High On Milk, Mohammad Rafi’s Intoxicant


A few months ago, at Mumbai airport on my way to Bengaluru, I ran into my friend, Shahid Rafi, son of singing legend Mohammad Rafi. He was headed for Vadodara with singer Shabbir Kumar, to cut the ribbon and sing at the opening ceremony of a fine-dining restaurant started by the latter. After my surprised hello, I asked him, “How about a quick coffee, Shahid?” “No”, he replied, “we must rush to the plane, we’re already late!” “Oh! Can I get you a bottle of milk then, to drink on the go?” After declining again, he burst out into laughter. This was a private joke between us, based on a real account of his father.

It’s like this. Around 20 years ago, when I was writing my first book, Yesterday’s Melodies Today’s Memories, I met with many music makers from the golden era. But since some artistes had already left us, I met their main next-of-kin. Rafi had gone, so it was Shahid who had told me many interesting things about his father. That he loved playing carrom with his family and badminton with his friends, that he loved going for long drives. And that he also loved drinking milk, straight from the bottle as it arrived at dawn at their home in Bandra. He was an early riser, Rafi, and when he heard the glass milk bottles being kept on the floor outside his home, he would quietly open the door, take one bottle in, drink it up, wash it, and put the empty bottle back in the pantry. Later everyone would know what had happened, and they would have a nice laugh. Since Shahid looks so much like his father, and sometimes sings fairly, a bottle of milk in his hand would help in the image-building, I thought, especially for those who did know about Rafi’s fondness for milk.

In the context of Rafi’s love for milk, not alcohol—the singer never touched it all his life—it is amazing how well he sang ever so many numbers that suggested the actor was under the influence. The following are songs where Rafi either warped his vocals cords or hiccupped to sound drunk:

  • Choron ki tarah chupke chupke (Roshan/Do Roti, 1957)
  • Ghir ke barsen ye ghataayen to maza aa jaaye (with Geeta/Roshan/Do Roti, 1957)
  • Moohn se mat laga cheez hai buri (with Manna Dey/OP Nayyar/Johnny Walker, 1957)
  • Le gaya dekho dekho dil bhi hamaara (with Geeta/Madan Mohan/Samundar, 1957)
  • Dekhta chala gaya main (with Lata and Johnny Walker/Madan Mohan/Gateway Of India, 1958)
  • Hum bekhudi mein tum ko (SD Burman/Kala Paani, 1958)
  • Jangal mein mor naacha (Salil Choudhury/Madhumati, 1958)
  • Nashe mein hum, nashe mein tum (with Suman/N. Datta/Black Cat, 1959)
  • Main nashe mein hoon (Ghulam Mohammad/Do Gunde, 1959)
  • Maine peena seekh liya (Vasant Desai/Goonj Uthi Shehnai, 1959)
  • Maine pee hai pee hai (Bipin-Babul/Raat Ke Raahi, 1959)
  • Main main main cartoon (with Asha/OP Nayyar/Mr. Qartoon M.A., 1959)
  • Ye mehfil ye botal ye rangeen paani (Ravi/Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai, 1962)
  • Main kaun hoon main kahaan hoon (Chitragupt/Main Chup Rahungi, 1962)
  • Sharaab ka sahaara leke (Roshan/Commercial Pilot Officer, 1963)
  • Mehfil se utth jaane waalo (Roshan/Dooj Ka Chand, 1964)
  • Mujhe duniya waalo sharaabi na samjho (Naushad/Leader, 1964)
  • Kabhi na kabhi kaheen na kaheen (Madan Mohan/Sharabi, 1964)
  • Saawan ke maheene mein (the slow version/Madan Mohan/Sharabi, 1964)
  • Tum ho haseen kahaan ke (with Asha/Madan Mohan/Sharabi, 1964)
  • Kabira nirbhay Ram…Mehfil mein teri yoon hi (With Asha/Ravi/Kaajal, 1965)
  • Ye zulf agar khulke (Ravi/Kaajal, 1965)
  • Koi saaghar dil ko behlaata naheen (Naushad/Dil Diya Dard Liya, 1966)
  • Jitni likhi thi muqaddar mein hum utni pee chuke (Ravi/Nayi Roshni, 1967)
  • Pila de magar shart ye hogi saaqi (Ganesh/Sab Ka Ustad, 1967)
  • Ye dil naheen hai (Sonik-Omi/Aabroo, 1968)
  • Chhalkaayen jaam (Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Mere Humdum Mere Dost, 1968)
  • Aaj is darja pila do ke na kuchh yaad rahe (Chitragupt/Vaasna, 1968)
  • Pee kar sharaab kheloonga (Naushad/Ganwaar, 1970)
  • Main sharaabi naheen main sharaabi naheen (with Asha/Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Khilona, 1970)
  • Maine pee sharaab, tumne kya piya (N. Datta/Naya Rasta, 1970)
  • Pee lo aaj pee lo, mar ke zara jee lo (Shankar-Jaikishan/Patanga, 1971)
  • Ye to mumkin hi naheen ke behek jaoon main (Kamalkant/Jai Jwaala, 1972)
  • Duniya sharaabi duniya sharaabi (Naushad/Tangewala, 1972)
  • Peete-peete kabhi-kabhi yoon jaam (Kalyanji-Anandji/Bairaag, 1976)

