Article Hindi

Shamshad Begum’s triumphant comeback with Naushad in Mother India

The song ‘Pi Ke Ghar Aaj Pyari Dulhaniya Chali’ is a terrific example of the power of Shamshad's singular voice.

Sonal Pandya

Singer Shamshad Begum, who had no formal training, began singing as a young girl in Lahore, now in Pakistan. In 1937, she was singing for the Lahore and Peshawar stations of All India Radio, and by the 1940s she was singing for the music director Ghulam Haider in Khazanchi (1941) and Khandaan (1942).

Filmmaker Mehboob Khan persuaded her to come to Bombay (now Mumbai) and Shamshad sang for Nargis in her debut film as lead actress, Taqdeer (1943). She later sang for all the top music composers from C Ramchandra to OP Nayyar, but her songs rendered under Naushad's baton have remained evergreen.

Shamshad Begum first sang for Naushad in the superhit film Anmol Ghadi (1946). The song was ‘Uran Khatole Pe Ud Jaaon’. Naushad once said of her voice, “Her very special transparency is something that no singer I heard could replicate.” But despite the singer giving popular hits in the early part of Naushad’s career, he moved away from her and began using Lata Mangeshkar on key songs of certain soundtracks.

Following her husband Ganpat Lal Batto’s death in a road accident, Shamshad Begum gave up singing for nearly a year. It was with Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957), a remake of his earlier hit Aurat (1940), that she finally made a comeback.

Shamshad sang four songs in Mother India, beginning with the bidaai song ‘Pi Ke Ghar Aaj Pyari Dulhaniya Chali’, penned by Shakeel Badayuni. The music arrangement is uncomplicated, with a shehnai opening up the song and a chorus backing Shamshad Begum at every turn.

The straightforward picturization by Mehboob Khan shows all the rituals of an Indian wedding in a small village and the coming together of Radha (Nargis) and Shamu (Raaj Kumar). In the film, Nargis’s Radha is remembering the time she first came to the village as a shy bride.

In 1950, Naushad and Shamshad Begum had come together on another great but simple bidaai song from Babul (1950) called ‘Chhod Babul Ka Ghar’. Coincidentally, that song was also picturized on Nargis.

The bidaai song broke the ice for Shamshad Begum on her return to the Hindi film scene and she began taking up more singing assignments. But she never became as popular as she was in the 1940s, when she was reputed to be the highest paid female playback singer in Hindi cinema. Now, there were many newcomers and Lata Mangeshkar in her prime to contend with.

Sadly for fans and music lovers, Shamshad retired from playback singing in the late 1960s.

Watch Shamshad Begum's comeback song from Mother India below: