And the SoY Award for the Best ‘Other’ Female Playback Singer goes to?
As the readers would recall from the overview post on the best songs of 1949, this was a great year for the ‘other’ singers, and female singers in general. There were about 80 female solos in my select list of 160 (the list mentioned up to #157, but some songs had more than one version), i.e. about 50%. The number of male solos, i.e. 22, was only a quarter of female solos. Further, the female solos presented amazing variety. Lata Mangeshkar’s 35 songs contain the largest number of all-time great songs she sang in any single year. And to think that she was just 20 then, having made a very inconspicuous debut only a couple of years earlier. The remaining 46 songs are shared by the doyennes of yesteryear. The two singers who had maximum number of songs are Shamshad Begum and Suraiya having 16 and 14 respectively. The remaining 16 was accounted for by others (i.e. others within the ‘others’), such as Rajkumari, Amirbai Karnataki, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Geeta Roy, Zeenat Begum, Surinder Kaur etc. Here is a convenient pie chart showing the relative share of different singers in female solos.
Thus the ‘other’ singers as a group account for 57% of the memorable songs compared to 43% of Lata Mangehskar. I have no idea how does this compare with their share in the total population of songs. In the earlier years, Venkataramanji provided statistical analysis in great detail, but this year he was preoccupied with some personal matters. But if I can draw inference from earlier years, Lata Mangeshkar accounts for proportionately larger share in memorable songs compared to her total share of songs in a year – which is a measure of her class.
Reflecting the above general ratio, the choice of the best ‘other’ female playback singer was Shamshad Begum, followed by Suraiya. Shamshad Begum had two great solos in Dulari: Na bol more angana pi pi panchhi ja re ja and Chandni ayi ban ke pyar. She also had memorable songs in Chandni Raat, Nishan, Patanga and Shabnam.
This was probably the best year for Suraiya with both her great composers Naushad and Husnlal Bhagatram creating unforgettable songs in Dillagi and Badi Bahan respectively. She also had some well known songs in Jeet (Anil Biswas) and Duniya (C Ramchandra). That makes the greatest composers of the time.
But real spice is added by the ‘others’ within the others. Rajkumari has been deservedly mentioned by several readers very highly. Her Ghabra ke jo hum sar ko from Mahal came to her rescue in her later years when her career was over long ago and she was living in difficult circumstances. But the timbre of her voice was quite intact, and she was lucky to get a chance on music reality shows as a judge when this song became her identity. She also had another excellent song Ek teer chala in the same film, which was mentioned by some readers. Jignesh added her Ae dil tere ghamon ka kahun main kisse fasana from Parda which I had missed in my list.
Amirbai Karnataki had an all time great song Pahne pili saari..main to gawan chali hun in Saawan Aya Re, composed by Khemchnad Prakash. Ths song has been mentioned by Shalan Lal. Ghat kaari matwari by Zeenat Begum from Ek Thi Ladki (Vinod) has been mentioned by a number of readers.
I had included some all-time great songs of Surinder Kaur, a famous name in Punjabi film and folk music, such as Din aane ke dhang niraale hain (Singaar, Khurshed Anwar) and Tum sang ankhiya mila ke (Sunahere Din, Gyan Dutt). Yet Venkataramanji was able to discover her another gem Ae chaand tere sath to rahate hain sitaare (Dada, Nashad), not in my list, though I had included her duet with Mukesh, Tera kisi se pyar tha tu wo zamana bhool ja from this film.
A fantastic year on the whole for the variety of great ‘other’ female solos. Now let me start the exercise of choosing the best ten, which is usually a two-step process. In the first stage, I go down the list and note down the songs which are absolutely unmissable, not in order of preference. The First Cut still leaves me with a far larger number of songs after which I do the difficult task of pruning down to ten.
