The Kaka (Super Star Rajesh Khanna) – Pheeko connection

The Kaka – Pheeko connection


By Achal Rangaswamy




Mohd Rafi Sahab and Rakesh Khanna

Mohd Rafi Sahab and Rakesh Khanna


A slim, almost impoverished looking young man, albeit with a twinkle in his eye and a charming smile, wooed his lesser known heroine in a low-budget film. The film would go on to be sent to various film festivals, become known as the first film in which Bhupendra sang a solo, but most people would not remember it as the first film in which the winner of a major talent hunt would be playing the hero.


Jatin Khanna, now rechristened as Rajesh Khanna wooed Chand Usmani, who would later go on to play either sister to heroes in B grade films or maybe the mujre wali in B- grade films. But the song that was chosen for this occasion was hauntingly beautiful.  The hero urges the lady to stay on, by singing “ aur kuchh der thaher aur kuchh der na ja….”. The song was rendered flawlessly.


The film was Aakhri Khat. And thus began the less talked about but rather interesting relationship between someone who was to go on to become The Phenomenon and someone who was already being worshipped as the greatest male playback singer in Hindi Film Music history.

Rajesh Khanna, the man who went on to deliver 15 super duper hits in a row in a span of 3 years, would most certainly have attributed his meteoric success to  his own acting prowess, his own style of dancing, his innovative dialogue delivery and those mannerisms that only he could carry off with aplomb. But he definitely knew as did music director Rahul Dev Burman that there was another person responsible for this huge success- the mercurial Kishore Kumar. The two struck up such a chord that the whole country hummed their successful song after successful song.


Whether it was Amar Prem, or Kati Patang, or Mere Jeevan Saathi, it was Kishore Kumar singing for  Rajesh Khanna, all the way. Well, almost.  Because the more discerning and more impartial observer would have something else to say.


That there was a voice that also suited this new hero very well. And that voice was Mohammed Rafi’s.  And that this great singer also most definitely enhanced the superstar’s career and popularity with his great rendering of solos and duets for the actor who had taken the film world by storm.


Aakhri Khat was followed by Raaz and the melodiously haunting Akele Hain Chaley Aao had Rajesh Khanna year for Babita’s company. The song used to play late at nights on transistors across the barsaatis in New Delhi where I was growing up. I used to go to sleep listening to this song on so many nights.


Aaradhana was the watershed moment in Hindi film song history. Everybody knows that R D Burman had his way when an ailing father Sachin Dev asked him to step in and complete the musical score for the film. The fact that two songs- Gunguna rahein hain bhanvre and Baaghon mein bahaar hai had already been recorded in Rafi Saab’s voice meant nothing to RDB who went on to record the chartbusting Roop Tera Mastana and the almost equally successful  Kora kaagaz thaa yeh man mera.  But music lovers will always maintain that each song was worth its weight in gold, and no song was less than the other, since the mood was different in each one of them.


RDB continued to sideline Rafi Saab, who only a few years back had delivered thundering and thundering hit in the Shammi Kapoor  grosser Teesri  Manzil  and the musical Pyaar Ka Mausam for Shashi Kapoor.


But coming back to Rajesh Khanna. He almost made sure there was no trace of Rafi in Kati Patang or Amar Prem, both  films made famous by their  very popular  songs.  But Rajesh Khanna couldn’t have ignored the strong presence of  Rafi Saab and his powerful voice in the romantic musical Mehbood Ki Mehndi.  Whether rendering Yeh Jo Chilman Hai or playing the male voice in the duet Itna toh yaad hai mujhe, Rafi Saab made a great impact and Rajesh Khanna would definitely have agreed that the male voice added to make the film a bit more memorable.  The song Pasand aa gayi hai ek kafir haseena was perfectly designed for this actor.


Haathi mere Saathi had quite a few Kishore numbers , but listeners would always root for Nafrat ki duniya ko chhodke pyaar ki duniya mein as the true heart stopper in the film. Pathos laden and sung truly from the heart, the song left many viewers of the film in tears as they trooped out after the last scene where the loyal elephant gives its life to protect its owner’s child.


