This article is written by film historian, music lover and our mentor Arunkumar Deshmukh ji. This is fifth in his popular series ‘Same Name Confusions’ for your knowledge and enjoyment.
The Hindi film industry is full of riddles, confusions,doubts,controversies and oddities. All because of poor documentation. Some of the riddles of the films can never be solved, as all people involved have passed away. Similarly, no controversy can be satisfactorily settled, because the warring parties will never accept the verdicts unanimously. Anyway, we are concerned here with only the issue of Confusions caused due to Same Names of the artistes.
When I was in school, in the 40s, in my class, there were at least 5 Deshpandes, 4 Deshmukhs, 10 Joshis, 10 Kulkarnis and at least 4 Naiks. To identify them, we called them by their initials like AD,SB,LJ, SK etc etc.Problems arising out of similar initials were solved by calling them by their physical specialities like, Lambu Kulkarni , Motu Deshpande or Kana Joshi etc.I find, even in the Film industry there were such solutions in a few cases. Those I remember are, actor Asit Sen was called Mota Asit Sen and Director Asit Sen was called Chhota Asit Sen ( he was of a small build). Likewise MD Iqbal Qureshi was called Lambu Qureshi ( 6 feet 3 inches tall) and MD Iqbal was Chhota Iqbal ( sounds like Chhota Rajan or Chhota Shakeel, isn’t it ?). But such cases were very few; all other cases of the same name caused guaranteed confusions for the students and fans of old films and music.
In this last part of the series we will take a look at some more Same Name Confusion artistes. The first among these will be Radha Rani. Here too, luckily, each of the two Radha Ranis belonged to Bombay and Calcutta, making it easy to distinguish.
Doing research on old time cine artistes is a very tedious task. The kind of sources one has to tap is simply unimaginable. If you happen to meet a close relative or a family member, who has the knowledge about the old timer, then you are lucky. This was precisely what happened in case of Bhudo Advani ( his son), Parshuram (his daughter), Mirza Musharraf ( his daughter/son in law ), Indurani (her son), and Latika ( her daughter), who met me and I could get enough Bio data on them. But this is by and large by pure Luck only. Otherwise hard work in such searches is the only way and one does not know how much time it will take and what will be the final outcome.
In the case of Radha Rani, the most important point is, there are only Two of them and NOT three as believed earlier. One was operating only in Calcutta and the other was from Bombay. Here are the details. Here, I am making it a concise version to avoid too long an article.
1. RADHA RANI (BOMBAYWALI) –
She was the daughter of a Military Officer. Born at Quetta, Balochistan, in or around 1920-21, she had a British father and Indian mother. She had total Indian looks. Her initial education and schooling was done in Bombay. She became an expert in Horse Riding, swimming, cycling, driving and skating. She was very beautiful and attractive. At the age 15, she looked quite grown up with distinct features. While in the school final itself, she got offers from films. Her first film was Romantic India-36. Being an expert singer, she started singing in films. Next she acted in Badhe Chalo-37.
She was called to Calcutta to act in the film ‘ Swaraj ke Sipahi ‘-37. From Calcutta, she went to Madras to do a role in a Telugu film ‘ Bhakta Jaidev ‘-38. Returning to Bombay, Radha Rani acted in Sunehra Baal-38 and then joined Wadia movietone. Here she did 7 stunt/action films.
After this she became a freelancer and acted in 18 more films of different banners. She also acted in Punjabi film ‘ Kurmai’-41. Her achievements in films were amazing. Stepping directly from school classroom onto the Silver screen, in her first 5 years of career itself, she had bagged 15 feature films. This was mainly due to her striking screen beauty, linguistic dexterity and histrionic versatility. She was a consummate actress, singer and dancer. She was very fond of reading English literature and would spend time reading books during shooting breaks.
She made a good pair with actor Zahoor Raja in 8 films. She acted in 3 films of his production company and in film Badal-42, he directed her. her last film was Rasilee-46. After this film she got married and went to England.
Filmography- Romantic India-36, Badhe Chalo-37, Swaraj ke sipahi-37, Bhakta Jaydev-38(Telugu), Sunehra Baal-38, kahan hai manzil teri-39, Hind ka lal-40, Diamond queen-40, Jai swadesh-40, Bambaiwali-41, Manthan-41, Safed sawar-41, Seedha Rasta-41, Darpan-41, Kurmai-41(Punjabi), Swami-41, Badal-42, Motorwali-42, Sewa-42, Suhagan-42, Jungle Princess-42, Mazaq-43, Mr.Jhatpat-43, Paraya Dhan-43, Sawal-43, Bhai-43, O Panchhi-44, Ghazal-45, Laaj-46 and Rasilee-46
RADHA RANI ( CALCUTTEWALI) –
This Radha Rani was born in 1903 at Jiaganj, Murshidabad in West Bengal. She was from a rich Marwadi family settled in Bengal for many generations. Her Bangla was very good.After the demise of her father, her mother established a Gopal ji Mandir at her residence.
