Documentary channel

Documentary on Mohammed Rafi showcases the singer’s life as a family man

‘Dastaan-e-Rafi’ looks at the celebrated vocalist’s life beyond his music.

The documentary Dastaan-e-Rafi took five years to make, so it is not surprising that the 120-minute film tells the story of the playback singer Mohammed Rafi through over 60 interviews and more than 60 hit songs.

Produced and co-directed by Rajni Acharya, the film includes reminiscences from members of Rafi’s family, including his daughters Yasmeen, Parveen and Nasreen, as well as from the actors Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Jeetendra and Shammi, Rishi and Randhir Kapoor. All of them testify to Rafi’s integrity, generosity with time and money, and act of charity towards the needy.

In an interview with, Acharya said that making the film was a lifelong dream and could have been done only once, like Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975).

When did you get the idea of making a documentary on Mohammed Rafi?
Sujata Dev wanted to write a book on Mohammed Rafi. She is a family friend. I suggested to her that we should work together on the project. She had to meet a lot of people to interview for the book. We had clear outlines that whatever we filmed would be a part of my documentary and whatever she wrote would be a part of her book. There was no interference in each other’s work.

There must have been a favourite Rafi song that inspired you to venture into direction.
Khoya Khoya Chand [Kala Bazar, 1960], whose rights I could not unfortunately get for my film. It was a song that reflected my youth and brought back memories of my time as a young man trying to charm the ladies.

The singer was an avid badminton player. Courtesy ‘Mohammed Rafi’ by Sujata Dev.
The singer was an avid badminton player. Courtesy ‘Mohammed Rafi’ by Sujata Dev.

How did you manage to line so many people to share their stories about Rafi?
When I was shooting the documentary, a lot of people wanted money in return for interviews, and we had to use our contacts to bypass the demand. We got what we wanted. We made no compromise on the quality even when people gave us a tough time. I think god assigned us to do this project.

Talking to his family was no problem. His friends and relatives were forthcoming.

Did you discover anything new about Rafi while filming?
More than the stories of his songs and his career as the greatest singer in the country, it was the humane stories we heard about how he helped people in times of crisis that shaped our film. The scripting was done after the shooting was completed. We came across a sensational bit of news about Rafi’s death, but we did not want to capitalise on it.

You also travelled to Pakistan to talk to musicians associated with him.
We went to Lahore to meet several singers who had worked with or were great admirers of his work. I met singer Shamshad Begum’s brother through whom I was able to meet other musicians. I was born in Karachi and I also have a lot of friends there, which made it easy for me to approach artists to talk about Rafi.

Rajni Acharya.
Rajni Acharya.
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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.