Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dard-e-Dil: Rafi versus Kishore

I have been a listener all my life, rarely joining in an argument no matter how provocative the subject. The rare exceptions being when I am drunk and when I have an audience that is polite enough to nod in agreement. That's when I am able to hold forth. But I need no alcohol to join a discussion on Kishore Kumar, especially when it comes to comparing him with Mohammed Rafi.

There is no comparison, actually. Kishore Kumar, even though he himself was a great admirer of Rafi, wins hands down when it comes to range. You only have to listen to the songs of Aap Ke Deewane or the title song of Yaadon Ki Baraat to decide who is more listenable. For that matter, Sa Re Ga Ma from Chupke Chupke: what is the song without Kishore?

The purpose of this post is not to belittle Rafi, or Rafi saab. He was undoubtedly a great singer. He had a melodious voice. But Kishore Kumar's voice had a life of its own, which was not constricted by any era: what he sang in the 1950's remains as fresh as what he sang in the 1980's -- as if he had sung them only yesterday.

Rafi's voice might have the fragrance of the Indian soil, but Kishore's voice is that of the man next-door. Rafi was soft and sweet, but Kishore was direct and effective. If I were a woman, I would like to be seduced by Roop Tera Mastaana. If I have a bad day, I can lift my spirits with one of the many energising Kishore Kumar songs, such as "Ruk jaana nahin tu kahin haar ke.." If I feel sad, I have Kishore Kumar for company in Zindagi ka safar or Zindagi ke safar mein guzar jaate hain jo mukaam. No other singer could have sung these songs: try imagining Rafi or Mukesh singing them.

Like it or not, Kishore's genius is illustrated not by his landmark songs which have become so cliched that you don't want to listen to them one more time, such as Mere naina saawan bhaadon, but by the songs in films that did not do very well. In my opinion, movies like Satte Pe Satta showcase his true talent: any other singer's voice would have cracked in the low-scale Pyaar tumhe kis mod par le aaya. And to sing the same words, in the very next minute, in extreme high pitch -- only Kishore Kumar could have done that. Not to mention Dukki pe dukki ho -- I always get goose-pimples whenever I listen to a song where Kishore Kumar's voice makes a dashing entry mid-way.

Having said that, let me admit that I am also a selective Rafi fan. Selective means I would not shop for Rafi songs with the zeal that I show for Kishore Kumar songs or even those of Talat Mehmood or Bhupinder or Yesudas, but there are certain Rafi songs I cannot do without. I shall list five of them:

1. Suhaani raat dhal chuki, by Naushad. No one else could have sung this song better. Naushad himself believed that melody was murdered by the noise induced by the R.D.-Kishore combo, but his own daughter was hooked to the songs created by the duo. Ditto with Neil Mukesh: he prefers Kishore Kumar over his grandfather -- or so he said in an interview.

2. Dil ka bhanwar kare pukaar, by S.D. Burman. Kishore's voice did not have the softness that this song required. Obviously, the senior Burman knew better.

3. Khoya khoya chaand, khula aasman, by S.D. Burman. Once again, a song only Rafi saab could have done justice to.

4. Koi sone ke dil waala, koi chaandi ke dil waala, by Salil Choudhury. Ah, my all-time Rafi favourite. Nothing to beat this song -- the voice, the music, the lyrics -- sung, on the screen, by the debonair Dev Anand in the film called Maya. A journalist friend of mine happened to meet Salilda shortly before he died in the mid-1990s. According to my friend, the meeting took place in a modest Delhi hotel in the evening, when Salilda was drinking, from a steel glass. When Rafi and this particular song came up for discussion, Salilda apparently had tears in his eyes. He began narrating anecdotes related to the recording of this song. Now, since my journalist friend also happens to be a drunkard who is prone to inventing stories, I cannot vouch for Salilda's tears. I can only hope that he was not lying.

5. Well, have you ever been in love? If you have been, only then you can appreciate this song. Even if not, do me a favour: tonight, pour yourself a drink and listen to this song. Promise me you will only use earphones while listening to this song. Because if you listen to it on normal speakers, you might miss out on the craftsmanship of Laxmikant and Pyarelal. I am yet to come across a song that is so richly embellished with the chorus and the orchestra. Chances are very high that you will end up falling in love -- if not with anyone, at least with the song.

And the song is, Dard-e-dil, dard-e-jigar, from Karz. The song could have been sung by Kishore Kumar, who sang other -- and highly popular -- songs in the movie. But Laxmi-Pyare were sagacious enough to use Rafi saab for this number. They were, after all, proteges of S.D. Burman once upon a time. They knew very well that you can't fit a song into a voice, but only the vice-versa. Oh, how much this song has been tormenting me of late. In my opinion, this is the most complete song ever created in the Hindi film industry.


Anonymous said...

Hey darling, you forgot wada karle saajna.... How could you?

janani sampath said...

