A tribute to Mubarak Begum.
By A. C. Tuli
When we look up at the sky at night, it is mostly the stars shining very bright that get our maximum attention. We love watching them for long, and often with fixity of gaze that denotes we take deep interest in them. Of course we know most of these stars by their names. As regards the lesser stars, the ones that twinkle somewhat dimly, we give them just a fleeting glance and then forget them.
Precisely, this is what we do when we look at Bollywood stars. Prominent playback singers of Bollywood also enjoy star status as they always remain in the limelight. But playback-singer Mubarak Begum, who recently passed away in Mumbai, perhaps did not belong to this august company. Although she remained active in the film industry from The 1950s to The 1970s, she could never come up to be counted among the big playback singers of Bollywood, despite the fact that she had a melodious voice and could sing both light and serious songs with equal ease.
Born some time in 1935 or 1936, Mubarak Begum started her singing career with All India Radio. She was just 14 when she began her playback singing career in Hindi films with a little known film entitled Aaiye (1949). In this film she sang a solo song under the music direction of Nashad (not to be confused with the legendary composer Naushad). Apart from singing a solo, she also sang a duet with Lata Mangeshkar in this film. She sang in many other nondescript films of that time such as Basera, Doli Naiya, Sheesha, Char Chand, Aulad, Chandni Chowk, Gawaiya, DakBabu, HaarJeet, Baradari and a lot many more.
Perhaps the first time music composers of Bollywood noted with some surprise the depth, pathos and melody in Mubarak Begum’s voice was when she sang, under S.D Burman’s direction, her famous song, Wo naaayengekepalatkar,unhen lakh hum bulayen, meri hasraton se keh do ke wo khawab bhool jayen…” in Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955).
Bimal Roy picturised this song in the film when the ailing and benighted Devdas, accompanied by his servant Dharamdas, is leaving Chandramukhi’s kotha in Calcutta to set forth on a long and aimless railway journey – a journey that finally ends with the death of this legendary lover at Parvati’s doorstep in her husband’s village. It is a sad and tear-wrenching song as its melancholy lyrics indicate. It was only after this song that the Hindi film industry started paying a little more attention to Mubarak Begum as a playback singer.
Although she still kept singing for mostly C-grade films, popular big banners of that time too started offering her singing assignments. Sahrat Modi gave her an opportunity to sing in his film Kundan (1955) under Ghulam Mohammad’s music direction. In Rukhsana (1955), she sang for renowned music composer Sajjad. In Gateway