted the most popular song in a poll conducted by the BBC in 2013, thirty three years after Rafi’s death.

(Here is the English version sung by Rafi with the same tune but different words: The World Is One. The song was written by poet/actor Harindranath Chattopadhyay.)

In the 2010 poll by India’s Outlook magazine, Rafi and Lata were rated as the most popular singers. In the song category, Rafi’s man re tu kAhe na dheer dhare was rated number 1. In the number two spot, three songs were chosen: two of them, din dhal jAe and tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai were also Rafi’s songs.

When in the early 1960s, Lata wanted Rafi to back her demand that singers should be paid royalty. Rafi’s stand was that once the song was recorded, the singer had no claim over it. Also, in case of a film’s commercial failure, the producer wouldn’t have anything to pay. Lata couldn’t muster enough support from music directors and producers for her demand. Rafi was the top most male singer and his support was critical. Rafi-Lata duets were very popular then. Lata stopped singing with Rafi but then Rafi had Suman Kalyanpur, Sharda, and Asha Bhosle (Lata’s younger sister) join him in duets. It was Lata’s loss. There were other male singers such as Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Mahendra Kapoor, and others, but there was more demand for Lata’s duets with Rafi rather than other singers.

Korti and Jain (p. 206) opined that in today’s “brazenly commercial times,” Lata’s claim could be justified, but back then Rafi’s “principled posturing” was right.

Korti and Jain (ibid.):

“It is generally believed that Lata was perturbed when she found that her slice of the cake was going to another singer. When the trend continued, she is believed to have approached debonair Jaikishan for a patch up with Rafi.”

Jaikishan, who was friendly with both Lata and Rafi, tried to find Rafi’s views on the dispute. Rafi’s response was that he never declared that he won’t be singing with Lata; if she’s willing to sing with me, then it’s fine with me. Things went back to normal.

Rafi passed away in 1980. Even after thirty two years Lata could not forget the humiliation she experienced that was of her own making, over this royalty issue.

Rafi’s popularity can be gauged by the following:

Producer Sashadhar Mukherjee had “blind faith” in Rafi’s voice and used it to launch his son’s debut film despite the fact his wife’s brother, Kishore Kumar, was a famous singer by then. Ten of the eleven songs in Love in Simla were sung by Mohammad Rafi. His son Joy Mukherjee acknowledged that to calm down his nervousness and restore confidence his father said:

“The film will be a hit as Rafi Sahab is singing the songs; he will make sure that your flaws are covered up by his voice. Just be sincere and the rest will fall into place.”

(From Mohammed Rafi: Voice of a Nation by Sujata Dev.)

Love in Simla became a hit. Joy mukherjee had many hit films after this to his credit.

Non-“sob” songs

In the 2016 film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil by Karan Johar, a dialog between Anushka Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor upset Rafi fans and family members:

Ranbir Kapoor: “I sing very well. Many people actually told me they see a glimpse of Mohammed Rafi in my voice, you know? Can I sing?”

Anushka Sharma: “For God’s sake, what harm have I caused you. Mohd Rafi, he sang less and sobbed more, didn’t he?

Sonu Nigam, who worships Rafi as God was also upset. (Nigam is the best among current singers and has carved a place for himself singing Rafi’s songs, as have many upcoming singers.)

Rafi’s son Shahid Rafi expressed his views:

“This dialogue doesn’t take the movie forward or backwards and if that is the case, what was the need to include this dialogue? …

When the outcry became too loud, Karan Johar defended himself thus:

“I absolutely cannot sing. My singing knowledge is a very big zero.”

His defense was vague; inability to sing doesn’t necessarily mean that he also lacks ability to research Rafi’s considerable repertoire of work that Johar should absolutely have conducted especially on such a personage, before belittling him.

It’s particularly poignant that Karan Johar’s film’s name Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was borrowed from the first line of Mohd Rafi and Geeta Dutt’s famous comic song from the 1956 film CIDAe Dil Hai Mushkil also included a fast-paced light number from Mohammed Rafi aji aisA mokA phir kahAN milegA from the 1967 film An Evening in Paris which was re-picturized on Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma but was deleted from the film before it’s release; it was later released on Youtube in which Anushka is seen not sobbing but dancing and goofing, while humming the song. So Rafi’s connection with the movie was not sad or “sobbing” but comic and light hearted and yet Anushka Sharma is made to portray Rafi in the opposite light!

Later, Karan Johar, in one of the reality TV shows, did an about-turn:

“Yes, who is there in this country who’s not a fan of Mohammed Rafi.”

In other words, everyone loves Rafi – that’s what he meant by that.

These kind of things deemed insulting to Rafi are largely ignored or countered with Rafi’s work by his fans hurt by these slights. Rafi’s repertoire of songs are so vast and varied that I feel the Rafi family with the help of Sonu Nigam should select Rafi’s light/fast/comic songs, approach the music companies, and get them re-released. The music album should be dedicated to Karan Johar; this will not only enlighten and increase Johar’s music knowledge above zero but will also introduce many more youngsters to Rafi’s art. The money from the sales of the music album could be donated to the causes dearest to Rafi’s heart.


