‘Tum mujhe yun bhula na paaoge’ — remembering Mohammad Rafi 40 years after his death
Today is the 30th death anniversary of legendary playback singer Mohammad Rafi. Rafi Saheb passed away on 31st July, 1980. We also remember Munshi Prem Chand doyen of Hindi writing on his 140th birthday. But there is another important day today which is the martyrdom day of Shaheed Udham Singh who was executed by the British for killing Michael O’Dwyer, who was responsible for the massacre of innocent people at Jallianwala Bagh on the Baisakhi day in 1919.
Through their work and convictions, we can actually analyse the idea of India, an India which was collectively developed by the constituent assembly under the leadership Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Jawahar Lal Nehru and others in building up a modern secular socialists democratic India.
Premchand’s language was actually Hindustani, unlike his contemporaries who used ‘pure’ Hindi. He was said to be a ‘progressive’ but not necessarily a ‘revolutionary’ and that is why many of his narratives are questioned. There is nothing wrong in asking the question and differing with the narrative though Premchand is not here to defend himself but all those who are public personalities will face this and we should not feel shy of it. If there are thousands of those who speak of great storytelling of Premchand, I must say, they should also be prepared to listen to those who feel offended with his writings particularly related to the depiction of the Dalits. Anyway, this is not the subject of the current piece as broadly, Premchand’s writing to has the fragrance of India’s linguistic diversity and that he focused on Hindustani and not Sanskritised Hindi reflect his mindset.
The leadership of a nation impact our art, culture and cinema. And fifty years down the line people will look at today’s world of tinsel town, the poetry that is being written as well as the quality of research that we have. Compare it with the post-Independent India with legendary writers, poets, filmmakers brought new life to our cinema. Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Devanand brought new horizon to Bombay’s cinema. Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar, Manna dey gave it a new voice. Naushad, Ghulam Mohammad, Salil Chaudhary, Sachin Dev Burman, Jaidev and many others shined through its music. Shakil Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azami, Majrooh Sultanpuri and many more gave it the wonderful lyrics that we hum day in and out. Can you find what is the common point among all these legends? None had Hindi as their first language. All of them came from different directions. From Punjab, to Bengal, Maharashtra as well as Tripura. How did the Bombay industry in those years grow and become such a versatile one? It is because it embraced the idea of India and definitely it would not have been possible without the blessings of the top leadership or without the influence of India’s top leadership that time which understood well that India will only shine when we will learn to respect the cultures of each other, learn from everyone and build a new one. So, when we celebrate diversity, it is a process of give and take. We learn many new things and leave many things which become redundant. We do not live in past as we can only learn lessons from the past and build our dreams for the future.
When you look at the songs that Rafi sang such as ‘ Man Tadpat Hari Darshan ko aaj’ from film Baiju Bawara, the music is composed by Naushad and lyricist was phenomenal Shakeel Badayuni. Listen to ‘Madhuban me Radhika naachi re’ or Sukh ke sab Saathi, dukh me na koy. Look at the way Dilip Kumar acted on this song and you will never feel that the people who sang it or acted are from ‘outside’ as both Rafi came from Punjab and Dilip Saheb is originally from Peshawar. The song, O Duniya ke rakhwale, sun dard bhare mere naale, is still the king song of the cinema as nobody can match it even today. How can we forget the classic ‘ Tu Hindu banega na musalmaan bangea, insaan kee aulad hai insaan banega’ written by Sahir and so soulfully sung by Mohammad Rafi? The list is endless. The Rafi, Naushad, Dilip Kumar gave us wonders. The Bhajans they sang, the patriotic songs which they composed are unparalleled. If you have not seen this song from ‘Leader’ by Dilip Kumar: Apnee aazadi ko hum hargij mitaa Sakate nahI, sar kataa sakate hai lekin sar jhukaa sakate nahi’. The list is endless. Infact, in today’s time too, people are in tears with Kaifi Azami song ‘ Kar chale hum fida jaan o tan saathiyo’, from film Hakikat.
What I want to convey here is that we grow and progress when we learn and share from diverse culture. It is not that there were no Hindi poets in cinema. None can match Shailendra as he was the only Hindi poet of his time but definitely Bombay Cinema’s Hindi dominance come from Amitabh Bachchan whether we agree to his politics or not but the fact is that his contribution in popularising the language cannot be ignored.
Today, we are at a stage when our cultural value system is under the attack. Diversity is condemned. It is being considered as burden. People are debating ‘Andar and bahar’ rather than learning from each other. Dissent is being crushed and narrow cultural narratives that glorify the narrow sectarian view of India and vilify those who speak of diversity and multiculturalism. It is against the very spirit of our republican constitution.
That brings us to the most important part of this debate which is about the heroic sacrifice of Shaheed Udham Singh who was a Gadarite and influenced with the ideology of socialism, social justice and secularism. His inspiration was Shaheed Bhagat Singh who was a proclaimed atheist and believed in the spirit of inquiry and rational humanist values. In jail, he claimed to be Ram Mohammad Singh Azad which reflected his respect for diverse cultural-religious heritage of India. He was a freethinker ie. Azad like Bhagat Singh and yet respected the religious feelings of diverse communities in India. At the young age of 25, he devoted his life and was executed on July 31st, 1940 when he was merely 40 years of age.
The aim of this piece is not to do a comparison but to make us understand that India can only progress and grow if we all are together and have the freedom to live life according to our religious values or no religious values.
India’s cultural diversity gave us so many powerful voices in cinema, art, culture and freedom movement that without remembering them and their work, we can’t think an idea of India. Celebrate this idea of India which legendary Sahir wrote for film Naya Daur and which Rafi sang so melodiously with equally enchanting action of Dilip Kumar..
” apna sukh bhee ek hai saathi,
apnaa dukh bhee ek,
apnee manjil sach kee manjil,
apnaa rasta nek
saathi haath badhaana’
ek akela thak jayega,
mil kar bhoj uthaana’
India need this spirit that inspired all these legends. We need to grow in collective and in mutual respect for each other. Salam to all those who gave us such wonderful memories to remember. May their tribe grow.
You can also listen to my video : A tribute to Rafi here
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
July 31st, 2020