This week, I have finally been discovering the first great item dancer of Hindi cinema. I have seen her and been aware of her before, but I didn’t fully know who she was. But now it’s all clicked into place.
I guess that discovery started with my discovery of the identity of the dancers in my favorite scene from Ratan (1944). A while back, there was a discussion here of people trying to guess who the dancers were…
Everyone loved the male dancer, but no one seemed to realize at the time I posted this that he was the father in the Minoo/Mehmood clan, Mumtaz Ali. That fact showed up in YouTube comments, etc., pretty quickly. There was also one comment on YouTube that named the female dancer as Azurie. Admittedly, there have been disputes as to whether or not the dancer in other scenes up on YouTube was really Azurie, but until someone tells me otherwise, I’ll take the word of that one comment that she was the dancer in “O Janewala Balemwa.” One reason I believe this is because I read elsewhere that Azurie was a major influence on the woman whom I originally mistook as the first great item dancer; that is, Helen’s mentor, Cuckoo. This is mostly conjecture, but I think you can actually see that the dancer in “O Janewala Balemwa” was an influence on Cuckoo…
Recently, I also saw a picture of Azurie that popped up on the Vintage Era page of Facebook. (And if that isn’t enough to intrigue someone, what is?)
I also learned that Azurie was one of the great old female Jewish stars of Indian cinema that we’ve been talking a lot about lately. (So, what perfect timing it was to start learning about her! And by the way, there is a very good list of Jewish Bollywood stars in a discussion at the Jews of India Forum.) In terms of national origins, her mother was Indian and her father was German. That information can be found in a decent post over at the Cineplot Encyclopedia. It was there that I learned, also, that she migrated to Pakistan. She did not do this in 1947, but in 1960, somewhat like Rehana (who migrated to Pakistan in 1956). According to Cineplot, her first film might have been one called Nadira (like the name of another famous Jewish actress…), which was made in 1934. Her last film in India was Bahana, which was released in 1960, and she starred in other films in Pakistan, such as Jhoomar, which actually has a release date of 1959. She died in Pakistan in 1998, at the age of 90 or 91.
So, Azurie was clearly around for quite a while, too. I hope this means I can dig up some more scenes with her in them, whether in films or elsewhere, and other info, too. I would like her to continue to be a subject in this blog. Welcome, Azurie!
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…
Oh I love Mumtaz Ali sightings, and to have him dance with this beautiful woman! I can’t wait to check out the songs.
Vinayak Razdan had a short post about her
If you search under her actual name, there is much more information like this
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.
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.
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.
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.
>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. :-)
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
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…)
Following up a link given by Minai, I came across this doctoral thesis
Click to access 8km963tz.pdf
There is some information on Azurie on pages 39 and 99-100. It seems that she is a serious dancer.
The information about moving to Pakistan in 1960 may not be correct. Both the above dissertation and Sheema Kermani in http://www.narthaki.com/info/articles/art286.html
Say that she moved in 1947. perhaps she came back to Bombay off and on to finish her roles in the pictures. Sheema Kermani is a dance teacher-activist who taught Bharatanatyam and odissi and still teaching in Pakistan.
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?
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!
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.
Songs of Yore,
Is it the same Shyam Kumar who acted in the film Dard 1947?
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.
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.
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!
Just found this: A picture of Azuri at the Facebook page of the documentary “Shalom Bollywood” about Indian Jewish contributions to Indian cinema. Looks to have some rare photos, especially of Jewish actresses!
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.
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.
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! :)
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…).
I wonder whether you came across anather actor-dancer from early days Enakshi Rama Rao. Apparently, she wrote a book on dance and had a Ph.D.
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.)
I do not know. In some places, it is touted as the first comprehensive book about Indian dances. I looked at a bit since the name seemed a Telugu name.
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!
Minai, Eanakshi had a Ph. D. too, we are waiting for yours.
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’.
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
Good visual research, Minai :) – thank you for confirming this!
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.
