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

Mori dukaniya aanaa baabu

Posted on: September 1, 2021


This article is written by Sadanand Kamath, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a regular contributor to this blog. This article is meant to be posted in atulsongaday.me. If this article appears in other sites without the knowledge and consent of the web administrator of atulsongaday.me, then it is piracy of the copyright content of atulsongaday.me and is a punishable offence under the existing laws.

Blog Day :

4793 Post No. : 16553 Movie Count :

4507

Leela Desai was one of the top actresses during 1937-47 both in Kolkata and Mumbai. There was a curiosity in me as to why she suddenly disappeared from the film industry after 1947 when her career was at the peak. Thereafter, she lived in almost obscurity. What is surprising about Leela Desai is that information about her date/year of birth, her marital status, what she did after she left the film industry and when she passed away are unknown or sketchy.

Leela Desai was the 4th of the 5 children born to Dr Umedram Desai from Gujarat and Satybala Devi, daughter of a Bengali landlord settled in Bihar. It was a second marriage for both of them as Satyabala Devi lost her husband during the childhood while Dr Umedram Desai got married to his first wife in his childhood through whom he had two sons. Later, Dr Umedram Desai married Gunobati Mitter, a Bengali Christian, for the third time with whom he had 6 children. Before her marriage, Gunobati Mitter worked as a tutor for the children of Dr Umedram Desai and Satyabala Devi in Rampur. So apart from her own 4 siblings, Leela Desai had 8 step brothers/sisters.

Leela Desai was born in Newark when her parents were in the USA for a 3-year stint. She was brought up in Rampur as her father, Dr Umedram Desai became the State Surgeon for the State of Rampur and the personal Physician to the Nawab of Rampur. At the age of six, Leela Desai was sent to Kolkata for her primary schooling and to Kurseong near Darjeeling from where she completed her Matric and Junior College. Thereafter, Leela Desai returned to Lucknow by which time her father had passed away in Mumbai. In Lucknow, she enrolled to learn Kathak from Shambu Maharaj. During her training, she gave a lot of charity dance performances and made a good name as a dancer.

Hemchandra Chunder, one of the film directors in New Theatres who was on a visit to Lucknow, attended one of Leela Desai’s dance performances. He was impressed by her dance performance with her expressive eyes. He offered her a role of a younger sister of Kamlesh Kumari in New Theatre’s ‘President’ (1937) in which she had also a dance performance. At first, she did not show much interest to work in the film. However, after few days when she watched New Theatres’ Krorepati’ (1936), she felt that she could act in the film. She wrote to Hemchandra Chunder about her willingness to work in the film. The fact that Hemchandra along with Nitin Bose rushed to Lucknow with a contract showed their eagerness to take Leela Desai for the film without the screen test.

‘President’ (1937) became a hit on the box office and Leela Desai’s performance in the film was appreciated so much that overnight she became the star. Under New Theatres’ banner, apart from ‘President’ (1937), she worked in ‘Vidyapati’ (1937), ‘Dushman’ (1938), Kapal Kundala’ (1939) and ‘Nartaki’ (1940). Except ‘Kaapal Kundala’, she also acted in Bangla versions of the films and had also dance performances in these films.

After ‘Nartaki’ (1940), Leela Desai left New Theatres and took a year-long all-India tour with her dance troupe which became very successful both in terms of recognition as a dancer as well as in monetary terms. After accepting the attractive offer from Chimanlal Trivedi of Laxmi Productions, she landed in Mumbai to act in their maiden film ‘Tamanna’ (1942). In Mumbai, though Leela Desai worked as a free-lance actor, she was associated with Laxmi Productions for ‘Inkaar’ (1943), ‘Sharaafat’ (1943), ‘Miss Devi’ (1944), ‘Kamala’ (1946), and ‘Maharani Milandevi’ (1946). She also worked with her New Theatres’ colleagues and directors in Mumbai such as Nitin Bose in ‘Paraaya Dhan’ (1943) and ‘Mujrim’ (1944), with Debaki Bose in ‘Meghdoot’ (1945) and with Kidar Sharma in ‘Kaliyaan’ (1944). In addition, she worked with veterans directors like Vishram Bedekar in ‘Nagad Narayan’ (1943), R S Chaudhary in ‘Magadraj’(1946) and with Ramchandra Thakur in ‘Geet Govind’ (1947).