Listening to keertans from in house offerings and also from visitors, she developed a liking for devotional songs. She was trained by Keertania Harimakhan Das and then Manju Ustad. She was trained in Thumris and Ghazals by Ustad Dabeer Khan. She stayed in Behrampur to learn music.
She started giving performances. In one such performance, the Zamindar of Jiaganj, Surendranath Singh heard her. Impressed with her, he brought her to Calcutta and she was exposed to theatre ,Radio and films. Her first silent film was Sreekant-30. Then she acted in several silent films like in which she worked with Debki Bose, Sabita devi, Dhiren Ganguly etc etc. She cut several private records for Hindustan Records company. She sang pala Keertan songs which became very popular.
New Theatres took her in ‘ Yahudi ki Ladki ‘-33. Subsequently she also acted in film ‘ Kashinath-43’ from New Theatres. She acted in only films made in Calcutta and by Calcutta companies. She did many Bangla films.
Radha Rani also gave playback in 4 Hindi films,namely- Mukti-37, Nartaki-40, Aandhi-40 and Irada-44. She worked in Hindi films till only 1947. How long she worked in Bangla films, I do not know. This Radha Rani expired on 22-8-1997 at Calcutta, at the ripe age of 94 years.
Filmography in Hindi- Silent films like Srikant-30, Flames of Flesh-30, Panchsaar-30, After the Death-31, Money makes what not-31 etc Talkie Films- Yahudi ki ladki-33, Daku ka Ladka-35, Daksha Yagnya-35, Kadkati Bijli-36, Khudai Khidamatgar-37, karmaveer-38, Kashinath-43, Shri Ramanuj-43, Kurukshetra-45, Baap-46 and Aisa Kyun-47.
We come to the next artiste. The name involved here is MEERA.
The name ‘Meera’ is one of those which cause ‘Same Name Confusion’. Luckily, the other Meera (Mishra) started her acting career only in 1946, when this Meera was in the last phase of her career. Still many sites, books and writers mix up their filmography. Meera was an Anglo-Indian girl in Hindi films. During the silent film era a lot many European and Anglo-Indian girls acted in films. Few of them continued even after Talkie films started and very few like Sulochana and Sabita Devi etc. became successful even in the films for a considerable time. Some of these girls were, Ruby Meyers – Sulochana, Iris Gasper – Sabita Devi, Susan Soloman – Firoza begum (not the singer), Effie Hippolet – Indira Devi, Bonnie Bird – Lalita Devi, Esther Abraham – Pramila, Renee Smith – Sita Devi, Berryl Classen – Madhuri, Winnie Stewert – Manorama Senior, Erine Issac Daniels – Manorama Junior, Florence Ezekiel – Nadira, Sophie Abraham – Romilla, Rose Musleah – Rose, Lilian Ezra – Lilian, Mercia Soloman – Vimla, Rachel Sofaer – Arti Devi, Rachel Cohen – Ramola Devi, Patience Cooper, Violet Cooper, Ermelin – Sudhabala etc.
2. Meera’s real name was Muriel Alexander. She was born on 10-11-1919. She was from a respectable family. Her father was Superintendent – Local Audit in AG’s office. Brother E. Alexander was a national level cricketer. She passed her Inter-science exam from Benaras Hindu University. It was through one Mr. Seal, who was a manager in Adarsh Chitra, that she got her first break in film ‘Dhuwaandhaar’ (1935). It is not known if she sang any song in that film, as no records are available. My guess is that, besides acting, she must have sung a few songs in that film. [Author’s Note: ‘Dhuwaandhaar’ was also the debut film for Leela Chitnis.]
Her name first appeared as an actress and singer in film ‘Bhabhi’ (1938), in which she sang 3 solo songs. From 1935 to 1938, she must have sung many songs, but singers’ names are not mentioned in the available information on the available gramophone records. Thus many singers’ credit during this period have been lost. After ‘Bhabhi’, her name appears in ‘Nirmala’ and ‘Vachan’ (both from 1938) in which she sang 1 solo and 3 duets. She acted and sang songs in films of Ranjit, Prakash and Minerva Movietone films. [Author’s Note: Amirbai Karnataki also suffered due to this missing singer’s information situation.]