Tributes to Rafi by colleagues:

  • Manna Dey, one of the greatest South Asian singers, termed Mohd Rafi as an institution. In a program with Sonu Nigam, Manna Dey said that “India can’t produce another Mohammed Rafi.”
  • Asha Bhosle: “I don’t think the country will have another singer like that.”
  • Yesudas: “He was my guru. I grew up singing his “Insaf ka mandir hai.” Whatever I am today is because of him”
  • Kishore Kumar: “Rafi bhai can sing a song in 100 ways. I can sing in only one way.”
  • S.P. Balasubrahmanyam: “He is matchless; no one can sing like him, we can only try to sing like he did. We all consider him to be our guru.”
  • Hasrat Jaipuri: “He is the only singer who has done 100 per cent justice to my lyrics.”

25 non-sob songs

(1) woh apni yAd dilAne ko Film: Jugnu. Poet: Asghar Sarhadi. Music: Feroze Nizami. Actors: Mohd Rafi (who had cameos in a couple of movies appears in this song at 1:02) and Dilip Kumar (the hero, appears at 1:40.)

(Rafi also had a role in the 1945 film Laila Majnu. In the song terA jalwA jisne dekhA, a duet with Rafi and S. D. Batish, Rafi appears in the video at 1:07.)

(2) ireerA rAkA, AkA kA bAkA, bAkA kA dAkA, Worli kA nAkA Film: Do Ustad. Poet: Qamar Jalalabadi. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actor: Raj Kapoor.

(3) mehboobA mehboobA banA liyo mijhe dulhA (Film: Sadhu Aur Shaitan. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal.

(4) lAl lAl gAl, jAn pe hai lAgu Film: Mr. X (1957). Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music N. Datta.

(5)o o o meri baby doll Film: Ek Phool Char Kante (1960). Poet: Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Sunil Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, and Johnny Walker.

(6) agga bAi Maike Tu JAu Nako Film: Shakka. Poet: Verma Malik. Music: Rajesh Roshan. Actors: Jeetendra and Simple Kapadia.

(7) BA, MA PhD Film: Badnam Fariste. Poet: Asad Bhopali. Music: N. Datta.

(8) gori zarA hans de tu Film: Asli Naqli. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actor: Dev Anand.

(9) lAl chhadi maidAn khadi Film: Janwar. Poet: Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor, Rajshree, and Rajendranath.

(10) o firkiwAli Film: Raja Aur Rank (1968). Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actor: Sanjeev Kumar.

(11) humei kAle heiN to kya huA Film: Gumnaam. Poet: Shailendra or Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Mehmood (Ali) and Helen.

(13) mast bahAroN kA mein Ashiq Film: Farz. Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Jeetendra and Babita.

(14) akele akele kahAN jA rahe ho Film: An Evening In Paris (1967). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore.

(15) AjA meri jalpari Film: Playboy (1976). Poet: Omkar Verma. Music: Sonic Omi.

(16) hasinoN ki AnkhoN kA tArA rahooNgA Film: Pyar Ka Sapna (1969). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Chitragupt. Actors: Jonhny Walker and Biswajeet.

(17)meiN jat yamlA paglA deewAnA Film: Pratiggya. Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: Lakshmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Dharmendra and Hema Malini.

(18) le gai dil gudiyA japan ki : Film: Love In Tokyo (1966). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Joy Mukherjee and Asha Parekh.

(19) kAn meiN jhoomkhA Film: Sawan Bhadon. Poet: Verma Malik. Music: Sonic Omi. Actors: Navin Nischol and Rekha.

(20) kehne ki nahiN bAt Film: Pyar Kiye Jaa (1967). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Shashi Kapoor and Om Prakash.

(21) dekho re dekho log ajubA Film: Insan Jaag Utha (1959). Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Sunil Dutt and Madhubala.

(22) thodA ruk jAegi Film: Patanga (1971). Poet: Indeevar. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shashi Kapoor and Vimi.

(23) april fool banAyA Film: April Fool. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan.

(24) lagi mast nazar ki katAr Film: Sehra. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Ramlal.

(25) dANtoN tale dabA kar hoNth Film: Doli. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Ravi. Actors: Rajesh Khanna and Babita.

My choice of Rafi’s best light-hearted 100 songs

(1) Aa gayA hai waqt maut kA Film: Alladin Ka Beta (1955). Poet: Tanveer Naqvi. Music: S. Mohinder.

(2) kabhi hum ne nahi sochA thA Film: Tum se achhA kaun hai (1969). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Babita.

(3) na meiN bhagwAn hooN Film: Mother India. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actor: Sunil Dutt.

(4) nazar meiN bijli Film: Prince. Poet: Farooq Qaisar. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Vyjayntimala.

(5) le le gori Film: Paapi. Poet: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. Music: S. Mohindar.

(6) o gwAlan kiyooN merA man Film: Champa Kali. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Hemant Kumar. Actors: Bharat Bhushan and Suchitra Sen.