Thank you, Mel. Yes, Azurie is in that one, too – another beautiful song from Ratan:
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…
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.
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!
By the way, I also see that I never answered Mel’s comment from six months back. Well, I’ll have to get back to that. :)
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.
Madam Azurie was also sketched by Pakistan’s leading painter Gulgee and that sketch has come up for sale…
I’ve always been skeptical about Azurie being born in 1907 as it is written on her Cineplot profile.
It is known that she started her film career as a dancer in 1934. She would have been 27 which is a very old age to begin in the film industry. Moreover, she danced in Bahana in 1958. Was she really 51? Something’s wrong here…
Today, I found this little text in the January 1938 issue of Filmindia: “Miss Azurie, if I mistake not, is an Anglo-Indian girl about twenty-two years old. She is not working in any company at present but is a free lancer. The last time I heard of her she was staying at Colaba, but since then I have lost all track of her. She happens to be a personal friend of mine, but evidently she has forgotten to keep me posted of her movements. Azurie is a famous dancer and the very fact that she is in demand proves her popularity. ”
Baburao Patel says here that she was about 22 at the very end of 1937 (Filmindia was a monthly magazine and there is usually a delay before publication). Therefore, she was born around 1915. That’s 8 years after what is believed today!
Did Baburao Patel really know Azurie? Obviously he did not know about her German father, but he figured out that she was not “all-Indian”, which confirms he knew her. In addition, he was the director of one of her early movies: “Pardesi Saiyan” released in 1935.
By the way, a much better source of Azurie’s picture on her Cineplot profile is here:
Mel, so you are saying that Azurie was actually younger than the age reported on Cineplot (which I gather is the commonly assumed age, too)… Well, I don’t have the faintest idea regarding whether or not you may be right. I will say, though, that this is a change from the usual error that’s made, such as the one we discussed with Roshan Kumari, where the commonly reported age would make the dancer impossibly young. I find the Roshan Kumari kind of example to be a little more aggravating, because it seems that no one has even bothered to question how she (Roshan or some other dancer) could have been, say, eight years old in dances where she looked fully grown. And I think only Kamala could have done impressive dances so far ahead of her years at the age of eight. The Indian actresses started young, but not everyone was a child prodigy!
It’s a little less puzzling to think that a dancer could have been featured in a film at the age of 51. (Plus, it’s not unheard of, though maybe it’s more common now than it would have been in the 1950s.)
It’s very interesting that you are looking at issues of Filmindia from 1938. (I didn’t even know that it existed yet in 1938, but I looked it up, and it had been around since three years earlier.) Regarding Baburao Patel, I don’t know if he is the most reliable source, either, regarding little facts like Azurie’s age. As you pointed out, he got her heritage slightly wrong. And while I give him credit for being a pioneer in a lot of ways, I was not too thrilled with some of the writings of his that I saw… I recall seeing a few articles posted by Greta aka Memsaab that were very nasty (though I guess he was somewhat known for that), and he got some things completely wrong. (E.g., check out this post at Memsaab’s from 1944 that shows him panning both Dilip Kumar and Noor Jehan: http://memsaabstory.com/2010/05/01/bits-and-pieces/#more-13632 ) While the pics from Filmindia are invaluable, I am not so convinced that the writing is. :)
In any event, thanks for continuing to dig up so much stuff. Regarding Azurie, in sum, I just have no answer, except… Could be…
Regarding the pic, yes, that’s more clear than the one in Cineplot. But I still most like the one that I copied from that Facebook page (which pic I have also seen in other places a little after I posted it here). I think that one makes her look fascinating!
Hi Richard, yes Baburao Patel was nasty and even rude sometimes. He was apparently fond of Cuckoo but he did not like Azurie very much. Maybe he did not like her trying to start a career in England in 1938 (I don’t know if she could make a film there)…
Woman’s age and look were important to him and he made quite often nasty comments about older actresses. Durga Khote was one of his constant targets (she was allegedly born in 1905). For instance in the reader’s questions section of the August 1938 issue:
“Question: I am an admirer of Durga Khote and I want all the news about her?
