26 comments on “More about Manto’s Book…and Jaddan Bai

  1. Thanks for this informative post on Jaddanbhai, Richard!
    I think like many authors and poets of that time, Manto surely had a soft corner for the tawaifs and all sorts of people on the periphery of the society, who were used, misued and abused by the respectables one. Maybe that is the reason why he takes pains to show the whoring about of the respected and the rescpectability of the whores. Not that I would be condemn the sexual habits of the one or the other. It is the hypocrisy, which is to condemned.
    I had read somewhere, that Nargis had a hard time in the industry being looked down upon as the daughter of a courtesan. Even Virkam Seth mentions this fact in his book ‘A Suitable Boy’.

  2. Very interesting and informative. All I ever knew about Jaddan bai was that she was Nargis’ mother. Never knew about the songs though ‘nuktacheen hai game dll’ sounds familiar (may have heard it on the radio).
    I’m wondering who Mohan Babu was. Did he see his daughter reach such heights in the film industry? For that matter did the mother?
    I enjoy reading these excerpts that you post, Richard. Thanks.

  3. @havey Wowed. Bowled over by your remark. There has always been a connect between the poet and the prostitute. One brilliant example is Pyasa, where a parallel is drawn between a woman who has prostituted her soul for money – Mala Sinha, and a woman who has prostituted her body but kept her soul intact – Waheeda.

    Richard, this is the first time I have heard anything by Jaddan bai. Thanks for posting this.

  4. Thank you, Richard. The only thing I’d known about Jaddan Bai was that she was a courtesan, and Nargis’s mother. But that was it. This made for interesting reading, and listening.

  5. Thanks for reviewing this Richard, and it made me check to see if I could pick up a copy of the book, and it appears to be quite rare since when I just checked amazon has just 2 paperback copies, selling for aroun $180 each. WOW!

  6. Interesting post. I am reading a collection of short stories (not film-world related) by Manto and there too the same themes emerge–harvey said it very well.
    Manto is a fine writer (loved his description of Mohan babu) but one wonders why he wrote the stories he did (and only those kinds of stories).

    The rumor I heard about Jaddan bai was that her mother was the mistress of Motilal Nehru (so Jaddan bai would be the half-sister of Nehru).

  7. I apologize for too many commments. I have been reading off and on about Manto, after Daisy Rockwell articles about him in Chapati Mystery. I read very few of his works in translation since I do not know Hindi or Urdu. He seems to be a fascinating personality and some consider him the best SouthAsian writer of the twentieth century. There is a nice write about him, I do not know by whom, here
    It com
    Brains a prayer by him which may explain a bit about his writing:

    A little prayer Manto once wrote mirrors his human and artistic personality. “Dear God, Compassionate and Merciful, Master of the Universe, we who are steeped in sin, kneel in supplication before Your throne and beseech You to recall from this world Saadat Hasan Manto, son of Ghulam Hasan Manto, who was a man of great piety. Take him away, O Lord, for he runs off from fragrance, chasing filth. He hates the bright sun, preferring dark labyrinths. He has nothing but contempt for modesty but is fascinated by the naked and the shameless. He hates what is sweet, but will give his life to sample what is bitter. He does not so much as look at housewives but is entranced by the company of whores. He will not go near running waters, but loves to wade through slush. Where others weep, he laughs; where they laugh, he weeps. Evil-blackened faces he loves to wash with tender care to highlight their features. He never thinks about You, preferring to follow Satan everywhere, the same fallen angel who once disobeyed You”.

  8. Thanks to all for so many interesting comments! I am slow to answer because my computer broke down last week and might take a total of three weeks in repairs. (I am now working on a borrowed laptop, and the connection fades now and then.)

    Harvey, you made a very interesting point. And thanks for letting me know about the link (it is fixed now).

    Pacifist, I hadn’t previously heard Jaddan Bai’s version of “Nuktacheen Hai Game Dll.” I have heard Suraiya’s version and Noor Jehan’s, which have previously been the topics of discussion here. :)

    Regarding whether Nargis’ parents lived to see her reach the height of her fame – not quite, though they did see her start to become a star. Jaddan Bai died in 1949, and Mohan Babu died early as well. (I am not sure exactly when, but Manto says toward the end of this article that at the time of writing, both parents are long dead, and he adds that Nargis at this time “stands at the top of that make-believe ladder we know as the movies.”)

    Swarup, I didn’t know that Jaddan Bai contributed to the PWA. Thanks for that bit of information and for the link. (Although I don’t see that info in the paragraph on Jaddan Bai in this article – is it somewhere else, or are my eyes just missing it? :) ) I haven’t read “Why Nargis Matters” yet, but I look forward to reading that because, of course she does! (And while answering this comment, I see that you wrote another, very interesting one – I will have to get back to that.)

    You’re welcome, too, Ava, Dustedoff, Sitaji…

    Sitaji, a friend of mine found paperback editions of this book online for $12 and $24 (if I am recalling correctly – or somewhere in that price range, anyway). They were so cheap that he decided to get two copies and give one to me. :) Maybe you need to search these in a different place? (I thought it was through Amazon, but maybe not.) The edition is from Penguin Books India, but my friend got them shipped quickly and easily to Edison, New Jersey.