As per information available Meera acted in ‘Dolti Naiya’ (1934), ‘Dhuwandhar’ (1935), ‘Bhabhi’ (1938), ‘Wahaan’ (1938), ‘Adhoori Kahaani’ (1939), ‘Taatar Ka Chor’ (1940), ‘Paak Daaman’ (1940), ‘Chingaari’ (1940), ‘Armaan’ (1942), ‘Meri Duniya’ (1942), ‘Mauj’ (1943), ‘Krishna Bhakt Bodana’ (1944), ‘Ji Haan’ (1945), ‘Sham Savera’ (1946), ‘Ye Hai Duniya’ (1948) and ‘Sansaar’ (1951). In the film ‘Nirmala’ she only sang.
The story of another Meera is strange.
Dilip Kumar was an upcoming new hero in Bombay Talkies. He had just done 2 films. ‘Jwar Bhata’ in 1944 and ‘Pratima’ in 1945. He was chosen for ‘Milan’-46 as its hero. The film needed two heroines. One, Ranjana was already available and selected. For the second heroine, Bombay Talkies gave advertisements in newspapers. From several applicants, a new Kanpur born Bengali speaking girl Meera Mishra was selected.
Meera Mishra’s joining the films generated a lot of interest and excitement because she was the wife of an IPS officer. She was chosen to play Kamala in both versions. For the role of Hemnalini, Meera Sircar was selected for the Bangla version, and Ranjana did this role in the Hindi versions. The role of Ramesh, the hero, was assigned to Dilip Kumar in the Hindi version, and to Abhi Bhattacharya in the Bengali version. The role of Akshay Babu was assigned to Pahadi Sanyal in both Hindi and Bangla versions.
In a manner of speaking, Meera Misra made her debut opposite Dilip Kumar as her first leading man. The film was directed by Nitin Bose and Anil Biswas was the music director. Parul Ghosh lent her voice in both the versions. In ‘Noukadubi’ she had five Tagore songs, her only Bengali songs.
Both ‘Noukadubi’ and ‘Milan’ did well. Initially Meera had planned to retire after this one film. However, her husband, Kripa Sindhu Mishra was killed in action during Delhi riots and Meera decided to carry on with her film career. She had a son Jishnu from the Late KS Mishra. Her other films include ‘Abhijatya’ (1949), ‘Eki Gramer Chhele’ (1950), ‘Abarta’ (1950), ‘Sandhyabelar Rupkatha’ (1950), ‘Sabyasachi’ (Hindi-1948, based on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s ‘Pather Dabi’. Meera played the role of Sumitra) and Bishnupriya (1949). Her other Hindi films include ‘Ghar Ki Numaish’ (1949), ‘Kashmir Hamara Hai’ (1950), ‘Azaadi Ke Baad’ (1951), ‘Chamakee’ (1952), and ‘Chhoti Maa’ (1952). She quit films early and settled into married life again. Her second husband was Mr Ranjit Gupta, Chief Secretary to the Government of West Bengal. She passed away in Calcutta in 2008.
It is seen that small time artistes also cause problems to big stars if their names match. One such case is that of Music Director Shyam Sunder and a small time actor and singer Shyamsunder, operating in the same period. It has caused a lot of confusion and many new or even seasoned music lovers thought that the MD was singing songs also. I have received innumerable queries about this and I was tired of explaining that they were different and that MD Shyamsunder never sang songs. Here is the clarification.
3. To be famous and to shine in this world,mere Talent is not enough. You must also have Lady Luck with you. While it is generally true,it is more true in the case of our Film Industry.It is said that LAXMI and SARASWATI do not stay together. Laxmi is the Goddess for Wealth and Saraswati stand for Arts,music and Wisdom. We have seen several examples of Actors,singers,Directors and composers,where,despite being talented,the person did not shine in life and had to remain unhonoured and unrecognised. But we have also seen cases where genuinely talented people in various fields do get honoured,recognised and become wealthy too.
So,what is the factor that binds Laxmi and Saraswati together ? It is ,Undoubtedly,LUCK ! Without having Luck,no one can get name,fame and wealth,however talented he may be.
But,what about those talented people who had almost everything coming their way,name,fame and wealth too,but just because of their own egos,bad tempers and bad habits,they lost everything and either died soon or spent their last days in neglect and sorrow ?
Yes,there are such examples in the Film Industry. One such glaring example is that of Music Director SHYAM SUNDER. ( Another notable example is that of SAJJAD HUSAIN). Songs composed by Shyamsunder are one of my most favourite ones. His songs from Nai kahani,Bazar,lahore and Village girl are to be remembered eternally.Bazar -49 song, ” Saajan ki galiyan ” is Lata’s No. 1 favourite song( so is mine ! ). The 6 songs of Noorjehan in Village Girl-45 are simply matchless.