(7) bAr bAr din ye Aae Film: Farz. Poet: Anand Bakshi. Actors: Jeetendra and Babita.

(8) o yA qurbAn Film: Kabuliwala. Poet: Prem Dhawan. Music: Salil Chowdhury.

(9) kaise DiwAli manAe lAlA Film: Paigham. Poet: Pradeep. Music: C. Ramchandra. Actor: Johnny Walker (Badruddin Jamaluddin Qazi).

(10) ek musAfir ko dunyA meiN Film: Door ki AwAz. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actor: Johnny Walker.

(11) chal mere dil ke udan khatole Film: Gatewat of India. Poet: Rajendra Kishan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Bhagwan and Madhubala. Film:

(12) merA gadhA gadhoN kA leader Film: Meharban. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actor: Mehmood.

(13) chooN chooN karti Aai chidiyA Film: Ab Dilli Door Nahin.Poet: Shailendra. Music: Dattaram. Actor: Yakub.

(14) naram naram garam garam ye chane Film: Rangeela. Poet: S. H. Bihar. Music: Jamal Sen.

(15) jAn pehchAn ho Film: Gumnam. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Herman Baweja as singer who also choreographed the song. The main female dancer is Laxmi Chhaya, a good dancer.

(16) pehle paisA phir bhagwAn Film: Miss Mary. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Hemant Kumar. Actor: Om Prakash.

(17) chali ye fauj hamAri re Film: Ek Ke Baad Ek (1960) Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music: Sachin Dev Burman. Actor: Dev Anand.

(18) Aam chhum tAm chhum Film: Chhote Nawab (1961). Poet: Shaiendra. Music: R. D. Burman. Actor: Mehmood.

(19) piprA ke patwA Film: Godaan. Poet: Anjaan. Music: Pandit Ravi Shankar. Actor: Mehmood.

(20) govindA AlA re Film: Bluff Master. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Kalyanji Anandji. Actor: Shammi Kapoor.

(21) Tum Aao Rumjhum Karti Poet: Madhukar Rajasthani. Music: Khauuam. (Non-filmi.)

(22) AjA re Aa zarA Film: Love in Tokyo. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri (Iqbal Hussain. Music: Shankar Jaikishan (music duo). Actors: Joy Mukherjee and Asha Parekh.

(23) booNdeiN nahiN sitAre Film: Saajan Ki Saheli. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Usha Khanna. Actors: Vinod Mehra and Rekha.

(24) mujhe tum se muhabbat hai Film: Bachpan (1963). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Sardar Malik. Actors: Salim Khan and Menka Irani.

(25) yeh chAnd sA roshan chehrA Film: Kashmir Ki Kali (1964). Poet: S. H. Bihari. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore.

(26) yeh shor hai gali gali Film: Ek Thi Reeta (1971). Poet: Sarshar Sailani. Music: Jaidev.

(27) mere junglee kabooter Film: Ek Kali Muskai (1968). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actor: Mehmood.

(28) mehgA re bole ghanan ghanan Film: Dil Deke Dekho. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Asah Parekh.

(29) hai kali kali ke lab par Film: Lala Rukh. Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music: Khayyam.

(30) meri duniyA loot rahi thi Film: Mr. & Mrs. 55. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: O. P Nayyar. Actors: Rashid Khan and Guru Dutt.

(31) maiNe puchha chAnd se Film: Abdullah. Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: R. D. Burman. Actors: Sanjay Khan and Zeenat Aman.

(32) meiN hooN bandar shaher kA (Film: Insaniyat. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: C. Ramchandra. Actors: Agha and monkey.

(33) bach bach ke chalo re mori guiyAn Film: Garma Garam. Poet: D. N. Madhok. Music: Vinod.

(34) meiN hooN mr. johnny (Film: Mai Baap (1957). Poet: Qamar Jalalbadi. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Johnny Walker and Minoo Mumtaz (Actor/director/producer/writer/singer/ Mehmood’s sister).

(35) dheere chal dheere chal ae bhigi hawA Film: Boyfriend. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan.

(36) bAman ho yA jat bhikhAri ho yA ho samrAt (Film: Kaarigar (1965). Poet: Bharat Vyas. Music: C. Ramchandra.

(37) sabhi kuchh lutAkar Film: Indrani (1958). The film is in Bengali but Rafi’ song is in Hindi/Urdu). Poet: ?. Music: Nachiketa Ghosh. (Actors: Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar.

(38) aur kuchh der thaher Film: Aakhri Khat. Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music: Khayyam. Actors: Rajesh Khanna and Indrani Mukherjee.

(39) zarA sun hasinA-e-nAzneeN Film: Kaun Apna Kaun Paraya. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actors: Vijay Kumar (Tony Walker or Kamaaluddin Kazi was Johnny Walker’s brother) and Waheeda Rehman.

(40) tumse kahooN ik bAt Film: Dastak. Poet: majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Sanjeev Kumar and Rehana Sultan. (One of very romantic Rafi songs.)

(41) akelA hooN meiN humsafar dhoondhtA hooN Film: Jaal. Poet: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Biswajeet and Mala Sinha.

