41 comments on “Azurie

  1. Thank you for digging up her name, Richard! I loved her in O jaanewaale balamwa, and it’s good to know who she was. And yes, I’ll admit I hadn’t known – or had forgotten – that her partner in that song was Mehmood’s father. We live and learn…

  2. Oh I love Mumtaz Ali sightings, and to have him dance with this beautiful woman! I can’t wait to check out the songs.

  3. You are welcome, Madhu, and, as I’ve said before in reference to other things :) , I am happy that you like that performance as much as I do! Ava, I hope you had a chance to see that dance, too.

    And meanwhile, Swarup, as I mentioned on FB, I was very impressed by the links that you came up with… You managed to come up with something very comprehensive in about two minutes (so it seemed)… And as I was saying, I don’t know why all these other sites that I checked didn’t have any information on Azurie’s important time in Pakistan since, as your second link tells us, she was a very important classical dancer there.

  4. That ‘is’ a great find Richard. The song is beautiful and I’ve long loved it.
    I’m wondering if Azurie will suddenly poip up in some of the films Tom is dealing with. I hope so.

    As for Mumtaz Ali. He dances quite well. Ava posted a song of his once, really a good one. I’m not posting it here so as not to derail the thread.
    Thanks for this discovery.

  5. Thank you, Pacifist. I wonder if Azurie could be one of the “?”s in some of the old films that Tom has already dealt with. :)

    Regarding Mumtaz Ali, I recall that he had a few good dances in Shenhai (1947), a film that I also know for the great music of C. Ramchandra and the appearance of an adorable young Rehana. (Also, this was noteworthy for a drag scene that I think Harvey mentioned: Mumtaz Ali and Dulari both dressed as the opposite sex.) One of my favorite Mumtaz Ali songs is actually a later one in which he doesn’t dance, in Seema (1955).

    Maybe I should do a Mumtaz Ali post sometime.

  6. Richard,
    This is an exciting piece of information. O janewale balamwa has been my eternal favourite, and I was always curious to know about its dancers. While there is no doubt about Auzurie, I have serious doubts about Mumtaz Ali being the male dancer. Let me give you my reasons.

    My obvious doubt is because he has no resemblance to Mumtaz Ali. He is too thin and looks shorter than Mumtaz Ali. You must have seen a number of famous dance clips of Mumtaz Ali. Let me link three:

    1. Main to dilli se dulhan laya re from Jhoola (1941)

    2. Humre Raja ki aaj sagai hai from Jhoola again

    3. Pehli hi mulaqaat mein…bach ke rahna ji from Shehnai (1947)
    This is the song in double drag scene mentioned in your comment.

    Rattan came exactly in between the two movies. In all the three clips, Mumtaz Ali is clearly identifiable from his face with resemblance to Mehmood/Minoo Mumtaz. He is healthy whereas the dancer in O janewale seems emaciated – make up would not have changed that much, and of a good height.

    My second doubt arises because from the mid-30s Mumtaz Ali was quite a well known name as a Bombay Talkies fixture, and his name was mentioned in the credits. YouTube has the full film Rattan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3LCmcoSQvE). The credits mention Auzurie (8th in the list of ten) – that is how her name has been spelt. Surely Mumtaz Ali was a much bigger name and an important attraction to deserve mention, but his name is not mentioned. I have searched many sources, none mention his name as a dancer in this song. I think we need to research more before we conclusively identify him as Mumtaz Ali.

  7. >I wonder if Azurie could be one of the “?”s in some of the old films that Tom has already dealt with. :)

    LOL Richard. Actually I wrote in the future tense because as far as I know it’s ‘now’ that Tom has started on Pakistani films. Yes, he’s finished a couple of them, so yes, one could speak of them in the manner of your quote. :-)

  8. I was so excited when I first saw this post Richard! Just getting to replying now. I have a little file I’ve been maintaining on Azurie lately as I just discovered her recently. Thought to do a post someday on her but with my track record that would be in at least a couple years from now. :) Here’s some interesting information I came across about her:

    This post at a “Karachiwali” blog claims “Some of her famous films as a dancer include Yaad (1942), Tasveer (1943), Rattan (1944), and Shahjahan (1946).” This book says she played a dancer in Naya Sansar and the BFI has her in the cast (1941), and this book says she was in the Dilip Kumar-Nargis starrer “Mela,” but I don’t know if she danced.

