According to me, there was only one voice which could match Lata Mangeshkar in the duets, and that was Mohd Rafi. His voice and range possessed the emotional bandwidth to give his duets with the Nightingale the gender equality that they needed and deserved. One can’t imagine their duets not happening. And yet they didn’t happen. The two voices, the yin and yang of Hindi cinema separated over the issue of royalty for singers for nearly three years in the 1960s. The composers were shocked. They had to choose between the two monumental singers. Sophie’s Choice, indeed!
Those who chose Rafi Saab had to replace the female vocal with the Mangeshar soundalike Suman Kalyanpur (that’s how two of Kalyanpur’s biggest hits Tumse ho haseena kabhi mohabbat na maine karni tthi in the film Farz and Aaj kal tere mere pyar ke charche in Bramhachari came her way). And those went with Lataji had to make do with the poor’s man’s Rafi Mahendra Kapoor in the duets.
Lata Mangeshkar And Mohammed Rafi
Every composer breathed a sigh of relief when Hindi film music’s biggest cold war came to an end . In her biography on Rafi Saab entitled Mohd Rafi My Abba A Memoir his daughter-in-law Yasmin Khalid wrote, "Their differences arose over the issue of royalty payments on the songs sung by them. Lata wanted to be paid royalty and raised the issue with the producers; she expected Rafi to support her point of view, which was in fact justified. "But contrary to her expectations, Rafi took a different stand. He opined, 'When the producer pays the fee the singer demands for a song, thereafter the singer should not have a share in the royalty.' This was probably a hasty decision, taken without careful consideration."
Mercifully the two magnificent singers ended their feud before more damage was done. Imagine Mahendra Kapoor or Suman Kalyanpur plodding through Chup gaye saare nazare in Do Raaste or Patta patta boota boota in Ek Nazar.