And the SOY ward for the Best Female Singer goes to?
In my overview post of the best songs of 1942, I had mentioned that the ratio between male solos and female solos in the songs in which singers were credited was 1:2.55 in the year as a whole. I had included 84 songs in my list of MEMORABLE SONGS in the year. The Wrap Up 1 of the best male solos listed all the 23 male solos that were in the list of MEMORABLE SONGS. These were divided among 15 singers, but KL Saigal naturally dominated the list. During his years of dominance the male singing was mostly a one-horse race.
How does female solos compare with this picture? In the list of MEMORABLE SONGS I had included 34 female solos divided among 17 singers as follows:
Singers No. of songs
1. Akhtari Bai 4
2. Khursheed 4
3. Kanan Devi 3
4. Parul Ghosh 3
5. Rajkumari 3
6. Amirbai Karnataki 2
7. Noorjehan 2
8. Shamim 2
9. Shamshad Begum 2
10. Suraiya 2
11. Anima Dasgupta 1
12. Anis Khatoon 1
13. Miss Kajjan 1
14. Nirmala Devi 1
15. Rajni 1
16. Ratan Bai 1
17. Sitara Devi 1
Total 34 songs
The ratio between male to female solos is about 1 to 1.5 This is not so skewed as the general trend. This could be due to the small sample and selection bias.
Some names in the above list are quite unknown, such as Shamim, Anis Khatoon and Rajni. But their songs make you sit up and take notice. It is sad that many talented artistes have now gone into oblivion. It happens in the celebrity market. The peak is very narrow and steep.
From the above list I had included two female solos in the Special songs in the overview post: Sajna saanjh bhayi aan milo by Sitara Devi from Roti (1942), composed by the doyen, Anil Biswas, and Sara din chhat peeti hath dukhaai re by Anis Khatoon from Chowringee (1942). There are some more enchanting songs which may not all fit in the list of the best ten songs but they are too good to be left out. ‘Special songs’ provides a space for such songs.
1. Arey raja bade jatan se seenchu tori phulwari re haan re by Rajkumari from Station Master (1942), lyrics PL Santoshi, music Naushad
This song is exceptionally good, and you would like to hear it in loop. Rajkumari got a new lease of life on music reality shows where she sat with the likes of Anil Biswas and OP Nayyar. On prodding she was trying to remember her early songs, and she was able to hum a couple of lines of this song. She didn’t remember the film’s name. Only half the song is available on the YouTube. Among several songs from the film available on the YT, I find this UP-folk style song the best.
2. Banni tera jhoola hai anmol (chorus) from Station Master (1942), lyrics Pt. Indra, music Naushad
Once on a discovery trip of Station Master songs I come across another UP folk, now a familiar Banna-Banni song. This video, too, is half a song. You can recollect this tune from Banno teri ankhiyan surmedaani from the film Dushmani, sung by Sapna Awasthi. How history repeats itself!
3. Boot karun main polish babu, boot karun main polish by Baby Suraiya from Nai Duniya (1942), lyrics Tanveer Naqvi, music Naushad
This is now regarded as Suraiya’s first song. She was not in the cast, it could be picturised on a child eking out her living on the streets by polishing shoes.
4. Tumko mubarak ho oonche mahal ye, humko hain pyari tumhari galiyan by Baby Madhubala (Shanti Sudha Ghosh, Parul Ghosh’s daughter) from Basant (1942), lyrics PL Santoshi, music Pannalal Ghosh (Anil Biswas)
This was the anchor song of the film occurring at several places. The song known to all of us in the voice of Parul Ghosh, picturised on the heroine Mumtaz Shanti, figures in the main list. But here was Baby Mumtaz, later grown into one of the biggest stars Madhubala (playing the child Mumtaz Shanti), singing this song. Many sites credit it to Baby Mumtaz herself. Some sites mention that the child singer is Shanti Sudha Ghosh (Parul Ghosh’s daughter). This confusion could be due to the difference in the film version and that on the commercial record which was made separately. Either way, it is a historic song.
5. Ae dil-e-beqarar bol, kaahe ko ashqbar hai by Shamim from Fariyad (1942), lyrics DN Madhok, music Khemchand Prakash
We come across Shamim as actor-singer in several films. Sadanand Kamath has written a nice post on her and this song on Atul Song A Day. Born in Lahore in 1917, Shamim Bano was a niece of Khursheed. Shamim did many films with Bombay Talkies and Ranjit Movietone. Many singers gave playback for her. She also sang about 40 songs in films. This ghazal in the traditional style of the period is delightful to hear.
6. Aayi atariya pe sone, na sone diya by Shamin from Mehmaan (1942), lyrics DN Madhok, music Khemchand Prakash
Let us also hear another song by Shamim included in the MEMORABLE SONGS in the overview post. The atariya has always been a place for the lovers’ rendezvous. The lover would not let the lady sleep, but she does not seem to be complaining.
