Making of a biography


A biography of a person of repute is a treasure for all. But, behind every biography is a lot of hard work and research. Here, ABP finds out how the recently released biography on Mohammed Rafi came to light.

Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen is the authorised biography of one of India’s most beloved singers. Published by Om Books International, the book is authored by Sujata Dev, who has been a fan of Mohammed Rafi since her childhood. Mohammed Rafi: Voice of a Nation is her tribute to the legendary playback singer whose songs have marked our growing-up years. A recipient of the Global Indian Achiever’s Award, in 2011, she is also MD, Third Generation Mobile Pvt Ltd; co-chairperson, National Committee of M&E, ASSOCHAM; founder member & senior VP, Indian Broadband Forum, member of Executive Council, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) & Society Member of the Governing body, IIM, Shillong.

“My book is a biography on the legendary singer Mohammed Rafi and like all biographies it came with many complex challenges. Rafi Sahab had left for his heavenly abode in 1980 and here I was in 2010, trying to pen the biography of a man whose illustrious career spanned across four decades. Most of his contemporaries and associates are no more; therefore, getting authentic information was an upheaval task. Shahid Bhai was just 17 years old when Rafi Sahab breathed his last.

Finding information about his early childhood, his days in Lahore, his initial career left me perplexed. Then I met Pyarelal ji, the renowned music director who had closely worked with Rafi Sahab and when I told him about this biography and the challenges I was facing he said, ‘You are the blessed one. You have a great task ahead of you.’ This statement inspired me. Rafi’s glory days were not the days of computers and finding genuine data was no easy feat. The two school friends of Rafi Sahab in Kotla Sultan Singh helped me in my quest to unravel the man behind the magical voice. Discovery of Siddique Chacha (Rafi’s younger brother) who now lives in Lahore, Pakistan came as a blessing. He gave substantial details of their family history and childhood days. Then meeting Dr. Chandiramani, who attended to Rafi on that fateful day in 1980 brought to light the facts around his death,” shares Sujata.

“I met more than 100 eminent personalities in the industry and some were his close associates who gave first hand information. Most of these interviews and the places we visited while tracking the footsteps of Rafi Sahab have all been captured on video, which adds to the authenticity of the book,” she adds.

“Thankfully the book has received a very warm response both from the readers and the media. The book has attracted good reviews and is listed in almost all major print and on-line media. I have dedicated this book to the fans of Rafi Sahab and they seem to be happy with the book… that’s my greatest reward!” she adds

Journey so far…

“I have been a media researcher for many years now but this is my first attempt as a biographer. I consider myself fortunate to have been able to write an authorised biography on Mohammed Rafi, a legend of great stature whom I have admired since my childhood days. Authoring this book was like an adventure voyage. My quest to discover every nuance of Rafi’s life was like scaling high mountains and at times deep diving into the ocean… Learning about his childhood and his struggles in the industry was nothing less than climbing the Everest…and then his illustrious career of four decades meant swimming in the Indian Ocean. This book has taught me a lot. I began writing about a legendary singer but ended discovering a ‘Farishta’, altruism personified,” shares Sujata.

Aim as a writer…

“I like to chart out all the characters and then do research on each of them. Once the plot is clear, then I start building on it. It is more like having the skeleton in place and then adding flesh to it. For me beauty lies in simplicity; simple language and clarity in communication is what I strive to achieve as an author. Writing is a passion for me and I select subjects that demand research and analysis,” tells Sujata.

“The hardest part of writing a book is to gauge what the readers want and how to communicate that to them. Every author wants his/her book to be read and derive a high satisfaction quotient of the readers, which is most rewarding for the author, often measured quantitatively by the number of books sold,” she adds.

Advice to aspiring writers…

“Write passionately but do your homework well. Research is the key to good writing; you need to know your characters and the era in which your story is set quite well. The depth of a book lies not only in its character but also the narratives around the character. Most importantly you should only write if you enjoy doing so,” advises Sujata.

On reading…

“Book is one companion who will never ditch you in your bad days. Reading not only helps the mind to discipline; it helps in keeping depression away. Most importantly consuming books have no side effects and is much cheaper than many other forms of entertainment. As the saying goes, ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader’,” shares Sujata.

What next?

“Completing this book in itself has been a wonderful journey full of challenges and it will take me sometime before I can think of another subject besides Mohammed Rafi. My attempt through this book is to popularise Indian music amongst the younger generation.

The aspiring singers can well understand what it takes to be a successful playback singer from the biography of Mohammed Rafi. I love writing and will soon gear up for my next book on a subject that is research based. Rafi Sahab was, and still is, an integral part of the common Indian’s life, the changing t imes notwithstanding,” concludes Sujata.

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