Shyamsunder himself was a highly respected and preferred composer for singers and producers. He had the capacity to scale heights much higher than other composers of his times that time. But…Alas ! The habit of drinking and talking rubbish when drunk destroyed his career. Here is an anecdote of how much respected and remembered he was by the Ace singers like Noorjehan and Lata Mangeshkar…
Thirty five years after the partition and two wars between India and Pakistan; in the year 1982 the melody queen, Malika-e-Tarannum Noorjehan visited India. It was certainly a grand occasion for millions of music lovers of Indian sub-continent.
In her honour and to facilitate nostalgic music lovers, an impressive show was organized in Sanmukhanad Hall, Bombay which was attended by alarge number of luminaries of Indian cinema. Notable amongst were- Anil Biswas, Naushad, the maestro music composers and matinee idols- Devika Rani, Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar & nightingale of India Lata Mangeshkar to name a few.
Noorjehan came to the dais with a thunderous applause from the jam-packed auditorium and after a brief speech; as expected, she sang her most popular melody- ‘Awaaz de kahan hei, dunian meri jawan hei’ she recorded in India for film ‘Anmol Ghadi’ -Music was composed by Naushad.
Thereafter, it was Lata to sing, who found herself in a very difficult situation owing to a completely charged atmosphere all around the auditorium. She kept everyone guessing about the selection of her song.
Lata came out with one of her endearing melodies- ‘Saajan ki galian chhod chaley, dil roya aansoo beh na sakey’ from film ‘Bazaar’ music for which was composed by Shyam Sunder. The applause was beyond imagination. The memory of the completely forgotten genius music director Shyam Sunder came alive, when in her next round Noorjehan sang– ‘Baithee hun teri yaad ka ley karkey sahara’ another immortal melody from film- ‘Village Girl’, music for which was composed by none other than Shyam Sunder.
The audience was indeed spell bound. Every one thought as to why she chose a completely forgotten Indian melody instead of a large number of songs she recorded in Pakistan after migrating from her performing place of origin- Bombay . Perhaps, it was in view of the fact that the singer and the composer of the film ‘Village Girl’ were from Punjab .
The momentous event continued with lots of nostalgic and tearfulexchanges and it became a history in the annals of pre and post partition Indian art, culture, music and all such related aspects of humane
Why such a legendary music- composer has completely been forgotten,who composed music for some of the classics of his time, such as ‘Village Girl’- 1945, ‘Devkanya’ 1946, ‘Actress’ and ‘Ek Pal’-1947, ‘Bazaar’ and ‘Lahore’- 1949, ‘Dholak’, ‘Kale Badal and Alif Laila’ -1951 just to name a few.
In 1943, he composed music for the film ‘Nai Kahani’. An alluring song of G.M. Durani and others–‘Neend hamari khwab tumhary, kitney meethy kitney pyary’ which became an instant hit. Even today after a gap of more than sixty years, the melody richly deserves an eloquent place in the list of popular melodies of yesteryears.
In his next film ‘Village Girl’ -1945, Shyam Sunder came with flying colours, wherein Noorjehan sang some of her fabulous melodies viz–‘Baithi hoon teri yaad mein ley karkey sahara’, ‘Kis tarah bhulega dil’ & ‘Sajan pardesi, balam pardesi’. In these vital numbers, the feelings immersed in the lyrics -written by Wali Saheb- she was in her complete command. The singer did not merely sing the words inscribed in the lyrics, but the depth of feelings. The class of accompanying instrumentation and the matching orchestration was superb and genius of the composer was distinctively visible.
It is needless to reiterate that as and when a list of immortal melodies of previous century of Indian sub-continent in general and Noorjehan in particular will be drawn; these numbers will invariably find a prime place, music for which was composed by a totally forgotten genius called- Shyam Sunder.
For Shyam Sunder, after the exit of Noorjehan from Indian film music, there came film ‘Actress’ in the year 1948, wherein Mohammad Rafi gave his initial introduction to the music world by singing – ‘Hum apne dil ka fasana unhein suna na sakey’ . This proved to be Rafi’s initial introduction. .
The music-creating journey and cardiograph of Shyam Sunder can be matched with another maestro called Sajjad Husain, who also composed music for just 14 films, but composed some of the finest melodies of his era.
