Famed music director Naushad All described Mohammed Rail as India’s new ‘Tansen’. In a singing career spanning 35 years, Rail came to be regarded by many as the greatest playback singer the Hindi film industry has ever known. Apart from Naushad, Rail worked with all the well-known music directors of his time, including S D Burman, Shankar-Jaikishen, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and o P Nayyar. He became the ‘voice’ of most of the leading stars of the day including Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dharmendra, Dev Anand and Amitabh Bachchan. He also play backed for superstar Rajesh Khanna [‘Gun guna rahen hain bhanware khil rahi hai kali kali and ‘Baagon mein bahaar hai, kaliyon pe nikhaar hai’in the film Aradhana]. It was songs like these and countless others like ‘0 Duniya ke Rakhwaley’[Beiju Bawra], ‘Yhe Zindagi he Meley’[Mela]; ‘Naseeb Dat pe Tere Azmaney Aaya Noon’ [Deedar] and ‘Shabaab pe mein zara si sharab phekoonga’ [Amar Akbar Anthony], that have made Mohammed Rail live on in the hearts of millions long after he passed away in 1980.
Yasmin Rafi grew up as a devoted fan of Mohammed Rail, little knowing that she would one day meet and marry his son, Khalid. This transition from ‘fan to family’ as she puts it, led to this heart warming memoir of an artiste who was an icon for the world, but for his family, a simple, caring and loving man who delighted as much in good food, flying kites with his children, and driving his parrot-green Fiat through the streets of Mumbai, as he did in the numerous awards that came his way, including six Film fare awards and the Padma Shri in 1967.
Yasmin Khalid Rail was born in I9I in the city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh. At the age of 19, Yasmin immigrated to England after her marriage to Khalid Rail in 1971. She has spent most of her life as a housewife and bringing up her four children. She is also a proud grandmother to six grandchildren.
Five years ago, Yasmin came up with the Inspiration to write a book on her legendary father-in-law for coming generations of her own family, and for all those ardent Rail fans around the world.
Personalities like the late Padma Shri Haji Mohammed Rafi are not born every day. The passing of this great singer in ‘980 signalled the end of an era; one phase of film music had ended. But Mohammed Rafi’s evergreen melodies continue to captivate the hearts of his fans, to this day.
Even as a child, I had been a devoted follower of Mohammed Rail Saheb’s singing. Later, it was my good fortune to have joined Rafi Saheb’s household as his daughter-in-law. I married his son. Khalid Rail. Whilst I shall always regret the fact that I had the pleasure of his company for an all-too-brief period, from 1971 to 1980, in those years I came to know him intimately, listened to his singing at close quarters, and learned what he stood for.
Although I possess this treasure of Rafi Saheb’s golden memories, I had never intended to write a book on him. But then, as they say there is an appointed time for everything. After the sudden demise of my husband Khalid of a heart attack in January 2005, 1 would often talk for hours with my children about our old memories, anecdotes and stories; these sessions would go on and on. It was during one such conversation that my eldest daughter, Shabana, made the suggestion, ‘Mum, you should write a book on grandpa.’ At the time, I was probably passing through the most difficult phase of my life. All I could do was to smile and say, ‘Insha’Allah one day I will.’ Fortunately, the matter did not end there. My children insisted, and eventually I agreed to create a book out of those memories. But I soon started fretting about the fact that I had not even written a letter in years. How then could 1 hope to accomplish the task of writing an entire book?
When I did eventually start on the book in 2007, 1 could not believe that this was actually happening. I felt as if someone were holding my hand to make me write.
The times and the ambience that this memoir is set in are now irrevocably altered. It would help for the reader to bear this in mind while reading the book.
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