7. Piya nainon mein aan samaye by Rajni from Muqabala (1942), lyrics A Karim, music Khan Mastana
Talking of unknowns why leave Rajni. Her name figures in the cast of this movie made by Wadia Movietone which had Yaqub and (Fearless) Nadia in the lead. The video quality is excellent for a 1942 movie. Rajni must be singing for herself. She is singing this beautiful song while looking at a notebook (of songs?), apparently written by her lover. Khan Mastana was an eminent singer in pre-Rafi days and also gave music in some films. He came from a high pedigree of classical sitarists. His foray into film music was beset with some controversies at home and, later, also by his competitor singers.
8. Teri mahima aparampar tu hai jag ka paalanhar by Ratan Bai from Lajwanti aka Radio Singer (1942), lyrics (?), music Shyam Babu Pathak
The regular followers of SOY and lovers of vintage songs would recognise the tune of this traditional bhajan, Tere pujan ko bhgawan bana man mandir aalishan, sung by Ratan Bai in the film Bharat Ki Beti (1935). This song was composed by Anil Biswas. How a traditional song sung in different garbs can spring up unannounced!
9. Mere chhote se man mein chhoti si duniya re by Parul Ghosh from Basant (1942), lyrics PL Santoshi, music Pt. Pannalal Ghosh (Anil Biswas)
This is picturised on the adult Mumtaz Shanti when she has joined the theatre.
There is a child version, too, sung by Shanti Sudha Ghosh picturised on the child Mumtaz Shanti. Here is the child version, watched proudly by her parents played by Ulhas and Mumtaz Shanti.
10. More devra ki hogi sagai re, kangan mohe la de re by Shamshad Begum from Zamindar (1942), lyrics Behzad Lakhanavi, music Ghulam Haider
Ghulam Haider had introduced Shamshad Begum in Hindi films a year earlier in Khazanchi (1941). In 1942 he introduced another legend, Noorjehan, in the film Khandan, but he had not forgotten his earlier protégé. Whether known or unknown song, Shamshad Begum is always superb. Here she sings a beautiful wedding folk song. For the bhabhi the marriage of her devar is a joyous occasion as she can demand kangan as a mater of right. But when Shamshad Begum repeats the first line, in excitement she distorts ‘devra’ to ‘devaria’. That would have been lovable, but ‘devaria’ to my mind should be feminine gender. Language experts may please throw some light on this.
11. Dulhaniya chhama chham chali by Anima Dasgupta from Jawab (1942), lyrics ‘Madhur’, music Kamal Dasgupta
Among unknown/less known singers Anima Dasgupta stands out as a singer of class. Unless mentioned, it is difficult to distinguish her voice from Kanan Devi who was the lead actor-singer in the film.
Female playback singing in the Vintage Era presented a problem of plenty. Anup had no difficulty in choosing KL Saigal for the best male solo. For female solos he chooses four singers jointly: Pardesi ghar aa ja by Rajkumari; Rahne laga hai dil mein andhera tere bagair by Begum Akhtar; Panchhi bawra by Khursheed; and Mere liye jahan mein by Noorjehan. He added two more which makes his choice among six even more difficult – Panchhi ja by Suraiya and Mere chhote se man mein chhoti si duniya re by Parul Ghosh. Mahesh opts for Kanan Devi from Toofan Mail. Arunkumar Deshmukh goes for Kanan Devi for the song Toofan Mail, ye duniya Toofan Mail.
Raunak Joy has written ten long comments in my overview post. These comments collectively are a treatise on the music of 1942 and the vintage era in general. His comments greatly enhance our understanding of the music, the singers and the music directors of the early era. He makes a Special Mention of Panchhi ja describing it as “Morning shows the day”-phenomenon for Naushad-Suraiya. He finally puts ten female solos in order, giving top four places to:
1. Kuchh yaad rahe to – Kanan Devi (Jawab)
2. Panchhi bawra – Khursheed (Bhakt Surdas)
3. Ai chaand chhup na jana – Kanan Devi (Jawab)
4. Toofan Mail, ye duniya – Kanan Devi (Jawab)
Other singers in his list are Shamim (I am happy to include her in Special Songs), Parul Ghosh, Begum Akhtar and Sitara Devi (her item song, ‘Sajna saanjh bhayi’ was in the Special songs in the overview post).
Now we can come to shortlisting the best female solos in the year. Khursheed, Kanan Devi and Parul Ghosh have to make the cut. This was a big year for them. Begum Akhtar sang a number of great ghazals in the film Roti, I don’t remember how many were retained in the film. But fortunately at least four are available on the YT. She is immortal for her non-film thumri, ghazal, dadra and folk songs. But some of her songs in Roti rank with her best across all genres. Rajkumari has been mentioned often. This was the debut year of Noorjehan in Hindi films under the baton of Ghulam Haider. Her songs in Khandan are a landmark in her career. I am surprised that Amirbai Karnataki did not cause much excitement; I find some of her songs in the year superb. Now I am listing the best ten female solos in the year.