I loved Rafi's voice even when I was a 6 yr-old.
Kishore's voice is definitely for the masses, no doubt at all.
But, what gave Rafi the edge was he cud sing for a brooding Dilip Kumar and a flirtatious Dev Anand with equal finesse.Plus, Rafi was the first choice for a Ghazal or a classical song. Most Naushad compositions from Baiju Bawra to Mughal-e-azam would speak for that.

Yes, I love all the songs you have listed :)-
here are more:
1) Chaudvin ka chand ho- Chaudvin ka chand
2) Apni to har aah ek toofan- Kaala bazaar
3) Aye husn zara jaag- Mere mehboob
4) Dekhi zamaane ki yaari- Kaagaz Ke Phool
5)Tumne mujhe dekha- Teesri Manzil
6)Kabhi khud pe kabhi haalat & main zindagi kaa saath nibhata- Hum Dono
I can just go and on. But, these would always be on the top

But, I can never deny the fact that Kishore upstaged Rafi during the former's heydays. Perhaps, that's why most think he was the best.

Nice post, like always :)-

Kishore Kumar Songs Collection said...

Both Mohd rafi & Kishore are legends and having their own identities. I dun think there should be a comparision in both of these singers..

Anonymous said...

Rafi & Kishore are both hugely popular across the globe. But the similarities end there. In terms of voice quality, range, and sheer singing talent, Rafi is the greatest ever! Only people who are biased, or are musically literate can deny this fact, and no amount of media push for RD + KK can change the bare facts. Just compare the bodies of work, and Kishore's work looks juvenile and elementary in comparison, and most people outgrow Kishore when they grow up. Rafi's body of work dwarfs that of anyone else including Lata. Even Lata hailed Rafi as the greatest ever playback singer (male or female) in a Hindustan Times tribute earlier this year.

Anonymous said...

why do not listen just one song, "tum bin ****** kaha tum ko" sung by both, you will know the answer.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"There is no comparison, actually. Kishore Kumar, even though he himself was a great admirer of Rafi, wins hands down when it comes to range."

Are you on drugs!

Why would legendary music directors (listed below) continue to utilise Mohammed Rafi's voice if Kishore Kumar was a better singer! If Kishore was a better singer these MDs would have used his voice in many more songs during the period from the 1950s to 1970s. Anyone with nest to no knowledge of HFM can tell you they didn't because Kishore did not possess the talent, versatility, range, melody and sweetness in voice that Mohammed Rafi's voice had. You can accuse one or two MDs of partiality towards Mohammed Rafi but not all, absolutely no way! They obviously knew something which you have yet to discover. I hope discover it soon for your own sake. Honestly, you don't know what you're missing...

Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishan, Ravi, Madan Mohan, Husanlal Bhagatram, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Roshan, Vasant Desai, Usha Khanna, Naashad, Allah Rakha Qureshi, Iqbal Qureshi, N Dutta, GS Kohli, S Mohinder, Kalyanji-Anandji, SD Burman, O P Nayyar and Chitragupta.

vimmi said...

RD burman used kishore kumar intensely for many reasons. There is absolutely no comparison between Rafi Sahab and Kishore kumar. Kishore Kumar are mentioned is for the masses but Rafi Sahab voice is for the soul. These discussions are subjective but anyway their contribution is immense so our lives have enriched

Me said...

After many years of witnessing and participating in Rafi-KK debates, it has come down to this for me - if a listener responds more to a resonant voice even if it will occasionally diverge from the true sur and even if it lacks range (hear KK struggle to find the low notes in Raat Kali and Yeh Shaam Mastani) and if they are looking for overt acoustic calisthenics, then they tend to prefer KK. If you are into reflective listening - responding to the nuances of expression, capturing the bhaav of a song, and into perfection of sur, then Rafi and Lata rule your heart.

There is really no point in trying to create pseudo-objective comparisons. When it comes to range, both have sung songs with a wide range of expressive demands. For examples of KK, see the essay above. As for Rafi, consider the following:

Baar baar dekho
Sukh ke sab saathi
Is rang badalti duniya mein
Jaan Pehchaan Ho
Dil ka bhawar kare pukar
Babul ki dua-yen leti ja
Parda hai Parda
Gunguna rahen hain bhanwar
Yeh mera prem patra padhkar
Yeh duniya usiki
Brindaban ka kishan kanhaiya

Prem said...

I read really much worthwhile data in this post!

Anubhuti said...

You have the capability to create quite a stir amonst your readers, I seem to be the only one agreeing to most of what you say. :)
By the way, I love rishi kapoor in darde dil :)
and dilbar mere ?? KK and Amitabh at their romantic best, how I wished I was hema malini...

Unknown said...

When a term called "range" was used in what context - Is it the range of notes / frequency or range of emotions or range of variety. If the term is to be used as range of notes - Rafi is towering above all his contemporary singers including ladies. Rafi was technically a better singer and had more to offer than Kishore. Kishore excelled in songs that were tailor made to suit his voice. Rafi had more fluidity. This of Baiju Bawara songs with Kishore's voice or the songs in husky voice rendered for Dev Anand with SD Burman. So it is not belittling- it is just conditioning our own mind to respond to a particular voice.