Rafi came alive in Bonnyrigg on this great night presented by Sashi Lal

Singer Kishore Chetty and Sashi Lal present bouquet to Shakuntala, the blind singer who came to entertain from Fiji

By Neena Badhwar

One sincere wish for any Indian would be to live in the era of great Indian singers such as Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Manna Dey and Hemant Kumar.

For Non Resident Indians they hold a special nostalgia. The more the NRIs listen to them, the more they get hooked into the immortal songs sung by them. What is it that draws us all to their songs which we call the golden era of Indian films. It is of course the lyrics penned by great poets such as Sahir Ludhianawi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shailendra, Kaifi, Kavi Neeraj and more.

It is the music of those rare times, the musicians, the dedicated music directors such as Kalyanji Anandji, O.P.Nayyar, S. D. Burman, Madan Mohan who rendered music to the verses penned by the talented writers. And do not forget the contribution of music arrangers whose ingenuity of adding a bell, or a tinkle, or the sound of matka that have left an indelible mark in our memory. That we pick out the songs soon as we hear the tune which shows how deep our memory is of that era that produced memorable songs almost sixty years ago.

Sydney witnessed one such event presented by an ardent fan of Rafi – Sashi Lal. She presented the Mohammed Rafi night in Bonnyrigg which had people dancing to Rafi’s foot tapping songs. In front of a huge smiling poster of Mohammed Rafi proudly hung on the back of the stage, audience got to listen to Sydney’s own Rafi singers. We were told there were over twenty singers singing famous Rafi songs on the night. From ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ sung by Mintu to ‘Rahi Mil Gaye Rahon Mein’ and ‘Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyar Ke Churche’ had dancers on the floors dancing away the night.

It was an enchanting evening which transported all to an era that not was just entertaining but also brought smile on even the most serious of faces. Sydney’s Fiji Indian community loves Rafi and have quite staunchly held Rafi nights almost every year started by Kishore Chetty in 1993. The show pulls in a huge crowd and people too eager to let their hair down thoroughly enjoying every bit. This year we had a blind female singer Shakuntala from Fiji. And from New Zealand came Dharmendra Shyam who entertained with his jokes as he was the emcee bringing one singer after another. New Zealand’s Jagdish Punja sang Rafi’s medley of songs   even coming down the stage getting up on chairs egging some keen ones to dance with him and asking the crowds to sing along. Vijay Kumaran from Melbourne was another star singer of the night. Even singer Riaz Shah’s voice, may his soul rest in peace, came alive on the screen as he was fondly remembered by the organisers and his family asked to come on stage.

And the songs that pelted on the night ‘Tumse Acchha Kaun Hai Dil Lo Jigar Lo Jaan Lo’, ‘Badan Pe Sitare Lapete Hue’, ‘Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe’, ‘JHanu Meri Jaan’, ‘Baar Baar Dekho’, ‘Pukarta Chala Hun Main’ there was no end to the night as needles of the clock ticked past midnight.

The singers did get interrupted here and there for the crowds to witness some beautiful dances – the famous ‘Ghoomar’, ‘Dola Re Dola’ by Eswali Nandan’s group practically brought the house down with people clicking away with their iphones. A crowd of men congregated near the bar and line at the food stall was long with Butter chicken, Paneer, Kathal curry on offer and samosa being sold in hundreds.

How does one woman Sashi Lal does it. One only has to ask the super lady herself. All one can remember is Rafi still singing in your ears – ‘Jab se hui hai tumse mohabbat, milta raha hun, milta rahunga’. Rafi loved us through his songs and we love him back equally with the same intensity. That was quite evident on the night that Sydney put up in the great singer’s memory.

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