Residents of Mumbai's satellite town Jogeshwari(East)'s Behrambagh area are probably unaware that the famous yesteryear singer whose songs “Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo O Mere Humraahi” and “Kabhi Tanhaaiyon Mein Yun Hamaari Yaad Aayegi” tug our heartstrings till today, lives amidst them. But perhaps, they don't have the leisure of inclination to know the state in which she is living in today. The truth is that She resides in Behrambagh's Sultanabad Chirag Society's Building Number 22, Flat No C-111 in a state of penury and neglect. Arthritis has affected her legs so much that most of her time is spent indoors.
She has always had a feeling of aversion towards people of the media world. She says that,” no one has ever tried to understand my condition. Everybody made fun of and exploited my position. The manner in which my poverty and helplessness were portrayed left a bad taste in my mouth. This is the reason why I entered this area six years ago with a sense of relief although it is difficult for me to forget the place where I spent sixty five years of my life”. Her anger is visible clearly in her voice but as our talk progresses She becomes more at ease. Actually, Mubarak Begum spent sixty five years in one of the oldest and famous commercial areas of Mumbai, Lamington Road, where its business round the clock, though its nature changes after sunset. She used to stay in a meagre 10 feet by 8 geet room on the second floor of a dilapidated Noor Mohammad Beg Mohammad building in the area's Congress House Lane.
Mubarak Begum's forefathers belonged to Rajasthan's Nawalgarh while her mother was from Jhunjhunu. Mubarak Begum recalls, “I was born in my maternal home. I couldn't get educated since my conservative parents were afraid that an educated girl would run away from home. My Grandfather had a tea shop in Ahmedabad. So, my father with his family moved there and started operating a fruit cart. My first memories are of the same place. My father played the Tabla as a hobby so well that Ustad Thirakwa Khan Saheb accepted him as his disciple. Sometime in early 1940s my father took all of us to Mumbai”.
It was but natural that Mubarak Begum received the tenets of music from her father. Seeing the enthusiasm with which she sang songs of Suraiyya and Noorjehan, her father made her a pupil of Kirana Gharana's Ustad Riazuddin Khan and ustad Samad Khan Sahab. Mubarak Begum started getting opportunities to sing on All India Radio thanks to this. She recalls, “One day, Rafiq Ghaznavi, the famous composer heard me sing on the radio and he called me to sing for a film. The lyricist was Agha Jan Kashmiri, but I froze on seeing the crowd at the studio and could not sing. A similar incident repeated itself for Ram Daryani's Bhai Bahan whose composer was Shaym Sundar. In view of these failings, for a time, I had made up my mind to not sing for films. But gradually I overcame my fears and made efforts to overcome those days of struggle. My efforts bore fruit and I gave my first playbck for Yakub's Aiye with the song Mohe Aane Lagi Angdaai. This Yakub and Sulochana Chatterjee Starrer was released in 1947 and its composer was Shaukat Hyderi Dehlvi who became famous as Nashad in the years to come”.
Here is Mubarak Begum's lovely debut rendition for your enjoyment.
In the 1950s, apart from singing all songs of Hansraj Behl's Phoolon Ke Haar, She sang many solos and duets like Mera Bhola Balam (Kundan /composer: Ghulam Mohammad), Devta Tum Mera Sahara (Daaera/ Composer Jamal Sen), Mehlon Mein Rehne Waale (Shabaab/composer Naushad), Chala Chal Musafir (Maa Ke Aansoo/Sardar Malik), Aaj Gharwaale Ghar Nahin (Aulad/ardar Malik), Jal Jal Ke Maroon (Sheesha/Ghulam Mohammad), Hum Haal-e-dil Sunaayenge (Madhumati/Salil Chaudhary) and Kya Khabar Thi Yun Tamanna (Rishta/K Dutta). But it was the title song of Kedar Sharma/Snehal Bhatkar's Hamaari Yaad Aayegi(1961), Kabhi Tanhaaiyon Mein Yun Hamaari Yaad Aayegi which brought her overnight glory.
