A tribute on Shamshad Begum’s 98th birth anniversary (14 April 1919 – 23 April 2013), and wishing the readers a very happy Baisakhi, Vishu, Bihu and Tamil New Year.
Shamshad Begum has been a perennial favourite on SoY. Earlier, there was a reference to the great trinity of Naushad, C Ramchandra and OP Nayyar who arguably gave the best songs for her. (Incidentally, besides these three I also wrote a post on her best songs by SD Burman, under the title “East meets West”.) If you look a little earlier, and a little more carefully, there was another trinity who composed great songs for her. I call them the 3G, for Ghulam Haider, Ghulam Mohammad and Pt Govind Ram. I am presenting her best songs by the 3G as my tribute to her on her 98th birth anniversary.
Born in 1908, Ghulam Haider was originally from Sindh (now in Pakistan). He was trained as a dentist, but he was interested more in the theatre, playing the harmonium there. After getting training from Babu Ganesh Lal, he joined the Alfred and Alexandra Theatre Company in Calcutta as a harmonium player. Thereafter, he moved to Lahore where he worked as the chief composer for the Xenophone Record Company in Anarkali bazaar. He married Umra Zia Begum who was a singer in some early films for which he gave music. His initial films were not very successful. Ghulam Haider achieved great fame with the Punjabi film. Gul-e-Bakavali (1939) in which a new singer, Noorjehan, went on to become a legend.
To Ghulam Haider goes the credit of discovering Shamshad Begum’s talent, polishing her singing and bringing her to limelight. Born on April 14, 1919 to conservative Muslim parents, Miya Hussain Bakhsh Maan and Ghulam Fatima in Lahore in a large family, Shamshad Begum’s naturally-gifted talent for music was discovered early when her voice soared over others in school prayers. The principal assigned her to lead the prayers at the age of ten. Her father did not like Shamshad to take up music seriously, but her uncle Amiruddin persuaded him to let him take her to a recording company. The father reluctantly allowed her, but with strict conditions that she would sing under veil, and she would never let herself be photographed. She gave her audition before Ghulam Haider, popularly known as the Materji, who was the music director of Xenophone. Masterji was so impressed that he instantly signed her for 12 songs at Rs 12.50 per song, a big sum that time. She was about 13 then.
Shamshad Begum’s debut in Hindi films came in 1941 in Khazanchi, a year before Noorjehan’s in Hindi films in Khandan (1942), both under Ghulam Haider. Khazanchi became a milestone in Hindi film music, establishing Masterji as the doyen of what came be known as the Punjabi school of music. Shamshad Begum always had the highest regard to Masterji. This is what she says in an interview to Gajendra Khanna published on http://www.shamshadbegum.com/.
“Master sahab was a great man. He took personal interest in ensuring that we were able to absorb the nuances of singing and music. He himself was very knowledgeable in the use of instruments and his musicians looked up to him. He had his own unique style of training where, while making us sing various kind of songs, he was able to chisel our voices to be able to sing any kind of song. His method of training was hundred times more effective than formal method of training and was akin to polishing of a diamond. I can never forget all that he has done. Mera ustaad jannat mein jhoole (I pray that he enjoy all benefits in heaven). He used to call me his Chaumukhiya (versatile) artist who could do justice to any song. He taught me two very important things. First, be a good person and second, just like water takes shape of the utensil, you should also mould yourself according to the situation.”
Ghulam Mohammad’s name is inextricably linked with Naushad. The latter went on to become one of the greatest mughals of film music. Ghulam Mohammd was 16 years his senior, he was no less talented, and was his benefactor in his struggling years, but in one of the ironies of showbizz, he had to work as Naushad’s assistant for several years. Concurrently, he gave music independently which was as good as any. Though highly respected for his talent and outstanding music, big commercial success eluded him until his swan song Pakeezah (1972), which was released a few years after his death. This film also brought his association with Naushad to the fore, as the latter was entrusted with completing the background music for the film. The film promos gave a prominent billing to Naushad, relegating Ghulam Mohammad to secondary place. Hints were also dropped that some songs were actually composed by Naushad. Regardless of the controversy, music lovers always held Ghulam Mohammad in very high esteem.
