Sunday, 20 April 2008

Shamshad Begum turns 90

It's ironical that one of the greatest living playback singers, the legendary Shamshad Begum, who is alive and living an obscure life in Mumbai, has been forgotten and many websites on the internet and even Wikipedia page till today declares her 'dead'*.

Ten years ago a wrong report was published and on the basis of that many people believed her to be dead. But Shamshad Begum's family didn't issued a denial and the news agency's report still creates confusion, writes Dainik Bhaskar's features editor Rajkumar Kesvani.

"The air was cleared when I spoke to HMV, the company that pays royalty and they confirmed she was alive and living in Paowai's Hiranandai Gardens. With my friends Suman Chaurasia and Raju I headed for her house".

Kesvani writes how he had to deal with the guard and then persuade Shamshad Begum's daughter Usha and son-in-law Colonel Ratra to get to meet the grand lady of Indian music.

"She was sitting amid half-a-dozen women of the building and at the first sight of her graceful persona, the song, Sunte the naam jinkaa ham bahaar se/dekhaa to Dolaa jiyaa jhoom jhoom ke, came to my mind".

I told her, "Ek arsay se aapki qadam-bosi ki tamanna thii, meri zindagi ke chand khushgavaar lamhe aapki aavaaz ki den haiN....." in chaste Urdu. She appeared delighted. In her Punjabi accent, she spoke to the group and they had a nice discussion.

I promised that on every visit to Mumbai, I would meet her. "unki duaaen maa ki loriyon jaisi thi". The pioneering queen of melody was born in Amritsar on April 14, 1919. Her father was deeply religious but a gramophone in the house on which 'naats' were heard, initiated her into the world of music.

At the age of 12, a youg Shamshad Begam had her first audition for the company of Mater Ghulam Haider, who also gave two other great singers Noor Jehan and Lata Mangeshkar to us. In 1940, her song was recorded in Punjabi movie Yamla Jat.

Later in 1944, she reached Mumbai. It was the era of Amirbai Karnataki, Rajkumari and Zohrabai Ambalewali but soon Shamshad became a household name and her songs were heard across the country. She became the most famous singer of her times.

Wishing her Happy B'day and a long life.

(Excerpts from Mr Rajkumar Kesvani's article)

[*The other Shamshad Begum, who died in 1998, was the grandmother of Saira Banu and the mother of Nasim Bano. She was known as Shamshad Begum alias Chhamia who was a singer but never sang for movies.]
PS: I also checked the Wikipedia page and it seems some netizens have tried to correct the mistake but still there is confusion. Music lovers must take cognisance of such a serious error.

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