During her short filmy career between 1937-47, Leela Desai worked in 22 films. After 1947, Leela Desai seems to have taken a ‘voluntary retirement’ from the film industry. Her only connection to filmy industry after 1947 was that her name appeared on the credit titles of Bimal Roy’s film, ‘Kabuliwala’ (1961) as Associate Producer. It is said that Leela Desai bought the rights of ‘Kabuliwaala’ (1961, Bangla) from Tapan Sinha with an intention to make the film in Hindi. However, later she sold the rights to Bimal Roy.

Leela Desai’s elder sister, Shanti Desai was married to Bratindranath Tagore, a nephew of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Her younger sister, Monica Desai was also an actress in Bangla and Hindi films who got married to film director, Phani Majumdar in 1947.

As I said earlier, not much information about Leela Desai was available after she left the films. One of the commentators has mentioned on the facebook page that Leela Desai remained unmarried for rearing the children of her elder sister, Shanti who passed away at a young age. If it is true, it is a sacrificial act by her to leave the film industry and remain unmarried to take care of her elder sister’s children.

Another reference I got about Leela Desai after her leaving films was from an obituary of Sumita Sanyal written in 2017 by Shoma A Chatterji, a film scholar and a free-lance journalist. In this article, she has mentioned that Leela Desai was staying in Mumbai at her apartment in Worli Sea Face where she used to conduct acting classes for the prospective actors coming from Kolkata. One of such actors to whom she gave acting training was Sumita Sanyal. It is possible that Leela Desai may have recommended Sumita Sanyal to Hrishikesh Mukherjee for the film ‘Ashirwaad’ (1968).

As per the comment on Upperstall, written by Shoma A Chatterji in the context of yester year stars who passed away in oblivion, it was stated that Leela Desai passed away in Mumbai. But her date/year of death was not mentioned. She further stated that none of the newspapers and film magazines carried the news of her death.

Leela Desai who started her filmy career with her maiden film “president’ (1937) under the direction of Nitin Bose, got the opportunity to work under his direction in ‘Paraaya Dhan’ (1943) and ‘Mujrim’ (1944), later film being also produced by Nitin Bose under the banner of Vishnu Cinetone. The star cast included Motilal, Leela Desai, Jagdish Sethi, Yakub, Veena Kumari, Sunalini Devi, Cuckoo etc.

From a very short synopsis available on-line, the film was a ‘musical crime-thrilling family drama’. Motilal is a kind hearted person who meets Leela Desai and fall in love with her. Both of them want to marry each other but a villain, Yakub comes in the way as Leela Desai would inherit a lot of wealth if she gets married. So, Motilal is framed under a false murder case by Yakub. How the real culprit is traced and Motilal and Leela Desai get united, becomes the part of the thrilling end.

The film had 6 songs written by Kailash Matwala (4) and Rammurti Chaturvedi (2). The songs were set to music by Padmabhushan Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh, one of the greatest Tabla and Harmonium players.

I am presenting the first song ‘mori dukaniya aana baabu’ from ‘Mujrim’ (1944) to appear on the Blog. The song is rendered by Rajkumari Dubey on the words of Rammurti Chaturvedi. It is very melodious song with unusual orchestration. There is also some influence of Rabindra Sangeet in the musical composition of the song.

With this song, ‘Mujrim’ makes a debut on the Blog.

Note: Leela Desai’s early life sketch is based on an article which appeared in July 1942 issue of ‘Filmindia’ magazine after the release of ‘Tamanna’ (1942), her maiden film in Mumbai. Some personal information about Desai family is supplemented from a Blog of Adeel Desai.