Both the masters were highly perfectionists; but ill-tempered and uncompromising. Shyam Sunder, additionally in view of his addiction to liquor and excessive drinking, occasionally uttered abusive language and consequently used to lose control over his head and heart. During the making of the film ‘ Lahore ’, he had some abusive interaction with Lata Mangeshkar; as such, they were not on talking terms for a considerable time.
In the year 1952, when the film- ‘Alif Laila’ was in making, Shyam Sunder died in the recording studio, owing to excessive drinking and consequent heart attack; the music thereby was completed by his assistant- Madan Mohan. Due to his spat with Lata,she had stopped singing for him,but on his request she sang a song in his last film, Alif Laila-1953. She knew his calibre as a composer !
Shyamsunder was born in Multan (now in Pakistan). He was an expert Violin player and used to play in Jhande Khan’s orchestra in the early stage of his career. He started with Punjabi films from 1939. He gave a break to Mohd. Rafi in Punjabi film ‘Gul Baloch’. Nai kahani-41 was the beginning of his bright career and village girl-45,Lahore-49 and Bazar-49 were his pinnacle. He composed 187 songs in 20 films.
Now let us see who his Namesake singer was.
This Shyam Sundar was different from the music director Shyam Sundar aka Shyam sunder Gabaa, the famous music director.
As per an extract from a book published in 1938, SHYAMSUNDER was introduced by Krishna Film Co., as a Child Star,who could also sing.
His first film was Fashionable India-1935 in which he sang 1 song also.
From 1935 to 1955, he acted in 37 films. He sang about 15 songs in 8 films during his career.
As he was operating ,when the famous composer Shyamsunder (Gabaa) was also in the film industry, sometimes there was a confusion that composer Shyamsunder acted and sang in films,which was not the case.
They were two different persons.
Here is the Filmography of Actor/singer Shyamsunder,as per HFGK-
Fashionable India-35…1 song
Romantic India-36…2 songs
Bijli-39…2 songs (estimated)
Hero No. 1- 39…3 songs
Hukm ka Ikka-39
Hunterwali ki Beti-43…1 song
Dil ki Rani-47… 2 songs
Preet ka Geet-50
Hyderabad ki Nazneen-52
Jungle ka Jawahar-52
Music Director Shyamsunder died on 15-7-1952 itself, while the singer/actor Shyamsunder continued upto 1955,which again confirms that both were different.
We now take up yet another case of Same names, where there were 3 persons involved. One was a singer, one was an actor and one was a Music Director. All bearing the same name- Ghulam Mohammed. Causing confusion and overlapping of film credits. Although not much information on the life and times of the actor and the singer is available, whatever is available should dispel any doubts and clear the confusion in proving that these were 3 different personalities.
4. Firstly, Ghulam Mohd-the Actor..
Born in Punjab in around 1910,he was from a poor family.He had histrionic talents and a good personality. He reached Bombay and was employed by the Imperial Film company from 1932 to 1938. In ‘Madhuri’-32 he was the Villain.In ‘Daku ki Ladki’-33 he was in the role of the Daku. With this film he became popular. By 1942,he was called by Dalsukh Pancholi,in Lahore. He did ‘Khandan’,’ Zamindar’, and Shirin Farhad’ during 1942 to 1945. Shirin Farhad was a big flop. He came back to Bombay. he did about 25 films here. Some of his films were Ek din ka Sultan,Sanyasi,Beramkah,Humjoli,Raajputani,Chhin le Azaadi,Jugnu,Lakhon mein ek,Heer Ranjha,pardesi Mehmaan,Vidya etc. Around 1949,he migrated to Pakistan and did many films there and finally died in poverty and anonymity.In India he had acted in 65 films. His last film was delayed and came in 1951 as Jawani ki aag. His first film was Niti Vijay-1932.
Ghulam Mohd.-the singer
He was a small time singer.Started as a chorus singer and then did some songs. His 7 films as a playback singer wereKitna badal gaya insaan-57,Aji bas shukriya-58,Madhumati-58,Heera Moti-59,Air mail-60,Biwi aur Makan-66 and lastly Guru aur Chela-73
Ghulam Mohammed-Music Director….
GHULAM MOHAMMED was born in village Naad in Bikaner district of Rajasthan. Father Nabi Baksh in this Shaikh family, gave all his expert knowledge of Tabla, Dholak and Pakhwaz playing to all his 3 sons- Ghulam Mohammed, Mohammed Ibrahim and Abdul Kareem. However it was only Ghulam Mohammed who developed his own style of playing Dholak, with a ring (Chhalla) on the Thumb or the small finger and playing with it on the round border of Dholak. This style became a norm in later years and today ALL Dholak players use this method only.
