RMIM Archive Article "262".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: Rajkumari - Songs sung true
# Source: Femina (http://www.feminaindia.com)
# Author: Lata Khubchandani
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
Rajkumari - SONGS SUNG TRUE
By Lata Khubchandani
RAJKUMARI Dubey was just 10 years old when she recorded her first
song for HMV in 1934. But she started her career as a stage
artiste. She recounts, "Vijay and Shankar Bhatt of Prakash Pic-
tures spotted me during one of my shows. They liked my voice and
persuaded me to discontinue acting on stage, as it would spoil my
voice. (In those days, there were no mikes and you had to shout
to be heard!) So, I quit theatre and became an employee of
Prakash Pictures, as an actress and singer.
INTO MOVIES AND MUSIC
My first film with them was a Hindi-Gujarati bilingual called
'Sansar Leela Nayi Duniya'. In those days, I often acted opposite
Zakaria Khan (late actor Amjad Khan's father, whose screen name
was Jayant). And I used to sing for popular music director, Lal-
I began getting fed up with having to keep a watch on my figure
and decided to stick to just singing as a career. After I quit
Prakash Pictures, I started playback singing for actresses like
Ratnamala, Shobhna Samarth, etc. I sang a lot of Gujarati and
A BORN PROFESSIONAL
I never really had the opportunity to learn singing. But was very
good at picking up what my composers taught me. They thought I
was a trained singer! My family has always supported me - when I
was an actress and singer. I married very late in life. My hus-
band was from Benares (UP), where he spent a lot of his time
(because he owned a shop there), while I was settled in Mumbai.
Of course, he joined me later.
I counted among my peers Shamshad Begum, Zohrabai, Juthika Roy,
Zeenat Begum, etc. Our voices were very distinct - both Zohra and
Shamshad had resounding voices with a high range, while mine was
very soft with a smaller range. I sang quite a few songs with
Mukesh, the most popular being 'Mujhe sach sach batado kya, ke
kab dil mein samaye the'. I did not get much opportunity to sing
with Mohammad Rafi - mainly because Lata Mangeshkar was just get-
ting popular at the time and, then, all of us took a backseat. In
'Anhonee', I sang with Lata Mangeshkar - the song was 'Zindagi
badli'. Nargis had a double role, so I sang for one, while Lata
Mangeshkar sang for the other. I sang with Nurjehan in 'Naukar'.
While I never sang with KC Dey, I did sing songs composed by him,
along with Manna Dey, his nephew.
AN ODE TO SAIGAL
I am a great fan of KL Saigal and Nurjehan. I
had occasion to sing with the former in 'Bhakt Surdas' and
remember him as a very charming person. I have never understood
why people criticised him for his drinking, etc. So what if he
felt he couldn't sing without drinking? It was his personal
choice. I remember him telling me, 'Rajkumari'ji', I want to take
you with me when I go from this world.'
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF GEETA AND KIDAR
In 'Bawre Nain', while sing-
ing for Geeta Bali, she'd come up to me and say mischievously,
'Look at me - my actions - and sing accordingly.' She was so full
Kidar Sharma, the director, was one of the most talented men I've
ever known. It was he who groomed Geeta Bali, Raj Kapoor, Mala
Sinha and others. But from all his 'shishyas', I think only Geeta
Bali managed to pick up the nuances of his teachings.
Kidar Sharma had his own way of showing his appreciation. If he
liked something you did, he'd give you a two 'anna' coin. And, in
his entire life, he must have given the coin to just three people
- Geeta Bali, Raj Kapoor and myself. He treated me with a lot of
respect. I sang in his Raj Kapoor-Madhubala starrer 'Neelkamal',
'Bawre Nain' and several other films.
MY FRIEND - ZOHRABAI
If I had a friend in the industry, it was
Zohrabai. We shared many good times - going out together, visit-
ing each other. I sang with her in 'Mahal'. When Kamal Amrohi was
making the film, he said to me, 'Rajkumari, I need a voice that
sounds like a boy's to sing with you.' I replied, 'Well, then get
a boy.' He said, 'No, I need a female singer.' I first suggested
Shamshad Begum, but he refused. Then, I suggested Zohrabai and
that's how we sang the duet, 'