Down memory lane with Rafi Saheb
The Karachi Arts Council auditorium was awash in nostalgia Saturday night with people of all ages, especially the middle-aged and those even older, clapping heartily in rhythm and singing along with the star of the evening, Kamran Saggu. The programme, “A tribute to Mohammad Rafi”, featured hits of the late vocalist, whose songs have become immortalised for the sheer perfection with which he rendered them.
Kamran Saggu is really adept at replicating Rafi’s rendition to the minutest detail. He opened the account with, ‘Mujhe Duniya Walo Sharabi Na Samjho’, from the 1963 movie, ‘Leader’. It was replicated with utmost perfection, complete with the drawling voice of a drunk as that is the role Dilip Kumar, on whom the song is picturised, plays. The replication was perfect so much so that had Saggu been singing behind a curtain, one would have been at a loss to determine whether it was really Rafi come back to life or somebody else.
This was followed by ‘Kaun Hai jo Sapnon Mein Aya’ from the 1969 movie ‘Love in Tokyo’. The gusto with which Saggu rendered this number would have made one believe that he really was madly in love and was calling out to his beloved. Perhaps only Mohammad Rafi had this gift of injecting feeling into a song, making the listener really “live out the lyric”.
This is also seen in his ‘Babul ki Duaein Leti Ja” (Film: Neel Kanwal) where an old father sings a farewell to his daughter who is leaving home after getting married. The rendition is so profound that it could bring a tear to the eye of even the most stone-hearted. Only Rafi could make it so touching.
Perhaps, on the same note, Saggu’s rendition of ‘Meri Kahani Bhoolne Wale’ from the 1951 movie ‘Deedar’ was equally profound. Here Rafi was aided by music director Naushad’s gift of injecting pathos into his compositions and making them sound so touching. His rendition of ‘Hum Bekhoodi Mein Tum Ko Pukare Chale Gae’, from the 1958 movie Kala Pani, picturised on the late Dev Anand, reflecting maestro S.D Burman’s superlative musical genius, was absolutely flawless.
Not to be forgotten here is the duet that Saggu and Nimra Rafiq presented – ‘Abhi Na Jao Chor Kar’ from the 1961 movie ‘Hum Dono’. It was a perfectly coordinated presentation. Nimra also is a born vocalist. A graduate of the Karachi Arts Council Academy of Music, she is blessed with a really mellifluous voice.
Both Saggu and Nimra have this quality of transiting from the lowest note to the highest with fluent ease and sustaining the high pitch. Perhaps Mohammad Rafi’s singular distinction was the way he could really put feeling into the lyric. The other distinction was his versatility. He could sing anything from the most eastern classical to the most western of tunes. In the former category is his ‘Madhupan mein Radhika’, which is Raag Hameer , from the movie, ‘Koh-i-noor’, to the totally westernised tunes of OP Nayyar, Madan Mohan or SD Burman; the common point here was perfection.
Perhaps no other vocalist known had the versatility Rafi had. The only other one who could really inject feeling into the song was the late Jim Reeves but then again, his versatility was limited. He could render sentimental and love songs with utmost perfection but could not sing pops or jazzy numbers. Sentimental and love songs rendered by him are simply perfect.
The Arts Council deserves due praise for having arranged such a programme. Time is cruel. It works ravages as it rolls along. It defaces the most beautiful of faces. It wipes out of memory, the most beautiful of memories. So it is imperative that organisations like the Karachi Arts Council, and the others, continue to have such programmes more frequently to preserve the beautiful musical heritage for posterity.