Remembering Shamshad Begum...
Shamshad Begum (April 14, 1919 - April 23, 2013, was an Indian singer who was one of the first playback singers in the Hindi film industry. Shamshad Begum was a versatile artist, singing over 6000 songs in Hindi and the Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and Punjabi languages.
Shamshad Begum was born in Amritsar, Punjab. She was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2009. She passed away at her Mumbai residence on the night of April 23, 2013.
Begum's talent was first spotted by her principal when she was in primary school in 1924. Impressed by the quality of her voice, she was made head singer of classroom prayer. At 10, she started singing folk based songs in religious functions and family marriages.Begum started singing publicly in 1933 in studios and orchestras. She fell in love and married lawyer Ganpat Lal Batto after much familial objection. She married Ganpat Lal Batto at the age of 15 in 1934.When she sang for the film ‘’Khazanchi’ in 1941, she was already well established. Begum started her radio career on Lahore Radio on December 16, 1937, captivating the hearts of her listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. She was a big fan of K.L. Saigal and watched Devdas 14 times. According to accounts of her life, Shamshad Begum's singing ambitions, which she had from 1929, met opposition from her family. Her uncle who enjoyed qawwalis and ghazals and secretly took her, while she was 12, to Jenophone Music Company for an audition with musician Master Ghulam Haider in 1931. Shamshad said in an interview “I sang Bahadur Shah Zafar’s (the poet-ruler) ghazal ‘’Mera yaar mujhe mile agar.” An impressed Haider gave her a contract for 12 songs with facilities provided to top singers. It was her paternal uncle who convinced her father to allow her to sing.When she finally won a contract with a recording company, her father Miya Hussain Baksh, agreed to let her sing on the condition that she would record in a burka and not allow herself to be photographed. She earned 15 rupees per song and was awarded 5,000 on the completion of the contract on Xenophone, a renowned music recording company,
Shamshad’s popularity grew in elite circles in early 1930's. Her ‘breakthrough with the masses’ came when she began singing on All India Radio (AIR) in Peshawar and Lahore from 1937. Producer Dilsukh Pancholi wanted her to act as well in his film and Shamshad readily agreed and gave screen test. Though she got selected, when her father came to know about it he got angry and warned her that she would not be allowed to sing if she furthur harbours a desire to act. She promised her father that she would never appear before the camera. After that she continued singing songs on radio. She never posed for any pictures and not many people saw her pictures anywhere between 1933-1970. Until the end of the 1970s, her fans did not know her face at all, though everybody could recognise her melodious voice as it was used by the great maestros like Naushad, S.D.Burman, C.Ramachandra and O. P. Nayyar.She started giving few interviews only from late 1980's and gave her last interview in 2012. Even today, her songs from the 1940's, 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s are popular and continue to be remixed. Without any formal lessons in music, she had a distinct inimitable voice.
Begum sang for the All India Radio (AIR) through her musical group 'The Crown Imperial Theatrical Company of Performing Arts', set up in Delhi. The then AIR Lahore helped her entering the world of movies as they frequently broadcast her songs, which induced music directors to use her voice for their films. Shamshad also recorded naats and devotional music for a couple of gramophone recording companies.
Her crystal-clear voice caught the attention of sarangi maestro Ustad Hussain Bakshwale Saheb, who took her as his disciple. She and Noorjahaan were discovered by Ustad Ghulam Haider in early 1930's and 1940's respectively.
Lahore-based composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skillfully in some of his earlier films like Khazanchi (1941) and Khandaan (1942).The song ‘’Cheechi Wich Pa ke Chhalla’’ from ‘’Yamla Jatt’’ of 1940 became a huge hit and popularised Pran, singer Shamshad and music composer Haider. Haider continued to give hit song with her for films like 'Zamindar', 'Poonji' and 'Shama'. Director Mehboob Khan used Begum's voice in 'Taqdeer' (1943) where he introduced Nargis as a heroine. Soon Begum was singing for other composers like Rafiq Ghaznavi, Ameer Ali, Pt Gobindram, Pt Amarnath, Bulo C Rani, Rashid Atre, M A Mukhtar in the pre-independence era. When Ghulam Haider moved to Bombay in 1944, Shamshad went with him as a member of his team, leaving behind her family and staying with her Chacha (paternal uncle). After partition, Haider migrated to Pakistan but Begum remained in Mumbai. Begum became a national rage between the early 1940s and the early 1960s, having a voice different from her peers like Noorjahan, Mubarak Begum, Suraiya, Sudha Malhotra, Geeta Dutt and Amirbai Karnataki.
Naushad acknowledged in an interview that he was indebted to her in reaching the top as Shamshad Begum was famous personality already even before Naushad made a name for himself in late 1940's and after the tracks sung by her became a rage, his talent got recognized by people. Similarly though S.D.Burman was composing Bengali music since 1937, he achived national fame with tracks sung by Shamshad in Hindi films beginning with songs fom ‘’Shikari’’ and ‘’Shabnam’’. It was Shamshad's solo and duet songs sung for Naushad in the late 40's and early 1950's which made Naushad famous. After Nausahd became successful he recorded songs with new singers as well in the early 1950's but kept working with Shamshad in late 50's and early 1960's. Naushad chose his favourite singer Shamshad Begum once again to sing four out of the 12 songs in Mother India.She sang extensively for composers - Naushad, O.P.Nayyar, C Ramchandra and S.D.Burman from 1946-1960. Shamshad is credited with singing one of the first Westernised songs, Meri jaan...Sunday ke Sunday by C. Ramchandra. S.D.Burman was not well-established as a music director in Hindi films till 1946 and at that time, he asked Shamshad to do playback in his debut Hindi film as music director - Shikari in 1946 with the song - Kuch Rang Badal Rahi. S.D.Burman made her sing duets with Mukesh in 1949 film Shabnam named Pyar Main Tumne and Kismat Bhi Bhichadna which became popular. In 1949, came Shabnam, S.D.Burman's biggest hit untill then with Filmistan, especially noticeable for its multi-lingual hit song Yeh Duniya Roop ki Chor, by Shamshad Begum, picturised on Kamini Kuashal, which became a rage in those days. S.D.Burman made her sing tracks later in Bazar(1950),Mashal(1950), Bahar(1951), Shahenshah(1953), Miss India(1957) etc. The song Jaam Tham Le from Shahenshah (1953) was a trendsetter for S.D.Bumran compositions. During her radio stint in Lahore, she had met O.P.Nayyar who used to work as a office boy delivering cakes for the lead singers. After partition, after a few years when O.P.Nayyar got a break as a composer, he approached Shamshad for recording songs for Mangu in 1954. O.P. Nayyar described her voice as that of a "temple bell" for its clarity of tone and worked with her more in 1950's till late 1960's and gave many hit songs like Ab To Jee Hone Laga' from 'Mr and Mrs 55 heroine, Main Jaan Gayi Tujhe from Howrah Bridge, Zara Pyar Karle from Mangu(1954), Saiyan Teri Ankhon Mein from 12'O Clock(1957), Thodasa Dil Lagana from Musafirkhana and many more. Her songs picturised on Nigar Sultana like Teri Mehfil Mein from Mughal E Azam and Mere Piyan Gaye from Patanga(1949), then Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re picturised on Vyjantimala, the song and on Minoo Mumtaz like Boojh Mera Naam Hai are extremely popular till today. Milte hi aankhen dil hua from - Babul (1950) had a romantic duet by Talat Mahmood and Shamshad Begum picturised on Dilip Kumar and Munawar Sultana which became popular as well. Her duet with Rafi - Chhal Dejaa Nishaani from Bazar(1949) became a mega-hit. In the late 1940's Madan Mohan and Kishore Kumar used to sing as the chorus boys for her songs at Filmistan Studio. Shamshad promised at this time that she would sing songs composed by Madan Mohan, Once he starts his career as music director and would accept a lower fees and also predicted that Kishore Kumar would go on to become a great playback singer in future. She later recorded duets with Kishore Kumar as well like Gori ke Nainon Mein Nindiya Bhari from Angarey(1954) and Mere Neendon Me Tum from Naya Andaz. Her peak period in Hindi film industry was from 1940-1955. It was due to her husband's death in an accident in 1955, which made her a recluse and she stopped accepting singing assignments for a year. In early careers of both Lata and Asha , they were asked to imitate and copy Shamshad Begum’s style of singing by the producers and music directors. Many songs were sung by Lata and Asha between 1944-1956 resembling Shamshad Begum and it was because when producers could not afford Shamshad’s rate they would make new budding singers to sing like Shamshad. It was the break in 1955 which Shamshad took which helped career of Lata Mangeshkar get songs of high quality for her. Shamshad Begum has sung songs together with Lata and Asha like the song Mubarak Ho Woh Dil Jisko from Benazir(1964). Lata Mangeshkar started her playback singing when Shamshad Begum was at the peak of her career. In their first song together Lata Mangeshkar was a part of the chorus while Shamshad Begum was the main singer. Later beginning with the song Dar Na Mohabbat Karle from Andaz(1949), Lata and Shamshad have sung many duets together from 1949-1960 with famous being Pyar Ke Jahan Ki from 1949 film Patanga, Bachpan Ke Din 1951's Deedar and their last song together was Mughal - E - Azam's song Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat in 1960.
Though she had stopped recording for her songs in the year 1955 after her husband's death, the songs released between 1955 and early 1957 continued to be popular. Songs from films like C.I.D ,Naya Andaz, Baradari, Mr. & Mrs. '55 and others hits. At this time, Mehboob Khan approached her and said he wanted full-throated voice for Nargis in Mother India.Th first song she sung for her comeback was Pee ke ghar aaj pyari dulhaniya chali for Mother India. She made a successful comeback after which she had many notable songs from films like Howrah Bridge, Jaali Note, Love in Simla ,Bewaqoof,Mughal-E-Azam,Bluff Master, Gharana, Rustom-E-Hind. But from 1960, she started getting songs picturised on actresses other than heroine. It was from 1965 on-wards that songs for her in films started getting reduced. She then declared a self imposed retirement in 1965. But she she kept having certain composers asking her to sing songs in few films and among them her songs from films like in Daku Mangal Singh,Upkar, Kismat(1969),Heer Ranjha(1970),Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong)(1971),Teri Meri Ik Jindri(1975) and Main Papi Tum Bakhshanhaar in 1976.Her song Kajra Mohabbat Wala from 1969 film Kismat remains a popular till-date.In 2009, she was conferred with the prestigious O P Nayyar award for her contribution to Hindi film music...