Kabhi tanhaiyon mein hamari yaad ayegi: Happy Birthday to you (January 5)
From various accounts on the internet I had taken Mubarak Begum to be lost for the civilization. Supposedly she was living in anonymity, in penury in some Bombay chawl with her son, who was said to be an autorickshaw driver. Therefore, I was astonished to get a message from Sudhir Kapurji (one of the mainstays of Atul’s site) a few months ago whether I would like to attend a concert to felicitate Mubarak Begum on October 7, 2012 at India Islamic Centre, New Delhi. There was a possibility that she might also sing. भला नेकी और पूछ पूछ. Putting everything aside I had planned for Sunday, the October 7, I headed for the venue.
A very frail Mubarak Begum was brought to the stage, supported by two women. She could not sit down, so a chair was brought for her. Her singing, to be honest, was equally frail and tired, though her unmistakable tang was there. What was important was the nostalgia, and the very sincere affection of the audience, who was familiar with her songs. Their farmaishes pleased her no end, and she valiantly tried to sing a few lines of each, but finally had to give up the effort.
The bonus of the evening was that I could meet her in her room after the concert, again courtesy Sudhirji. She was quite spontaneous in chatting about her life. From whatever I could make out, all the unflattering stories about her living in a pitiable condition in some Bombay underbelly seemed to be grossly exaggerated – at least, as of now. She does live with his son, who has four daughters, the youngest of whom was escorting her on the Delhi trip. The granddaughters had the usual middle-class concern of education, jobs and marriage. Mubarak Begum gave me her elegantly designed ‘Visiting Card’, which indicated a middle class address.
Her only lament was the state of her health, which required a constant companion to be with her. There was a sadness, but devoid of rancour, that the industry was not fair to her. She narrated stories (which sounded quite familiar) how, at times, a song was rehearsed with her, but when she reached the recording studio, she was told it had already been recorded in another voice. This was the fate of many female singers, who might have had intrinsic merit, but for whom getting mainstream songs and banners was an uphill task because of the overwhelming domination of Lata Mangeshkar in the Golden Era.
Born on January 5, 1936 in Jhunjhunu (Rajasthan), she spent her early childhood in Gujarat. She was formally trained in classical music. She went over to Bombay, Mecca of the show-biz. She debuted as a playback singer at the age of 13 in the film Aiye (1949), music by Shaukat Hyderi, in which she sang a solo and a duet with Lata Mangeshkar. She struggled for a few years till she got a big break as the lead singer in Kamal Amrohi’s Daera (1953). But this film bombed at the box office, even though her songs were outstanding. After struggling for a while, she got big success with a mujra song in Devdas (1955), Wo na ayenge palat kar, composed by SD Burman. This unfortunately typecast her as a mujra singer. But she also got some very good songs as a lead singer. The title songs of the film Hamrahi, composed by Shankar Jaikishan, and the film Hamari Yaad Ayegi, composed by Snehal Bhatkar, are not only major landmarks in her career, but also among the best scores of the Golden Era. She was a prolific singer of private ghazals and naats. And a trivia – she also had a small acting role in the film Sabse Bada Rupaiya (1955)
About two years back I wrote on niche singers like Jagjit Kaur and Kamal Barot. I had Mubarak Begum in mind since then. The delay was unintended but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet her. Let me present some of my favourite Mubarak Begum songs as my greetings to her on her birthday (January 5).
1. Kabhi tanhaiyon mein hamari yaad ayegi from Hamari Yaad Ayegi (1961), lyrics Kedar Sharma, music Snehal Bhatkar
Kabhi tanhaiyon mein hamari yaad ayegi is to Mubarak Begum what Afsana likh rahi hun is to Uma Devi (Tun Tun) or Tum apna ranj-o-gham apni pareshani mujhe de do is to Jagjit Kaur. That is, if she did not do anything else in her life, this one song was sufficient to make her immortal.