Answer: I can’t give you all the news. Write to Mubarak Merchant c/jo Nataraj Films, Queen’s Road,
Bombay and he will tell you all you want to know. By the way, what is your age?”
If Azurie was born in 1907 or 1906 as it is written in some of her biographies, you can imagine what he could have written all along the years. By the way, he actually did in 1946: https://archive.org/stream/filmindia194814unse#page/34/mode/2up. She was 31, which was quite old for a dancer in the film industry at that time. So this “old-timer” remark is understandable, even more if he did not like her.
Just to give an example of issues with Azurie being born in 1907: Cineplot writes :” As a young girl, she became aware of Eastern dancing during a rare visit to the cinema, but her father did not allow her to practice classical dance. When Anna reached her teens, the family moved to Bombay.”
This suggest that the young Azurie saw and enjoyed eastern dance (I understand Indian dance) in a movie in Bangalore around 1920 or before. I don’t think it’s possible. There was simply no dance in Indian movies at that time.
On the other hand, 8 years later if she was born in 1915 instead of 1907, it was difficult but possible to see some dance in movies. And it makes full sense if young Azurie saw a talkie in 1931.
The story about Begum Atiya Rahman is extremely plausible, and fascinating too, but the dates are wrong…
I prefer your picture too :)
She taught at the Station School Rawalpindi Pakistan in the 1980s and she was my arts/dance teacher in grades 1 – 3.
That is very interesting! It also makes me think more about this question of her age… Even if Mel is correct and she was born about 1915, the would mean she had to be in her late 60s or early 70s when she taught at your school. Is that right? Or could she have possibly been in her late 70s or early 80s? (Seems less likely, but…) Though I guess if you were in grades 1-3, it would be difficult to remember something like that – or know at such a young age.. .Anyway, thanks for the info, Omar!
Thank you much for looking into Madam Azurie also known as “Mommy” by her dance students. She was one of the most influential people in my life. I started learning dance from her in early 90s. I never saw any articles about her until now. There was a pictured biography book launched for her by Pakistan Arts Council in Islamabad around 1995, 96 a few months before her passing away in Rawalpindi. I remember she used to mention that her father was a German doctor and mother a Hindu Brahman. She was raised catholic in a covenant school in India and married a Muslim who was serving in military if I remember correctly. They were two sisters and her sister didn’t move from India. She had a rather lonely life towards the end but never saw her sad or depressed. She always reminded me of bygone era. I was there at her funeral also, only 10-15 people attended her funeral. She was buried in a Church cemetery, under an old tree in Rawalpindi. Miss her…
Senseish, it is great to get some information from someone who actually knew Azurie and knows a few more things about her than the rest of us! And great that you studied dance with her. If you pursued dancing more and have any clips of yourself out there, I am curious to see them. :) (I have seen a number of dance clips by a couple of students of Roshan Kumari, and I have been in touch with at least one of them. Also, there is a dancer I’ve corresponded with here who studied with Sadhana Bose. But this is the first time I heard from anyone who studied with Azurie!)
Is this really the first article or post you’ve seen about her? That’s great! But as you see above, there are a few other articles and posts out there…
And I did read other posts in which people thought she was a Jew. But if you are sure she was a Catholic and went to convent school, that can’t be right… Unless her father is known to have ethnic Jewish heritage and she was assumed to be a Jew ethnically. (BTW, I am considered to be Jewish ethnically but my parents didn’t even observe the religion, and I have no knowledge of Judaism or its rituals; I never even know when the Jewish holidays are. So I wouldn’t be disposed to assume that someone who might have had some Jewish heritage sometime back was religiously a Jew. :) )
Anyway, it’s interesting that she was another actress-dancer who ended up with a solitary life at the end. Sometimes that isn’t so bad. Some have died heartbroken and/or in poverty, but it seems that some are perfectly OK leading a reclusive existence later, and I certainly can understand that.
