Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs

Rehne laga hai dil mein andhera tere baghair

Posted on: October 7, 2012


This article is written by Sadanand Kamath, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a regular contributor to this blog.

This is the story of a diva who, despite being in the midst of very adverse family circumstances in her formative years and facing the conservative society, created a niche for herself in the field of classical and ghazal singing. It is also the story of a woman who, despite fame and adulation showered on her by millions of fans, felt lonely all through her life.

Yes, I am referring to Mallika-e-Ghazal Begum Akhtar 07/10/1914 – 30/10/1974). She and ae mohabbat tere anjaam pe ronaa aaya, the most acclaimed ghazal rendered by her sometime in the early 50s are synonymous with each other. I must have listened to this ghazal written by Shakeel Badayuni umpteen times but at each time I feel I have not had enough of it. In fact on a wider note, Begum Akhtar and ghazal gaayaki are synonymous. I came to know about her ghazals in early 70s when I was drawn into Hindi film and semi-classical songs. One of my friends who was a connoisseur of classical music used to tell me that listening to her during live performance in concerts was a unique experience. Unfortunately, I had no occasion to witness her live performance as she passed away in 1974.

I had read write-ups and articles on Begum Akhtar on various websites during the last 2-3 years. Somehow I felt that there were many gaps in her life cycle not covered on the websites. Being an admirer of Begum Akhtar, I was looking for a sort of biographical material preferably written by someone who had been close to her or interacted with her regularly. A couple of months back, I found a book titled “Ae Mohabbat….Reminiscing Begum Akhtar” written by Professor Rita Ganguly, her disciple for eight years. The book has a wealth of information on her, many of which I was not aware of. I give a gist of some of them below.

(1) I was under the impression that she belonged to a courtesan family. Perhaps this impression stemmed from her name ‘Akhtaribai Faizabadi’ as she was known after her debut as singer in 1925 and before her marriage in 1945. The truth was that her mother Mushtari, belonging to a trader’s family was the second wife of Asghar Hussain, a lawyer by profession and scion of the aristocratic Sayyed family of Lucknow.

(2) She was one of the twin daughters born as ‘Bibbi’ (probably a pet name), the other daughter being Zohra. Sometime during her childhood, her mother renamed her as ‘Akhtari Sayyed’ probably to reflect her lineage to Sayyed family. The name ‘Akhtaribai Faizabadi’ was given by Ustad Zamiruddin, her third classical music teacher to make here a saleable name during her first concert in Calcutta (Kolkatta) for a charity (Bihar Flood Relief Fund) in 1925. After her marriage to barrister Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi in 1945, she was known as ‘Begum Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi’. It was only when she resumed her singing six years after marriage on All India Radio, Lucknow that her name was changed to ‘Begum Akhtar’ to avoid detection of her singing by the conservative Abbasi family. That was how the legendary Begum Akhtar came to be known until her death and would be known as such in perpetuity.

(3) Almost all write-ups on Begum Akhtar on various websites mention that after her marriage with barrister Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, she had to give up her singing due to the restriction put by her husband and his conservative family. The author of the book, however, states that it was Begum Akhtar’s own volition that she decided to give up singing as she felt that her fame as a singer may cause problem in their married life. Also she wanted to start a family. According to the author, when Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi came to know that Begum Akhtar had resumed singing without his knowledge, he was sad not because of her resumption of singing but because she did not repose confidence in him that he would not have objected to her singing on AIR. Apart from being a successful lawyer, he was a learned man having good command over Urdu and English literature. He used to explain the nuances of the ghazals to his Begum which enabled her to bring the required emotions and expression through her singing in the concerts. It was second marriages for both after the death of their respective spouses.

(4) It was a surprise for me to know that Begum Akhtar was a heavy smoker and addicted to alcohal. She gave up hard drinking after return from Haj but her heavy smoking continued till her death. She also did not believe in dieting for safeguarding her voice. She was fond of chilled water, ice cream, pickles and spicy food which were a taboo for a singer. However, she always believed that as long as she was doing her morning riyaz, nothing would affect her voice.

There are many anecdotes in the book – both sad and humourous. The one among many anecdotes I found amusing was about Behzad Lucknowi, the urdu poet and lyricist. It is said that one day he pasted many posters with a slogan ‘Hai Akhtari’ from Charbagh station to her home at Lalbagh in Lucknow. According to Begum Akhtar, he was in love with her singing ( perhaps with her also). He was heartbroken when she got married and gave up singing. He in turn gave up writing poetry. I can now relate this incidence to Behzad Lucknowi’s decision to give up lyrics writing for Hindi films and to migrate to Pakistan in 1950 where he concentrated only in writing and singing Naat. Incidentally, Behzad Lucknowi passed away on October 10, 1974 and after 20 days, Begum Akhtar left for heavenly abode on October 30, 1974.

