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Same Name – Different Artistes – Shamshad Begum

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1. Shamshad Begum – Shamshad Begum was a well-known and wealthy Delhi classical singer and courtesan. She was the mother of actress Naseem Bano and grand-mother of actress Saira Bano. Naseem’s first film was Sohrab Modi’s adaptation of Hamlet, titled Khoon ka Khoon (1935), in which she played Ophelia. Shamshad Begum also landed a part in the film as Queen Gertrude, ostensibly, as Filmindia columnist claimed, because Naseem was too shy to work by herself. Shamshad Begum died in 1998. Hamlet (1935) was perhaps the only Hindi film in which Shamshad acted.

In a biographical sketch, the renowned Urdu writer Sa’adat asan Manto tells us that Naseem was referred to as the “Beauty Queen” of the Bombay film industry. Among her many suitors was the son of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Moazam Jah. Shamshad Begum, now acting as Naseem’s full-time advisor and film agent, decided that the Nizam’s offer was good enough for her to give up a career in films. Both women relocated to Hyderabad “as the prince’s guests,” but Shamshad Begum soon realized that “Hyderabad was like a prison, which would stifle her daughter”. Mother and daughter returned to Bombay and to films.

2. Shamshad Begum – The inimitable Shamshad Begum was the reigning queen of film music in its earliest years. From the 1940s to the early 1960s, her unmistakable voice sang such memorable songs as Kaahe koyal shor machaye re (Aag), Pee ke ghar aaj pyari dulhaniya chali (Mother India), and Kajra mohabbat wala (Kismet).

Shamshad Begum was never trained to be a singer; she strayed into a career in music when the Jenaphone music company signed her as their artiste following an audition. She soon began singing on the Lahore radio, gaining popularity with the song Ik baar phir kaho zara.

It was music director Ghulam Haider who groomed the young singer and she sang for him in a couple of successful films including Yamla Jatt, Khazanchi and Khandaan. A string of subsequent successes spread her fame to Bombay. Shamshad Begum shifted to the city in the mid-1940s and established herself with such films as Taqdeer, Anmol Ghadi, and Shahjehan.

Shamshad Begum’s distinct nasal voice and ghazal-inflected folk style of singing made her a favorite of the leading music directors of the time, including O.P. Nayyar, Naushad, and C. Ramchandra. Under their baton, she moulded her voice to sing songs of every mood — the teasing Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishana (CID), the tragic Hum dard ka afsana (Dard), the romantic Kabhi aar kabhi paar laage teere nazar (Aar Paar), and the incensed Teri mehfil mein kismat aazmakar (Mughal-e-Azam).

Although her style was never imitated or challenged, Shamshad Begum went into semi-retirement with the advent of younger singing stars in the late 1960s. Shamshad Begum sang her last three songs in 1981 for Ganga Maang Rahi Balidan. She passed away on 23rd, April 2013.

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