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When the genius of Mohammed Rafi fell silent on July 31, 1980, Hindi cinema fraternity wondered, “After Rafi, who?” Hopes were pinned on Anwar because a few of his songs bore more than a passing resemblance to Rafi’s. Anwar’s lack of range, though, was soon apparent.
So, fans looked towards Shabbir Kumar, who once claimed that he had attended Rafi’s funeral and that in the funeral his watch fell into the legend’s grave! Taking it as a sign of things to come, Kumar waited for the big break, and it came his way when he sang for Manmohan Desai’s Coolie . The songs were predictably loud, but were well-received by the masses. Yet, a few films later, he too was rejected by fans who found him too predictable. Thus the onus of carrying on Rafi’s legacy fell on Mohammed Aziz, who passed away following a cardiac arrest in Mumbai on November 27.
Like others, Aziz (1954-2018) too began his career in the shadow of Rafi. Directors looked for a replacement for the illustrious singer and were happy to give a break to anybody who showed some promise. Aziz began with a bang. Manmohan Desai’s Mard was his first break, in 1985. As the title song, “Mard tangewala, main hun mard tangewala”, hit the charts, Hindi cinema knew there was a singer who could sing for Amitabh Bachchan and still be himself.
For a few years, Aziz did not look back. He sang for Bachchan again, notably in Khuda Gawah , but he acquitted himself as well when he lent his voice to Mithun Chakraborty in Muddat or Rishi Kapoor in Banjaran . Even in title tracks of films like Aisa Pyar Kahan and Maa , he made sure that his voice matched the hero’s and yet retained its identity. That was his unique talent.
However, his greatest success was a song that virtually masked his identity, in the film Ram Lakhan by Subash Ghai. The song, “My name is Lakhan”, was sung for the hero, Anil Kapoor. However, for the common man on the street, it was Kapoor’s tapori song!
However, life at the top seldom offers a lasting innings to anybody. Aziz’s case was no different. In the 1990s, Hindi film music changed with Nadeem-Sravan’s melancholy soaked music. Aziz with his untamed energy was not suitable for the era. Bachchan, too, had ceased to be the lead hero. Slowly, despite a few songs here and there, Aziz faded away from the top echelons of Hindi film music. He devoted his time to private albums, singing Muslim and Hindu devotional numbers with zest.
However, he did prove he could be subtle too. Be it “ Tu kal chala jayega ” in Naam or “ Duniya mein kitna gham hai ” in Amrit , his vocal chords brought alive the pathos of the lyricist and the angst of the hero.
With his passing away, the post Rafi era has lost a worthy contender.
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