    Madame Auzrie: An Album of the Dancing Queen
    “Memoirs of a Dancing Queen” article from 1978, seems difficult to find.

    The online digitized newspaper archives of the national libraries of Singapore and Australia have quite a few articles on her (search both Auzurie and Azurie) that focus on her tours and dance style, and most contain low-quality pictures of her and sometimes her dance partners! Sources vary in how many films she starred in ranging from 200-500!
    “The Girl the Indian Go Crazy About.”
    Auzurie to Dance Here (close-up headshot)
    Madame Auzurie and Troope in Good Form
    Singapore is Graveyard of the Stars (picture)
    Picture of Auzurie and partner
    <a href="http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/3664769"The Art of the Camera (Picture)
    Visit of 18 Indian Ballet Dancers
    Dancing Troupe for Singapore (says troupe later going to US for a TV contract)

    Also, this article about dance in Pakistan at Narthaki, mentions a bit about Azurie: http://www.narthaki.com/info/articles/art286.html

    Last, you have to read this excerpt from “Mehmood: A Man of Many Moods” about how Azurie embarrased Mehmood on the set of Bahana. :D

    OK, that’s all I got. :D

  9. Wow, Minai, what a list! Sorry I have to be so slow at answering at the moment, but I will get back to all of this. By the way, I saw the Dilip Kumar-Nargis starrer Mela (1948), and it might get my vote as the most depressing film ever made. But it has some festive moments, including a festival dance scene, and, yes, she must be dancing there (starting in this clip at about 3:30):

    And AK, thank you for all that evidence! You might be right, Although I am glad that we are right about Azurie. (BTW, I wouldn’t assume that the credits have the most correct spelling, as so many credits I’ve seen have gotten names wrong.) Unfortunately, I will have to get back to your comment at a slightly later time too. (Maybe I will start to catch up this coming weekend…)

  10. Richard,
    I was waiting for your detailed comment. But I am aware you are very busy (but thankfully not too busy for some gorgeous dances of Padmini :).

    The exact chronology of Azurie – whether she migrated in 1947 and came back to India to complete her film in 1960, or whether she migrated post-60 – I am sure you are going to crack soon. But meanwhile I have discovered something exciting which I wanted to share with you.

    I got in touch with Mumtaz Ali’s grandson, Ajaz Ali (son of Minoo Mumtaz). He confirmed that the male dancer in O janewale balamwa is not Mumtaz Ali. He also identified the male dancer – and that is the exciting part – as Shyam Kumar! This has to be the singer himself. But I think we should also look for corroboration. (I have indicated in my conversations with Minoo Mumtaz how I came to have some acquaintance with them).

    There is more to come. Around the time of your post, I read in Ashok Da Ranade’s ‘Hindi Film Songs: Music Beyond Boundaries’ that there was a famous drum dance in V Shantaram’s Chandrasena (1935), in which Azurie was the lead dancer. Lo and behold, a regular at my blog, Mr Venkataraman, sent me this link of the said drum dance. For a 1935 film, the video quality is superb. Putting two and two together, the dancer on the central drum should be our Azurie! This is fantastic, even though we see her mostly in silhouette. This leads us to another research topic – which is her first dance in films?

  11. Thank you for all the good information, AK! By the way, I did read your very interesting post about your visit with Ajaz Ali and Minoo Mumtaz. A while back, I actually fantasized about looking for Minoo Mumtaz, myself, during one of my stays with my sister in Ithaca, NY, not far from Niagara (either side). But for various reasons, I could not begin to follow through.

    Anyway, it is excellent to have that information about the male dancer in “O Janewala Balamwa.” I will revise this post accordingly, possibly this weekend.

    It is great to see that Azurie drum dance, too. By the way, that Dalymotion site belongs to Minai, who commented above; Kasuvandi is another of her noms de blog.

    Regarding Azurie’s first film appearance, Cineplot speculates that it is a film called Nadira, which came out in 1934.

    And yes, I have been very busy and tired lately… Actually moved to another town (Philadelphia) to work at a challenging and time-consuming job for at least a few months (if it lasts) in order to better survive for the time being. And it takes much less time and energy to post a few videos (whether here or on Facebook) than to write full sentences in a blog :) , especially if you are a perfectionist when it comes to writing (and editing all writings), as I am (and as I think you must be to some extent too). So, anyway, I hope this response has been detailed enough for now. :)

    Swarup, I also need to get back to you more, don’t I? I guess we can try to solve the puzzle re. when Azurie moved to Pakistan. I had thought it was not that easy for a film star, singer, or dancer who moved there during Partition to move back and forth. It took Noor Jehan over 30 years to come back to India, but, then she had her whole identity tied up with Pakistan and vice versa to a degree. Runa Laila managed to go back and forth a little, but a bit later (and anyway, she was from East Pakistan/Bangladesh).

    But I am also going to have to look into that thesis – a lot of catching up to do!

  12. Richard,
    Do not worry about getting back to me. I took some interest because you were interested. I am happy reading that dissertation about Indu Mitha. I always wondered about all that routine stuff in Bharatanatyam and why people did not adopt it modern concerns. I am happy that Indu Mitha has done that and that Uday Shankar’s legacy lives on.
    About going back and forth between India and Pakistan, I read somewhere that it was easy until 1965 and several film personalities did that. I think that some playback singers and music directors were also part of those travels.
    Good luck with your job.

  13. Songs of Yore,
    Is it the same Shyam Kumar who acted in the film Dard 1947?

  14. Richard, about interactions between indian and Pakistani film industries, here is one story 9a bit gaudy, but Cineplot essentially gives the same story. This has additional information about Vinod)
    Sheila Ramani acted in a Pakistani film in the fifties. Geeta Dutt and Talat sang in Pakistani films. I mthink one MD from India worked in Pakistani films for a fewyears. There must be many more cases. I think, it all chamged after the 65 war.and is getting better again.
    I think it will difficult to find more about Azuri without access to some journals and books from Pakistan.

  15. Gaddeswarupji,
    This Shyam Kumar is different from the actor-singer Shyam of Dillagi, who also acted in films like Bazaar (1949). While Shyam sang his own songs in some films, Shyam Kumar was primarily a playback singer.

  16. What exciting progress we are are making on Ms. Azurie! SongofYore, that’s a fantastic tidbit you dug up about the Chandrasena (1935) dancer being Azurie! I had discussed that dance in my post on dances in early Indian cinema, but I had no idea the dancer was Azurie. It’s really a fantastic dance especially for the time, and the silhouette concept and costume is clearly inspired by the Prabhat Films logo.

    Richard – I checked WorldCat.org for the “Madame Auzrie: an Album of a Dancing Queen” book and it says the University of Pennsylvania library has a copy (specifically at the Van Pelt Library, 3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19104-6206)–seeing above that you said you are now located in Philadelphia, how close are you to this library? :D :D :D :D I could also try to request the book through Interlibrary Loan through the College I work at…I’ve been getting fairly rare books that way for a while, though I try to space out my requests. :)

    There is a bunch of pictures at Life’s photo archive that look very much like Auzurie, especially compared to the poses and costumes she had in those Australian/Singapore articles linked to above. Check it out:
    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/6a3f1604fe5c57c9.html (I swear I have seen this picture somewhere else online with names credited to it…)
    http://images.google.com/hosted/life/b38aacad5da791b4.html (rather unfortunate undergarment color! ;D)

    Also, of interest to the topic of Jewish stars in Bollywood, look at this fabulous picture of Kamalesh/Kamlesh Kumari (mentioned at the Jews of India forum) and Shambhu Maharaj in Sunil Kothari’s book on Kathak. I’ve been meaning to find more information on her forever but haven’t had the chance. Thought this was a great opportunity to post that pic!

    I’ve saved the best for last though. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Kamala in the article “Paga Ghungroo Re” in Sruti magazine:
    Q. Did you learn Kathak completely?
    A. Oh yes. And I remember whatever I have learnt. I used to brush up my learning with Gopi-krishna’s help.
    Q. You have performed Kathak with him in a film. Am I right?
    A. Yes. I have danced also with Auzurie and Sadhana Bose.

    So our Baby/Kumari Kamala danced with Auzurie and Sadhana Bose! I assume she meant in films…wow!

  17. Minai, thanks for all those links! I will have to spend some more time later to look at all of them.

    Re. the Penn library, it is an easy walk from my current residence, under a mile. Unfortunately, though, as I understand it, you can’t take anything out of that library without an ID from Penn or a related school, or some kind of courtesy card. It’s been a long, long time since i went to the U. of Penn., so I am not going to have an ID, and I’m not sure how to get the courtesy card.