Born in 1903 in Bikaner in a family with music as vocation, Ghulam Mohammad received training from his father in khayal and thumri, and developed expertise in the tabla. He was also influenced by the Rajasthani folk music and became an adept dholak player. After doing odd musical assignments with travelling theatre companies, he came to Bombay in 1924. After some initial struggle, he became a tabla player with the Saroj Movietone in 1932 for Bharthrihari (1932), in which he got acclaim for his tabla playing. He continued to play the dholak and the tabla throughout his career. He got his break as independent music director in Baanke Sipahi (1937), but its songs are not available. His next assignment as music director was Mera Khwab (1943). Meanwhile, he joined Naushad as his assistant with Sanjog (1943) which continued up to Aan (1952). Along the way, his own career as an independent music director started getting wide acclaim, if not great commercial success, from 1948 onwards. SoY has featured several of his outstanding songs in different categories. He worked with all the great singers of the era, Shamshad Begum being one for whom he gave some of her career best songs.
Pt. Govind Ram
Pt. Govind Ram is another music director from the Punjab school who brought Shamshad Begum into prominence. He debuted with Jeevan Jyoti (1937), but the film went unnoticed. His next film Khooni Jadugar (1939), too, went largely unnoticed. But he became a prominent music director in the 1940s. His Himmat (1941) is famous for the original Inhi logo ne le leena dupata mora in the voice of Shamshad Begum, which was, more than three decades later, sung by Lata Mangeshkar in Pakeezah. Himmat was the second film in Shamshad Begum’s career. Govind Ram repeated the song, picturising it on Yaqub in drag in Aabroo (1943). He worked with a large number of singers, but Shamshad Begum was his most favourite singer, for whom he composed 86 songs in 19 films (as per this article, though this number prima facie seems to be an exaggeration). He played an important role in shaping the career of several singers in their early years, such as Zeenat Begum and Zohrabai Ambalewali. He gave music for about 30 films, continuing into the 50s, his last film being Naqab (1955). It is said that when K Asif first planned Mughal-e-Azam in the 40s, he had chosen Pt Govind Ram for its music. It is surprising that among the early era stalwarts, Pt Govind Ram remains the least familiar to music lovers.
1. Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mora by Shamshad Begum from Himmat (1941), lyrics traditional, music Pt Govind Ram
I start this post with the least known among the three G’s. This song has become enormously popular with Pakeezah, but the Internet has allowed us to enjoy the original version composed by Pt Govind Ram. Probably, the video is from another film, Hyderabad Ki Nazneen (1952), as mentioned in the comments in the YT link.
While at this, let us enjoy this delightful version by Pt Govind Ram two years later in Aabroo (1943), picturised on Yaqub in drag. The singer is probably Yaqub himself.
2. Hum kisse karein shikwa rona hai muqaddar mein from Hamara Sansar (1945), lyrics Ramesh Gupta, music Pt Govind Ram
Shamshad Begum sings this soulful ghazal in her open, metallic voice.
3. Man bhooli kathayein yaad na kar phir saawan ke din ayenge from Doosri Shadi (1947), lyrics Ishwar Chand Kapoor, music Pt Govind Ram
Now comes the song which should rank among the all-time best of Shamshad Begum.
4. Jawani na aati na dil hi lagaate from Rangeen Zamana (1948), lyrics Pandit Fani, music Pt Govind Ram
Surprisingly, another song with almost identical words, but written by Pt Ramanand and composed by Anil Biswas, came in the same year, both sung by Shamshad Begum. You can compare the different styles of tune making of two different schools.
Jawani na aati na dil hum lagaate from Veena (1948), lyrics Ramanad, music Anil Biswas
Now I come to the Masterji Ghulam Haider who has the credit of bringing Shamshad Begum to the world of Hindi film music with Khazanchi (1941), and with that setting a new style of music. When Anil Biswas said in an interview that on coming to Bombay from Calcutta he felt like a koopmandook (a frog in the well), he was referring to Ghulam Haider’s style of music.
5. Nainon ke baan ki reet anokhi (with Ghulam Haider) from Khazanchi (1941), lyrics Wali Saheb, music Ghulam Haider
The most famous song from this film is perhaps Sawan ke nazaare hain which is always quoted as an iconic cycle song. Another song, Diwali phir aa gayi sajni, often finds mention in any list of Diwali songs, as it did in DP Rangan’s post on Diwali songs. Nainon ke baan ki is a lovely romantic duet picturised on SD Narang and Ramola. Shamshad Begum was not only a singer of Punjabi-folk based songs with fast rhythm, but was equally good at soft and slow numbers. The male voice of Ghulam Haider himself is minimal and you are left with a feeling of it being a Shamshad solo.
