In the early 1930's, the seventh of eight children born to Hajji Ali Mohammad, little Pheeko would follow a fakir on his rounds, and imitate his chants as they went around his native village. As Pheeko grew up, he started work at a relative's barber shop in Lahore - a cultural and film hub in those days. Although he grew up in an orthodox household where music and singing were frowned upon, Pheeko would hum songs through the day while at work. His brother, noticing his talent, arranged for him to train under Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan despite tremendous opposition from their father.
Pheeko grew up to be Mohammed Rafi, the legendary playback singer. Rafi Sahab has nearly five thousand songs to his credit across genres and languages. From classical music and romantic ballads to rock and roll, Rafi Sahab has sung in Hindi, English, Arabic, Persian, Sinhalese, Creole, and Dutch in his career spanning over 40 years.
In 1941, Mohammed Rafi made his debut as a playback singer in Lahore with a duet "Soniye Nee, Heeriye Nee" with Zeenat Begum in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch before moving to Mumbai in 1944.
Once in Mumbai, Rafi shared a ten-by-ten feet room with one other in the crowded Bhendi Bazaar area. His first Bollywood break came with "Aji dil ho kaabu mein to dildar ki aisi taisi" for the film "Gaon Ki Gori".
The title song of Guru Dutt's comeback film "Chaudhvi ka Chand" won Mohammed Rafi his first Filmfare award in 1960, to be followed by five more. In 1977 he won the National Award for "Kya Hua Tera Wada". He was feted by the Indian government with the Padma Shri in 1967.
Mohammed Rafi has worked extensively with SD Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, and OP Nayyar among others. Between 1942 and 1980, Rafi Sahab became the voice of almost every hero, supporting actor, character actor in Hindi cinema.
Today's Doodle by Mumbai-based illustrator Sajid Shaikh depicts Mohammed Rafi as the king of playback singing in Bollywood. It shows the journey of famous Rafi songs as they progressed from the studio, onto the silver screen and into the hearts of his fans forever.