(42) kahiN ek mAsoom nazuk si ladki Film: Shankar Hussain. Poet: Kamal Amrohi. Music: Khayyam. Actor: Kanwaljit Singh.

(43) tujhe kya sunAu meiN dilrubA Film: Aakhri Dao. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Shekhar and Nutan, and on Nutan’s right is actress Shammi. Nutan was one of the finest actresses of her time.

(44) yeh kis ki AnkhoN ka noor ho tum Film Pakeezah (1972). Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Ghulam Mohammad. (This song was not included in the film. Pakeezah’s music is one of the best in Hindi/Urdu films whether Indian or Pakistani. The Filmfare award for best music went instead to Be-imaan, a formula film with mediocre music/lyrics. Be-imaan received seven awards, including best film. Pran refused to accept the best supporting actor award for Be-imaan because he thought Pakeezah deserved the best music award insted of Be-imaan.)

(45) mere dilbar muhj par khafA na ho Film: Dharmputra (1961). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Dutta.

(46) zindagi ke safar meiN Film: Nartaki. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actors: Sunil Dutt with Nanda.

(47) na jhatko zulf se pAni Film: Shehnai. Poet: Rajendra Krishna. Music: Ravi. Actors: Biswajit and Rajshree.

(48) badan pe sitAre lapete huye Film: Prince (1969). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor, Vyjayanthimala, and Ajit.

(49) humko toh jAn se pyAri hai Film: Naina. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shahsi Kapoor, Moushumi Chatterjee, and Rajshree.

(50) hum aur tum aur yeh samA Film: Dil Deke Dekho. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Asah Parekh.

(51) Ap ke haseen rukh pe Film: Baharen phir bhi aayengi. Poet: Anjaan. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Dharmendra, Mala SInha, and Tanuja.

(52) roop ki dhoop to dhal ke rahegi Film: Jiyo Aur Jeene Do. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Jaidev.

(53) A gale lag jA Film: April Fool. Poet: Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan.

(54) jAg dil-e-diwAnA Film: Oonche Log (1965). Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Chitragupt. Actor: Feroz Khan.

(55) zindagi bhar nahiN bhulegi Film: Barsat Ki Rat. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Roshan. Actors: Bharat Bhushan and Madhubala.

(56) mere pairoN meiN ghunghroo Film: Sunghursh (1968). Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actor: Dilip Kumar.

(57) yeh wadiAN yeh fizAieN Film: Aaj Aur Kal. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi. Actors: Sunil Dutt and Nanda.

(58) sojA sanam Film: Rocky Mera Naam. Poet: Naqsh Lyallpuri. Music: Sapan Jagmohan. Actors: Sanjeev Kumar and Nivedita.

(59) dil kA bhaNwar Film: Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand and Nutan. (Due to narrow passage of the Qutub Minar tower and big cameras of that period, the song was picturized in a replica of the original.)

(60) chaudhviN A chAnd ho Film: Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960). Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actors: Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman.

(61) tassavur terA ibAdat hai meri Film: Love And God. Poet: Khumar Barabankwi. Music. Naushad. Actor: Sanjeev Kumar.

(62) tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai Film: Guide. Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

(63) suno suno ek naee kahAni Film: Naata (1955). Poet: Tanveer Naqvi. Music: S. Mohinder. Actors: Abhi Bhattacharya and Madhubala.

(64) door rehkar na karo bAt Film: Amaanat (1977). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi. Actors: Manoj Kapoor and Sadhana.

(65) nAche man mora Film: Meri Surat Teri Ankhein. Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Ashok Kumar with Asha Parekh. Famous tabla player/classical musician Pandit Samta Prasad played tabla for the song.

(66) muqaddar AzmAnA chAhtA hooN Film: Door Ki Awaz. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actors: Joy Mukherjee and Saira Banu.

(67) lakhoN hai nigAh meiN Film: Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Joy Mukherjee and Asha Parekh.

(68) ab kiya misAl dooN  Film: Aarti. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Roshan. Actors: Pradeep Kumar and Meena Kumari.

(69) man morA bAwrA Film: Raagini. Poet: Jan Nisar Akhtar. Music; O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Kishore Kumar, Padmini, and Ashok Kumar.

(70) chakke meiN chakkA Film: Brahmachari (1968). Poet: Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Shammi Kapoor and lots of children – all of them without seat belts!

(71) aNkhian sang aNkhian lAgi Aj Film: Bada Admi (1961). Poet: Prem Dhawan. Music: Chitragupt. Actors: Subiraj and Vijaya Chaudhary.

(72) meri muhabbat jawAN rahegi Film: Janwar (1965). Poet: Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Rajshree.

(73) khoyA khoyA chAnd Film: Kala Bazar. Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

(74) kahiN bekhayAl hokar Film: Tenn Devian. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand, Nanda, Kalpana, and Simi Garewal.

(75) navkalpanA navroop Film: Mrig Trihna. Poet: Shambhu Sen. Music: Shambhu Sen. Actor: Hema Malini.