If you have more thoughts or stories about Azurie that you’d like to send in, they would certainly be welcome here!
I as a very young kid had seen her in Rawalpindi whom my cousin recognized.,and told that she was the dancing queen who adored being in this part of punjab.
I came across this very nice newpapaer article of Azurie when she visited India. Nice pic of her along with Pramila who starred in “Basant”
Click to access Azurie-kaustubh-pingle.pdf
I found a very good article of Azurie when she visited India. There is a nice pic of her at that time along with actress Pramila of “Basant” 1942
Click to access Azurie-kaustubh-pingle.pdf
Thank you very much, SK, for that article! It’s fantastic. Among other things, I found out who her partner was in the Rattan dance:
What a woman she was!
Yes, thank you, SK, for that very interesting-looking article. I am going to have to enlarge it and look at it more carefully sometime soon, but it does look great just at a glance, too. And it is certainly good to get this information (pointed out by Tom) that the male dancer in the Ratan dance is Krishna Kumar.
BTW, I see that you submitted two copies. I am thinking that maybe you thought it wasn’t going through because it was being held in my queue, waiting for my approval. I will delete one of the comments if you like, though it’s also worth having two copies here. :)
Tom, seeing that the male dancer here is Krishna Kumar, I am now looking at the old Dastan snake dance and trying to be more conscious of the similarities so that maybe if he pops up in another film that I see, I’ll recognize him more easily. (Though he does look pretty different between those two scenes… Seems a bit taller and lankier in the Ratan dance. Maybe it’s because there’s a difference in the height of his partners?)
Just a bit of more information regarding Krishna Kumar. He is indeed the dancer in “Dastaan” but you can get a better view of him in “Jadoo” first song where he dances so well with Nalini Jaywant and Sharda ( by the way Sharda was the sister of Vinod Mehra). Another film where you can see him clearly is “Beqasoor” where he dances with Madhubala in the only 2 songs of that film where the MD was Hansraj Behl and not Anil Biswas. Apparently Krishna Kumar was murdered in 1952.
Oh, he’s the male dancer in the Beqasoor songs as well?
I believe the year of his death was 1951 (or maybe late 1950, because of the lag between filming and release) as in the credits to the 1951 film Awara, choreography credit is given to ‘Late Krishna Kumar’ as well as to his brother Surya:
2:25 into the film. I believe that Surya took over his late brother’s contractual obligations and went on to become the greatest choreographer in Indian film history, in my opinion. And Krishna had already choreographed many very fine dances by then and it’s tragic his career was cut so short. And to think that Azurie was at least a little bit responsible for this great gift to Indian films.
Thank you again, SK. You’re a wealth of information.
Thank you both for the wealth of information! It is often difficult to find information about the choreographers in these films (a big difference from the music directors, who are treated by many as the films’ biggest stars – not that they shouldn’t be)…
The dances from Beqasoor are delightful; it was very nice to watch them on Madhubala’s birthday.
Regarding Awara, of course, those weren’t the only choreographers billed in this film. The famous dream sequence was choreographed by Uday Shankar’s dance partner, Simkie. Cassidy Minai did an extensive write-up of that:
Her is another dance of Azurie in “Sanjog” 1943
Thanks again, SK. I know about that dance from Sanjog and have posted it on this blog a couple of times. In another post, I was the one telling other people that this was Azurie. :)
There was some discussion about this dance in a post about “mystery dancers”… I started it in reference to Khazanch (1941), but in the comments, a number of other dances and dancers came up. There is also some discussion about Surya Kumar…
Actually, the mystery dancer in this case was the male dancer. I am not sure if the question was ever completely answered/resolved. (Maybe you know the answer?) The pertinent part of the discussion starts here:
Unfortunately, as of this comment, the dance clip is missiing, obviously taken down… Maybe I will replace it with the one that you provided. But the dancers are a little distorted there, looking much wider than they should. (As Tom pointed out a while ago, this is what happens when there is a bad aspect ratio.) Well, I’ll look around and see if there other versions; otherwise, this is certainly better than no clip at all!