    Regarding that picture of Azurie, yes, I saw it before and probably shared it. I have shared most of the pics from that page already. :) If you are doing things on Facebook anyway, why don’t you start a regular account rather than just doing your blog page?

    Maybe you just haven’t gotten around to it… I didn’t have a Facebook account until close to 11 months ago, and I still wouldn’t have it if it weren’t started by someone else for me (who is no longer around there unfortunately – and I had a longer explanation about that, but I decided to delete it :) )… Anyway, I resisted the phenomenon for a long time, but I’ve got to admit that Facebook has been a big advantage for exchanging pics, videos, and other information with at least half a dozen of my “Bolly blogging” friends as well people from entirely different circles (which sometimes strangely overlap with this one). Alas, it also probably led to my spending less time on this blog, but the consequences weren’t as great as I thought they might be.

  18. Gaddeswarupji,
    On Shyam and Shyam Kumar I had some discussion with Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh. Meanwhile I also happened to watch three movies which had Shyam Kumar – Dard, Dillagi and Dulari. In all these Shyam Kumar was in a negative role. To make it interesting, Dillagi also had Shyam in the lead role. Shyam was one of the major actors of his time, but his career was short-lived as he had a fatal fall from horse riding while shooting for Shabistan (1951).

    Shyam Kumar on the other hand had a longer career, but mostly as a villain. He was also a playback singer. I am also advised by Arunji that the actor Shyam never sang, and all the songs ascribed to Shyam are actually by Shyam Kumar.

    You may treat my previous comment corrected to this extent.

  19. Richard, You’re only a mile away from that library, what a coincidence! :) According to that library’s website, it’s only open to the public before 6 on weekdays. And that’s just to visit and read–if you want to check stuff out, you’re right, you need a visitor card and it’s hundreds of dollars! Wow, the universities here and not nearly this stringent at all. So I suppose if you ever have time before 6 on a weekday, you could go there and jot down or type up interesting portions from the book. Tell your boss important research about Azurie awaits!! lol ;D Glad to see you already knew about that great Facebook page. I do have a personal Facebook account, but I keep it strictly private… actually until I created my blog-page I rarely used FB and hated it! But I’ve come around. :) I was frustrated to find that I could not friend people with my “page” (and there’s lots of things different about pages, although they do allow you to view detailed visitor statistics which is interesting). Live and learn. :)

    I found another blurb about Azurie in this book by spelling her name “Azoori,” and it mentions the Cuckoo connection you noted above:
    “It is not clear on whom the title of the first vamp of Hindi cinema should be conferred. It has often been said that Azoori and Kuldeep Kaur were dancing before Cuckoo came along in 1945, and that Cuckoo modelled herself on Azoori; but in terms of public memory, it is the student who outdid the master. Cuckoo is still a distant memory for film buffs; Kuldeep and Azoori are connoisseur’s curiosities. Helen eclipsed them all and established such a pinnacle of achievement that all the dancers and anti-heroines who came afterwards would look like bad copies.”

    I’ve never heard of Kuldeep before. Here’s an article about her with a picture. Another research topic! :)

  20. Minai, unfortunately, now that you have told me this much, I am pretty certain I am not going to be able to look at that book in the library for as long as I have this job. But the job is scheduled for only four months (until the beginning of October), and who knows if I or it will last even that long? And maybe I’ll be somewhere around here later on (I’m not sure). The present residence actually goes only through August, so everything is uncertain. That’s my life in recent years (and I know I’m far from alone in that regard)…

    Anyway, thank you for informing me about yet another book. :) I guess that passage is pretty accurate. I actually like Cuckoo more than Helen, but to some fans of classic Bollywood, saying such a thing probably amounts to blasphemy! But I do like Helen, too. And Azurie, and Kuldeep Kaur. I remember Kuldeep Kaur best as the queen of the dacoits in Baiju Bawra. Meena Kumari was gorgeous in that film (and was on the road to becoming even more gorgeous a few years later), but Kuldeep was actually more interesting. But I think that was because of the characters they played… Anyway, Sadaat Hasan Manto also wrote some interesting stuff about Kuldeep in Stars from Another Sky. I will have to look for quotes later (and am not sure I even took the book to Philly – left so may things in different places – but I’ll look for it…).