In the 1960s she sang many popular songs like Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo (Humrahi/Shankar Jaikishan), Neend Ud Jaaye Teri Chain Se Sone Waalon (Juaari/Kalyanji Anandji), Shama Gul Karke Na Ja (Arab Ka Sitara/Sadat), Nigahon Se Dil Mein Chale Aaiyega (Hamir Hath/Shanmukh Babu), Humen Dam Dai Ke Sautan Ghar Jaana (Yeh Dil Kisko Doon/Iqbal Qureshi), Bemuravvat Bewafa (Sushila/C Arjun), Mere Aansuon Pe Na Muskura (More Man Mitwa/Dattaram), Ankhon Ankhon Mein Har Raat Guzar Jaati Hai (Marvel Man/Robin Banerjee), Itne Kareeb Aake Bhi Kya (Shagun/Khaiyyam), Ae Dil bata Hum Kahaan Aa Gaye (Khooni Khazana/S Kishan) and Wada Humse Kiye (Saraswati Chandra/ Kalyanji Anandji). According to Mubarak Begum, “As I became more popular, conspiracies against me also began to gain steam. As a result, songs like Pardesiyon Se Na Ankhiyaan Milaana (Jab Jab Phool Khile) and Agar Mujhe Na Mile Tum(Kajal) which had been recorded by me entered the market without my voice. One day when an interview of mine was being broadcast on the radio, my phone rang. On the other side was a famous playback singer who said, 'Remember Me? If I didn't love you, you would have been out of this industry long back.' Perhaps, She had been listening to my interview at that time. I have still not understood, if that was love or a veiled threat because I had to go out of the industry by the beginning of the 1970s. Although I got the chance to sing a song, now and then, not a single one of them reached the market.”
The song, Sanwariya Teri Yaad Mein, sung by Mubarak Begum, for the 1980 movie Ramu To Diwana Hai, proved to be her last song and since then She has spent over three decades of her life in dire straits. She is ever grateful to Late Sunil Dutt's help due to which She was able to get the current flat from Govt Quota.
Mubarak Begum says, “Even today I am sometimes called by people for stage shows but my fast deteriorating feet don't allow me to go out of my home much. Two years ago, I had sung for a program organised by Rafi Foundation in Chandigarh. I can also never forget when I sang for a program in Hyderabad in July 2008 because all through the program famous yesteryear actress Jamuna was sitting in the front row. When I started singing, Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo O Mere Humrahi, She became emotional and started lip syncing to it because It was her on which it had been picturised.”
Some years back, Films Division had made a documentary on her which was premiered in the Goa Film Festival. Her name is taken with deep respect among music lovers even today and they enjoy the songs sung by her till today. However, Mubarak Begum feels sad about one thing. She says, “I am sad to see that my own state Rajasthan has probably totally forgotten me. If the people of Rajasthan remember me, I shall always be ready to go for a program there without worrying about my old age and illness.”
Video edited by Master Manaswi Sharma
Here is a video of Mubarak Begum recorded for this interview. Video Edited by Master Manaswi Sharma:-
Here are a few more songs of Mubarak Begum for your enjoyment:-
1. Aha Aao Chalen Wahaan – Aiye 1949 – Shaukat Hyderi – SH Bihari (with Lata Mangeshkar)
2. Husn Ki Baraat Chali - Mughal-e-Azam 1960 (Unreleased) - Naushad - Shakeel (with Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar)
3. Baba Ban Gaye Gentleman - Khandaan 1955 - A.R. Qureshi - Sarshar Sailani
4. Nigaahon Se Dil Mein Chale Aaiyega - Hamir Hath 1964 - Shanmukh Babu
5. Jeevan Ka Tu Ujiyara Hai - Patit Pawan 1955 - Jamal Sen - Bharat Vyas (with Sudha Malhotra)