Tuesday, 27 December 2011


How proud I am that I lived in an era when Mohammed Rafi sang the songs whose lyrics were written by Shakeel Badayuni, music composed by Naushad and Dilip Kumar enacted those songs? There are other great lyricists such as Hasrat Jaipuri, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Similarly, there are other great music composers such as Ravi, Hemant Kumar, Salil Choudhury, Shanker-Jai Kishen, and Laxmikant Pyarelal. However, this article is only about the greatest ever quartet of Rafi, Shakeel, Naushad and Dilip Kumar being together.

The best musical trio ever: Naushad, Rafi, Shakeel - I would give anything to meet them
Sadly, out of the four, the first three are no more except Dilip Kumar who celebrated his 89th birthday on the 11th of Dec. Mohammed Rafi died three and half decades ago (31 Jul 1980) at the age of 56. If he were alive, he would have celebrated his 87th birthday on 24th of Dec.Similarly, Naushad who died on 5th May 2006 would have been 92 on 25th of Dec. Can you imagine that the three of them had their birthdays this month? Shakeel didn't even reach the age of 54: born on 3rd Aug 1916, he died on 20 Apr 1970

As far as songs not including the complete quartet are concerned, by far the number one song in Hindi movies has been the 1963 movie Mere Mehboob's title song. Its lyrics are the finest written by Shakeel and Naushad has given the most heart-touching music. Rafi'd rendition is the best ever. But I am not putting it here because instead of Dilip, the film had Rajendra Kumar.

Once again you are bound to ask me: what about 'Suhani raat dhal chuki' from 1949 Dulari. Once again it has Shakeel-Naushad and Rafi but not Dilip Kumar. I think by this time you get the point hat this article is all about.

Let me begin with the oldest of the four: Shakeel of the village Badayun in UP. Initially he started as a shayar (poet) but moved in 1944 to Bombay to find a career in films. He met Naushad. During those days shayars were full of songs about upliftment of society. But Shakeel chose to write about love and Naushad liked his romantic poetry immediately and signed for AR Kardar's 1947 movie Dard. The songs were a hit especially Afsana likh rahi hoon. Shakeel had arrived in the Hindi film industry with a bang. Shakeel wrote for Ravi, Burman, Hemant Kumar, C Ramachandra etc too but his favourite always was his first: Naushad. Unlike shayars of that era, Shakeel didn't drink. However, he died young at 53 years of age in diabetes related problems.

The greatest lyricist of Hindi movies. He wrote Mere Mehboob
Naushad was the next younger, having been born three and a half years after Shakeel. However, he was in Hindi film industry as an independent music director for close to seven years before he paired with Shakeel. He too was from UP; the city of Lucknow famous for its old Urdu etiquette and refinement. Naushad was the most versatile music director the industry ever saw. His genre was to base his music on classical raagas. His career spanned more than six decades. He was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1981 and Padam Bhushan in 1992.

The Greatest with the Greatest - Naushad with Mohammad Rafi
Next is Dilip Kumar who is still alive having been born as Muhammad Yusuf Khan in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) on 11 Dec 1922. Satyajit Ray called him the ultimate method actor. He too began his career in the same year as Shakeel did. He was the first actor to win Filmfare Best Actor Award; ultimately he won the highest number, ie, eight, an honour that he shares with Shah Rukh Khan. He was awarded the Padam Bhushan in 1991, Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993 and Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1994. He remained a good friend of Shakeel and Naushad.

Dilip Kumar - there hasn't been a better actor than him in Hindi films
The youngest was Rafi, born on 24 Dec 1924 in village Kotla Sultan Singh near Amritsar in Punjab. He has sung nearly 8000 songs including 112 in non Hindi and 328 non filmy private songs. He too started his career in Hindi movies in 1944 and became a contemporary of the other three. However, his career lasted nearly half of Naushad's. He, however, had started singing at the age of 13. He sanf 149 songs for Naushad. Other than Hindi and Urdu (the languages of the Hindi songs), he has sung songs in Konkani, Bhojpuri, Orya, Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, Maghi, Maithili, Assamese, English, Persian, Spanish, and Dutch. His genre too was Hindustani and he was reputed to have moulded his voice to suit the character of the actor. I do not consider myself qualified to describe his talent. He is simply God of Hindi songs and there would never be a time when I shall not want to hear a song sung by Rafi.

The gretest Hindi films singer ever - Rafi was also the most humble
The first of the movies in which the quartet was together was the 1948 Mela. Its song 'Yeh zindagi ke mele duniya mein kam na honge afsos hum na honge' is still the standard in Urdu poetry. Taste this:
Duniyaa hai mauj-e-dariyaa, qatare ki zindagi kyaa
Paani mein mil ke paani, a.njaam ye ke paani
Dam bhar ko saans le le, ye zindagi ...

The next movie of the quartet was 1951 movie Deedar. The song that I love the most is a duet between rafi and Lata: Dekh liya maine kismet ka tamaasha dekh liya.
Milakar bhi rahaa main mushkil mein
Milane ka natijaa dekh liyaa

1952 Aan became a super-hit movie of that time. It was produced and directed by the legendary Mehboob Khan. Amongst all the song that best describes the theme of the movie, ie, a poor villager Dilip Kumar overcoming the pride (Aan) of the princess Nadira is Maan mera ehsaan are nadaan ke maine tujhse kiya hai pyaar. Enjoy:

Two years later the great Mehboob Khan got the quartet toegther again for the movie Amar. The song closeto my heart is the bhajan 'Insaaf ka mandir hai ye bhagwan ka ghar hai'. Just imagine all four Muslims getting together and making a mandir (Hindu temple) song. This was the essential greatness of the society, the movies and songs of that era: people of all communities participated in hymns of all religions. Two years earlier, for Baiju Bawra, Shakeel-Naushad-Rafi had combined to make one of the best Hindu bhajans 'Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj'.