Begum Akhtar was born as Bibbi along with Zohra as twin daughters to Mushtari and Ashgar Hussain on October 7, 1914 in a small town of Faizabad , the then capital of Awadh in the United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). She went through very difficult times in her formative years. Her father abandoned her mother and twin daughters as Sayyed family refused to accept her mother Mushtari in their family fold probably due to difference in their social status. Sayyeds belonged to an aristocratic family while her mother was from a trader’s family. There were certain unimaginable events during her childhood and teen. Both Bibbi and her sister were poisoned by some unknown person. While Bibbi recovered from the poison, her sister died. Thereafter their house was set on fire again by some unknown persons. Luckily, both Bibbi and her mother were not at home at that time. For both these incidences, her mother suspected involvement of someone connected with her husband’s family. As a teenager, there were some unpleasant incidences while undergoing classical musical training under a couple of renowned ustads and during her initial singing carrier. All these events created an emotional upheaval in her mind which got translated in her singing with so much emotion that most of the the audience would be in tears. It is stated that after the end of every concerts, Akhtaribai as she was known then would be in her hotel room crying.

Initially, Begum Akhtar’s mother was against her pursuing singing career as it went against her family tradition. But the economic compulsion made her reluctantly to agree for her formal training in classical music. Her maternal uncle who was supportive of her niece’s interest in singing, was instrumental in arranging for her training in classical singing with Ustad Imdat Khan in Gaya and thereafter with Ustad Ata Mohammad Khan. Ustad Zamiruddin was the one who taught her the raga based ghazal singing. Her singing journey started with concerts and private mehefils from 1925 in Calcutta (Kolkatta). During this period, she cut her first gramophone record of a ghazal ‘woh aseer-e-daame balaa hoo main’. However, it was only when she cut the record of a ghazal written by Behzad Lucknowi –deewaana banaana hai to deewaana banaa de that she became famous as a ghazal singer. Interestingly, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan accompanied her on Sarangi in this ghazal. This record not only cut a platinum disc, Megaphone Company had to set up a full fledged plant at Dum Dum to meet the unprecedented demand for this ghazal’s gramophone record. Later she shifted to theatres for performing as a singer-actor which was her childhood passion after watching Chandabai, one of the famous stage singer-actress, on a stage performance.

Begum Akhtar’s success in theatres got the attention of the film producers. Her first Hindi film was ‘Ek Din Ka Badshah’ (1933). She worked in 8-9 Hindi films as actor-singer. Her last Hindi film as actor-singer was ‘Roti’ (1942). However, her last film as an actor was Satyajit Ray’s Bengali film ‘Jalsaghar’ (1958). In addition she sang two songs in ‘Panna Dai’ for Gyan Dutt and a song each in ‘Dana Paani’ (1953) and ‘Ehsaan’ (1954) for Madan Mohan who was Begum Akhtar’s close confidant since his days in AIR, Lucknow. She disliked acting in films as the films’ schedules were affecting her singing. So she decided not to act or sing in the films any more. It is said that once Raj Kapoor approached her with a script of a singing actress to act in his films but she turned down the offer.

Begum Akhtar had two wishes – to die when her husband was still alive and to die while singing. While her fist wish was fulfilled, the second wish was partly fulfilled as it was at the concert in Ahmedabad on October 25, 1974 where she fell ill and was hospitalised. She left for heavenly abode on October 30, 1974.

Begum Akhtar would be remembered for spreading the popularity of ghazal singing from a few hundred noble and aristocratic people to the lower strata of the society. She brought respect to women singers. The results are there for all to see. There are many ghazal singers and women classical singers in the Indian sub-continent belonging to educated and good family background now. Incidentally, Begum Akhtar’s first (1925) and the last (1974) concerts were for charities.

On the occasion of Begum Akhtar’s birth anniversary, I have chosen a ghazal ‘rehne lagaa hai dil mein andheraa tere baghair’ from the film ROTI (1942) rendered by her. The ghazal was written by Behzad Lucknowi and set to music by Anil Biswas. The film was produced under the banner of National Studios and directed by Mehboob Khan. The star cast included Chandramohan, Akhataribai Faizabadi, Sitara Devi, Sheikh Mukhtar, Agha etc. In this film, Begum Akhtar (Akhtaribai Faizabad) had six songs. As per Rita Ganguly’s book, when the film was ready for release, Megaphone Company, who had singed a contract with Akhtaribai Faizabadi, sent a legal notice to the film’s producer which forced him to remove all her six songs from the film. Later, record version of all six songs were released in the market on Megaphone Company records. So only the audio clip of this song is available. Begum Akhtar has rendered this ghazal in a traditional thumri style.