  21. Swarup, no, I can’t say that I have heard of her. Is this another book to add to the list? I haven’t really been able to find any real books on the subject(s) so far, the kind that I could carry on a bus or train or read before going to sleep. (I read about this stuff before going to sleep sometimes, but it’s with the laptop on a little table next to my bed and a trackball in my hand. Seems the only way nowadays… Especially right now, when I don’t have a printer within reach.)

  22. Richard, No biggie if you can’t make it to the library. :) If you want, remind me later and I’ll see if I can get it through interlibrary loan.

    Gaddeswarup, I have seen that book “The Dance in India”, and while I don’t recall specifics I remember finding it to be very much a product of the time period and similar to other titles around that era. I had no idea that it is considered to be the first comprehensive book about Indian dance! There are many other books about Indian dance before the 1960s,.but maybe Enakshi’s was really the first to cover all forms of dance in India including folk. Interesting, I will have to revisit it again! Richard, I found the book “Indian Dance: The Ultimate Metaphor” very helpful in covering all the classical Indian dance forms in an understandable way. Quality really varies in this subject I have found, especially the further back in time you go when some forms weren’t even considered “classical” yet and factual inconsistencies were more common (and there was much less critical analysis compared to the last 20 years or so).

    How interesting that Enakshi Bhavni was an actress too and the lead in Shiraz (1928)! That used to be up on YT but looks like it’s gone now, darn it!

  23. Minai, The Hindu link I mentioned above said “THE EARLIEST author to write comprehensively on the different forms of Indian dance was Enakshi (Rama Rao) Bhavnani who, in 1965, published her book The Dance in India. This unique treatise deals with the origin and history, foundations and the art and science of dances in India – classical, folk and tribal. The numerous photographs reproduced in this book are of real archival value. The next eminent writer to deal with the subject is Kapila Vatsysyan whose publication Indian Classical Dance is an equally illuminating work.” That is from where I got the impression. Enakshi seems to have written scripts too for some documentaries made by her husband Bhavnani.Seems to be a multi-talented lady but we know very little about her. I found only one reference to her in Telugu newspapers. It seems Enakshi means some thing like ‘deer-eyed’.

  24. Just ran across a bunch of early Prabhat Films songs uploaded on YouTube recently, and found the credits for Chandrasena! http://youtu.be/T1RPGR3xlLA?t=52s At :54 seconds–proof of Azurie’s participation in the dance. You can see her name at the bottom, “Azuri,” credited for the “dance.” The whole playlist of song clips from the film is here (including a better quality version of the Azuri dance). I have a post in the works about some more early film dances I found and am so excited more Prabhat Films clips are available online! Toodles, ~Minai

  25. Richard, it seems to me that Azurie performs 2 songs in Rattan : O jaanewaale balamwa and Mil Ke Bichad Gayi Ankhiya (around 1h16mn from the movie start). She wears exactly the same outfit and it is much easier to identify her as Azurie in the second song since she does not dance.

  26. Richard, I did not know that Tom had restored this song. He’s truly a magician! By the way, isn’t she also in Shahjehan (1946) dancing in Jab Usne Gesu Bikhraye? She seems to be credited in the movie (3rd line, 2nd position, just after Nazir Bedi). But maybe I’m wrong…

  27. Hi, I am very delighted to read about your interest in Azurie’s films and dances.
    I have the privilege of personally knowing Azurie. I met her in 1990 in Rawalpindi, where she used to live with her adopted son in a dilapidated apartment in Hotel Metropol.

    She migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and lived in Rawalpindi and Karachi. It was for the Indian film Bahana that she went to India in 1958. After the completion of the film she returned to Pakistan.


  28. Sheraz, thank you for sending in this info, and it is great to hear from someone who knew Azure personally. Given the economic fate of so many classic dancers and actors in old Hindi films, I am not surprised to see that she ended up living in a dilapidated apartment. I hope, in any event, that she did not have an unhappy life during all these years after her retirement from the cinema.

    And by the way, sorry about the delay in approving this, etc. The timing was not good for me this week… But there is no way I would have let this comment sit in the queue forever!

  29. Dear Richard

    Thanks for your note.

    Right now, I am in the process of documenting my memories of Anna. I hope to get the work published during the year. I will be very delighted if you ever have anything to share or ask about her.


  30. Madam Azurie was also sketched by Pakistan’s leading painter Gulgee and that sketch has come up for sale…

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