Ghulam Mohammed took lessons in Dhrupad and Dhamas from Ustad Ghulam Rasool Khan. By about 10th year of age, he joined first CIRCO and then J P Theatres, and toured North and Central India with them.
He came to Bombay in 1924 and joined Saroj Films as a Tabla player. After some time he became an assistant to composer ustad Zande Khan. In a short time he became his Arranger too. His brothers also worked with him here. Ghulam Mohammed was very kind. When one of his friends needed a job badly, he asked his own brother Ibrahim to go away to make room for the needy friend. This needy friend was NAUSHAD ALI, a great composer in later years.
In 1937, he gave music for the first time to Banke Sipahi-37, but the film flopped miserably and he continued in his job. He also composed for another flop Mera Khwab-1943. By this time Naushad had become a known composer and Ghulam Mohammed started working as his assistant from Sanjog-43. He continued upto Aan-1951. While working with Naushad also he was giving music independently too. He gave music to Mera Geet, Doli, Tiger queen, Kajal, Grihasthi, Parai aas, Dil ki basti, Rasheed Dulhan, Maang, Pagdi, Paras, Shayar, Pardes, Hanste aansoo.
After he left Naushad with mutual understanding, he gave music to Nazneen, Sheesha, Amber, Ajeeb Ladki, Laila Majnu, Dil e nadan, Rail ka dibba, Gauhar, Mirza Ghalib, Pak daman, Hoor e Arab, Kundan, Do Gunde, Sitara, Malik and Shama.
The work on the film Pakiza took too long to complete and Ghulam Mohammed did not live to see the tremendous success of Pakiza songs. He died of heart attack on 18-3-1968 and Pakiza was released in 1971.
There were 14 songs in Pakiza originally. After Ghulam Mohammed’s death,when the film was getting finishing touches,8 songs were removed and 3 songs from naushad were added for background. These 8 excluded songs were released in an LP titled ” Pakiza-Rang Birangi”-1971.
Even Ghulam Mohammed’s detractors agree that the music of Pakiza was simply great, but that year’s Filmfare award for Best Music went to Shankar Jaikishen for film Beimman. Everyone knew how it was managed and once again Politics won over talent !
Naushad and Ghulam Mohammed’s relationship was built on emotions. They respected each other very much. In the late 71 period Naushad wrote an article on Ghulam Mohammed ,in the film Magazine SHAMA. This article was in Urdu. It was translated in English and published recently by the famous Film and Song Historian and a great collector of old Hindi songs-Pasupuleti Kamalakar ji, on his Blog. With his kind permission, I am reproducing it here for our readers, which brings out many new facts. I sincerely thank Shri Kamalakar ji for his kind permission…
” The year was 1937. I started working for Ustad Jhande Khan Saheb as a pianist on a monthly salary of Rs 40/ . Ghulam Mohammad was working as a table player on a monthly salary of Rs 60 /. After that assignment Jhande Khan Saheb had no films on hand and so we got separated .
I found him to be an amazing table player. He belonged to Bikaneer and came from a family of reputed musicians Both his parents as well as his in-laws were attached to the stage. Before and after moving to Bombay all of them acted on stage for a living. Later Ghulam Mohammad acquired great mastery over the table and earned a big name as a table player .
1938 – I was working with Music Director Mushtaq Hussain. Ezra Mir was producing a film Sitara starring Khursheed as heroine. He invited Mushtaq Hussain Saheb and finalised the deal for the music of film Sitara. Rafiq Ghaznavi was a very big name in those days. It is believed that he approached Ezra Mir later that day and things changed for us overnight. Ezra Mir had replaced Rafiq Saheb in place of Mushtaq Hussain. As agreed Mushtaq Hussain along with me reached the studios only to be told that we have to go back. As we were getting down the stairs I saw Ghulam Mohammad following the team of musicians with Rafiq Ghaznavi . We both met halfway on the stairs to greet each other .
1942 – My music as an independent music director was appreciated for the films Premnagar , Mala & Darshan. AR Kardar had invited me to join Kardar Productions. I was hesitant in the beginning but at the insistence of my friend SU Sunny I joined Kardar Productions . GM Durrani was my assistant for the film Nai Duniya .
Ghulam Mohammed first joined me as a tabla player and later became my assistant. He was an amazing tabla and dholak maestro. I always felt that he should take independent assignments as a music director which he rightly deserved .
