"I had no training or encouragement at home"


Here we reproduce an article on Shamshad ji. It is reproduced from Pulkit's post on HF. Thanks Pulkit.


Written by Lata Khubchandani


hamshad Begum, the undisputed melody queen of yesteryear, lives the life of a recluse today. This reclusiveness gives her an aura of mystery befitting her personality. She was, and remains, a reserved person. If she is known and loved today -- six decades after
she began singing -- it is for her immortal voice and unforgettable songs like Piya ke ghar aaj pyari dulhaniya chali (Aan), Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishaana (CID), Kahe koyal shor machaye re (Aag), O leke pehla pehla pyar (CID) and Ye duniya roop ki chor (Shabnam).

Born on April 14, 1919, Shamshad belonged to a large family of 12 children. She discovered her love for music early in life, but her
conservative father didn't encourage her to train in music. Fortunately, her uncle loved music and persuaded her father to send her for a music test which was being held by the popular music company Jenaphone. She was selected as the company's artiste when she was just 13. Her first songs were non-film numbers which became so popular that she was invited to sing on the radio. For five years, Shamshad ruled the radio. When films did happen to her finally, she was already a known name.

"Most of what I sang in those days was non-film stuff because the talkies had just started in 1931 and not too many songs were
incorporated in films in the first few years. I remember one song which became almost an anthem in those days -- Ik baar phir kaho zara --
but it didn't belong to any film," she smiles.

Lahore was then the hub of the film industry and Dalsukh Pancholi of Dalsukh Arts the biggest film-maker of the time. Playback singing had
started in Bombay, but hadn't yet reached Lahore. When it did, Shamshad Begum had the honour of becoming the very first playback
artiste for Pancholi Arts. It opened the gates for a stream of successful films -- Khazanchi, Khandaan, Pagli, Shukriya, Yamaljat. At times, even indifferent films did great business, partly because films were such a novelty and partly because of the music. And Shamshad was right at the top of the bracket. Even Lata Mangeshkar once told her, "No one has seen the kind of stardom and respect that you did!"

Her voice was unmistakable. Saawan ke nazare hain (Khazanchi) drove audiences crazy across the country. It was at this time that
Shamshad was invited to Bombay. She refused to leave her beloved Lahore till Mehboob Khan personally requested her to. This was in
1942 for the film Taqdeer, which marked the Nargis's debut. Shamshad came to Bombay, she sang and she conquered. Mehboob Khan signed her on to sing for all his films.

But the times were difficult. The second World War was on and bureaucratic control overshadowed everything else. Shamshad had to
return to Lahore, but not before Navyug Chitrapat, a Pune-based company booked her to sing. The film was Panna, another big hit.

While she was with Pancholi Arts in Lahore, its composer was Master Ghulam Haider. If anyone could claim to have taught Shamshad
anything, it was Haider. He is the one who gave a professional touch to her singing. Haider had come to Bombay by this time. Shamshad too,
finally decided to settle down here because most of the work was then concentrated in Bombay.

In 1943, K Asif made Phool and Shamshad was the lead playback singer in the film. Yet again, this film went on to become a big hit and reaffirmed Shamshad's status as the reigning superstar.

Subsequently, she was considered to be the lucky mascot for every budding composer. Her spontaneous, open-throated style of singing
brought alive each and every word of a song. All the composers approached her to lend her voice to their songs. She obliged, and often, for less than her usual fee because newcomers could not afford her.

Looking back, Shamshad says, "I really don't know how I got into films. I had no training or encouragement at home. But I had been singing as
far back as I can remember. When I joined school in Lahore, we used to sing a prayer before our classes started. All of us sang in chorus. One day the principal announced that there was one voice that stood out among the rest. It was me. I was made to stand on a school bench and
lead the school prayer after that. It was my first public exposure."

There was not a single big name she didn't work for in Bombay. Leading music composers like Naushad Ali, Anil Biswas Sajjad Khan, C ramchandra, Chitragupt, Shankar-Jaikishen snapped her up. She sang for practically all of Mehboob Khan's films.
Naushad got her to sing for as many as 19 super hit films. Who can forget the beautiful songs from Aan, Leader, Mela, Shahjehan and so
on? Chhod babul ka ghar (from Aan) remains the favourite bidaai song till today.

Shamshad sang for S D Burman's first Filmistan movie Shehnai. The song, Yeh duniya roop ki chor catapulated him to the top rung of
composers. He made Shamshad sing this song in 12 different ways symbolising the 12 months.

She had already sung in over 50 films before she came to Bombay, so she was always treated with awe. Says her daughter Usha, "Mummy
was always very mature in dealing with people. There was nothing flighty or silly about her. She was also very principled. She never
compromised on her work, never cancelled dates, never acted starry even at the peak of her career. She spoke formally to people, discussed
her work and returned home. Throughout her career she remained an artiste, never did she become a businesswoman cultivating people in
order to get work."

The legendary singer talks about how music was made in those days. "Our songs were played and our producers earned money. Today, you
have to pay to get your songs played. I'll narrate an incident. When my songs became popular, Ghulam Haider got a hike in his payment. I
hesitantly asked him to give me a hike as well. He told me to approach Pancholi. So I went to Pancholi. He greeted me politely and asked me
to sit. When I told him what I had come for he immediately asked how much I wanted. I used to get Rs 100 for a song, so I asked for Rs 700.
He agreed. I was thrilled. Then he said, 'Even if you'd asked me for Rs 2000 even, I'd have agreed!' I told him to give it to me, but he replied, 'I'm a businessman first. I'll pay you what you asked for.' So that was that," she recalls.

Shamshad became a legend very early in life and her generosity was even more legendary. Her magnanimity, non-assertive nature and
professional approach earned her the fond nickname 'appa' in the film industry.

But unfortunately, Shamshad's life became a series of generous gestures, to the extent that sometimes composers used her to get a platform before moving on to other singers. Madan Mohan, who had beseeched her to sing for his debut film Aankhen, turned to Lata Mangeshkar, O P Nayyar, who just couldn't compose without her at one time (Aasman, CID, Aar Paar) focussed his attention on Asha Bhosle.

During this time, Shamshad's faith in God stood her in good stead. It never occurred to her to cultivate composers or appoint agents to do
her work. She maintained her dignity and her professionalism throughout her career, preferring to go into oblivion if destiny willed it for her. Today, she speaks with the dignity of one who has emerged stronger.

Encouragement was something she never had. Shamshad, herself a Muslim, married G L Batto, a Punjabi lawyer. "When I got married, my
husband was just not the sort of man who would want his wife to sing but I made it a condition that I wouldn't quit. Thereafter, he didn't stop me, but when our daughter was born he was very strict with her. Though she too had a good voice, she was not allowed to train," rues
the mother.



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