1. Chandni ayi ban ke pyar (Dulari, Naushad)
2. Na bol more angana pi pi panchhi ja re ja (Dulari, Naushad)
3. Na tum aye na neend ayi (Rimjhim, Khemchand Prakash)
4. Wo paas rahein ya door rahein (Badi Bahan, Husnlal-Bhagatram)
5. Ho likhanewale ne likh di meri taqdeer mein barbaadi (Badi Bahan, HB)
6. Bigadi bananewale (Badi Bahan, HB)
7. Murliwale murli baja (Dillagi, Naushad)
Others (within ‘Others’)
8. Ghat kaari matwari ghir ayi (Zeenat Begum, Ek Thi Ladki, Vinod)
9. Nigaahein milaane ko ji chahta hai (Paro Devi, Karwat, Hans Raj Bahal)
10. Ghabra ke jo hum sar ko (Rajkumari, Mahal, Khemchand Prakash)
11. Ek teer chala (Rajkumari, Mahal, Khemchand Prakash)
12. Hey chandravadan chanda ki kiran (Rajkumari, Ram Vivah, Shankarrao Vyas)
13. Pahne pili saari..Main to gawan chali hun (Amirbai Karnataki, Saawan Aya Re, Khemchand Prakash)
14. Din aane ke dhang niraale hain (Surinder Kaur, Singaar, Khursheed Anwar)
15. Thandi thandi hawa jo aye (Surinder Kaur, Sunahere Din, Gyan Dutt)
Reducing to ten should be a manageable task. Nigahein milaane ko ji chahta hai (#9) has been mentioned by Venkataramanji for the main list. I was highly impressed by the song which has a twin male version by Satish. I had posted both the versions under ‘Special Songs’ in the Overview post – a category meant for some ‘niche’ songs not likely to figure in the main list. There were three other female solos in the ‘Special’ songs, including Surinder Kaur’s Din aane ke dhang niraale hain (#14 from the above list).
There is no bar in bringing any song from the ‘Special’ to the main list. But looking at the above list of all immortal songs, even at the cost of my great favourites, I am resisting the temptation to include any song from ‘Special List’. But I have served the main purpose of bringing before the readers some exceptionally nice songs, which were generally unfamiliar to most of us.
Now the exercise of choosing the best ten. The first two songs of Shamshad Begum have been mentioned by most readers. The third song by Naushad’s mentor presents the soulful and poignant side of Shamshad Begum. It is difficult to leave it out. Out of the four Suraiya songs, the first three are by Husnlal-Bhagatram, who were notorious for their repeating a stock instrumentation. But surprisingly, each of these songs has a refreshingly different tune. I don’t mind leaving out Murliwale murli baja – Naushad has given much better songs for Suraiya.
That leaves room for four songs for others within the ‘Other’ category. Between Ghabra ke jo sar se and Ek teer chala (both mentioned by the readers), the former has become a signature song of Rajkumari. Had Ayega aanewala not caused a storm, Mahal would have been known for this song. Zeenat Begum’s Ghat kaari matwari has been mentioned by several readers. Among the ‘Forgotten Composers’ Vinod occupies a very special place. Among several sensations of the year, one was La re lappa from the same film Ek Thi Ladki. It would be befitting to include Ghat kaari as a tribute to this genius – of course the song is superb on its own merit.
We have room for two more. Amirbai Karnataki’s Pahne pili saari.. Main to gawan chali hun is among my most favourite song of hers. I had mentioned it at the first position in my post on Khemchand Prakash. The last slot can be taken by the great singer from Punjab, Surider Kaur, for her Thandi thandi hawa jo aye (I may mention that HFGK mentions Shamshad Begum as the singer of this song . That is obviously an error). A fantastic song.
How can you rank ten great songs by six different singers, each having her distinct voice, tonal quality and singing style? Any ranking would be as good as the other. The ranking I am giving is my sense of the readers’ views combined with with my own personal preferences. But before that, let us enjoy a ‘Special song’ which had to be left out because the exercise becomes one of elimination.
