Happy 92nd birthday, Shamshad Begum! As I promised a week ago, I have compiled a “favorites” list… Although, as often is the case, I could easily think of a few other songs that might be just as “favorite” to me as some of the songs on this list… And I guess I should add that my final choices were somewhat determined by factors other than sheer quality… For instance, I’ve made sure to include only the song clips that could be enjoyed on this blog immediately, without the delay of “embedding disabled,” and I may have avoided one or two color or colorized clips because that would have messed up the [non-]color scheme. (“Reshmi Salwar Kurta Jali Ka” from Naya Daur might have been up there, maybe in the top three if not number one, if it weren’t for the above- mentioned problems. But that’s OK, because I love the other songs at the top just as much.) Moreover – though there’s probably no need for me to add this – please keep in mind that rankings should not be taken too seriously. Shuffle the numbers around a little if you like, and it might look just as good to me…

10. “Chalo Paniya Bharan Ko Chalen”: Shamshad Begum on a lovely and relatively slender Manorama (with some vocal accompaniment by Naseem Akhtar) in a flashy dance from Khandan (1942). Vidur, who posted this on YouTube, called it a “toe-tapping” kind of number, and it most certainly is! (Music director is Ghulam Haider. And I guess most people know that this was the breakthrough movie for my favorite singer of all, Noor Jehan. But Shamshad was great in this movie too.)

9. “Tumhare Hogaye”: There were a few songs that I considered from Gyan Dutt’s fine soundtrack to Sunehre Din (1949). My image header above is excerpted from another song, which was a duet with Geeta Dutt. But I’ve decided that this duet with Kalyani is even better, especially with the picturization on these actresses – Kayani on Nigar, Shamshad on Rehana…

8. “Loot Jawani Phir Nahi Aani…”: A sweet song for a delightful dance by Latika in Jugnu (1947). The famous soundtrack by Feroze Nizami is centered on Noor Jehan and a then-new singer named Mohammed Rafi, but obviously, there was a nice spot for Shamshad Begum, too. (As for the actress… Wow, who was Latika, and why haven’t I seen her anywhere else? [Note upon reviewing this post a couple of years later: I have learned that Latika was one of the Jewish actresses of '40s Hindi cinema and she was married to Gope.])

7. “Aae Kale Badil Bol”: Shamshad Begum sang some great swing songs, and she also sang some great swings songs. This is my favorite swings song, picturized on the comedienne Shanta Rin and lots of other very well-dressed girls frolicking in Dahej (1950). Unfortunately, the joyous swings-in-the-spring scene is contrasted right afterwards with the sight of the heroine (Jayashree) being condemned to grim indoor servitude by an evil mother-in-law (Lalita Pawar – who else?). But this clip goes into the grim part only for a very brief period of time at the end… (By the way, the soundtrack is by Shantaram’s favorite music composer, Vasant Desai.)

6. Is “Saiyan Dil Me Ana Re” Shamshad’s most famous song? Maybe it is now in part because of the popular remix that came out in recent years. (For some reason, there have been quite a few remixes of Shamshad Begum songs floating around in the media world during the past few years.) Anyway, the original S.D. Burman song from Bahar (1951) is a really fine number, and it made for a nice breakthrough for the then-teenage Vyjayanthimala. (Actually, I think it was a bit early for Vyj – I like this film much more for Shamshad Begum!)

5. The dance for “Ek Do Teen” from Awara (1951) is quintessential Cuckoo, and Shamshad Begum does her most appropriate singing for Cuckoo, which means she is just right for her. The song itself is definitely one of the great lively classics by Shankar Jaikishan, and we get to see a flash of Raj Kapoor’s greatness as a director too (and as an actor, IMO). I love the deep film-noirish atmosphere of this seedy dive! And Cuckoo’s character is interesting – certainly resilient, to say the least. I wish we’d found out more about her…

4. “Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon” is another song that’s been subject to remixes (in fact, there’s a really bad one floating around out there, with an ugly, sleazy picturization). However, nothing could spoil the legacy of this great comic number from Patanga (1949), just as nothing could match it. There were a bunch of people who contributed to making this hilarious, and the Gope/C. Ramchandra combination was abig part of that, as were the lyrics by Rajendar Krishan. But Shamshad Begum and Nigar Sultana are also very funny doing the slightly less verbose woman’s part of the conversation. And I wonder if there wasn’t something about Shamshad’s voice that made her the perfect one to sound like a woman singing on the other end of the phone line. Or maybe it just seems that way to me because I have been permanently impressed by the iconic image of Nigar with a phone on her ear…

3. “Bhooj Mera Kya Naam Re”: In C.I.D. (1956), after a tense all-night car chase, we are treated to this bizarre and funny song-and-dance (with music that is “very” O.P. Nayyar) centered around a nutty village woman and her gang of water gatherers, who seem to have come out of nowhere. This is a golden moment in Hindi cinema (courtesy of Guru Dutt) that just could not have happened in a popular American film… And the Shamshad-Minoo Mumtaz combination is always a joy to experience…

2. “Meri Pyari Patang” is a fascinating song in Dillagi (1949)… Musically, it’s seems a little more complicated to me than a few of the other songs on this list, but it actually works extraordinarily well – and of course it does, because it’s Naushad! It is also very interesting to hear this much heavy metaphor being thrown around in the description of a kite-flying mishap (lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni). Shamshad Begum’s voice here is as appealing and compelling as ever, and Uma Devi’s parts add even more to the listening pleasure. In fact, their singing helps “Meri Pyari Patang” to stand out just as much as any other song in this movie, and that’s saying something, because Dillagi might also be the best film for Suraiya.

1. Speaking of Naushad… It could be that Shamshad Begum’s most famous number is “Door Koi Gaye…” I don’t think I could add anything about the soundtrack to Baiju Bawra (1952) that hasn’t already been said. I will say that Shamshad Begum is definitely the star of this song, in quality as well as time allotted, even considering the parts sung by Lata and Rafi at their best. And as I’ve said before, whenever I hear this tune, it starts playing over and over in my head afterwards – the perfect “ear worm.” In fact, you get the perfect everything here. Absolutely brilliant!

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