“Do you know, Mohammed Rafi Saab was very close to my brother Hridaynath Mangeshkar. In fact when my brother was still a child, he sang a duet with Rafi Saab in Baiju Bawra. The great composer Naushad invited my brother for the duet ‘Sacho Tero Naam’. Hridaynath sang for the hero Baiju when he was still a child. In fact in Baiju Bawra I got to sing with my brother for the first time. Hridaynath sang for Baiju the child and I sang for his beloved when she was a child. In Baiju Bawra, Mohammed Rafi Saab sang with such power. His power and glory were in full force here.
People say that my duets with Rafi Saab were better than my duets with any other male singer. Though I enjoyed my duets with Mukesh Bhaiyya and Kishore da, I have to agree Rafi Saab had a fabulous range and a staggering control over the seven notes. Our duets were considered really special by music lovers. Offhand I can recall ‘Paon Choo Lene Do’ (Taj Mahal), Woh Jab Yaad Aaye (Parasmani), ‘Ek Shahenshah Ne Banwa Ke Haseen Taj Mahal’ (Leader) and ‘Kitna Pyara Wada Hai’ (Caravan). Mind you, this is just a sample. There were so many hordes of fabulous compositions and it was such a challenge to sing them with Mohammed Rafi Saab.
His mastery over the language of music was impeccable. Music was Rafi Saab’s life. Who bade serious kism ke insaan the (he was a serious type of person). Unlike Kishore da who would do a lot of masti before recording Rafi Saab was generally quiet. He kept to himself, polite and cultured but spoke only when spoken to. We would rehearse what you refer to as our ‘monumental duets’ for hours, getting the lyrics right, adding nuances. For Rafi Saab, his singing was a form of worship. Even I am very serious about my work. But for Rafi Saab the dedication was on another level. He had no vices at all. He didn’t smoke, drink or eat paan. He led an ascetic’s life. And yet he died in his 50s. The same is true of my other favourite co-singers Mukesh Bhaiyya and Kishore da. They all died young, in their 50s. So did my favourite composer Madan Mohan. It wouldn’t be wrong to say I lost some of my dearest colleagues and close friends at a very young age. Of course I miss them. I miss Rafi Saab too. He was one of his kind. He was the chosen voice for Dilip Kumar saab and sang some of the Thespian’s most cherished numbers. It was said that Dilip Saab preferred Rafi Saab’s voice while Raj Kapoor Saab preferred Mukesh. To me both the singers were equally dear.
We recorded scores of songs together so we met almost every day. Sometimes we would be out of one recording studio and then into another for two different songs during the same day with scarcely to eat something. Back then we had no managers to see keep our appointments. I had a very faithful driver Jai Singh who was my Rakhi-brother. He took me to all the appointments for recordings and made sure I had my meals on time. Back then life was simpler and the ties that bound people together went beyond the work place.”