Mohammad Rafi : The Eternal Voice of Hindi Cinema

Mohammad Rafi

Mohammad Rafi


Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe Woh Teri Yaad Mein
Hazaaron Rang Ke Nazaare Ban Gaye
Sawera Jab Hua To Phool Ban Gaye
Jo Raat Aayi To Sitaare Ban Gaye

The legendary singer Mohammad Rafi’s voice is ever immortalised in our hearts through the ample number of songs he sang in his lifetime. Classical, modern, romantic, patriotic, ghazals, he has lent his voice to every genre of music. The ever-so-gentle man, Mohammad Rafi, was always known for his humble and noble nature.

Mohammad Rafi was born on 24th of December 1924 in a remote village near Amritsar of Punjab. The little Rafi began singing when he saw fakirs visiting his village and started imitating their hymns. He learnt music from Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Firoze Nazmi and Pandit Jivan Lal Mattoo.

Early Days:
In 1944, he shifted to Bombay (presently Mumbai). He got his first break in a Punjabi film ‘Gul Baloch’ directed by Shyam Sunder. His first Hindi song was for the film ‘Gaon Ki Gori’ in 1945. During this period, he was also requested to sing for the All India Radio, Lahore.

In 1946, he sang his first song for Naushad. The song was ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani Ruhi Ruhi Ruhi’. Mohammad Rafi was a part of the chorus while K. L. Saigal lent the main voice to the song. His first solo song for Naushad was ‘Hindustan Ke Hum Hain, Hindustan Humaara’ from A. R. Kardar’s ‘Pehle Aap’.

During this period he also appeared in two films featuring his own songs. In 1945, he was seen on screen in ‘Laila Majnu’ and in 1947, in the movie ‘Jugnu’. He sang a duet, ‘Yahaan Badla Wafa Ka’ with the famous Noor Jehan in ‘Jugnu’.

During the Partition, Mohammad Rafi decided to stay back in India whereas most of his contemporary artists headed for Pakistan.

After the sudden demise of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, Rafi rendered the song ‘Suno Suno Aye Duniawaalo, Bapuji Ki Amar Kahaani’. The song touched the hearts of every grieving Indian at the time and he was presented with accolades from the Prime Minister himself. On 15th of August 1948, Mohammad Rafi received a silver medal from Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.

The Rising Days:

Mohammad Rafi

Mohammad Rafi

Naushad’s assistance provided a great help to Rafi during the initial stage of his career. And their association was stretched to a total of 150 songs together.

Wafa Ki Raah Mein
Aashiq Ki Eid Hoti Hai
Khushi Manaao
Mohabbat Shaheed Hoti Hai
Zindabad Zindabad
Aye Mohabbat Zindabad
Aye Mohabbat Zindabad

In Mughal-E-Azam, Naushad made Rafi sing the song ‘Aye Mohabbat Zindabad’ with a chorus of almost 100 singers. Written by Shakeel Badayuni, the recording of the song as well the picturisation, both were strenuous job in the prevailing era considering the non-availability of modern techniques. A song with a 100 chorus itself is a historical recording during the period.

Gun Guna Rahe Hain Bhavre
Khil Rahi Hai Kali Kali
Gali Gali Kali Kali, Gun Guna Rahe

The song was compose by S. D. Burman for the film ‘Aradhana’ in 1969. Mohammad Rafi was also S. D. Burman’s most preferred lead singer for a very long time.

Mohd Rafi with S.D.Burman

Mohd Rafi with S.D.Burman

Teri Bindiya Re, Re Aye Haye, Teri Bindiya Re
Sajan Bindiya Le Legi Teri Nindiya

Written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and composed by S. D. Burman, it is one of the most soothing songs by Mohammad Rafi. It was a duet by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar and was sung for Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Abhimaan’ in 1973. Rafi also lent his voice for S. D. Burman’s other classics like Guru Dutt’s ‘Pyaasa’ and Kaagaz Ke Phool’ and Dev Anand’s ‘Tere Ghar Ke Saamne’ and ‘Guide’.

A Singer For Other Singers:

Ude Jab Jab Zulfen Teri
Ude Jab Jab Zulfen Teri
Kawaanriyo Ka Dil Machle, Jind Mariye

Composed by O. P. Nayyar, B. R. Chopra’s ‘Naya Daur’ in 1957 filmed this song on Dilip Kumar and Vyajayantimala. ‘Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri’ remains to be one of the most popular whimsical romantic track by Mohammad Rafi.

Mohammad Rafi

Mohammad Rafi

O. P. Nayyar considered Mohd. Rafi as the best singer of the contemporary period in the industry. He even claimed Mohammad Rafi to be a better singer than Manna Dey in his interviews.

