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Lavanya Bahuguna


Woman To Know: Let’s Remember Hindi Cinema’s Most Iconic Singer, Shamshad Begum

  • IWB Post
  •  April 19, 2017


One of the first famous playback singers in Hindi films and a Padma Bhushan awardee, Shamshad Begum’s voice is still a thing among the new kids.

Don’t we love the songs – ‘Le Ke Pehla Pehla Pyaar,’ ‘Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon’ and ‘Kajra Mohabbat?’ Sigh.

Here are 13 facts you need to know about this sacred singer and her life:

  1. Shamshad was born on April 14, 1919, in a Muslim Jatt family, most probably in Lahore (then a part of India). She had eight siblings.
  2. She began her career with performing at the wedding gigs, events, and private parties.
  3. She never took any formal training in music.
  4. It was her uncle Amiruddin who recognized her talent and took her for the auditions. During an interview with Gajendra Khanna, she said, “Uncle took me to the audition which was taken by the company’s composer, Master Ghulam Haider. During the audition, I sang a Bahadur Shah Zafar ghazal, ‘Mera Yaar Gar Mile Mujhe Jaan Dil Fida Karoon’ and some marsiya. Master sahab was impressed by my voice and told me to sign the contract the same day. I was offered a contract to sing twelve songs at a rate of Rs 12.50 each which was a big amount in those times.”
  5. She got her first project at the age of 12-13.
  6. Ghulam Haider was her mentor. He used to call her ‘chaumukhiya,’ which means an all-round artist who could sing any song.
  7. She married Ganpal Lal Bhatto, a lawyer. Their inter-religion marriage faced a lot of opposition.
  8. Apart from the Punjabi films, she sang for many Bollywood films like Khazanchi (1941), Mother India, CID, Naya Daur, Shikari, Baiju Bawra, Andaz and Love in Shimla.
  9. She moved to Bombay in the early forties and stayed on after the 1947 partition. There she worked as a Music Director and worked with the likes of Naushad, OP Nayyar, Shankar-Jaikishen, SD Burman and many others. Also, she became the highest paid singers of her times.
  10. A survey says that she recorded about 2000 songs in her lifetime.
  11. She rarely attended parties and did not allow herself to be photographed.
  12. Shamshad passed away in 2012, at the age of 94. After retiring from work, she lived happily with her only daughter and grandchildren.
  13. She won many awards like OP Nayyar Award and Padma Bhushan, both in 2009.


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