2. Mohe aane lagi angadayi from Aaiye (1949), lyrics Nakhshab Jarchavi, music Shaukat Hyderi
This is her first song, which has a distinct Suraiya touch. Suraiya being a top actor-singer of the period, it is understandable that Mubarak Begum, being a newcomer, might be consciously imitating her style.
3. Nigahon se dil me chale aiyega from Hameer Hath (1964), lyrics Swadesh Kumar Deepak, music Sanmukh Babu Upadhyay
The combination of Mubarak Begum and Helen creates a classic dance song.
4. Wada humse kiya dil kisi ko diya from Saraswatichandra (1968), lyrics Indivar, music Kalyanji Anandji
While the good wife (Nutan) waits for her man with the puja thaal of Karva Chauth, the guy is being entertained by the mujra dancer, Madhumati. No singer can do it better than Mubarak Begum.
5. Wo na ayenge palat kar unhe lakh hum bulayen from Devdas (1955), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music SD Burman
This song had come in a for a good deal of discussion on this blog earlier while discussing the best songs of the year 1955. But this mujra song occupies such an iconic place in Mubarak Begum’s career that I am tempted to use it again. As the doomed lover, Devdas, leaves Chandramukhi, perhaps for their last parting, this prophetic song filters in from the nearby kothas.
This audio version has better sound quality and gives the full song.
6. Hum to dil bechate hain kharidar chahiye from Mera Bhai Mera Dushman (1967), music Khayyam
If it is mujra, it had to be Mubarak Begum. She is in her comfort zone. The wordings do not attempt to camouflage anything – the dancer is selling her wares and looking for buyers. Everything about this mujra – the top quality dancing, her coquettish gestures and the actions of the customers – is perfect, complemented by Mubarak’s voice.
7. Phool bagiya me bhanwre aye from Zindagi Aur Khwab (1961), lyrics Pradeep, music Dattaram
Oh, mujra again, but this is quite different from a normal mujra. This time very fast paced, performed by one of the top dancers of the era, Jeevankala (?), and, very unusually, written by Pradeep.
8. Mere ansuon pe na muskura from More Man Mitwa (1965), music Dataram
A superb ghazal from another completely forgotten and obscure movie.
9. Gham chhodo ye sare zamane ka from Piya Milan Ki Pyas (1961), lyrics Bharat Vyas, music SN Tripathi
Bharat Vyas and SN Tripathi are famous for devotional, mythological films. But if they choose to create a mujra song and the singer is Mubarak Begum, the result is outstanding. The song conveys exactly why someone goes to a mujra – to forget the worries and unhappiness of the world.
10. Hum haal-e-dil sunayenge suniye ki na suniye from Madhumati (1958), lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chaudhary
After Wo na ayenge palat kar unhe lakh hum bulayen from Devdas, the next mujra which beme a big hit was this one from Madhumati. Vyajayantimala is a terrifc dancer, Motilal gives a repeat performance, and to complete the picture you have the sad hero Dilip Kumar walking in the joint to relieve his gloom.
Her great duets
Any list of Mubarak Begum is not complete without her duets. We regard Mujhko apne gale laga le as one of her signature songs, at times not realising that it is a duet with Mohammad Rafi. And that speaks a lot, because it is not often that a duet is remembered by the female singer. Mujra was often performed by a pair of dancers, which gave the composers an opportunity to create some absolutely outstanding duets with other female singers, in most of which Mubarak Begum’s voice had a distinct identity.
11. Devta tum ho mera sahara with Rafi from Dayera (1953), lyrics Kaif Bhopali, music Jamal Sen
Even if this is listed as a duet with Rafi, the credit for this great song should primarily rest with Mubarak Begum. Jamal Sen has been earlier mentioned on this blog. In fact there have been requests for a separate post on him. He entirely deserves it. Surely one of the best bhajans in films. If after this, she was relegated to mujra songs and B-grade films, one tends to agree that the industry was not fair to her.
