A tribute on Shamshad Begum’s first death anniversary April 23
As the ethnic stereotypes go, no two people can be further apart from each other than a Bengali and a Punjabi. SD Burman and Shamshad Begum were the leading lights of the two extremes – East Bengal and the West Punjab, yet when they combined they created a unique magic. When Shamshad Begum had a revival through remixes, the song that led the pack was Saiyna dil mein ana re, composed by SD Burman. Shamshad Begum’s leading composers were Naushad, C Ramchandra, OP Nayyar and Ghulam Mohammad, and in the earlier era, Ghulam Haider. Anyone else would not have even dared to try to enter this illustrious field, but the versatile genius that he was, SD Burman created his own niche with her, adapting his music to completely suit her style.
Generally I would not have given much thought to their combination as it appears quite counter-intuitive to me. But when I closed my series on SD Burman last year, Mr Venkataraman treated it as the last of ‘that year’, and suggested that I cover his other prominent singers, namely Shamshad Begum, Suraiya, Talat Mahmood and Hemant Kumar this year. As I looked up more closely I came across many more of her songs than we are generally aware of. Here is an overview of their combination, continuing my tribute to SD Burman, as well as a tribute to the great singer Shamshad Begum on her first death anniversary (April 23).
1. Kuchh rang badal rahi hai meri unki baatcheet from Shikari (1946), lyrics Gopal Singh ‘Nepali’
One advantage of doing a commissioned article (as this one is – at the behest of the readers) is that you get to research more seriously. And I hit upon this song of historical value – the only song of Shamshad Begum in SD Burman’s debut film as a composer; therefore, it has to be their very first song.
2. Ye duniya roop ki chor from Shabnam (1949), lyrics Gopal Singh ‘Nepali’
With four solos and three duets with Mukesh, Shamshad Begum is the lead singer in the film. We have discussed her duets with Mukesh earlier while discussing his songs by SD Burman. Kamini Kaushal does a fantastic job of enacting this song in many languages – Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil (the lyric uses the term ‘Madrasi’) and Punjabi. Shamshad Begum’s joyous voice is eminently suited for such fun songs. In the same year she sang another outstanding multilingual song in the film Nishan – Jaiyo jaiyo sipaiya bazaar daal meri chulhe chadhi.
3. Qadar mori na jani/ Dekho ayi pahli mohabbat ki raat from Shabnam (1949), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi
I had mentioned earlier that SD Burman took some time to warm up to Lata Mangeshkar, even though she was creating waves and other composers were falling head over heels over her. Therefore, it is no surprise we find Shamshad Begum, the leading singer until then, to figure in SD Burman’s early films. This song has the typical verve of Shamshad Begum, picturised on Cuckoo. It is not clear why should the usurper bridegroom, Jeevan, snap in the middle to ask her to sing a song of happiness, but Shamshad Begum changes tack, and starts singing a faster, and almost a different song, Dekho ayi pahli mohabbat ki raat.
4. Mohe laga solva saal from Mashal (1950), lyrics Pradeep
You would rarely associate Pradeep with lyrics like Mohe laga solva saal. Upar gagan vishal (by Manna Dey) from the same film is more up his alley, but with Shamshad Begum, Pradeep lets down his guard, and SD Burman is the man for all occasions. I recall another Shasmhad Begum song on the theme of naughty sixteen – Mujhko laga hai saaal solvaan haye nahi chhedanaa from the film Chandrakanta (1956), composed by N Datta .
5. Sharmaye kahe ghabraye kahe from Baazi (1951), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi
With six superlative songs by Geeta Dutt, SD Burman adds some variety with this night club dance song on Geeta Bali.
6. Duniya ka maza le lo duniya tumhari hai from Bahar (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
When Naushad was jettisoning Shamshad Begum as his lead singer and C Ramchandra was switching wholesale to Lata Mangeshkar, SD Burman takes her as the lead singer in this debut movie of Vyjayanthimala, a remake of a Tamil blockbuster Vazhkai (1949). Not that SD Burman was lesser than anyone with Lata – this was the year when he composed her all time great songs like Ye thandi hawayein, Jhan jhan jhan jhan payal baajey and Tum na jane kis jahan mein kho gaye. Just goes to show SD Burman was a real Dada. Bahar had five Shamshad Begum songs including Saiyan dil mein ana re and Qusoor aapka (a Twin song, with male version by Kishore Kumar). Let me present this fun song which no one could do better than Shamshad Begum.
7. Chhodoji chhodoji chhodoji Kanhaiya kalaiyan hamaar from Bahaar
This is probably the least known song from Bahaar. But Shamshad Begum is a singer who always draws attention. She is known more for full throated songs with fast rhythm and beat. But this one is extremely melodious and Vyjayanthimala complements it with her graceful dance.
8. Arey haan dildaar with Manna Dey from Bewaqoof (1960), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri
After the high point of Bahaar, Shamshad Begum is overtaken by other singers in SD Burman’s favour. However, she keeps on appearing in fits and starts in the succeeding years. Probably their last song is in Bewaqoof (1960), a duet with Manna Dey, Arey haan dildaar kamandonwaley ka har teer. IS Johar and the lady (Sabita Chatterjee?) are caught in a sticky situation hiding behind a conked-out radio. They start singing the song as if it is coming out from the radio. As the audience flip the radio station to Calcutta, they start singing in Bengali, filling with the names of film stars such as Jamuna, Kanan Devi, Uttam Kumar, Suchitra Sen, and as the station is switched to Madras, they change the accent, garbling probably meaningless words and filling in the names of Bhanumati, Padmini, Ragini, Shivaji Ganesan etc.