Ghulam Mohammad’s first film as an independent music director was Doli – 1947. It was me who assured PN Arora Saheb that Ghulam Mohammed was an efficient person capable of scoring music on his own. I always wanted to see him grow and take up independent assignments. I was present along with Ghulam Mohammad at the recording sessions of the film Doli. He composed and conducted the score, my presence was purely for moral support. After this he scored music for some more movies produced by PN Arora. Here I make this point very clear that I always wished to see him as an independent composer, which he rightly deserved . I did not do any favor by recommending his name to PN Arora Ghulam Mohammad was senior to me both in age and profession. I always followed on his suggestions and was always successful .
Ghulam Mohammad’s younger brother Abdul Karim was an excellent tabla and dholak player. He worked for me after his brother took charge of composing his own films . I can tell with utmost confidence that there was hardly any tabla player in the film industry who could match these two brothers, every tabla and dholak player must have been inspired by these two brothers and learnt lots of techniques from them .
Mohammad Ibrahim was the second brother. He was an excellent harmonium player. He worked with me for a long time. He had excellent knowledge of music and his advise was always helpful in composing music. Mohammad Ibrahim is not with us today .
When Sohrab Modi approached me for the music of the film Mirza Ghalib I recommended Ghulam Mohammed’s name and assured Modi Saheb that he would deliver better music than me. I used to be present at the recordings of film Mirza Ghalib as a moral support. He used to carry on everything by himself. My presence was something of confidence to him .
When Kamal Amrohi commenced his movie Pakeezah he approached me for scoring the music. I told him that I am already busy with a movie and I do not accept any movie until I complete it. I recommended Ghulam Mohammad and assured him that he would do a better job . If , however, you at any stage feel that something was lacking I shall be always there to help you. Kamal Amrohi honored my suggestion and engaged Ghulam Mohammad for the film Pakeezah .
Film Pakeezah was started as a black & white movie. Later it was decided to shoot it in color and at last it was both color and cinema scope From time to time many songs were recorded and many discarded Many of the songs were recorded in our ( SU Sunny Partners) Rang Mahal Studios. I was always present at these recording sessions. When Ghulam Mohammad suffered a heart attack I extended whatever support and help he needed during the completion of the songs and recordings .
A number of songs based on classical music were recorded for the film Pakeezah. It was in the voice of a classicalist from Jaipur. None of them were included in the movie. Many filmi style songs including a large section of popular song ‘ chalo dildaar chalo chaand ke paar chalo ‘ was not included in the movie .
Ghulam Mohammad passed away before the movie could be completed. After the completion of the movie Kamal Amrohi approached me and said ‘ I have come to remind you of the promise you had made years ago. The film is ready and you can score the background music ‘ – – – – – – – –
It took two and a half months for me to complete the background score. I told Kamal Saheb not to include my name in the titles of music but he did not listen. He was very adamant .
Ghulam Mohammed was not only a good tabla and dholak player but he was also good at singing and dancing too. His association with me lasted for nearly 20 years , first as a tabla player and later as an assistant. It was his greatness that he not only accepted me as an Ustad but loved me with his deep heart. On the contrary it should have been the other way round. His knowledge was remarkable. I accept with my whole heart that he was more knowledgeable than me and played a significant role in mending my career .
Late Ghulam Mohammed was a devotee of an elderly Sufi Haji Wali Mohammad Saheb of Bombay. He was known to many as Barrister. Haji Saheb was an elderly Sufi absorbed in meditation. Ghulam Mohammed used to visit him on Thursdays and play dholak during the qawwali session . After the qawwali, there used to be a session of discourse during which Haji Saheb used to say ‘ Ghulam Mohammad your dholak will go to heaven.” Haji Saheb’s tomb is located in the Sonapur graveyard of Bombay. Ghulam Mohammad was given a holy bath at the premises of Haji Saheb’s Dargah and was buried close to Haji Saheb’s tomb .
Ghulam Mohammad used to live in the Play House area of Bombay. On my suggestion he purchased land in Pali Hill and constructed a four room house on the ground floor. Later he constructed the second floor and gave it on rent. After years of struggle he was able to get the premises vacated. The entire house was used for their living .
Ghulam Mohammad’s eldest son Mumtaz Mohammad leads a life of an ascetic. Mohammad Aziz is a good tabla player like his father. Iqbal Ahmed another son is in the field of music and currently composing music for Tajdar Amrohis film ‘ Ek number ka chor “.
Ghulam Mohammad was a deeply religious person. He was very regular in matters of prayer and fasting during the Ramzan. On Fridays we both used to offer namaz at the Bandra Jama Masjid .
He was a very sentimental person. While composing a song if he was inspired by a particular raag he used to cry and make me cry .
Ghulam Mohammad passed away before the release of film Pakeezah. His brother Abdul Karim met me at the premier of the movie. Tears were flowing uncontrollably from his eyes when he told me ‘ how happy my brother would have felt had he seen his success with his own eyes.’ Abdul Karim left playing tabla and dholak for movies and became an ascetic .