It is a moot point whether Behzad Lucknowi was in love with Akhtaribai Faizabadi or with her singing or both but from the wordings of this ghazal, it appeared that Behzad Lucknowi had penned this ghazal keeping Akhtaribai in his mind.


song-Rehne laga hai dil mein andhera tere baghair (Roti)(1942) Singer-Begam Akhtar, Lyrics-Behzad Lucknowi, MD-Anil Biswas

Lyrics

aa aa
aa aa aa aa aa
rehne lagaa hai dil mein
andheraa tere baghair
ae ae ae
rehne lagaa hai dil mein
andheraa tere baghair
ae ae ae
ae ae
haay
benoor ho gayi meri
ee ee ee
benoor ho gayi meri
duniyaa tere baghair
haan
benoor ho gayi meri
duniyaa tere

humko to o o o
zindagi ki
koyi aas hi nahin
ab ho chukaa
jahaan mein aen aen
jeena tere baghair
aa aa aa aa
ab ho chukaa jahaan mein
jeena tere baghair

pachhta rahaa hoon aa ke
main tujhse kyun milaa
aakhir huaa naseeb mein
tadapnaa tere baghair
aa aa
aakhir huaa naseeb mein
tadapnaa tere baghair
ae ae
rehne lagaa hai dil mein
andhera tere baghair
benoor ho gayi meri
duniyaa tere baghair
ae ae
benoor ho gayi meri
duniyaa tere baghair
ae ae
ae ae

7 Responses to "Rehne laga hai dil mein andhera tere baghair"

Sheila Dhar has a very engaging book Raga’n Josh on music and there are a couple of chapters on Begum Akthar in the book, they seem to be friends. It is one of the best books on music I read, very engaging even to a non-expert like me. Many of the sections are available at googlebooks
http://books.google.co.in/books?hl=en&id=n3CJsjfGOWIC&dq=raga+n+josh&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=Q3OxK_I_Sw&sig=fn9C3rumW-oRRdwqmCQ_ftz-djM&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#v=onepage&q=raga%20n%20josh&f=false

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Thanks for the links. Unfortunately, pages covering Begum Akhtar and others are omitted in the display of pages on google books. The chapter on Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. with on anecdotes was interesting one.

I guess the book is worth a read.

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Sorry. In Australia some of those are available. I bought the book in Delhi this March. Apart from the music parts, I like her English, she expresses Indian topics in English very well. The chapter on ‘cent percent gandhian’ particularly illustrates this.

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Wonderful… I share your love for the Singing Legend!!!

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An excellent write-up!

Deewana bana hai to deewana bana de must have become a stock tune. This ghazal follows the same tune to the last note. I remember in Pardesi (1941), Khursheed sang Pahle jo mohabbat se inkar kiya hota in the same tune, composed by Khemchad Prakash.

One detail I find difficult to believe is about her concert at Calcutta for Bihar flood victims. She would have been 11 years old, and one would hardly expect that she would be used to raise funds for a calamity. If that were so, her main fame would have been as a child prodigy, like Master Madan or Pt Kumar Gandharv. Another Begum Akhtar expert and her biographer I happen to know, says that the oncert was for Bihar’s great earthquake in 1934, which seems more likely.

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Begum Akhtar, her mother and Ustad Zaminuddin, her music teacher, attended this concert as audience mainly for the benefit of Bibbi (as Begum Akhtar was known then) to take an opportunity to learn from the performance of many stalwarts of Hindustani music. Being a charity show, the artists were not paid except their travel and lodging. It so happened that after the performance of Ustad Bismillah Khan, which was his first public performance, none of the stalwarts like Gauhar Jaan, Faiyyaz Khan, Abdul Karim Khan who had been listed for performance turned up. So Ustaad Zamiruddin suggested to the organiser that he would tell his disciple Bibbi to to sing. Since the organiser had no choice , they reluctantly agreed.to avoid the possible ruckus from the audience. She sang not one or two ghazals but many due to constant encore from the audience.The next day, Akhataribai Faizabadi was on the headlines as the new singing sensation. [Source : The book I referred to in my article].

The author of the book mentioned that the concert was organised for Bihar Flood Relief. Earthquake hit Bihar in 1934 as per Wikipedia.

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I have read it on this webside.. a gentlemen.. who says he has all the 400 songs of Begum Akhtar. I am so glad.. and would request him.. to ensure that these are “preserved”. It is not just music – it is the TASEER.. it will be difficult to find another voice like Begum Akhtar… because she was a very fine human being. We have singers who have sung 50 thousand songs – and made tens of crores – wear white sarees -but their hearts are coal-mines. They are not good “human beings”. Not so in the case of the Begum. There is a spiritual quality about her… and therefore.. i would request the gentleman to share HIS own treasure with the music world. Begum Akhtar’s music is part of our heritage.. and it must be PRESERVED.

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