Ye Chaand Sa Roshan Chehra, Zulfon Ka Rang Sunehra
Ye Jheel Si Neeli Aankhen, Koi Raaz Hain Inmein Gehra
Taarif Karu Kya Uski, Jisne Tumhe Banaaya

Who would not tap their feet or sing along while listening to this evergreen track? Shakti Samanta’s Shammi Kapoor starring ‘Kashmir Ki Kali’ had this lighthearted joyous track composed by O. P. Nayyar that went on to hit the chartbusters in 1964.

Mann Mora Bawra
Nis Din Gaaye
Geet Milan Ke
Nis Din Gaaye
Geet Milan Ke
Man Mora Bawra

How many people are aware that the legendary Kishore Kumar has actually lip synced to the eternal Mohammad Rafi’s voice in his own movie ‘Raagini’? ‘Mann Mora Bawra’ was sung by Mohammad Rafi and was picturised on Kishore Kumar. Composer O. P. Nayyar bravely handed over the song to Mohammad Rafi instead of Kishore Kumar in-spite of the frictions and disagreements it caused.

Mohd Rafi with Kishore Kumar

Mohd Rafi with Kishore Kumar

Very few people might know that Mohammad Rafi also lent his voice to another singer when he appeared on screen as an actor. Shailendra Singh (‘Main Shayar To Nahin’ fame) acted on a Bengali film ‘Ajoshro Dhonyobaad’ and Mohammad Rafi sang the song ‘Kishoro Shyamo Shundoro’ for him. This also happens to be Rafi’s sole Bengali song.

The pair of O. P. Nayyar and Rafi was surely doing wonders until they had a major fall out in 1966 during the recording of Shakti Samanta’s ‘Sawan Ki Ghata’.

Mohammad Rafi appeared late at the studio for the recording and an angry Nayyar called off their association and cancelled the recording. They patched up again after three long years. Nayyar used Mahendra Kapoor as the substitute singer for Rafi after their split.

The Ever Embedded Voice For Shammi Kapoor:

Yahoo!!! Chaahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe
Kehne Do Ji Kehta Rahe
Hum Pyaar Ke Toofaano Mein Gire Hain
Hum Kya Kare

Recalled Shammi Kapoor’s delirious portrayal of this song that made millions of viewers go bonkers in one go? Who could do such tremendous justice to this crazy masterpiece track other than Mohammad Rafi? Composed by Shankar-Jaikishan for the film ‘Junglee’ in 1961, this song is still recalled by millions of people with a smile on their face. The pair of Rafi-Shammi got embedded in the minds of the cinema lovers after the tremendous success of this song.

Dil Ke Jharokhe Mein Tujkho Bitha Kar
Yaadon Ko Teri Main Dulhan Banakar
Rakhunga Main Dil Ke Paas
Mat Ho Meri Jaan Udaas

This song would be another example of the Rafi and Shammi pair. Composed by Shankar-Jaikishan again, the song was one of the super hit tracks from the movie ‘Bramhachari’ in 1968.

Shammi Kapoor, in order to enact his songs perfectly often used to visit the studios during recordings. Before any recording took place, he enacted the songs in front of Mohammad Rafi much to the latter’s delight. Mohammad Rafi later confined the fact that it helped him to understand the way he needs to synchronise the song as per Shammi Kapoor’s views about their portrayal on screen.

Mohammad Rafi, Shammi Kapoor, Hasrat Jaipuri and Jaikishan of the Shankar-Jaikishan Duo (Image Courtesy:

Mohammad Rafi, Shammi Kapoor, Hasrat Jaipuri and Jaikishan of the Shankar-Jaikishan Duo (Image Courtesy:

‘Dil Ke Jharokhe Mein’ was a song that Mohammad Rafi could sing in one breath. As requested by Shammi Kapoor during the recording of the song, Mohammad Rafi sang it in one go in one breath making Kapoor flabbergasted. The song also won Rafi the Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer of the year.

People still fondly remember the duo whenever the name of any one of them is taken. Shammi Kapoor’s success stories are always attached and are undeniably connected with Mohammad Rafi’s outstanding vocal contribution to his phenomenal screen performances.

In 1959, Shankar Jaikishan following the footsteps of O. P. Nayyar, again made Mohammad Rafi playback for Kishore Kumar for his movie ‘Sharaarat’. Mohammad Rafi sang almost 216 solo songs for Shankar-Jaikishan. Shankar-Jaikishan can also be credited for making Mohammad Rafi the major playback singer for Shammi Kapoor.