(76) ye Lakhnau ki sarzamin Film: Chaudhwin Ka Chand. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Poet: Ravi.

(77) meiN ne sau bAr khayAloN ke Film: Parchhaeen. Poet: Naqsh Lyallpuri. Music: Ravindra Jain. Actor: Anil Dhawan.

(78) sher kA husn ho Film: Chambal Ki Kasam. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Roshan. Actors: Shatrughan Sinha and Maushumi Chatterjee.

(Here is a clear audio recording.)

(79) vatan kA kiyA hogA anjAm Film: Aadmi Aur Insaan. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music; Ravi; Actors: Johnny Walker and Saira Banu.

(80) sanam apni palkoN meiN Film: Pooja Ke Phool. Poet: Rajinder Krishan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Dharmendra and Nimmi.

(81) woh Aj apni mehfil meiN Film: Mehndi. Poet: Qamil Rashid?. Music: Ravi. Actors: Ajit and Jayashree. (This version is without the applause and appreciative words uttered by the audience.

(82) madhuban meiN rAdhikA nAche re Film: Kohinoor. Poet: . Music: Naushad. Actors: DIlip Kumar, Kumkum, and Mukri.

(83) meiN zindagi ka sAth nibhAtA chalA gayA Film Hum Dono (1961). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Jaidev. Actor: Dev Anand, with Sadhana’s reflection in water

(84) abhi to rAt bAqi hai Film: Bandish. Poet: Akmal Hyderabadi. Music: Usha Khanna. Actors: Parduman and Sonia Sahni.

(85) mere dil pe andherA sA chhAne lagA Film: Ek Phool Ek Bhool. Poet: Indiveer. Music: Usha Khanna.

(86) mujhe duniyAwAlo sharAbi na samjho Film: Leader (1964). Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actors: Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala.

(87) chhoo lene do nAzuk hoNtoN ko Film: Kaajal: Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi. Actors: Raj Kumar and Menna Kumari.

(88) jab dil se dil takrAtA hai Film: Sunghursh. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actors: Dilip Kumar and Vyjayantimala.

(89) ye mera prem patra padh kar Film: Sangam. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Rajendra Kumar and Vyjayantimala.

(90) terA kAm hai jalnA parvAne Film: Paapi (1953). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: S Jagmohan. Actors: Raj Kapoor and Nargis.

(91) ye zulf agar khul ke Film: Kaajal. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi. Actors: Raj Kumar and Helen. (The film version was a shorter one. Here is the full version.)

(92) tumhAri zulf ke sAei meiN Film: Naunihal. Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Sanjeev Kumar and Indrani Mukherjee.

(93) koi aur dunyA mein Film: Pyar Ki Kahani (1971). Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: R. D. Burman. Actors: Amitabh Bachchan and Tanjuja.

(94) zulfoN ko hatA le Film: Sawan Ki Ghata (1966). Poet: S. H. Bihari. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Manoj Kumar and Sharmila Tagore.

(95) tum ayse base more nain Film: Saa Re Gaa Maa Paa. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Ganesh. Actor: Jagdeep.

(96) meri chAhat rahegi hameshA jawaN film: Mehmaan. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi.

(97) rAz-e-dil unse chhupAyA na gayA Film: Apna Banake Dekho. Poet: Asad Bhopali. Music: Ravi.

(98) jiA o jiA o jiA kuchh bol do Film: Jab Pyar Kisise hot hai. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Dev Anand and Asha Parekh.

(99) re mAmA re mAmA re Film: Andaz(1971). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Baby Gauri.

(100) us pAr is diwAr ke jo rehte haiN Film: Saiyan. Poet: D. N. Madhok. Music Sajjad Hussain. Actors: Sajjan and Madhubala.

My best Rafi 100 sad and serious songs

(1) yeh duniyA agar mil bhi jAye to kyA hai Film: Pyasa. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Sachin Dev Burman. Actor: Guru Dutt (who was also the film’s producer/director).

This song is one of the most powerful songs of Hindi/Urdu cinema in South Asia and expresses the hypocrisy of society which didn’t give a damn about the poet or his poetry when he was alive. But when assumed dead, the same society gets busy to profit from his work; of course, not forgetting to pay cursory tribute to the departed bard. Sahir’s poetry forcefully depicts the society’s duplicity. S. D. Burman’s low key music let’s the poetry and voice have it’s maximum effect. Rafi’s voice not only brings out the inner anguish and anger of Guru Dutt’s character but he also sounds just like Guru Dutt.

(In Pakistan, a similar song is MeiN nahiN mAntA by the fearless and often jailed and tortured poet Habib Jalibs from the film Khamosh Raho; the film was a challenge to the then military rule of General Mohammad Ayub Khan.)

(2) itni badi dunyA Film: Toofan Mein Pyar Kahan. Poet: Prem Dhawan. Music: Chitragupt. Actor: Ashok Kumar.

(3) koi sAgar dil ko behlAtA nahiN Film: Dil Diya Dard Liya. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actors: Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, Johnny Walker, and Shyama.

(4) bAzi kisi ne pyAr ki Film: Nazrana. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Ravi. Actor: Raj Kapoor.

