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315. Shamshad Begum

First playback singers in the Hindi film industry

Shamshad Begum, the legendary classical and playback singer of yesteryears was born on the 14th of April, 1919. Making her debut on radio in Lahore in 1937, the Lahore-born singer captivated the hearts of listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. The then AIR Lahore helped her in entering the world of movies as frequent broadcasting of her songs induced music directors to use her voice for film songs. Shamshad Begum also recorded 'naats' (Islamic devotional songs) for a couple of gramophone recording companies.

Lahore-based composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skilfully in some of his earlier films like ‘Khazanchi’ (1941) and ‘Khandan’ (1942). When he shifted to Bombay in 1944, Shamshad Begum went with him as a member of his team. In 1944, when Mehboob Khan launched his historical venture 'Humayun', Master Ghulam Haider used Shamshad Begum's voice in the film. That was the time when Amirbai Karnataki was the considered number one playback singer in Bombay. With the introduction of Shamshad Begum to the film, contemporary composers almost fell over each other in booking her for the recording of their songs leading to an extremely prolific career till the mid to late 1950s. Music directors like C Ramachandra, SD Burman and Naushad used her as their prime female vocalist in the early part of their careers.

Shamshad created sensations with her songs in her very first film ‘Khazanchi’, the song that gained that became most popular was 'Ek Kali Nazon Se Pali'. After that, she gave countless hit songs like 'Duniya Me Ghareebon Ko Aaram Nahi Milta' (Zamindaar, 1942), 'Armanon Ki Basti Me Hum Aag Laga Baithe,' (Shirin Farhad, 1945), 'Dil Thandi Hawa Me' (Shama, 1948), 'Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon..' (Patanga, 1949), 'Milte Hi Aankhen,' (Babul, 1950), 'Saiyyan Dil Me Aana Re,' (Bahaar, 1951), 'Boojh Mera Kya Naam Re' (C.I.D, 1956), 'Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar', (Aar Paar, 1954), 'Maine Dekhi Jag Ki Reet,' (Sunehre Din, 1949), 'Kahin Pe Nigahen Kahin Pe Nishana,' (C.I.D, 1956), 'Pee Ke Ghar Aaj' (Mother India, 1957), etc. Even the one rendered as late as 1968 for ‘Kismat’ under OP Nayyar, after her retirement; 'Kajra Mohabbat Wala Ankhiyon Mein Aisa Dala' proved a superhit. Her duet with Kishore Kumar, 'Meri Neendon Mein Tum' from ‘Naya Andaz’ (1956), similarly, remains almost a touchstone of melodious romance.

Shamshad Begum sang many songs for Punjabi movies as well which were very popular. In addition, She has sung few songs in other languages like Tamil, Bhojpuri and Rajasthani also. She has sung for non-film records in Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Pashto also. She has sung over 1600 songs in all.

We can judge the popularity of her songs by the number of remixed songs which are storming the music market today. 70 per cent of these remixes were originally sung by Shamshad. And by the popularity of these remixes one can easily judge her popularity in 'her' days. Many yesteryear singers and composers are against this remixing of the old songs but Shamshad feels that there is no harm if the younger generation is enjoying the old songs in their new 'avtaar'.

Today Shamshad Begum is totally out of the media and films but she enjoys the memory of the golden past even today. She listens to the old melodies of yesterdays and lives peacefully in Bombay.

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