Unforgettable Tracks By The Eternal Voice:

Kar Chale Hum Fida, Jaan-O-Tan Saathiyo
Ab Tumhaare Hawaale, Watan Saathiyo

The song is been played over and over again during our Independence and Republic days. It depicts patriotism through the soldiers of the nation and the emotions emoted by Mohammad Rafi in the song would leave anyone spell-bounded. Written by Kaifi Azmi and composed by Madan Mohan for the 1964 release ‘Haqeeqat’, this song attained unparalleled appreciation from the listeners.

Mohd. Rafi with Suman and Madan Mohan

Mohd. Rafi with Suman and Madan Mohan

Yeh Duniya, Yeh Mehfil
Mere Kaam Ki Nahin

Again written by Kaifi Azmi and composed by Madan Mohan, the song was a duet of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi for the movie ‘Heer Ranjha’ in 1970. The track depicts the pain and misery of lovers and is still regarded as one of the best songs from the Lata and Rafi duet list.

Jo Vaada Kiya Woh Nibhaana Padega
Roke Zamaana Chaahe Roke Khudaai
Tumko Aana Padega

Composed by Roshan and written by Sahir Ludhianvi, ‘Jo Wada Kiya Woh’ is one of the well know duets of Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. The song hit the chartbusters and was again a successful duet by the two.

Woh Hain Zara Khafa Khafa
To Nain Yun Milaaye Hain Ki Ho Ho
Na Bol Du To Kya Karu
Woh Hans Ke Yun Bulaaye Hain Ki Ho Ho

Laxmikant-Pyarelal composed this magnificent tune in 1967 for ‘Shagird’ and Mohammad Rafi with equal eminence lent his voice to the song making it one of the most phenomenal tracks of that year. His voice in this song travels from the lower to the higher notes making the listener also experience a superlative musical ride. This was another outstanding duet of Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar.

Waadiyan Mera Daaman
Raastein Meri Baahen
Jaao Mere Siwa
Tum Kahaan Jaaoge

Mohammad Rafi rendered this musical piece for musical maestro R. D. Burman. This solo track of Rafi was included in the film ‘Abhilasha’ in 1968. This would be another soulful track by Mohammad Rafi for his avid listeners.

Mohd Rafi with R. D. Burman

Mohd Rafi with R. D. Burman

Tum Bin Jaaun Kahaan, Ke Duniya Mein Aake
Kuch Na Phir Chaaha Sanam,
Tumko Chahke…Tum Bin

In 1969, he rendered the evergreen song ‘Tum Bin Jaaun Kahaan’ for R. D. Burman. Although the same song has another version sung by Kishore Kumar, but Mohammad Rafi’s version only was adopted for the lead Shashi Kapoor and has been used almost thrice in the movie ‘Pyar Ka Mausam’. The song’s effect is everlasting and it still mesmerizes the audiences even after decades.

Mohd Rafi With Kishore Kumar (Image Courtesy:

Mohd Rafi With Kishore Kumar (Image Courtesy:

Yaadon Ki Baraat Nikli Hai Aaj Dil Ke Dwaare
Sapnon Ki Shehnai Beete Dino Ko Pukaare

A duet of Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi, ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’ composed by R. D. Burman for Nasir Hussain’s ‘Yaadon Ki Baraat’ is still one of the widely played songs on radio. Its popularity only increased with the passage of time and years.

Kishore Kumar and Mohd Rafi

Kishore Kumar and Mohd Rafi

Dard-E-Dil, Dard-E-Jigar
Dil Mein Jagaya Aapne
Pehle To Main Shaayar Tha
Aashiq Banaya Aapne

Composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and written by Anand Bakshi, this song was rendered by Mohammad Rafi for Rishi Kapoor in Subhai Ghai’s ‘Karz’. The entire soundtrack of ‘Karz’ was experimental with trend setting music. Mohammad Rafi’s ‘Dard-E-Dil’ was a standout hit song even within the flock of Kishore Kumar’s tracks.

Kya Hua Tera Vaada
Woh Kasam Woh Iraada
Bhoolega Dil Jis Din Tumhein
Woh Din Zindagi Ka Aakhri Din Hoga

In 1977, this rendition by Mohammad Rafi for R. D. Burman earned him the National Award for the Best Playback Singer. The song still remains to be one of Rafi’s best rendered songs and is one of the unforgettable tracks by him.

The Royalty Controversy:
In the 1960s, bollywood experienced a major fall out between the biggest singers of the industry. Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi denied to sing with each other and all of their scheduled songs were either cancelled abruptly or recorded with the two singers separately.

