13 comments on “My Discovery of Classical Singer Azambai of Kolhapur Leads Me to a Search for a 1935 Film Starring A Teenager Named Chitalkar

  1. Thank you Richard for this insightful piece. I am in Pune and might even get a chance to catch a special screening but u fortunately will not be able to share on YouTube. I sincerely hope that NFAI would consider sharing their out of copyright treasure trove online someday!

  2. This is a revelation, Richard. I hadn’t known about Azambai (am just listening to the clips you’ve posted – brilliant!), and not about Naganand, either. Fascinating stuff. I won’t be able to go to Pune either, but I do hope the NFAI would put films like this out for a wider audience to watch.

    P.S. Regarding all those extra ‘a’s in Naagaanand – I can completely understand. It helps figure out, if you’re not using the ā, how to pronounce the a. :-)

  3. Pritha, you’re welcome. If you do get to see this film, please tell us about it! And, yes, it would be nice if NFAI would be open to sharing… Even if we can’t ever see it on YouTube, maybe we might some day at Indiancine.ma? :)

  4. Madhu, I am delighted to see that you’re also appreciating the great voice of Azambai now, and thank you for the word about this being fascinating stuff! And yes, wouldn’t it be nice if the NFAI spread these old films around more? I don’t know what would stop them from doing so – or maybe letting others do so… It doesn’t seem to have a complicated restoration story like, say, Uday Shankar’s Kalpana. :)

    Anyway, it’s no surprise to me that you’re fine with the spelling as “Naagaanand.” I know you like to use the extra “a”s yourself. :)

  5. I am happy to read that you are trying to know more about Azam Bai.
    Azam Bai,s real name was Vidya Pisal and the Title of Azambai was given to her by Station Director of A.I.R. Mr. Bukhari. She hailed from Kolhapur and except Naganand, she does not seem to have acted in any other film. Film Naganand was a Bi-Lingual film, in Marathi and Hindi. Even C. Ramchandra (Ram Chitalkar,then) had sung 2 songs in it.

  6. Thank you for that information, Arunkumar! Though one person on YouTube mentioned her being in “a few” films, I also could find evidence of only one film. And I thought that if C. Ramchandra was in this film, he must have sung at least a couple of songs, too. (I wonder why he changed from “Chitalkar Ram” to “C. Ramchandra” – hmm.) Well, now I am even more eager to find it sometime!

  7. Richard ji,

    CR has written about it in his Marathi Autobiography.

    The relevant portion is like this…

    ” One day famous Director/Producer Jayant Desai called me and I was appointed his Music Director on Rs.300 pm salary. At the time of signing the contract Jayant Desai said,’ Yaar tumhara naam bahut simple hai’ (your this name is too simple)

    I said,” to kya karen ?” (so, what to do ?)

    He said,” Change it. Take some screen name”

    After marriage a woman’s name changes, here I was asked to change my name. I suddenly remembered V Shantaram.

    I said,” OK. From today I will be C RAMCHANDRA”…

    This is how he changed his own name.

  8. His real full name was Ramchandra (His name) Narhari ( Father’s name)Chitalkar( Surname).

  9. That story is funny. Though he didn’t really take anyone else’s name (so it wasn’t really like a woman taking a new name in marriage); he just changed his own around. But I had no idea he had been inspired by thinking of V. Shantaram. :)

  10. Richard,
    Very nice post, and your writing style is always unique. I was aware of C Ramchanhdra’s ‘Naganand’ connection, but this is the first time I am hearing Azam Bai. Thanks a lot. About the extra ‘a’, the problem of transliterating Hindi words into Roman script is very problematic. Madhu surely would not write Dileep Kumaar, Mahaatmaa Gaandhee etc. I would write ‘Naganand’. I do use double vowels where I feel it is needed for clarity. Confusing, but that’s the way it is.

  11. AK, why did I let your comment go unanswered for so long? I meant to answer, but I forgot for a while… I guess I am getting too used to receiving nice words from you! :)

    Anyway, you are welcome, and I appreciate that comment about my “unique” writing style!

    It is true that it can be confusing for the spelling in transliterations to be so optional – basically a matter of personal judgment rather than specific rules – especially regarding the use of single or double vowels.

    For the past few decades, I have earned most of my wages working as a proofreader – in the English language, of course. When I first started blogging about Indian films a dozen years ago, I got very concerned about whether I was spelling titles right, and I wondered why so many people spelled them one way but then a few spelled them another way. Then I started to learn a little Hindi (very little, as it turns out :) ), and in the process, I realized how flexible the spellings in transliteration could be, especially with regard to the use or insertion of vowels. So, anyway, I am no longer as concerned about whether I am following the correct spelling of everything. :)

  12. I just heard Azambai of Kolhapur on TV YouTube and was blown away by the top standard of her singing.
    I wrote to my friend in Kolhapur about my experience and asked him why I had not even heard of her during my stay in Kolhapur when she was between 54 and 60 and I was a high school student interested in Hindustani Classical Music and pursuing lessons in tabla . I was in the music crowd yet never heard of her. It all happened in the last three hours and in my quest I turned to Google and got a lot of other information about her except an answer to my question.
    Good to read others went through the same experience.

  13. Vishwas, I am glad to see that you were blown away by her singing too! I think it is clear that you have had a much stronger focus in your life on Hindustani classical music than I have (to put it mildly), and it certainly is unfortunate that you did not hear about her even while you were in a classical music crowd in Kolhapur. Whatever the faults of these huge companies such as YouTube and Google, I cannot deny that they have been an enormous help in terms of helping me to discover musicians and singers in all genres that I certainly would not have known about without such services. This is especially true of YouTube. When looking at YouTube (which I do an awful lot, admittedly), I tend simply to follow my whims based on stumbling upon one thing or another and then, if I am interested, searching for other things that I see might be related to it. Sometimes, the suggestions list or the the videos that appear in the sidebar help, though I find it to be more rewarding to search for things, myself.

    It would be good if it were easy to find explanations regarding why we haven’t heard about singers and musicians when we should have before. But I’m afraid that’s a more complicated kind of question that might not be searched so easily. (Sometimes, I try to type specific questions into a Google search bar, and I will get an answer to some question, but it will almost never be the specific one I’ve asked. And then I can try to edit or rephrase my questions, but still, I end up with things that have nothing to do with what I was looking for – and it can go on that way for quite a while. :) )

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