    Sophy, I have read about that Nehru connection too. :) And that is an interesting comment re. the kind of stories Manto wrote…

  9. Richard,
    It is in a later paragraph:
    ” Having dealt with the anger of the colonial power, the tawaifs now had to face a strident, and fatal, attack from the reformers in their own society. Their profession was condemned and they were branded as wicked. The presence of Gauhar Jan, India’s first recording megastar, at a Congress session was objected to by respectable lady supporters and the singer asked to keep away. Yet the ganewali continued to raise money for the party. It is said that once, piqued that Gandhi did not show up for one of her fund-raising events, sending a representative instead, she donated only half of what she had promised. Many other ganewali’s also generously gave of their time when they had to raise money for charity. Jaddan Bai financially helped the left-leaning Progressive Writers Association.”
    From George’s artcle, I got the impression that Raj Kappr’s achievements particularly the progessive themes might have been a joint undertaking with Nargis. He does not explicitly state that. but it is my impression from her commitmemts to various causes later on and that these themes more or less disappeared from Raj Kapoor’s films after he parted ways with Nargis but I did not see any of his later films.

  10. Swarup, I still have to catch up on all the reading you recommended. However, a comment re. your comment on Raj Kapoor… I think he was still definitely delving into progressive ideas when co-starring with Padmini in the 1960 film Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai. (He didn’t direct this one, but it was very much a Raj Kapoor produciton.) And there was some inclusion of progressive themes (along with a lot of other stuff) in Mera Naam Joker (1970).

    Also, there was Jagte Raho (1960), which included some very progressive social criticism but no Nargis. And there was the socialist-leaning Boot Polish (1954), which was an RK production, though it didn’t star either Nargis or Raj Kapoor.

    So, I have seen a few RK films that had progressive or socialist themes but no Nargis in sight. :)

  11. Richard,
    You may be right; I have not seen many hindi films but used to listen to some of the songs in the fifties. I started watching dances after seeing your blog and Minai’s.
    I think Jagte Raho and Boot Polish were made ( I watched both) during the time he was with Nargis and Nargis makes a brief appearence towards the end in Jagte Raho

    There are many good songs in Boot Polish including Lapak Japhak. I think that it is a great move. There was nice review in the Time magazine, but it does not seem to be accessible now.

  12. Of course, how could I have forgotten (if only briefly) Nargis’ appearance at the end of Jagte Raho? This is famous for being their last appearance together on screen. But they had broken up, and that’s why she appeared only for a brief cameo. And I read somewhere that this was awkward, too – but this is something else I’ll have to get back to (once I find the source of that, etc.).

    Anyway, yes, Boot Polish is a great movie, though the end is a bit rushed and unconvincing.

  13. Richard,
    I did not know that it was their last appearance together; that shows how knowledgeable I am about even Raj Kapoor films. I remember a few hings, google, extrapolate and make comments. Please do not take my comments too seriously ( I am mainly trying to focus on poverty and development and not making much progress there).

    I am visiting Kolkata in a month or so after a visit Andhra Pradesh. Please let me know by e-mail if I can do some thing. I will try to find a copy of Kalpana. Regards,

  14. The more I read of posts from you, Memsaab and DustedOff, the more embarassedI am of how poorly I would fare when it comes to Bollywood. You folks have really set the benchmark on details of even the minutest of details. I am truly humbled.

  15. Thank you, Shashi, that is very nice of you. However, speaking for myself, my knowledge of Bollywood has become very restricted to a particular era long ago, and if you ask me about what’s been happening in Bollywood over the past decade (for instance), my knowledge will prove to be far from humbling. (Though that is a choice I’ve made, and some might say it’s not a bad choice, either. :) )

  16. JaddanBai was a very strong lady she was loved & respected Pandit Jasraji and his older brother Pandit Pratap Narayanji father of Jatin Lalit duo came to Bombay after they lost their father Pandit Motiramji They met Jaddanbai she asked them how their father was & found out that he was no more. She was sitting with some producers and asked him to give them work the producer said he would look into the matter and she yelled at him and said nothing doing give them work right now which he had to and they were hired instantly Were paid forty and one hundred rupees respectively so you can see that she was a kind strong assertive lady you do not find people like her in this day and age.

  17. Thanks for the good story, Rita. Yes, it seems Jaddan Bai was quite admirable. You say you can’t find people like her in this day and age? I don’t know, I would like to think that you can somewhere – maybe just not among the rich and famous. :)

  18. I do know one individual like that he is rich &extra ordinarily famous PANDIT JASRAJJI HIMSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Swarup, it was nice of you to revisit this post almost three years after it went up(!) and to send me that link. That is an interesting blog post and an interesting blog. (Haven’t I added it to the blogroll? Well, I should soon…)

  20. Usually if I think that some information I find may be of interest to you, I search your blog. But this was fluke. I was searching for some information about a song of which I remember only one line which may be approximate ‘chit chor kaha’. I wondered whether Jaddan Bai sang it and your post appeared on one of the pages.

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