Hey chandravadan chanda ki kiran tum kiska chitra banati ho by Rajkumari from Ram Vivah, music Shankarrao Vyas
It is the pleasure of discovering songs like these which makes the laborious exercise of these reviews worthwhile. A disciple of Pt. Vishnu Digamnbar Paluskar, Shankarrao Vyas was an eminent music director of the 40s for creating classical based songs for mythological films, such as Bharat Milap (1942) and Ram Rajya (1943). Who can forget Bhimpalasi-based Veena madhur madhur kuchh bol by Saraswati Rane from the latter film? Bharat ki ik sannari ki hum katha sunaate hain by Yashwant Bua Joshi and Yashwant Nikam from Ram Rajya is another great song. Hey candravadan from Ram Vivah is a song that instantly charms you. Between two lyricists Moti B.A. and Ramesh Shastri in this film, this song does not identify who wrote the beautiful song, but my guess is it should be Ramesh Shastri who also wrote the songs of Ram Rajya.
Best ten songs:
1. Ghabra ke jo hum sar ko takrayein to achcha ho by Rajkumari from Mahal, lyrics Nakshab Jarachavi, music Khemchand Prakash
No one would mind giving this song a pride of place, even if their own choice for no. 1 might have been different. Among the greatest songs of Rajkumari.
2. Pahne pili rang saari…Main to gawan chali hun by Amirbai Karnataki from Saawan Aya Re, lyrics Rammoorti Chaturvedi, music Khemchnad Prakash
This might cause some surprise to the readers, because no one has given this song this high position. My only defence is that it is one of my greatest favourites. It starts with slow recital, then there is a surprise change of tune in fast pace, accompanied by beautiful dance. I seek the readers’ indulgence. I am sure the whole impact is quite electrifying.
3. Chandni ayi ban ke pyar by Shamshad Begum from Dulari, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
No surprises in this song. Most readers would have preferred to see it at #1 or 2 position. Among a large number of Lata Mangehskar solos in this film, Shamshad Begum’s two songs – the other being Na bol more angana pi pi matched hers in popularity.
4. Wo paas rahein ya door rahein by Suraiya from Badi Bahan, lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Husnlal-Bhagatram
H-B with about 50 songs for Suraiya are at par with Naushad not only in numbers but also memorable songs for her. Her three songs from Badi Bahan are among the most recognizable songs of hers. A supremely melodious voice in the era of full-throated courtesan style singers, this song is a treat.
5. Bigadi bananewale bigadi bana de by Suraiya from Badi Bahan
HB were at peak of their talent about this time, and Suraiya being their favourite singer they create another gem for her in the same film.
6. Ho likhanewale ne likh di meri taqdeer mein by Suraiya from Badi Bahan
The third song is very different from HB’s characteristic instrumentation. It starts with a slow recital Dil tere aane se pahle bhi yunhi barbaad tha, aur yun hi barbaad hai tere chale jaane ke baad and then proceeds to the refrain Likhanewale ne again without much instrumental support. Thereafter, each antara follows the same style – slow recital followed by the refrain (mukhada). Any song of this type, which highlights purely the voice of the singer, if done competently, becomes a memorable song. Rafi’s numerous songs of this type which are primarily recitals are all superb class.
7. Na bol more angana pi pi panchhi ja re ja by Shamshad Begum from Dulari, lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
8. Na tum aye na neend ayi by Shamshad Begum from Rimjhim, lyrics Bharat Vyas, music Khemchand Prakash
9. Ghat kaari matwari by Zeenat Begum from Ek Thi Ladki, lyrics Aziz Kashmiri, music Vinod
10. Thandi thandi hawa jo aye by Surinder Kaur from Sunehere Din, lyrics DN Madhok, music Gyan Dutt
I close the list with Surinder Kaur’s outstanding song, composed by one of the greatest composers of the Vintage Era. He was the music director of Ranjit Movietone’s Bhakt Surdas (1942), which had immortal songs in the voice of KL Saigal and Khursheed. Surinder Kaur was more well-known in Punjab. Her career in Hindi films was very brief. This should be one of her best songs, picturised on the effervescent Rehana who also had a brief spot at the top, before she was relegated to secondary roles.