Chhoti Bahu had Kishore draw applause for He Re Kanhaiya, but Rafi Saab stole the show with Yeh Raat hai pyaasi pyaasi. One of the most romantic songs composed for him by the Kalyanji-Anandji duo.


Only a few months before this had Rafi Saab team up with Lata Mangeshkar to deliver the foot tapping Yun hi tum mujhse baat karti ho in the film Sachha Jhoota where Kishore had already got the masses and bands belting out Meri Pyaari Behaniya.


Do Raaste was perhaps Lata Mangeshkar’s playground thanks to Bindiya Chamkegi, but the endearing and awesomely song of praise Yeh Reshmi Zulfein Yeh sharbati Aankhen was to prove once again that Rafi Saab’s voice was no less suitable for the fast rising star on the Indian Film Screen horizon. He teamed up again with Lata to give a song that youngsters those days, and I remember those days very clearly, would sing at every Antaakshari–  Chhup Gaye Saare Nazaare Oye kya baat ho gayi. I always used to admire the way the lines teri chunari leharaai barsaat ho gayi, with special emphasis on the word Barsaat !


In between a mock drunken scene by Rajesh Khanna to tease Babita in Doli had the Asha-Rafi duet Sajna Saath Nibhaana where Rafi Saab beautifully rendered the lines Kisne Saath Nibhaaya, dil ko ek khilona samjha , khela aur thukraaya.


The songs he sang for Rajesh Khanna were not few and far between. It was just that the hero was doing a large number of films, practically spending his entire day on one set or the other. And most of his films were full of great music and tuneful melodies.  And there was no doubt that he always had a soft corner for Kishore Kumar. Maybe he was superstitious and thought that the singer brought him luck.


I wouldn’t be surprised that the singer himself may not have been thinking the same way, that the actor had brought him luck and had actually revived his temporarily sagging career.


Kishore Kumar may have sought Lata’s permission to meet again in Aan Milo Sajna with Accha toh Hum Chalte Hain, but the birthday song and the ultimate gift was brought by Rafi Saab in the form of Koi Nazarana lekar aaya hoon man deewana tere liye. A truly gifted song. Not to be left behind with just one solo, Rafi Saab sang the title song, Ab Aan milo sajna with Lataji, a terrific dance number in true J Om Prakash style and size.


And who can forget the  way The Train starts- with Gulaabi Aankhen with Rajesh wooing Nanda right from the first frame of the film. Incidentally another RDB hit. I always wondered why RDB never thought much of Rafi Saab. Strange when you listen to the truly romantic Mujhse bhala yeh kaajal tera….nee soniye.


By the time we complete the list of songs Rafi Saab sang for the superstar it becomes evident. The quantity factor may have weighed heavily in favour of KK, but there was no dearth of quality in the numbers Rafi Saab rendered.


Even the Churiyan chal teir matwali chal pe from Dharam Kanta or the songs he sang in Shehzada  or  Humshakal were hummable.  KK may have got the more musical hum tum gumsum raat Milan ki, but Rafi Saab did great justice to Kahe ko bulaaya, where he playfully handles the lines Radha ne yehi poocha thaa ek din roothkar shyam se, marvelous rendering.


Anand babu, Avinash, Flt lt Arun, Anand Sehgal the cancer patient, Raju the circus owner, all these characters charmed us to tears and laughter and appreciation. But the man who was the heartthrob of millions is no more.


He must be sitting upstairs there with his two voices.  And they must be laughing together saying- wahaan neeche log ladte rahenge ke kisne zyaada achha gaaya. Humne toh khoob mazaa liya.


And I am sure that RK and KK would have coaxed and cajoled Rafi Saab to sing another romantic song, even if it was from a forgettable film- and  Rafi Saab would have smiled and obliged with Ek Khoobsurat Ladki mujhe raat ko mili thi……….ending the song with the soft soft lines Woh so rahi thi….Hai !!!!!


RIP Mr Khanna. You were truly the phenomenon.


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The Kaka – Pheeko connection




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