East meets West: Shamshad Begum’s songs by SD Burman

April 23, 2014

A tribute on Shamshad Begum’s first death anniversary April 23

Shamshad Begum and SD BurmanAs 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.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mumbaikar8 April 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Joining you in remembering Shamshad Begum on her first death anniversary, extended tribute to SDB with rest of the singers of golden era is a treat.
For me, their first is the best.

2 AK April 23, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Thanks a lot.

3 Ashok M Vaishnav April 23, 2014 at 10:14 pm

There can not be two words that SDB – Shamshad Begum combination was any less, in importance, in terms of contribution to each other’s repertoire or in terms of overall impact on HFM, than SDB’s combination with any of the major playback singers.

It is also intersting to note that even as SDB was composing Thandi Hawayein with Lata in 1951, he chose to use Shamshad Begum wholly for Bahar. More so, when we look at impact Lata Mangeshakr has already made, in terms of garnering “market share” in (/by) 1951 – as may be observed form the study of the preceding post.
Can this contributed to SDB’s knack of using ‘right’ voice for the ‘right’ song? Or to the last glimmer of a dying lamp – in terms of waning of Shamshad Begum’s popularity as playback singer for a lead heroine?
I am not sure statistics alone can provide solution to this riddle!!!

4 AK April 23, 2014 at 10:24 pm

The year 1951 is interesting how SD Burman created landmark songs for three distinct singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum, as we have seen in the previous post. Of the three, while the first two go on to sing many more gems under his baton, Shamshad Begum almost disappears from his radar screen. But there is no doubt, had he chosen he would have continued to do similar wonders with her.

5 arvindersharma April 23, 2014 at 10:42 pm

AK Ji,
Me too may join you in remembering and saluting Shamshad Begum on this day.
Her forceful melodic voice held her own till it lasted though I feel it was a bit underutilised towards the end.
For some peculiar reason, to me, her voice,especially in multiple yonre songs, reminded me of ‘Tadka in a curry’, without which, the north indian food tastes bland.
Tadka in ‘maacher jhol’, a food for thought.

6 N Venkataraman April 23, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Let me too join you and SoY fraternity in extending my tributes to Shamshad Begum on her first death anniversary and also to S D Burman.

Before she did her first song/film with S D Burman, Shamshad Begum must have rendered more than 100/125 songs. She made her debut in the film Himmat in the year 1941 under Pt Gobindram. Besides Pt.Gobindram and Ghulam Haider, Pt. Amarnath was another leading composer for whom she had performed in her initial 5 years. Thus when she rendered her first song for S D Burman in 1946, she was an established and leading playback singer.

But the real association happened after 3 years in the film Shabnam (1949). As you have mentioned, she was the lead singer in that film, lending her voice to 4 solos and four duets out of 11 songs. Shamsad Begum’s solos, Yeh duniya roop ki chor, Ik baar tu ban ja meri o pardesi and the duet with Mukesh Tumhare liye huye badnam became very popular. In fact all the songs were very popular and in that sense the success of Shabnam helped S D Burman to reach out to the common man and truly become popular. His previous six films drew mixed reactions and reviews. Eighty Days (1946), Chittor Vijay (1947), Dil ki Rani (1947), Vidya (1948) and Kamal (1949) drew lukewarm response. Shikari (1946) received good reviews, but did not become popular. Even the song Ummeed Bhara panchhi sung by S D Burman himself in the film Eighty Days(1946), which heralded the arrival of the composer from the east, could not completely establish him in the hearts of the masses. Do Bhai (1947) and the song Mera Sundar sapna beet gaya raised some hopes, but was not enough to satisfy him. In this context, will it be wrong to say that Shabnam was the turning point in S D Burman’s career and Shamshad Begum’s contribution in this respect is no less?

70% of the songs, composed by S D Burman in his career, had female singers (solo, duet and others), which is more or less 480-500 songs. Lata Mangeshkar(40%), Asha Bhosle(25%) and Geeta Roy/Dutt (15%) were his lead female singers, while Shamsad Begum got to sing only 30 songs in all for S D Burman. Out of this she sang 11 songs in 1946-50. Out of this 11, she rendered 8 songs for the film Shabnam alone. Among the rest of the three songs (one solo and two duets), which were rendered for three different films, you have presented two. Both of them were good especially the lilting number Kuchh rang badal rahi hai meri unki baatcheet from Shikari (1946). Between 1951 and 1955 she sang only 16 songs for S D Burman. Out of this 9 songs were rendered for two films Bahar (1951) and Chalis Baba aur Ek Chor (1954). Shamshad Begum did not disappoint S D Burman, especially her performance in Bahar was excellent. That leaves us with 7 songs in 6 films during this period.

How does she compare with other female singer during this period?
Geeta Dutt was S D Burman’s lead singer and Shamsad Begum and Suraiya had equal number of songs during the period 1946-50. The three of them shared 70% of the songs. Rest 30% was shared between Paro, Amirbai Karnataki, Lalitha Dewalkar, Meena Kapoor and others. Latha Mangeshkar rendered just two songs and Asha had none.

The period 1951-55 was the most productive 5 Years in S D Burman’s career. Almost 80% of the songs he composed had female singers. Lata Mangeshkar with 45% was now S D Burman’s lead singer. Asha Bhosle too had arrived and along with Geeta Dutt, shared equally between them 35% of the pie. Shamshad Begum with 16 songs had 11 % of the pie.