And in these tracks, Rafi lent his voice to actors either seen with a drink, or making a reference to drinks or drunkenness:

  • Ab wo karam karen ke sitam main nashe mein hoon (N. Datta/Marine Drive, 1955)
  • Aye dil tu na dar is jahaan mein (OP Nayyar/Johnny Walker, 1957)
  • Kabhi khud pe kabhi haalaat pe rona aaya (Jaidev/Hum Dono, 1961)
  • Chheda mere dil ne taraana tere pyaar ka (Shankar-Jaikishan/Asli Naqli, 1962)
  • Tere ghar ke saamne (with Lata/SD Burman/Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, 1963)
  • Hai duniya usi ki zamaana usi ka (OP Nayyar/Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964)
  • Tu mere saamne hai (Madan Mohan/Suhagan, 1964)
  • Dil jo na keh saka wohi raaz-e-dil (Roshan/Bheegi Raat, 1965)
  • Din dhal jaaye haaye, raat na jaaye (SD Burman/Guide, 1965)
  • Chhoo lene do naazuk honthon ko (Ravi/Kaajal, 1965)
  • Hui shaam unka khayaal aa gaya (Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Mere Humdum Mere Dost, 1968)
  • Jo unki tamanna hai barbaad ho ja (Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Inteqaam, 1969)
  • Aaj ki raat peene de saaqi (with Manna Dey, Hemlata and Meenu Purshottam/Sonik-Omi/Do Chehre, 1977)
  • Botal se ek baat chali hai (with Asha/RD Burman/Ghar, 1978)

Of course, the singers’ expression has much to do with the way the composer directs. And good composers can make even instruments sound drunk, why just teetotallers. Listen for example to Jungle mein more naacha kisi na dekha (Madhumati, 1958), where Rafi, the trumpet, the harmonica, all seem delightfully, devilishly drunk. You want more? Listen to Rafi and the trumpet when they seem to have had more than a few, sounding dizzy and delirious in Saaqiya aisi pila de (Mall Road, 1962). By bringing down the tempo in that song, composer Sudarshan introduced additional cleverness to the scheme of things, because speech, reflexes and movements all slow down in people who have had one too many.

That brings us to Rafi’s time, when milk was sold in glass bottles. Adulteration in such packaging was a persistent problem, as also was the breaking of such bottles. Poly film has solved both those issues. After the singer died, adulteration of music has become the big concern, causing many a heartbreak too. Wonder if anyone can find a solution to these.


PS: The above lists put Madan Mohan in the lead as the composer who created the most songs to make Rafi sound high. Today, 25th June, is also Madan Mohan’s birthday. We raise a glass to that extraordinary musician!


(Originally published: 25th June, 2017)

http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-06-25 (page 11)

21 thoughts on “High On Milk, Mohammad Rafi’s Intoxicant

  1. adabsey aadaab rafi,

    manekbhai, its always a pleasure to read any article by any body on the avathaar. 🙂 you always put your soul into your writings and we are in for a treat. 🙂

    for rafi saaheb, doodh peekay sharabi kaa gaanaa – gaanaa was a cake walk. 🙂 his known to make the most difficult things ( songs ) look easy. 🙂

    the second list of songs is quite menacing – a typical rafi saaheb stamp is inherently mixed. 🙂 these are some of the reasons he was un matched. 🙂

    his punjabi roots could be the only reason for his love for milk. 🙂

    chalo aaj rafi saaheb kee yaadmein doodh sey cheers karengey

    cheers manekbhai – 🙂 – i wished you had written more – 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. I loved to hear about him being a teetotaller and also about his liking milk and that too kaccha, unboiled doodh!!! (correction of above narration)

    1. Many people do that Malini. I have done it too, dozens of times…till conventionally-wise elders gave me a piece of their mind. Wonder if there was any hope for me as a singer…without it nothing great happened, so I wonder 🙂

  3. A perfect playback singer Rafi using milk as his tipple. Love this article Manek. All the songs you have listed are amazing with Rafi emoting for the on screen drunkard. 🙂

  4. Lovely article Manek. The simplicity of Rafi and a stickler to his professional rules come out so strongly from this. We were so honoured to have such a person in our midst. God bless this great man wherever he is. God must be listening to some nice bhajans from him.