The next movie of the quartet was the 1955 movie Uran Khatola that was produced by Naushad. The storyline was about a plane that crashed near an isolated town that is ruled by women. I have a problem now. There are so many good songs in this movie that I don't know which one to select. There are, eg, Na toofan se khelo, na sahil se khelo', 'Hue ham jinake liye barbaad' and 'O door ke musaafir'. My choice is 'Mohabbat ki raahon mein chalna sambhal ke'. It is about the hopelessness of love. There are these immortal lines in the song:
Hamen dhoondhati hain, bahaaron ki duniyaa

Kahaan aa gaye ham, chaman se nikal ke.
And if you can see better acting than Dilip Kumar, do let me know.

Then there was a five year period in which no movie of the quartet together were released though there were others for them to accept movies separately. It was worth the wait. The 1960 Mughal-e-Azam, written by Kamal Amrohi (amongst others. Kamal went on to make his own classic Pakeezah a few years later) and directed by K Asif. It was the biggest box office hit ever (Rupees 133 Crores after adjusting for inflation) until Sholay broke its record. The movie was about the love affair between Prince Salim (who went on to become Emperor Jehangir) and Anarkali. The movie belonged to Lata Mangeshkar who bagged the best and most popular songs like 'Mohe panghat pe Nandlal', 'Mohabbat ki jhooti kahani pe roye', and 'Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya'. Rafi had only one important song but it became very famous: 'Zindabaad, zindabaad; ai mohabbat zindabaad". Enjoy:

The year 1960 also saw the light-hearted Kohinoor; a movie with Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari. Dilip Kumar had, by this time, earned the reputation of a Tragedy King with movies like Devdas and had actually gone into depression with the intensity of his roles. This movie was, therefore, to break the monotony of tragic roles. He won the Filmfare Best Actor award for this too. The movie had two very beautiful duets: 'Chalenge teer jab dil par', and 'Do sitaaron ka zameen per hai milan' and Rafi's 'Koi pyaar ki dekhe jadugari' and 'Zara man ki kewadiyaa khol'. My choice is: 'Madhuban mein Radhika naach re', one of the best songs sung by Rafi:

Just a year later, in 1961, was released Dilip Kumar's musical romance with Vyjantimala in the shape of Ganga Jamuna. Asha Bhonsle sang 'Tora man bada paapi', and Lata sang 'Na maanu, na maanu na maanu re dagabaaj tori' and the all time hit song 'Dhundo dhundo re saajna mere kaan ka baala'. However, Rafi's 'Nain lad jainhe to manavaa mein kasak hoibe kari' showed the rustic dancing by Dilip at its best. Here it is then:

We had to wait for another three years until 1964 to find the quartet again in Leader starring Vyjantimala once again opposite Dilip Kumar. The duet 'Ek Shahenshah ne banwa ke hasin Taj Mahal' was famous. But the movie belonged to Rafi with songs such as 'Apni aazaadi ko hum', 'Hamin se mohabbat hamin se ladaayi' and 'Tere husn ki kya taareef karun'. I am, however, putting up 'Mujhe duniya waalo shraabi na samjho' if only to see Dilip in a drunken stage and rafi matching the drunken voice in his song:

One year later, the quartet was back again with the movie 'Dil Diya Dard Liya' based on Emile Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights; this time with some of the best songs that Mohammad Rafi has sung. Dilip acted opposite Waheeda Rehman. Rafi's songs that became famous and are still famous are: 'Koi saagar dil ko behlaata nahin', 'Dilruba maine tere pyaar mein', and a duet with Asha Bhosle, 'Sawan aaye na aaye'. My choice is an all time favourite of mine: 'Guzre hain aaj ishq mein'. I adore these lines:
O bewafaa teraa bhi youn hi toot jaae dil

Tu bhi tadap-tadap ke pukaare haay dil
Tera bhi saamnaa ho kabhi gam ki shaam se

Two years later, the quartet were back in the super-hit movie Ram Aur Shyam. The theme of twins separated at birth and united later in life made its debut and continue unabated for many years. The movie had a soul-stirring song by Rafi: 'Aaj ki raat mere dil ki salaami le le'. Enjoy:

We could see the quartet for the last time in 1968 movie Sunghursh. The movie about thugee (conning) in Varanasi was based on a story by Jnanpith Award winner Mahasweta Devi; and starred Dilip Kumar and Vyjantimala. Rafi sang: 'Jab dil se dil' and 'Ishq Diwana'; but, Dilip's rustic dancing was once again to be seen in 'Mere pairon mein ghungroo'.

Well folks that is all from me for the quartet of Shakeel Badayuni as lyricist, Naushad Ali as Music Director, Mohammad rafi as singer and Dilip Kumar as an actor with all four being together. How I wish that era had never ended. But, like Shakeel wrote in Mela: 'Ye zindagi ke mele duniya mein kam na honge, afsos hum na honge'.


  1. What a musical post! Though a little long but who cares when it offers such a treat.

    Thanks for this musical journey:)


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