The next period 1956-60 saw another reversal of relations and fortunes. With the souring of relations between ‘Lawta Mangeshkar’ and S D Burman, Asha became the leading singer with 67%, whereas Lata Mangeshkar had only 9%. Geeta Dutta had 20%. Shamshad got only two songs. The temporary eclipse of Lata Mangeshkar worked to the advantage of Asha Bhosle to a great extent and Geeta Dutt to a lesser extent. The demise of Shamshad begum’s husband in 1955 may be another reason. Although a few films of Shamshad Begum came out in 1955 and 1956, most probably they were recorded earlier. For most part of 1956 and 1957 Shamshad Begum kept herself away from the limelight. I am not very sure. Confirmation from other knowledgeable readers is welcome. After that S D Burman and Shamshad Begum never worked together.
There was one more song which Shamshad Begum sang with Md. Rafi for the unreleased film Saaz, for which S D Burman scored music. Besides we have no information about the singers for any of the songs for Chittor Vijay (1947). The song Mai cham cham karti bijli hoon has a strong Shamshad Begumish tinge. That is only my hunch. It seems the song Saari Kushiyan Saath aayee from the film Jeevan Jyoti (1953) was deleted and then tune was reused in Sagina (1974) for a duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore kumar. Let us listen to this well rendered beautiful composition.
Saari Kushiyan Saath aayee by Shamshad Begum, film Jeevan Jyoti (1953), lyrics Sahir Ludhyanvi


And before I take leave here is one more lovely song

Jam Tham Le, film Shahensha (1953), lyrics Sahir Ludhyanvi


In conclusion, after listening to the songs, especially the eight presented by you, I felt we could have had more. Well that was not to be. Thanks to you Akji for responding to my request, and for yet another good presentation and a bouquet of delightful songs.

7 AK April 24, 2014 at 12:14 am

‘Tadka in machher jhol’ would have been a very good alternative title. Thanks a lot.

8 AK April 24, 2014 at 12:32 am

Thanks a lot for your detailed comments. As usual your comments are as good as an article.

No matter how we see it, after a brief flirting SDB does give up Shamshad Begum altogether. As I have observed in my earlier post, SDB warmed to Lata Mangeshkar comparatively late, that is why she is inconspicuous in 1946-50. But once he is charmed by her, he is even able to overcome the five year black-out and make Lata her No.1 singer by a big margin.

I could have easily given the usual ten songs. But songs of Bahaar would be discussed in great detail in 1951-series. The eight I have selected still show SDB’s versatility in composing great songs for any singer.

Many sources are indeed crediting Main cham cham karti bijli hun to SD Burman. So you are spot on. Between the two songs you have posted I liked Sari khushiyan sath layi very much.

You have mentioned that she debuted with Himmat. I think it is universally accepted that her debut in Hindi films was with Khazanchi in the same year. (She sang for Punjabi films earlier.)

Thanks a lot again.

9 N Venkataraman April 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Somehow all these days I believed that Himmat was her first film and Khazanchi was her first hit film. Somehow it got ingrained in my mind. I never checked. Thanks for the correction.

10 zishaan bhati May 20, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Thandi Hawayein with Lata in 1951, he chose to use Shamshad Begum wholly for Bahar.

11 Srinivasan September 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

The list is incomplete as it doesn’t include ‘Beesvi sadi’, Darji hai kapda chor’ and ‘ye duniya daulat ka gulam’- all from Chalis Baba Ek Chor (1954). Also the following songs of Shabnam 91949) have to be included: 1. Mera dil tadpake kahan chala
2.Ik baar tu banja meri O pardesi
3.Tu mehel me rehne wali (with Mukesh)
4. Tumhare liye huwe badnam (with Mukesh)
5.Pyar me tumne dhoka seekha (with Mukesh)
6. Dekho ayi pehli mohobbat ki raat
Also Jalti hai duniya tera mera pyar hai (with Kishore) from Pyar(1950), Pyar ki bahar leke from Bahar (1951), Hum aur tum pi pi piya (with Kishore ) from Naujawan (1951), Raja jani laga mohe nainwa ka baan re from Lal Kunwar (1952), Jam thamle from Shahenshah (1953), Gori ki naino me nindiya bhari (with Kihsore) and Roop ki rani ayi, both from Angarey (1954). For your information, the song ‘Saari khushiyan sath ayi’ of Jeevan Jyoti (1953) is available with Radio Ceylon and I had uploaded it on youtube and later the original song has been uploaded by Jithender recently.

12 AK September 24, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Thanks a lot for adding so many of Shamshad Begum songs and the additional information you have provided. Her duets with Mukesh in Shabnam have appeared in another post on SDB-Mukesh songs.

13 Prakash MB November 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

I was just reading some of your articles and they are just excellent.

14 AK November 26, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Prakash MB.
Welcome to SoY and thanks a lot for your appreciation. I hope you get to browse more of SoY and participate in discussions here.

15 devendra April 10, 2015 at 5:20 am

Shamshad begum’s unforgettable and very sweet song rendered in Bhairavi raaga from film Gopinath is my favorite. ” Bahu tero samjayo re lakhanbaar “. worth listening again and again. Devendra

16 AK April 10, 2015 at 7:45 am

Heard it for the first time. Agree with you absolutely. Thanks for introducing the song to us.

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