The passing away of Ghulam Mohammad left me in a void. I feel very lonely. May God bless him with heavenly bliss . ”
Next in the line is the pair of Stars….SITARA DEVI AND SITARA KANPURI. Their names were the same but luckily the confusion lasted only for a short period-as long as or as short as Sitara Kanpuri was on the scene.
5. Sitara Kanpuri or Sitara of Kanpur or Sitarabai Kanpurwali was born in Cawnpore(Kanpur-UP) in 1923 in a courtesan’s family and so her father’s name is not known.
She did not have formal schooling,but sang wonderfully. She started singing on Radio.She was an expert in Bhajans,Thumari and Gazals.
W.Z.Ahmed,who was also from Kanpur heard about her singing,heard her once and took her to his office in Bombay.She was so excited that without delay,she put her thumb on the contract put forth.The contract restricted her to sing only for Ahmed’s Shalimar studio productions for 10 years. She sang her first song,’nagari meri kab tak’ in Mann ki jeet-1944 for Neena ( real name Shahida-she was the wife of Mohsin Abdulla- the brother of Renuka Devi the actress. She was a plain simple house wife,who was lured by Ahmed and made her an actress Neena and later his wife),who was Ahmed’s wife.later she also sang in prithviraj sanyukta-46 and Meerabai-47.In her free time she was allowed to do private jalsa for her living.
After Partition,Ahmed and Neena left for Pakistan,taking with them the prints of their films(like most others who left India) and Sitara was free to sing freelance now.She sang in Pugree-48,Aparadhi-49 and Rasheed Dulhan -50.An interesting fact was, she also had a sister named Tara ( Lakhnavi). Though for some songs in films of Shalimar, the name of Tara Lakhnavi appears, but W Z Ahmed, in one interview has confirmed that it was Sitara Kanpuri only.
After this she simply vanished into thin air !
SITARA DEVI……..Sitara Devi, the kathak Samradni, was born in the year 1920 or 1921 or even 1922. She herself was never sure. Her birth took place on DhanTeras day of Diwali and she was nicknamed Dhanno. Her father Acharya pandit Sukhdev Sharma was a poet,singer and a storyteller. Her mother was Matsya kumari. She was from the Royal family of Nepal. The Sharma family belonged to Banares. At the time of Sitara’s birth they had shifted to Calcutta. However they went back to Banares later.
Sitara Devi had 2 sisters- Alaknanda and Tara, and also 2 brothers. She got the dance training from the best dancers of India. Soon she started doing stage shows. In one such show. film director Niranjan Verma saw her and offered her a role in his directorial venture “Usha Haran”. This was in about 1933. She came down to Bombay and started working in films. The film Usha Haran, however delayed and was released only in 1940.
Sitara worked initially as a dancer, but soon graduated to Heroine roles. She worked in almost all major studios of the times- Sagar, Ranjit, prabhat, Bombay Talkies etc. Her both sisters too were actresses. All the 3 sisters worked in one film,”Haiwaan”-40. In Ranjit studio, Sitara became friendly with Waheedan bai, her sister Jyoti and daughter Nimmi.
In 1942, she became a partner with Nazeer Ahmed in his company Hind Pictures, after his wife Yasmin left him. She did 5 films with him, married him and also divorced him after marrying his nephew K.Asif. ( Asif did 4 marriages in all). Same year, she worked in Prabhat’s film Chand-44. Then came Badi Maa-45 of Master Vinayak.
After 1945, Sitara concentrated on her Dancing shows, doing few films till ‘Mother India-57’. In one of her foreign tours she married Pratap Barot ( brother of singer Kamal Barot and director Chandra Barot) She had a son-Ranjit, from him. In 1971, K.Asif died, and as his legal wife she did all his rites at her home !
Sitara Devi got several awards like, Padma Shri,Kalidas Sanman, Academy Award, many Gaurav Awards etc etc. She acted in 57 films and sang 100 songs in 33 films.
Sitara Devi died on 25-11-2014.
We come to the end of this series for now.We have discussed 50 artistes ( 25 pairs) in this series of 5 parts.However, all such cases are not covered. The main problem is to get credible information on old artistes. There are still many artistes waiting in the wings for their freedom from confusion.
Some of them are-
Neelams Vimlakumaris Madan Mohans Khurshids Zubeidas ShyamasYasmins Bharatis Nalinis Zebunnisas Madhuris Azads etc etc.
I made a beginning. Let someone else carry the mantle forward from here.