Naushad’s best songs for Mohammad Rafi (2023)

Double tribute on their birth anniversaries

Mohammad Rafi’s birth anniversary falls on December 24 (b 1924) and Naushad’s on December 25 (b 1919). This close proximity also extended to their music. Rafi was to playback singing what Naushad was to music composing – both at the commanding heights of their profession for over two decades. Their collaboration produced some of the best and most memorable music of the Golden Era.

Both had childhood passion for music. But Naushad’s father regarded his passion as decadent and wasteful, which forced him to flee home in Lucknow and finally reach Bombay. Rafi’s family on the other hand was supportive. His talent was recognised very early. There is a story that at a music concert in Lahore, his idol KL Saigal was to perform. Suddenly lights went out causing a lot of chaos. Then a 13-year old Rafi was called upon the stage to bring order by his singing. His family shifted to Bombay, Mecca of all dreams for someone like Rafi.

Naushad was by now an established composer. Rafi’s first break was by Pandit Shyam Sundar, but soon after, his association with Naushad started. He also got a chance to sing with his idol Saigal as a voice in chorus in the song Roohi meri roohi (from film Shanjehan); coincidentally the music director was Naushad. Rafi’s solo Suhani raat dhal chuki which first marked him as one of the top singers was composed by Naushad. It was Naushad again who with Baiju Bawra established Rafi as the topmost playback singer.

Rafi was a singer of enormous talents. He could sing for Dilip Kumar and he could sing for Johnny Walker, he could sing for Guru Dutt and he could sing for Shammi Kapoor – and his voice would become one with the actor on the screen. He could sing a qawwali, he could sing bhajans, he could sing soulful, romantic songs and he could sing rock and roll, breezy and comic songs. His talent could not remain confined to just the classicism of Naushad. Many talented composers such as OP Nayyar, SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishan, Roshan, Ravi and numerous others gave their the best with Rafi and presented him in myriad colours. There would always be different views on who gave best Rafi songs. But Naushad – Rafi combination has a unique place and is my special favourite.

Here is my selection of best of Naushad – Rafi as my double tribute to the two legends on their birth anniversaries (Rafi passed away on July 31, 1980 and Naushad on May 5, 2006).

1. Suhani raat dhal chuki from Dulai (1949), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

There were several hit songs of Rafi before this, both solos and some duets in Sajan, Nadiya Ke Paar and Jugnu. But to my mind this was the first song that hinted here was a singer who was destined to reach great heights. Picturised on yesteryear’s actor Suresh, this early song in his career remains one of the greatest and eternal songs.

2. Hue hum jinke liye barbaad from Deedar (1951), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

Naushad had great success with Mukesh and Talat Mahmood for Dilip Kumar, but surprisingly he did not repeat them and now settled for Rafi as the voice for Dilip Kumar. Under Naushad, Rafi gave several immortal songs in a number of films. This song from Deedar picturised on Dilip Kumar playing the harmonium in the street again has a peculiar sadness so characteristic of him during this period. Shakeel Badayuni has now become the main lyricist for Naushad replacing Majrooh Sultanpuri.

3. O duniya ke rakhwale from Baiju Bawra (1952), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

Baiju Bawra is a great Naushad landmark. Long back Rattan had established his mastery over the folk, this film marked him as the best for composing songs on classical Ragas. Rafi’s singing is divine, every stanza is sung in a different tune. He shows amazing control over high pitch. One of the greatest not only of Rafi but the Golden Era.

4. Tasweer banata hun teri khoone jigar se from Deewana (1952), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

A great song need not be picturised on a great actor. I reckon this song in the same class as Talat Mahmood’s non-film song Tasweer teri dil mera bahla na sakegi. Here Suresh is drawing a portrait of his beloved while singing this song which has incredibly beautiful lyrics. A bonus is its version song in the voice of Habib Wali Mohammad:

तस्वीर बनाता हूं तेरी खूने जिगर से अरे खूने जिगर से
देखा है तुझे मैंने मोहब्बत की नज़र से अरे मोहब्बत की नज़र से

जितने भी मिले रंग वो सब भर दिये तुझमें हाये भर दिये तुझमें
एक रंग-ए-वफा और है लाऊं मैं किधर से अरे लाऊं मैं किधर से

सावन तेरी ज़ुल्फों से घटा मांग के लाया हाये मांग के लाया
बिजली ने चुरायी है तड़प तेरी नज़र से अरे तेरी नज़र से

मैं दिल में बुलाकर तुझे रुखसत ना करूंगा हाये रुखसत ना करूंगा
मुश्किल है तेरा लौट के जाना मेरे घर से अरे जाना मेरे घर से

5. Aye na balam wada kar ke from Shabab (1954), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

Naushad, Shakeel Badayun and Rafi again create this masterpiece on classical Raga for Bharat Bhushan.

Naushad’s best songs for Mohammad Rafi (2)

6. O door ke musafir humko bhi saath le le from Udan Khatola (1955), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

One of the lasting memories of this song is when I was travelling in a city bus several years ago. An itinerant mendicant entered and started the alaap style Chale aaj tum jahan se and flowing into O door ke musafir in perfect tune. The effect was mesmerising. One of my greatest Naushad – Rafi favourites.

7. Dhal chuki sham-e-gham from Kohinoor (1960), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

What is most enchanting about this song? Kumkum’s dance or Dilip Kumar’s playing the sitar, Rafi’s beautifully modulating voice or Naushad’s music or picturisation of the court celebration? Everything about this song is just perfect. One of my later discoveries, but now my great favourite.

8. Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam from Mere Mehboob (1963), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

Rafi’s greatness you see in nazms which is more of a recital without much musical accompaniment. This is one of the best in this genre so what if it is picturised on Rajendra Kumar.

9. Dil ki mehfil hai saji hai chale ayiye from Saaz Aur Awaz (1966), lyrics Khumar Barabankvi

At last we are getting a lyricist other than Shakeel Badayuni. Khumar Barabankvi was a renowned Urdu poet. Though small in number he has given some outstanding songs for films. And Joy Mukherjee? If you thought he had good songs only by OP Nayyar or Shankar Jaikishan, Naushad gives his own touch and creates an unforgettable masterpiece.

10. Ishq diwana husn bhi ghayal from Sangharsh (1968), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni

I started with one of the Naushad-Rafi’s earliest. Now I end with their last great song. By 1968 Naushad’s best was over, soon the Golden Era era would irretrievably give way to RD Burman–Kishore Kumar style of music. Befittingly it is picturised on Dilip Kumar, Vyjayantimala being the heroine with whom he had a number of stupendous successes including Naya Daur and Ganga Jamna. This song has all the old world charm of Naushad–Rafi style.

I have come to the end of my best ten Naushad–Rafi songs. Then I came across this beautiful video on YouTube where Naushad describes his recording of Rafi’s last ghazal with him for an unreleased film Habba Khatoon. Naushad in his elegant style describes how Rafi was on verge of tears at the kind of songs he was made to sing. This video is a befitting tribute to the two legends.

Tagged as:Best songs, My favourite songs

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