(5) Aj is darjA pilA do Film: Vaasna. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Chitragupt. Actor: Raj Kumar.

(6) sAthi na koi manzil Film: Bombai Ka Babu. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand and Suchitra Sen. (A good film.)

(7) na kisi ki Ankh ka noor hooN Film: Lal Qilla. Poet: Muztar Khairabadi.* Music: S. N. Tripathi. *(This poem has been too often wrogly attributed to the last Mughal Emperor and poet Bahadur Shah Zafar. Even the valuabale site Hindi Geetmala has Bahadur Shah Zafar as the poet. Khairabadi was the father of poet Jan Nisar Akhtar and grandfather of poet Jawed Akhtar.)

(8) kAravAN guzar gayA Film: Nai Umar ki Nai Fasal. Poet: Neeraj (Gopaldas Saxena). Music: Roshan. (Rafi has depicted the frustrations and failures of youth’s dreams to change the world. Neeraj’s words are very forceful.)

(9) Koi mujhse puchhe Film: Yeh Raste Hain Pyar Ke. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Ravi. Actors: Sunil Dutt and Laxmi Naidu.

The first five minutes of the song are devoted to the hero appreciating his wife’s beauty, loyalty, and support but then he accuses her of infidelity. Rafi’s voice was silky-smooth during the first five minutes then turns belligerent with high pitch conveying the protagonist’s heartbreak.

(10) meiN yeh soch kar Film: Haqeeqat. Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music Madan Mohan. Actor: Sudhir.

(11) rahA gardishoN meiN hardam Film: Do Badan. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actors: Manoj Kumar, Asha Parekh, Pran, and Simi.

(12) ishq ne todi sar pe qayAmat Film: Junon (1979). Poet: Jigar Moradabadi. Music: Vanraj Bhatia. Actors: Shashi Kapoor, Nafisa Ali, Jennifer Kendal, Shabana Azmi, and Nina Gupta.

(13) jAne kyA dhoondhti rehti hai Film: Shola aur Shabnam (1961). Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Musci: Khayyam. Actors: Dharmendra and Tarla Mehta. (Among Rafi’s sad songs, this is one of the most powerful.)

(14) keh ke bhi na Ae tum Film: Safar (1946). Poet: Gopal Singh Nepali. Music: C. Ramchandra.

(15) hum tumse judA ho ke Film: Ek Sapera Ek Lutera. Poet: Asad Bhopali. Music: Usha Khanna. Actor: Feroz Khan.

(16) agar bewafA tujh ko pehchAn jAte Film: Raate ke andhere mein. Poet: Prem Dhawan. Music: Prem Dhawan. Actors: Dev Kumar and Sonia Sahni.

(17) ponch kar ashq apni AnkhoN se Film: Naya Raasta. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Datta. Actors: Jeetendra and Asha Parekh.

(18) meiN apne Ap se ghabrA gayA hooN Film: Bindiya. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Iqbal Qureshi. Actors: Balraj Sahni and Padmini.

(19) jo unki tamannA hai Film: Intaqam (1969). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Sanjay Khan and Sadhana.

(20) tasveer banAtA hooN teri Film: Diwana (1952). Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actor: Shyam Kumar. (He was a very good friend of writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Famous Pakistani TV actress and director Sahira Kazmi is Shyam’s daughter.)

(21) hai bas ke har ek un ke Film: Mirza Ghalib. Poet: Mirza Ghalib. Music: Ghulam Mohammad. Actors: Bharat Bhusham and Murad.

(22) tu Hindu banegA na MusalmAn banegA Film: Dhool ka Phool. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Dutta. Actor: Manmohan Krishna. (English translation here).

(23) teri galioN meiN na Film: Hawas. Poet: Sawan Kumar. Music: Usha Khanna. Actors: Anil Dhavan, Neetu Singh, Pradeep Kumar, and Bindu.

(24) ajab hai dAstAN teri Film: Shararat. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri or Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Kishore Kumar, Meena Kumari, and Kum Kum. Kishore Kumar was an actor/producer/director/singer but in this and other movies, Rafi sang some songs for him too.

(25) phir woh bhuli si yAd Ayi hai Film: Begaana. Poet: Shailendra. Music: Sapan Jagmohan. Actor: Shailesh Kumar.

(26) ye rAt bahot raNgeen sahi Film: Shagoon. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Khayyam. Actors: Kamaljeet and Waheeda Rehman. (In 1974, Waheeda Rehman and Kamaljeet got married.)

(27) jis rAt ke khwAb Aae Film: Habba Khatoon (did not get made). Poet: Ali Sardar Jafri. Music: Naushad.

(28) chAhooNgA meiN tujhe Film: Dosti. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Sudhir Kumar and Sushil Kumar.

(29) manzil ki chAh mein Film: Devdas (1955). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Suhitra Sen and Vyjayanthimala.

(30) zahe kismet teri mehfil se Film: Jannat. Poet: M. K. Chhibbar. Music: Hanuman Prasad.