6. Duniya mein garibon ko aaram nahi milta from Zameendar (1942), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi & Behzad Lakhanavi, music Ghulam Haider
A nice philosophical song. As for the two lyricists, HFGK explains that the film’s booklet mentioned Behzad Lakhanavi, but Qamar Jalabadi claimed that the song was written by him, Behzad had only added the last two lines.
7. Gaaadiwale dupatta uda liya jaye re (with Zeenat Begum?) from Poonji (1943), lyrics (?), music Ghulam Haider
Now we come to a song which has everything for which Ghulam Haider and Shamshad Begum were famous: Punjabi folk, fast-paced rhythm and full of vigour. The YT link also mentions Zeenat Begum as a singer with Shamshad Begum. Even though it may not be a pure Shamshad solo, the song is too good to be left out.
8. Naina bhar aye neer from Humayun (1945), lyrics Anjum Pilibhiti, music Ghulam Haider
I move back to a soft, melodious song. This Mehboob Productions film had a big star cast of Ashok Kumar, Veena, Nargis, Chandramohan etc. Shamshad Begum was the lead singer having songs of a wide range. This sad song is my special favourite.
9. Ek tera sahara from Shama (1946), lyrics Ehsan Rizvi, music Ghulam Haider
The most famous song from this film is Ek yaad kisi ki yaad rahi. However, I associate it more with GM Durrani as the song had a solo version in his voice and a duet with Shamshad Begum. But we have this fabulous solo in the voice of Shamshad Bgeum, again a soft and soulful song. I must here say in passing that another film by the name Shama was made in 1961, whose music was given by Ghulam Mohammad. Internet is full of bloomers mixing up between the two films and the two music directors.
The YT has another version in the voice of Suraiya with a background explanation in the comment section that Suraiya was initially playing the lead role and this song was sung by and picturised on her. But she left the film because of some rift, after which she was replaced by Mehtab on whom this version by Shamshad Begum was picturised. My vote goes for Shasmhad Begum as I find more depth in her song.
Ek tera sahara by Suraiya from Shama (1946)
Ghulam Mohmmad would rank among the top composers who gave the best songs for Shamshad Begum. He is so highly respected, his several compositions have already figured on SoY rubbing shoulders with greats like Naushad and C Ramchandra. He would equally rank among the greats who gave the best songs for Talat Mahmood. Readers would recall his compositions for Shamshad Begum which have been mentioned very prominently, such as Ye duniya hai yahan dil ka lagan kisko aata hai (duet with Mukesh; Shair, 1949), Mere ghungharwale baal ho (Pardes, 1950), La de mohe baalma asmani chudiyan (duet with Rafi; Rail Ka Dibba, 1953) etc. He was very prolific with her, and we still have a large number of superlative gems given by him to be covered. Let us sample some songs from this great talent who did not get commensurate rewards by the lady luck.
10. Wah ri duniya wah re zamane from Grihasthi (1948), lyrics Wahid Qureshi, music Ghulam Mohammad
This was a period when Shamshad Begum used to be the lead singer for the heroines in many films. She had seven songs in Grihasthi including a lovely duet with Mukesh, Tere naaz uthane ko ji chahta hai.
Here is its video, though of a somewhat poor quality.
11. Barbaadi-e-dil ko kya royein from Paras (1949), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
While the last song was of cynicism at the ways of the world, here is a pure sad song.
12. Chhod chale rajaji rahun kaise akeli from Hanste Ansoo (1950), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Ghulam Mohammad
Let us come back to Sahmshad Begum’s real métier which was full-throated, lively, and slightly naughty songs.
13. Jiya bechain mera din rain, kahun kya laage kahan more nain from Sheesha (1952), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
This song lies somewhere in-between with fast-paced mukhada but slow-paced recital-style antara.
14. Thandi thandi hawa mein jiya dole ho khaye hichkole from Hazaar Raatein (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
Back to folk-style peppy song.
15. Ae sanam ye zindagi ayi hai lekar khushi from Laila Majnu (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
16. Chali pi ke nagar ab kahe ka dar more baanke balam kotwal from Mirza Ghalib (1954), lyrics Shakeel Badyuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
Mirza Ghalib is a prime example of how fate gave Ghulam Mohammad a raw deal. The film got all the critical acclaim, including the most honourable President’s Award for the best film of the year. The film was a commercial failure, despite outstanding music by Ghulam Mohammad. The film is known more for Suraiya and Talat Mahmood songs, but we have this very lively solo by Shamshad Begum, picturised on Kumkum whose dance enhances the beauty of the song.