Gradually, she used to sing Marsiya (Prayer during Moharram) and Natee (Bhajans) before relatives. Her parents did never want that she could get education of music. Her father was strict yet caring. Shamshad was bright in studies. Her uncle was music lover who took her to Xenophon Music Company where Master Haider asked Shamshad to sing. Without any training of classical music and knowledge of singing, she sang a gazal. Master shouted to stop. Shamshad became awkward. But master called his assistant and asked to execute an agreement with Shamshad for Barah Annas (75 paise). Known as a perfectionist, Master ji worked hard on Shamshad’s singingand gradually the agreement of Barah Annas raised to fifty rupees. Shamshad was getting twelve rupees per song.
Thereafter Shamshad got an opportunity to sing at music director Shyam Sundar. Playback singing in cinema was not available at that time. So private records were getting popular among elite people. Shamshad started singing at Peshawar radio station. The song ‘EkBaarPhirKaho’ received record break popularity and Shamshad created a place among leading lady singers. In all this journey Shamshad completed BA but was constrained to leave persuasion for degree.
Her father had no objection for singing at radio station or for private records, but he had strong objection for singing for cinemas. At that time, it was not considered socially good to sing in cinema. Once film producer Dalsukh Pancholi came and handed over a script secretly to Shamshad. When it was revealed to family, a great chaos was created and her father angrilyasked Pancholi to leave house at once. After one and a half year Pancholi again arrived with a proposal of playback singing. Her father also agreed. Shamshad recorded first Punjabi film ‘YamalaJatt’ which was a debut movie of actor Pran. Shamshad sang with another singer Noorjahan and the music director was Ghulam Haider.
Then she received Hindi movie Khajanchi and its music became too much popular. Then Shamshad sang for movie Zamindar and so on when she was getting Rs. 150/- per song. She increased it to Rs. 700/- per song. Pancholi was ready. Then another producer offered Rs. 1500/- As advised by Mehboob Khan, she came to Mumbai in 1942.
Shamshad sang as a playback singer for the first time in Mumbai for movie Taqdeer by Mehboob Khan. Taqdeer was the debut movie of actress Nargis as a heroine. Rafiq Ghaznavi was the music director. Mehboob Khan made arrangements for residence, food and a chauffeur driven car for Shamshad near Central Studio itself. After Taqdeer, Shamshad received another movie Panna by Navyug. Amir Ali, nephew of Ghulam Haider, was the music director for Panna. Due to agreement with Xenophon company, though the songs were sung by Shamshad, the records of Panna were made in the voice of Rajkumari. After completing work for Panna, Shamshad returned to Lahore. She executed an agreement with Pancholi for the movie Shiri Farhad.
At that time a Hindu Punjabi Brahmin, Ganpat Lal Batto, came in her life. A law student Batto used to come in recording studio and he fell in love with decent Shamshad. One day he gathered courage and told this to her father. Her father created a commotion. But the couple was firm on their decision. After struggling for two years, her father gave consent. Shamshad put a condition before Ganpat Lal that she would not leave playback singing after marriage and Ganpat Lal, of course, had no objection. They married in 1942 and decided to settle in Mumbai as there were frequent offers of singing from Mumbai. They possessed a house at Mahim near Paradise cinema.
Career of Shamshad prospered from the movie Ragini by AacharyaAtre. Shamshadstarted singing with leading music directors of that time namely, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, Anil Vishwas, Khemchand Prakash. She sang in 12 movies for C. Ramchandra. Her song in the movie Shehnai, ‘Aana Meri Jaan Sunday ke Sunday’ is still recalled.
After partition, Shamshad decided to live in India. Ganpat Lal left law practice and entered in business. In the same period, he bought fist vehicle of life, the Hillman car. Shamshad used to go for recording in a very simple attire without make up. Her daughter Usha used to tease her and Shamshadwould say that she is a singer and not an actress.
All was going well and suddenly Ganpat Lal died. Shamshad became very depressed. She stopped going to recordings. After a year, Naushad came to her and successfully struggled to convince her to sing. Shamshad gave consent to sing a song for movie ‘Mother India.’
Till the time the atmosphere in film industry had become polluted with dirty politics, nepotism, influences and all. The lady singers coming after her were not getting work.
Naushad who was begging her to sing at least one song for him in the times of Aarpaar, started avoiding her. When a movie left by music director Ravi was accepted by O. P. Naiyyar, a lady singer had boycotted him along with his musicians. At that time Shamshad supported him strongly and made her to withdraw boycott. Same was the experience with C. Ramchandra and Madan Mohan. At the time of ‘Aankhen’ movie when producer refused to pay and Madan Mohan requested to sing, she sang without getting a penny; that Madan Mohan also started avoiding her. Shankar Jaikishan gave only one song in Aawara. Only co – singers were behaving properly with her.
She stopped playback singing and started stage shows in 1968. They started gaining popularity and so a lady singer pressurized manager of Shanmukhanand hall to stop these programs. Even then Shamshad did not have any bitterness about anyone. The great singer who contributed for 1630 songsin many languages used to live in her old age with her daughter, lieutenant colonel son in law and grandchildren in Hiranandani Complex, Powai.
Once media had published a news that Shamshad begum passed away. In fact, grand mother-in-law of senior actor Dileep Kumar named Shamshad was expired.
Government of India honoured her with title ‘Padma Bhushan.’ In new age music also, her songs ‘Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar’ and ‘SainyaDil Me Aana Rey’ got popularity when remixed.
Shamshad Begum, with her heavenly voice and cultured nature, left this world on 23rd April 2013.
Shamshad Begum… best article