(31) taqdeer kA fasAnA Film: Sehra (1963). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Raam Laal.

(32) suhAni rAt dhal chuki Film: Dulari. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actors: Suresh, Geeta Bali, and Muadhubala. (This was Rafi’s favorite song.)

(34) ajab tori duniyA Film: Do Bhiga Zamin. Poet: Shailendra. Music: Salil Chawdhury.

(35) AjA tujh ko pukAre merA pyAr (part I) AjA tujh ko pukAre merA pyAr (part II) Film: Neel Kamal. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: ravi. Actors: Raj Kumar and Waheeda Rehman.

(36) Ag hai lagi huee Film: Swarg Nark. Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: Rajesh Roshan. Actor: Jeetendra.

(37) meine chAnd aur sitAroN ki tamannA Film: Chandrakanta. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Datta (Naik Datta).

(38) bichhde sabhi bAri bAri Film: Kagaz ke Phool. Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman.

(39) mili khAkh meiN muhabbat Film: Chaudhwin Ka Chand. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Ravi. Actor: Guru Dutt.

(40) dil ki Awaz bhi sun Film: Humsaya. Poet: Shevan Rizvi. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Joy Mukherjee and Sharmila Tagore.

(41) din dhal jAe hAe rAt na jAe Film: Guide. Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

(42) unke khayAl Aae to Film: Lal Patthar. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: G. M. Durrani on whom the song is picturized. Ghulam Mustafa Durrani was the singer/actor who had influenced Rafi. Ironically, Rafi has given voice to Durrani in this song.

(43) meiN nahiN mAnugA mAti ke putle ko bhagwAn Film: Chandrakanta (1956). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Datta.

(44) kyA gham jo andheri haiN rAteiN Film: Barsat Ki Raat (1960). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Roshan. Actors: Bharat Bhushan and K. N. Singh.

(45) samAj ko badal dAlo Film: Samaj Ko Badal Dalo. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi.

(46) ronA hai to ro Film: DuniyA. Poet: Asad Bhopali? Music: C. Ramchandra.

(47) log to markar jalte Film: Gauri. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Ravi. Actors: Sanjeev Kumar, Sunil Dutt, and Nutan.

(48) sau bAr janam lenge Film: Ustadon ke Ustad. Poet: Asad Bhopali. Music: Ravi. Actors: Pradeep Kumar and Shakila.

(49) chalo re doli uthAo kahAr Film: Jaani Dushman. Poet: Varma Malik. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal.

(50) Aag rAg se Aag lagA do Film: Sultan E Alam (1956). Poet: Tanveer Naqvi. Music: S. Mohinder.

(51) meri mehboob kahiN aur milA kar mujhse Film: Ghazal. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Sunil Dutt and Meena Kumari.

(52) gham ne haNsne na diA, zabt ne rone na diA Film: Atma Aur Parmatma (1978, unreleased). Poet: Prem Warbartoni. Music: Prithvi Raj

(53) dil ke jharokhe meiN Film: Brahmachari. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor, Rajshree, and Pran.

(54) kis tarAh jite haiN ye log Film: Nai Roshni. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Ravi. Actor: Raj Kumar.

(55) Mein ne pi sharAb Film: Naya Raasta. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Datta. Actor: Balraj Sahni.

(56) jo guzar rahi hai mujh par Film: Mere Huzoor. Poet: Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Raj Kumar, Mala Sinha, and Jeetendra.

(57) keh do koi na kare yahAN pyAr Film: Gunj Uthi Shehnai. Poet: Bharat Vyas. Music: Vasant Desai. Actors: Rajendra Kumar.

(58) yA meri manzil batA Film: Rakhi. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Ravi. Actors: Ashok Kumar and Waheeda Rehman.

(59) yooN zindagi ke rAste Film: Love in Simla. Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Actors: Joy Mukherjee and Sadhna.

(60) dukh sukh ki har ek mAlA Film: Qudrat. Poet: Qateel Shifai. Music: R. D. Burman. Actors: Raj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Priya Rajvansh, and Vinod Khanna.

(61) o door ke musAfir Film: Uran Khatola. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Music: Naushad. Actors: Dilip Kumar and Nimmi.

(62) Dil ki tamannA thi Film: Gyara Hazar Ladkiyan. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri.

(63) tukde haiN mere dil ke Film: Mere Sanam. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Biswajeet and Asha Parekh.

(64) toote huey khwAboN ne Film: Madhumati: Poet: Shailendra. Music: Salil Chowdhury. Actors: Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala.

(65) aman kA farishtA Film: Aman. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Rajendra Kumar, Saira Banu, and Balraj Sahni

(66) patthar ke sanam Film: Patthar Ke Sanam. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Manoj Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, and Mumtaz.

(67) jal jal ke shamA ki tarAh Film: Faryaadi (1953). Poet: Muzaffar Khan Orkazai. Music: B. N. Bali.

(68) waqt se din aur rAt Film: Waqt. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Ravi. Actors: Balraj Sahni and Achla Sachdev.

(69) kabhi khud pe kabhi hAlAt pe Film: Hum Dono. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Jaidev. Actor: Dev Anand.