  5. That’s a perfect doze for an intoxicated Sunday .. Wasn’t Rafis voice probably as smooth as the milk he drank, with some adulerarion of his emotions, he made the listeners go on a high …

    Amazing choice of songs sir .. loved it

    1. Samar, you bet…us listeners went on a high. PS has mentioned Jitni likhi thi muqaddar mein hum utni pee chuke…I too am high now…just thinking about the man’s rendition 🙂

  6. Hic, hic! Versatility, thy name is Rafi! Versatility, thy name is Manekji! Amazing ia the way you connect songs with singers. I very much like “Jitni likhi thi mukkadar me hum utni peeli”. Seldom heard these days

  7. Wonderful article and a collector’s treat as usual from Manek Sir.

    Chronicling these songs in one place makes it so much easy for writers like me who have to hunt for authentic information for every write up we attempt – its like a ready reckoner with added insights for easy reference! Salutations for especially making it a breeze for us (by “us” I collectively mean the writers like me who love to write on music and cinema but do not have the depth of knowledge, and end up collecting lots of data whereas what we require is information and insights to expand our understanding).

    Now for the article – associating the love for milk with Mohd Rafi’s emoting of songs of drunkenness without touching a drop of alcohol! Phew… if this isn’t “acting” with the voice, then what is? It must have made it easier for the actors on screen to emote to the song as well – half the acting was done by the voice, na! 🙂

    1. Why, that’s a brilliant thing you have said Antara: if this isn’t “acting” with the voice, then what is? It must have made it easier for the actors on screen to emote to the song as well – half the acting was done by the voice, na! ?

      Sometimes I wish I could say it your way. Even Vijay Kumar, when he said Rafi’s Milky Way, I wish I had thought about it first , as the title of this article 🙂

      Thanks Antara!

  8. Tks for a wonderful article on a Sunday reminding about Milk,though talking of Drinks may not be a cup of Tea for many friends early morning.Reminds me of a typical line used for a Drunkard Person carrying a Glass of Milk.Many of the Neighbours/Freinds would say ‘Surely it will be a Whiskey’ Poor Guy

  9. Hic, what a piece!! Its a drunkard’s delight!! Loved the milk anecdote too, but I doubt Shahid is a lot into it from the way he laughed! Lovely write-up, one more feather in your cap Manek Premchand!

    1. Thanks Lata, drunkard’s delight indeed! You know, while writing this essay I thought of using the word lactophilia…based on my feeling that lacto is milk and philia is love of. I found on looking it up that it meant something else, this: “The sexual attraction to milk, usually when being ingested”

      So na baba na 🙂

      1. That is why it is still a custom at least in the north to have a glass of hot/warm milk before going to bed…More for the males. You may recall a scene to this effect in Raj Kapoor’s Prem Rog. As for your research on lactopilia, it mat not be sexual attraction but milk at night time is presumed to aid libido – to speak in technical and less direct terms. But then old wives’ tales are many 🙂

        As for Rafi Saab’s attraction for milk, I guess it must be due to his Amritsar roots. Even today doodh-dahi per bahut zor diya jaata hai vahan. It is still considered very healthy eating.

        I suppose habits once formed are difficult to give up.

          1. Loved your article on my most favourite singer, Manek! My two cents on the Legend’s singing-Rafi sb, I feel, was able to connect to the innermost wish of the Music Directors, he heard what they wanted from him and also heard what they left unsaid!!! He was so versatile that with every song he sounded different, has anyone wondered why? It is because he changed his style to suit the actor for whom he sang! In one interview, Shammi Kapoor said, he asked the MD who the actor was for the so G he was going to sing and when he realised it was Shammi Kapoor, he added Shammi Paaji’s style in the song!!! I can never tire of hearing his songs as I grew up hearing his songs and falling in love with them! Those days, it was just Mohd Rafi sb, I did not know which actors sang the song on screen!!! I loved to hear about him being a teetotal Lee and also about his liking milk and that too, ka changed, unboiled Doodh! 😀

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