Kalyanji-Anandji and Rafi Saheb worked together for almost two decades. For their first film, the song Lakdi jal koyla bhayi, Koyla jal bhayo raakh from Bedard Zamaana Kya Jaane (1959) was sung by Rafi Saheb.
Some of these songs are memorable: Govinda aala re aala zara matki sambhal (Bluff Master), Watan pe jo fida hoga amar woh naujawan hoga (Phool Bane Angarey), O mere bechain dil ko tune chain diya (Aamne Samne) and Chale thay saath milke, challenge saath milkar (Haseena Maan Jayegi), to name a few.
In the sixties, when Rafi Saheb was doing regular 'musical nights' with Shankar-Jaikishen, Kalyanji Bhai asked him to do a similar programme for him. Since Abba was too busy at the time, he apologized and suggested, 'You could ask Lataji, instead.'
'Rafi Saheb, but you do sing for us?' Kalyanji Bhai said.
Abba replied, 'Lataji also sings under your music direction. Well then, why not ask both of us?'
This incident prejudiced Kalyanji Bhai against Abba and he started to avoid him. But after a brief interval his anger mellowed, and he continued to work with Rafi Saheb.
Rafi Saheb performed for the first time in 1961 under Laxmikant-Pyarelal's music direction with the ghazal Tere pyaar ne mujhe gham diya, Tere gham ki umar daraaz ho (Chaila Babu). This was also Laxmikant-Pyarelal's first film, although it was released much later.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal called upon Abba in person to ask him to sing this ghazal. 'Please sing this ghazal for us. The producer is keen that only you should sing this ghazal, so that it will have the desired effect. But he doesn't have money enough to pay you.'
Abba's heart was bound to melt on hearing this. He consented immediately.
After the recording was completed, the filmmaker very sheepishly offered Abba one thousand rupees. Abba took the money without demur, only to immediately hand it over to Laxmikant-Pyarelal saying, 'Go buy yourself some sweets, the two of you. This is a reward for your lovely composition.'
This was Rafi Saheb!
Abba helped many producers and music directors in this manner.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal's first film was Parasmani, in which all the songs sung by Rafi Saheb became hugely successful. 'Roshan tumhi se duniya, raunak ho tum jahan ki' in particular became a great hit with the fans. That is how Laxmikant-Pyarelal's musical journey began with Rafi Saheb, and their association lasted over two decades.