Best female solos of 1942
1. Tumko mubarak ho oonche mahal ye humko mubarak hamari galiyan by Parul Ghosh from Basant (1942), lyrics PL Santoshi, music Pt. Pannalal Ghosh (Anil Biswas)
This song was kind of an anthem, occurring several times in the film in many versions, some in child version sung by Baby Mumtaz (Madhubala)/Shanti Sudha Ghosh. Here is the definitive adult version sung by Parul Ghosh for the leading lady Mumtaz Shanti. In this video we see some other voices too. The core theme of the film was prejudices against women working in theatre. This song comes as defiance against such prejudices when the family gets together and sings in unison at the end.
2. Panchhi bawra chaand se preet lagaye by Khursheed from Bhakt Surdas (1942), lyrics DN Madhok, music Gyan Dutt
Khursheed’s voice was very different from KL Saigal, but they gelled together beautifully. We have seen it in her songs in the review of the songs of 1943 (Tansen). She always stood out for her full-throated voice which still maintained its melody and pathos.
3. Kuchh yaad rahe to sun kar ja, tu haan kar ja ya na kar ja by Kanan Devi from Jawab (1942), lyrics ‘Madhur’, music Kamal Dasgupta
Kanan Devi was the lead actor-singer in Jawab. You would be surprised to see this song picturised on Madhubala, and also notice Dilip Kumar on the frame. The uploader has announced very transparently that he has prepared this by using clips of Madhubala (and Dilip Kumar) from the film Tarana. I am using this link knowingly because WhatsApp University is notorious for ignoring such declarations by the uploader and circulate widely with some fake story. You might have seen one story on the WhatsApp that SD Burman had originally composed Piya tose naina laage re (Guide) for the film Devdas, and a clip of the song on Suchitra Sen became viral. That clip is still available on YT, and the fake story resurfaces from time to time.
4. Hua kya qasoor jo humse ho door by Amirbai Karnataki Basant (1942), lyrics PL Satoshi, music Pt. Pannalal Ghosh (Anil Biswas)
I have given the name of Anil Biswas in parenthesis because the music director officially credited is Pannalal Ghosh, but it is now widely accepted that the actual music director was Anil Biswas who could not lend his name because of contractual reasons. His brother-in-law Pannalal Ghosh was only responsible for background score. His sister, i.e. the wife of Pannalal Ghosh, was the lead singer in the film. But among a slew of Parul Ghosh’s songs, here is a unique song by Amirbai Karnataki. HFGK wrongly credits it to Parul Ghosh, so does this YouTube link, but Amirbai’s voice is unmistakable.
5. Rahne laga hai dil mein andhera tere bagair by Begum Akhtar from Roti (1942), lyrics Behzad Lakhanavi, music Anil Biswas
Begum Akhtar made a mark as an actor-singer in this film. She is credited in the cast as Akhtari Faizabadi, she had not yet become a Begum. She has sung a number of ghazals in the film, many did not finally find a place in the film. But these wonderful ghazals survive online. In this song the readers would recognise the tune of her legendary ghazal, Deewana banana hai to deewan bana de. This became a stock tune for several songs and ghazals in the vintage era.
6. Tu kaun si badli mein mere chaand hai aa ja by Noorjehan from Khandan (1942), lyrics(?), music Ghulam Haider
Noorjehan’s debut film as an actor-singer created a sensation and she soon reached the top in her profession. Lata Mangeshkar treated her with respect as her senior in films. Noorjehan also had a long career in Pakistan after she migrated there after the Partition. She earned huge respect both sides of the border. Tu kaun si badli mein became a rage.
7. Giridhari ho giridhari, chhed muraliya pyari by Khursheed from Chandni (1942), lyrics DN Madhok, music Khemchand Prakash
You can never tire of Khursheed. A great singer.
8. Toofan Mail, ye duniya Toofan Mail by Kanan Devi from Jawab (1942), lyrics ‘Madhur’, music Kamal Dasgupta
Kanan Devi has sung an everlasting train song in the film Jawab. Now you have a genuine video clip, and of a good quality. As she describes the Toofan Mail as a metaphor for the world, you see the steam engine chugging into the station.
9. Ai chaand chhup na jana by Kanan Devi from Jawab (1942), lyrics ‘Madhur’, music Kamal Dasgupta
This is not Kanan Devi overkill despite three songs of hers making it to the best ten. It is difficult to leave out any of these songs. Lata Mangeshkar in her “Shraddhanjali” album had also rendered this song. That shows the high regard she had for this song.
10. Mere liye jahan mein chain na qaraar hai by Noorjehan from Khandan (1942), lyrics (?), music Ghulam Haider
It is difficult to choose which one is superior – Tu kaun si badli mein (#5) or this song. This song too added to Madam Noorjehan’s aura.
This was a year in which there cannot be a neat conclusion about the winner. The fairest result would be declaring at least three joint winners.
In conclusion, the SOY Award for the best female playback singer of 1942 goes jointly to:
1. Parul Gosh
2. Khurhseed, and
3. Kanan Devi
Acknowledgement and Disclaimer
The songs links have been given or embedded from the YouTube only for the listening pleasure of the music lovers. This blog claims no copyright over these songs which vests with the respective owners of these rights.