BOLLYWOOD’s music composer during the golden era of film songs maestro Naushad Ali would often narrate a story about a convict who was sentenced to death and about to be hanged. He was asked to let his last wish be known before hanging. The convict was not interested in saying anything but when pressed, he expressed the desire to listen to the song from the film Baiju Bawra, O duniyan ke rakhwale, sun dard bhare mere naley, composed by Naushad Ali and sung by Mohammad Rafi.
Another lyric of this song describes the state of the convict appropriately, Jeevan apna wapis le le, Jeevan dene wale.
If there is a ranking of the 10 best film songs made in the subcontinent over the 84 years of film industry, the above song will find a place there even if not ranked at No. 1 position. Following the recording of this song, Rafi rested his voice for a few days as after touching extremely high notes, his voice took some time to become normal. Numerous stories are linked with the rendering of this song by Rafi as people could not believe that a singer could sing at such a high pitch. Many singers tried to emulate him but Rafi was inimitable. Rafi’s voice, ranging from the melancholic to the boisterous, was such that it suited every mood and occasion in films.
Today, being the 36th death anniversary of Rafi, I find the opportunity to mention the 10 best songs rendered by him during his 37 years as an outstanding playback singer of Bollywood films. In my view, these are: O duniya ke rakhwale and Tu ganga ki mauj main jamna ka dhara, Baiju Bawra (1952); Suhani raat dhal chuki, Dulari (1949); Madhuban main radhika nache re, Koh-i-Noor (1960); Yehi armaan lekar aaj apne ghar se hum nikle, Shabab (1954); Akhian sang akhian lageen aaj, Bara Aadmi (1961); Tere zulfon se judai to naheen mangi thi, Jab pyar kisi se hota hey (1961); Tere pyari pyari soorat ko, Susural (1961); Chaudhveen ka chand ho, Chaudhaveen ka chand (1961) and Kya hua tera wada, Hum kisi se kam naheen (1977).
The above list can be extended to hundreds of Rafi’s hit songs but to me the above selection appears to be the pick from the best.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2016