Mohd Rafi with Lata Mangeshkar

Mohd Rafi With Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar demanded a share of half from the 5% share of royalty that were granted to a few selected composers. As both the singers had their maximum duets with each other, both were required to agree with each other on the issue. However, Mohammad Rafi disagreed with Lata Mangeshkar saying that a singer should be satisfied with the fees paid to him/her by the producer for rendering a song and should not claim any more royalty. This created a huge rift between the two singers and they stopped singing with each until composer Jaikishan arranged for peace between them.


Mohd Rafi With The President Radhakrishan Receiving the Padmashree (Image Courtesy:

Mohd Rafi With The President Radhakrishan Receiving the Padmashree (Image Courtesy:

  • He won 6 Filmfare Awards in total for the songs ‘Chaudvin Ka Chand’ (Chaundvin Ka Chaand), ‘Teri Pyar Pyari Surat Ko’ (Sasural), ‘Chahunga Main Tujhe’ (Dosti), ‘Baharo Phool Barsao’ (Suraj), ‘Dil Ke Jharokhe Mein’ (Bramhachari), ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’ (Hum Kisise Kum Naheen).
  • He rendered the song ‘Teri Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Kadam, Aaj Ke Baad’ for music director Usha Khanna. The song from the movie ‘Hawas’ is said to be his comeback track in 1974 which won him Film World Magazine’s Best Singer Award.
    In 1977, he was awarded with the National Award for ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’ from ‘Hum Kisise Kum Naheen’.
  • He also won the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Awards thrice.
  • In 1967, he was awarded with the Padmashree by the Honourable President of India.
  • Mohammad Rafi is still named and opted by different publications and associations as the ‘Best Singer’ even after his demise.

A Family Man:

Mohd Rafi With His Children And Wife (Image Courtesy:

Mohd Rafi With His Children And Wife (Image Courtesy:

Mohammad Rafi has always been known to be an out-an-out family man and a homely person. He fathered seven children- four sons and three daughters. His youngest son, Shahid Rafi, founded the ‘Mohammad Rafi Music Academy’ in the memory of his father. His daughter-in-law, Yasmin Khalid Rafi, wrote a biography of Rafi named ‘Mohammad Rafi – My Abba’ which was released by Amitabh Bachchan at the Taj, Mumbai.

Yasmin Khalid Rafi and Amitabh Bachchan During The Launch Of The Book 'Mohammad Rafi - My Abba' (Image Courtesy:

Yasmin Khalid Rafi and Amitabh Bachchan During The Launch Of The Book ‘Mohammad Rafi – My Abba’ (Image Courtesy:

As per his close family , Rafi was a quiet, shy and private person. He kept his family and children away from the glamorous world of Bollywood. The Rafi family members weren’t allowed to attend recordings or filmy functions. He was a religious person and was always thankful to God for whatever he had achieved in life.

Mohd Rafi With His Wife (Image Courtesy:

Mohd Rafi With His Wife (Image Courtesy:

Mohammad Rafi married at the age of 19 and started off his life in Mumbai from a chawl of Dongra and later at Bhendi Bazar. After a few years, he shifted to an apartment at Colaba only to move to the ‘Rafi Mansion’ at Bandra later in 1954. The avid singer loved kite-flying and badminton as well. He was a lover of cars although he seldom drove them.



By the 1970s, Mohammad Rafi’s number of rendition decreased as Kishore Kumar’s popularity increased with the release and success of ‘Aradhana’. The then Bollywood superstar, Rajesh Khanna only preferred Kishore Kumar as his voice and that decreased the number of Rafi’s recordings. But nevertheless, he never vanished from the world of music. His presence was very strong inspite of the less number of songs rendered by him as compared to the previous decades. He made a ground-breaking comeback in 1974 with Usha Khanna’s ‘Teri Galiyon Mein Na Rakhenge Kadam’ and then success stories again followed him till 1980.

Mohammad Rafi

Mohammad Rafi

Tere Aane Ki Aas Hai Dost
Shaam Phir Kyun Udaas Hai Dost
Mehki Mehki Fiza Ye Kehti Hai
Tu Kahin Aas Paas Hai Dost

This was Mohammad Rafi’s last song which he recorded for Laxmikant-Pyarelal before the unfortunate heart attack following his death on 31st July 1980. He was about to sing a Bengali song for the Diwali occasion on the day and rehearsed whole day inspite of continuous chest pain. He didn’t confine about his deteriorating health conditions to his family and instead said that no one should ever return from Rafi Mansion empty handed. He didn’t want the visitors from Calcutta (presently Kolkata) to return back without any fruit. During the holy month of Ramzan, he took his last breath at 10:50 pm.

Mohammad Rafi might not be with us today but his eternal voice still remains with us and would continue to be.

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