Bengaluru International Film Festival

Reliving the life of Rafi

Dastaan-E-Rafi looks at the phenomenal Hindi playback singer through the eyes of the film fraternity, but as a human being

‘Do you know about the Sanjay Gandhi- Kishore Kumar incident? And how Rafi came to Kishore’s recuse?’ These are the kind of leading questions and anecdotes that we Bollywood-crazy people thrive on. And it is this sort of personal journey that Rajni Acharya promises with his film on one of Bollywood’s most charismatic and versatile singers, Mohammed Rafi, titled Dastaan-e-Rafi.

“Mohammed Rafi was a very different kind of a singer. He was well trained in classical music. But he was not padha-likha ...his attitude inspired me,” says co-director and producer of what he calls a “lifeOgraphy” of Rafi. India is a music-loving country, he observes. “We all begin our day listening to music,” he smiles, speaking at the 9th Bengaluru International Film Festival (Biffes). And, what more can interest people than the life story of a musician, he argues. “Rafi was also a great actor. He could be Dilip Kumar when he sang for him. He could be Shammi Kapoor, or he could be Johnny Walker... that quality is so rare in a singer,” he adds. We all have our personal favourite list of Rafi songs.

Rajni, an industry insider of over 25 years with his own media production house, who admits he had reasonable access to information and people, also recounts the other side of the making of this two-hour saga - he slogged on it for five years, starting with research, and spent 55 lakhs on it!

Many studios and production houses refused to part with footage of songs for a commercial venture like his. Acquiring music tracks alone was proving too expensive. “Some of the actors, singers and music directors we approached for interviews demanded money! We have stood outside their homes for hours to get some of these interviews. I shot for over 120 days to complete this film.”

He shot parts of the film in Pakistan, in Kotla Sultan Singh in the Punjab area, speaking to Rafi’s brother, son, friends. He interviewed Shamshad Begum, Ghulam Ali, Lata Mangeshkar, the entire Kapoor khandaan across generations, including a total of 60 people -- co-singers, actors, music directors, his daughters who’ve given interviews before, interspersed with 60 of his songs.

The film also traces the famous singer’s career graph. “He is one of the very few in the industry who was able to rise once again, after a downward career spiral,” opines Rajni, who got close to Rafi’s family.

When the media was busy writing off Rafi’s career, it was Kishore Kumar who called a press conference and told them not to write about him negatively, says Rajni. When Sanjay Gandhi approached Kishore to do concerts to raise party funds, Kishore demanded his fee. “So Kishore was banned on radio. Producers stopped giving him work. People came and told Rafi this is a great opportunity for you. But Rafi instead approach Sanjay Gandhi and offered to sing for free, asking for the ban on Kishore to be lifted.” His film, says Rajni, looks at Rafi not just as a singer, but as a great human being. “Every single person we spoke to agreed he is a gentleman.”

The film has been telecast on Zee already, and will soon be out on DVD.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 7:57:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/Reliving-the-life-of-Rafi/article17251801.ece

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