12. Kuchh ajanabi se aap hain kuchh ajanbi se hum with Talat Mahmood from Shagun (1964), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music Khayyam
Though she became famous for her Hamrahi’s title duet, an incredibly beautiful duet is this one with Talat Mahmood from Shagun, which also had the Jagjit Kaur’s immortal Tum apna ranj-o-gham apni pareshani mujhe de do. Khayyam got commercial success later in his career with Umrao Jaan and Kabhie Kabhie, but musically I rate Shagun as far superior. Sahir Ludhiyanavi is at his best. What beautiful poetry – We came so close but we do not why, you became stranger to me and I too have become somewhat distant. And the lady replies, “There was just one matter which was meant only for you. But even that one thing I could not mention, because you have become somewhat stranger to me, so have I to you”. Sahir would use the imagery of the closest people becoming stranger to each other again in the more well known Chalo ek baar phir se ajanabi ban jayen hum dono in Gumrah.
इतने क़रीब आ के भी क्या जाने किसलिये
कुछ अजनबी से आप हैं कुछ अजनबी से हम
वो एक बात जो थी फक़त आप के लिये
वो एक बात कह ना सके आप ही से हम
कुछ अजनबी से आप हैं
ऐसी तो कोई क़ैद नहीं दिल की बात पर
आपस की बात है तो डरें क्यों किसी से हम
कुछ अजनबी से आप हैं
तुम दूर हो तो मौत भी आये ना हमको रास
तुम पास हो तो जान भी दे दें खुशी से हम
कुछ अजनबी से आप हैं
मौत एक वहम और हक़ीक़त है ज़िंदगी
एक दूसरे को मांगेंगे इस ज़िंदगी से हम
कुछ अजनबी से आप हैं
13. Hume dum daike sautan ghar jana with Asha Bhosle from Ye Dil Kisko Dun (1963), lyrics Qmar Jalalabadi, music Iqbal Qureshi
One of her most famous duets with a female singer is Hume dum daike sautan ghar jana. The picturisation is very unique. As Madhumati dances the traditional mujra to her engrossed patrons, you see a furious Jayshree Gadkar in the wings, in a traditional Marathi sari, defiantly throwing off her pallu and barging in a folk Marathi dancing style. Madhumati is confused; the menfolk (we recognise Agha) are shocked, which is precisely the objective of Jayshre Gadkar – the good lady challenging the straying men – what is there in her which I do not have.
14. Nigahon se dil ka salam aa raha hai with Suman Kalyanpur from Cobra Girl (1963), lyrics Prem Dhavan, music SN Tripathi
This one is a treat to watch and listen to. The dancers Rani and Madhumati play sisters of Ragini in the film. Beautiful and graceful steps, golden colour permeating the set, typical of a fantasy B-grade film (cobra-country, naagmani, sorcerer etc), beautiful singing by two of the unfairly-treated singers Mubarak Begum and Suman Kalyanpur, and exquisite music by another great composer, not given his due recognition, SN Tripathi – all these combine to make this one of the greatest female dancing duets.
15. Hai mohabbat bahut hi tumse mujhe with (?), from Teesri Qasam (1966)
I end this with a terrific dancing duet I have discovered recently from the iconic nautanki film Teesri Qasam. We remember Waheeda Rahman’s famous dance numbers by Lata Mangeshkar (Mare gaye gulfam and Aa bhi ja, Raat dhale lagi) and Asha Bhosle (Haye ghazab kahin tara too and Paan khaye saiyan hamaro) from this film. But the real quintessential nautanki song performed to Laila-Majnu theme is this one sung by Mubarak Begum for Waheeda Rahman. There is an unknown singer (apparently a professional qawwali singer) for the male dancer. There are musicians in the pit with the harmonium, sarangi, flute and the sarangi. Among the spectators, the imperious zamindar, Iftekhar, who covets Hirabai and desires to have her as a matter of right, and the innocent gawk-eyed simpletons led by Hiraman (Raj Kapoor) complete the authentic village nautanki scene. But the best part is the high pitch nautanki-style singing and Waheeda Rahman’s unrestrained, but graceful dancing. If Mubarak Begum was a superb mujra singer, this song of hers is the defining nautanki song.