Begum was born in Ahmedabad (Rajasthan) and moved to Mumbai in anticipation of making it as a singer. Mohay Aane Lagi Angrayee, was the first song she recorded for the film “Aiye”, which also a duet with Lata. Several songs and several films came and went but nothing spectacular came along. Her singing career leveraged heavily on Kamal Amrohi’s film “Daera” in which she sang seven songs, some of which became popular. “Devta Tum Ho Mera Sahara” probably got the most recognition. Again the film did not do well at the box-office and this affected her struggling singing career appreciably, despite being gifted with a unique and soulful voice and rendering style. Around the same time, SD Burman recorded Woh Na Ayenge Palat Kar for Devdas, which was received very well. Bimal Roy’s Madhumati was released in 1958 and is still remembered 50 years later for its splendid musical score by Salil Chowdhry and MubarakBegum’s “Hum Haal-e-dil Sunaenge” was one of the many hits in this very popular film.
This was followed by a string of hits in the early 60s. The haunting and soulful rendering of “Kabhee tanhiyon mein yun, hamari yaad ayegi” is timeless. It is said that the director of that film Kidar Sharma sat and listened to the entire song in the recording room with his eyes closed and opened then well after the recording was over. He said he was spellbound and there are thousands who would share those sentiments even today. Another unforgettable song of that time was “Mujhko apne gale laga lo ae mere hamrahi”, a duet with Rafi in the film Hamrahi, superbly composed by Shanker-Jaikishan. Kuch Ajnabi se Aap Hein, Kuch ajnabi se Hum composed by Khayyam to Sahir’s lyrics in Shagoon is very lilting, Bemurawwat Bewafa in Sushila, Shama Gul Kar Ke Na Ja were other gems of that era, which people hum even today. One of my personal favorites is Nigahon se Dil Mein Chale Ayye Ga from Hameer Hath. Try listening to this with the lights low (preferably all dark) and consider whether any singer can come even close to replicating this rendering. There is a female duet with Asha Bhosle titled Humen Dil De Deke Sawtan Ghar Jana, with a very unusual style.
She has recorded songs for almost all major composers like Shankar-Jaikishan, SD Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Kalyanji-Anandji, Khayyam, Naushad and Madan Mohan. However, despite her immense skills of voice modulation, she was unable to hit big time. The hits were many but the opportunities were still not enough. Consequently, despite being a singing phenomena she was unable to reach the heights she truly deserved. It would not be wrong to say that it was truly Bollywood’s loss due to its cruel internal politics and vested interests of the more influential female singers. Her wings were clipped just when she was ready to reach for the stars.
Today, MubarakBegum is barely alive and lives in Mumbai’s Jogeshwari neighbourhood, in her twilight years, with nothing to look forward to. I say barely because despite being in her late 70s and with multiple health issues herself, she is having a hard time keeping her head above water with little or no income and is additionally saddled with the responsibility of taking care of her 40 year old daughter Shafaq Bano, who is bedridden and suffers from advance stage Parkinson’s Disease. She would have been in even deeper waters, had it not been for poet Javed Akhtar and the late Sunil Dutt, who by their efforts made a strong case and managed to secure a Government flat for her to have a roof on her head. It must only be the inner strength and her endurance which she possesses, that has provided her the sustenance to survive such a turbulent life.
Dear friends, I feel that instead of just feeling sorry for her present conditions we should come together to do some hand-holding for her and help in whatever way we can. Having been caught between a rock and a hard place for her basic survival, she has kept her pride on the shelf and openly expressed her cry for help. I have her address and bank account details. Please send her directly whatever financial assistance comes to your mind.
Savings Banks Account No 10279255298
State Bank of India, Jogeshwari (W), Branch # 26793293
Mumbai 400102 INDIA
If you are living in USA or Canada, I will also be consolidating contributions and making transfers regularly through Western Union. You could send your contributions to