By the way, SK, I have decided to write a new post featuring five Krishna Kumar dances, and I am crediting you for the information (and Tom for the videos). Thanks a lot for giving me inspiration to write a new post – and something a bit different, too, rather than another birthday or death day post. :) (The post will probably go up within a couple of hours of this comment (unless my day is interrupted, in which case it will almost certainly go out by tomorrow.)
Richard the dancer with Azurie in “Sanjog” is indeed Krishna Kumar in his early days. He is not the person dancing with Cuckoo in “Singaar” and definitely the male dancer there is NOT Prem Dhawan either. Prem Dhawan can be clearly seen dancing in “Arzoo” 1950 with Cuckoo.
By the way the dance of “Sanjog” clearly shows how nimble both Azure and Krishna are in their dances and maybe the male is a bit more graceful!!
SK, thanks for confirming re. Sanjog as well. That is a great dance! I’ve already put up the Krishna Kumar post, but I will have to add this one (in comments or as a “bonus”).
It seems as though at least half of the mystery male dancers in these clips that I’ve posted over the past few years were Krishna Kumar. :)
Do you think that Krishna Kumar is more graceful than Azurie? That’s interesting. (He is definitely more graceful and skilled as a dancer than Madhubala in the two Beqasoor scenes.)
By the way, I found two somewhat better-looking copies of the Sanjog dance. Of the two, this one below, has better sound. The Friends logos are pretty intrusive (especially when two appear), but otherwise, I think this will be the best one to replace the missing clips elsewhere:
Hello! Was searching on Google for one of our school dance teacher called madame anna,somebody told me she also was known as madame azuri.she use to teach us dance and arts in a christian school called station school.
Zara, that is interesting. Was this in Rawalpindi Pakistan? If so, I guess you were in the same school as Omar Javed (who commented above – on August 7, 2015)?
Hello Richard if u r still working on madam azurie i would like to tell u can have a lot information about her life in a book kare jahan draz h part 3 by famous Urdu writer quratulain hyder it is published in India with name of shahra e hareer u should read it a must
In Movie Ratan 1944 – O Janewale Balamwa… with Azurie the male dancer is Krishna Kumar aka Tony, brother of another choreographer Surya Kumar. He was murdered and murderer was never caught.
You can see more of Krishna Kumar in Jadoo 1951 dancing with Nalini Jaywant & Sharda and in Beqasoor 1950 dancing with Madhubala. He was murdered in 1952
Kusum, thank you for that information. We did actually find out a few years ago that the male dancer in “O Janewale Balamwa” is Kishna Kumar. :) This actually came out in the conversation above, in comments starting on February 14, 2016. And I was inspired by this conversation – among other things – to do a whole post of Krishna Kumar’s dances, on February 17, 2016. It’s over here:
We know that he was the brother of Surya Kumar and that he was murdered. My impression was that the murderer was caught – or at least identified – because some people made some references to a motive of envy or jealousy or something like that. That comes up somewhere in the comments to these multiple posts. (I may look for that information later – it might take some time. :) ) I did not know – or maybe I had forgotten – that he was referred to as Tony.
SAM, thank you. I know these things. :)
Maybe you also would like to see my post of dances by Krishna Kumar. I have added the link to it in my answer to Kusum, right above!
One would think that with these years’ worth of comments packed with information following my original post, maybe we all managed to cover everything about Azurie that is known. :) But one short excerpt from a new book by Usha Iyer proves that idea wrong! The excerpt is from Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema, and I saw via my Facebook feed on the evening of October 27 that it had just been posted in Scroll.in:
By the way, when I then shared a link to the article on Facebook and Usha Iyer saw my post, she informed me that she had actually mentioned this blog – as well as Dustedoff and Cinema Nritya – in her acknowledgments in the book. That was a nice surprise to me – an extra reward that I got in addition to having had the pleasure of reading a new, informative, and fascinating book excerpt about Azurie!