(70) yeh duniyA yeh mehfil Film: Heer Ranjha (1970). Poet: Kaifi Azmi. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Raj Kumar and Priya Rajwvansh.

(71) sadke Heer tujh pe Film: Mera Naam Joker. Poet: Prem Dhawan. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Raj Kapoor and Padmini.

(72) rAt bhar kA hai mehmAN andherA Film: Sone ki Chidiya (1958). Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: O. P. Nayyar. Actors: Nutan and Balraj Sahni.

(73) toote huae khwAboN ne Film: Madhumati (1958). Poet: Shailendra. Music: Salil Chawdhury. Actors: Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala.

(74) meiN ne pinA sikh liyA Film: Goonj Uthi Shehnai. Poet: Bharat Vyas. Music: Vasant Desai. Actor: Rajendra Kumar.

(75) rang aur noor ki bArAt Film: Ghazal. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Poet: Madan Mohan. Actors: Sunil Dutt, Meena Kumari, and Rahman.

(76) hui shAm unkA khayAl Aa gayA Film: Mere Hamdam Mere Dost. Poet: Majrooh Sultanpuri. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actors: Dharmenra and Sharmila Tagore.

(77) bazeechA-e-atfAl hai mere Aage Non-filmi. Poet: Ghalib. Music: Khayyam.

(78) man re tu kAhe na dhir dhare Film: Chitralekha. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Roshan. Actor: Pradeep Kumar.

(79) mujhe bhool jAnA Film: Taqdeer (1967). Poet: Anand Bakshi. Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal. Actor: Bharat Bhushan.

(80) mujhe le chalo Film: Sharabi (1964). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Dev Anand and Madhubala.

(81) dil ki bAt kahi nahiN jAti. (Non-filmi). Poet: Mir Taqi Mir. Music: Taj Ahmad Khan.

(82) yeh dunyA yeh dunya Film: Yahudi. Poet: Shailendra. Music: Shankar Jaikishan.

(83) marnA teri gali meiN Film: Shabab. Poet: Shakeel Badayuni. Muic: Naushad. Actor: Bharat Bhushan.

(84) paise ki pehchAn yahaN Film: Pehchan. Poet: Neeraj. Music: Shankar Jaikishan.

(85) jee na sakegi preet kunwari Non-Filmi. Poet: Madhukar Rajasthani. Music: Sunil Kumar.

(86) gazab kiyA tere wAde pe aitbAr kiyA Poet: Dagh Dehlvi. Music: Khayyam. (non-filmi.)

(87) sAhil jo dabo de kashti ko  Film: Baawra (1950). Poet: Krishan Dayal. Music: Amar N. Khanna.

(88) na tAjshAhi na bAdshAhi rahegi film: Shirin Farhad. Poet: Tanvir Naqvi. Music: S Mohindar.

(89) sAwan ke mahine meiN Film: Sharabi (1964). Poet: Rajendra Krishan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Dev Anand, Madhubala, and Lalita Pawar.

(There are two versions together – the first one is a sad one; at 2:50 minutes in the video the happy versions begins.)

(90) tum chali jAogi Film: Shagoon. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: Khayyam. Actors: Kamaljeet and Waheeda Rehman.

(91) akele haiN chale Ao Film: Raaz (1967). Poet: Shamim Jaipuri. Music: Kalyanji Anandiji. Actor: Rajesh Khanna.

(92) ae maut burA ho terA Film: Chalbaaz (1958). Poet: Prem Dhawan. Music: Chitragupt.

(93) Aap ke pehlu meiN Film: Mera Saaya. Poet: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. Music: Madan Mohan. Actors: Sunil Dutt and Sadhna (in photo).

(94) deepak jalAo Film: Sangeet Samrat Tansen (1962). Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. N. Tripathi.

(95) tum mujhe yooN bhulA na pAoge Film: Pagla Kahin Ka (1970). Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jaikishan. Actors: Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh.

(96) jo zubAn-e-dil na samajh sake Film: Pattharon Ka Shaher. Poet: Irshad Khan. Music: Usha Khanna.

(97) tum nahiN bhulte Film: Kanyadaan. Poet: Hasrat Jaipuri. Music: Shankar Jiakishan. Actor: Shashi Kapoor.

(98) daman meiN dAgh lagA baithe Film: Dhool Ka Phool. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: N. Datta. Actors: Rajendra Kumar, Mala Sinha, and Nanda.

(99) kyA se kyA hogayA Film: Guide. Poet: Shailendra. Music: S. D. Burman. Actors: Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman.

(100) jinhein nAz hai Hind par Film: Pyasa. Poet: Sahir Ludhianwi. Music: S. D. Burman. Actor: Guru Dutt.

Above is my best effort given the constraint of time and the vast subject in doing justice to the great Rafi; it has been a personal joy to research the material. I have spent countless hours reading books, online material, and listening to his songs and various interviews on the subject. I hope the reader will derive as much joy from my efforts.

It is hoped that a new generation of Rafi fans will be created and that they get to enjoy this great artiste.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at