On Rajendra ‘Jubilee’ Kumar’s Birthday, Listen to a Forgotten Rafi Nazm

By Ankush Arora

Hindi cinema actor Rajendra Kumar would have been 85 today.

After five years of working as an assistant director and a small role in ‘Jogan’ (1950), Kumar’s first tryst with success came in 1955 when he played his debut lead role in family drama ‘Vachan’.

The film, which earned him 1500 rupees, turned out to be his first silver jubilee hit – a recurring phenomenon in his career. Little wonder then, he was fondly nicknamed ‘Jubilee Kumar’.

He was born in Sialkot in 1929, then part of the Punjab province of British India. The family migrated to Bombay after partition.

With his intense acting, natural charm and decidedly Punjabi good looks, the son of a textile businessman was the leading hero in the 60s and 70s, romancing some of the most beautiful Indian actresses and enriching with his presence some of the best soundtracks ever composed in Hindi cinema.

One such is ‘Mere Mehboob’, the titular song of the famous 1963 film starring Kumar and Sadhna in the lead roles.

It’s a collaboration that couldn’t have gone wrong – Mohammad Rafi’s voice, Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics and Naushad’s music. Top it with Kumar’s passion for a burqa-clad girl he has barely seen, save for her piercing eyes; and a brief, yet filmi brushing of their hands.

The man craves her revelation. He cannot track – or stalk – her because there are several women walking around the Aligarh Muslim University campus in burqas.

What follows, during the university mushairah, is a musical declaration of his love-at-first-sight and a plea for deedar.

फिर मुझे नरगिसी आँखों का सहारा दे दे
मेरा खोया हुआ रंगीन नज़ारा दे दे,
मेरे महबूब तुझे…

Phir mujhe naragisi aankhon ka sahara de de
Meraa khoyaa huaa rangin nazara de de,
Mere mehaboob tujhe…

The nazm focuses on the man’s so-called object of desire; its tenor is in keeping with the overall restrain of the film that is set in Aligarh and Lucknow, the site of traditional Muslim ethos of tehzeeb.

Rafi is unforgettable in this heart-stopping song. Even if you listen to it half a century after it was composed, the expression is imbued with a sense of novelty; the rendition fresh like the morning’s dewdrops.

The playback singer, who mastered the art of the romantic ditty, personalizes a gamut of emotions in this song. In his crooning, you hear of the lover’s passion and absolute loss of sanity and self-control. In his high-pitch tone is a sense of longing that gives voice to Kumar’s wish to meet his lady love.

सामने आ के ज़रा पर्दा उठा दे रुख़ से
इक यही मेरा इलाज-ए-ग़म-ए-तन्हाई है
तेरी फ़ुरक़त ने परेशान किया है मुझको
अब तो मिल जा के मेरी जान पे बन आई है
दिल को भूली हुई यादों का सहारा दे दे

samne aa ke zara pardaa uthaa de rukh se
ik yahi meraa ilaaj-e-gham-e-tanhaai hai
teri furqat ne pareshan kiya hai mujhko
ab to mil jaa ke meri jaan pe ban aai hai
dil ko bhuli hui yadon ka sahara de de

It won’t be out of place to quote a similar-themed couplet by Pakistani poet Ahmed Faraz, a kalam that has been immortalized in ghazal singer Mehdi Hasan’s voice.

तू खुदा है ना मेरा इश्क़ फरिश्तों जैसा
दोनो इंसान हैं तो इनूं इतने हिजाबों में मिले
अब के हम बिछड़े तो शायद कभी ख्वाबों में मिले
जिस तरह सूखे हुए फूल किताबों में मिले

Tu khuda hai na mera ishq farishton jaisa
Dono insaan hain to inum itne hijabon mein mile
Ab ke hum bichde to shaayad kabhi khwabon mein mile
Jis tarah sookhe huye phool kitaabon mein mile

Lata Mangeskar’s version of ‘Mere Mehboob’, unfortunately, lags behind in intensity. The song, by all means, is Rafi’s jaagir.

याद है मुझको मेरी उम्र की पहली वो घड़ी
तेरी आँखों से कोई जाम पिया था मैने
मेरी रग रग में कोई बर्क़ सी लहराई थी
जब तेरे मरमरी हाथों को छुआ था मैने
आ मुझे फिर उन्हीं हाथों का सहारा दे दे

yaad hai mujhko meri umr ki pahli vo ghadi
teri ankhon se koi jaam piyaa thaa maine
meri rag rag men koi barq si laharaai thi
jab tere marmari hathon ko chhua tha maine
aa mujhe phir unhin haathon ka saharaa de de

(You can follow me on Twitter @Ankush_patrakar)

 

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Ankush Arora

Delhi boy; dreamer, nature lover, photographer. Development communications professional. Ex-Reuters, NDTV. This is a personal blog.

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