Audio Clip:

Song-Mori dukaniya aana baabu (Mujrim)(1944) Singer-Rajkumari, Lyrics-Rammurty Chaturvedi, MD-Pandit Jnan Prakash Ghosh

Lyrics

mori dukaniya aana baabu
mori dukaniya aana
mori dukaniya aana baabu
mori dukaniya aana aa aa
bhaant bhaant ke phool rangeele
des lekar jaana
haan aan aan
bhaant bhaant ke phool rangeele
des lekar jaana baabu
mori dukaniya aana aa aa

jeth maheena aa aa
raat ki raani ee ee
jeth maheena raat ki raani
phoolen aadhi ratiyaan aan aan
jeth maheena raat ki raani
phoolen aadhi ratiyaan aan aan
bahey paseena jee ghabraaye
saajan karen na batiyaan
karen na batiyaan
karen na batiyaan
aan aan aan aan aan aan
phool ka haar pahan ke sajni
saajan ko lalchaana aa aa
mori dukaniya aana baabu
mori dukaniya aana aa aa

aaya maas ashaadh
chameli phooli kyaari kyaari
aaya maas ashaadh
chameli phooli kyaari kyaari
kali kaliyon mein se khushboo nikli pyaari pyaari
chilla chilla kar baabu mere roothhi naar manaana
chilla chilla kar baabu mere roothhi naar manaana
baabu roothhi naar manaana
mori dukaniya aana baabu
mori dukaniya aana aa aa
bhaant bhaant ke phool rangeele
des lekar jaana
baabu
mori dukaniya aana aa aa

5 Responses to "Mori dukaniya aanaa baabu"

THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH NEEDS TO BE RE-WRITTEN
AS IT DOES NOT SAY WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TWO WIVES
OF THE DOCTOR BEFORE HE MARRIED THE THIRD WIFE
Leela Desai was the 4th of the 5 children born to Dr Umedram Desai from Gujarat and Satybala Devi, daughter of a Bengali landlord settled in Bihar. It was a second marriage for both of them as Satyabala Devi lost her husband during the childhood while Dr Umedram Desai got married to his first wife in his childhood through whom he had two sons. Later, Dr Umedram Desai married Gunobati Mitter, a Bengali Christian, for the third time with whom he had 6 children. Before her marriage, Gunobati Mitter worked as a tutor for the children of Dr Umedram Desai and Satyabala Devi in Rampur. So apart from her own 4 siblings, Leela Desai had 8 step brothers/sisters.

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I did not go into the further details about other two wives of Dr Umedram Desai as my main focus was on Leela Desai. You can get some information on what happened to his first two wives in Adeel Desai’s Blog for which I have given the link at the end of the article.

From what I understand from the Adeel Desai’s Blog, Dr Umedram Desai did not divorce his frrst two wives. He married his third wife and shifted to Mumbai. Those days, there was no legal hinderance to have more than one wife.

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Sadanand ji,
Thanks for additional family information of Leela Desai.
She was one of the “Same Name Confusion” actresses, because Miss Leela aka Leela Chandragiri also acted during the same period. I have written about Leela Desai on our Blog and she features in my book also, in the SNC section.
One of her step sisters was Ramola, as per details given by Adeel Desai in his article. This Ramola had nothing to do with films. Actress Ramola was different. Leela’s sister Ramola married the grandson of Nawab Sirajul Islam and got converted before settling down.
Actress Ramola was a Jew.
Dr. Suresh Chandvankar in his book ‘ पूर्वसुरींचे सूर ‘, has devoted one complete chapter on Dr. Desai and Satyavati, giving lot of information on them.
It was believed that after leaving films, Leela Desai settled in Darjeeling with her mother till the end. I have mentioned this in my book also.
-AD

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Sadanand ji,
Kindly correct the name of Leela’s mother as Satyabala Devi and NOT Satyavati-as mentioned in my above comment. Sorry for the error.
-AD

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Arun ji,

Thanks for taking me back to your book you mentioned in your comments.

I had read about Leela Chandragiri and Leela Desai in the SNC section of your book which you had kindly given to me about 3 years back.

As I mentioned in my article, my curiosity was what Leela Desai did after she left the film industry. I was also under the impression that Leela Desai settled in Darjeeling with her mother where she had her bangalow, ‘Lily Cottage’. Now, it appears to me that she may have stayed in Darjeeing till her mother’s death and returned to Mumbai. Shoma A Chatterji had clearly mentioned that she passed away in Mumbai.

I was not aware of Dr Suresh Chandvankar’s book you mentioned.
I will read that chapter when I make a next visit to your place.

In the interview of Leela Desai which took place in May 1942, it was mentioned that Leela Desai was born 23 year ago in the USA which put her year of birth around 1919. On the same basis, when she left the film industry in 1947, she was around 28.

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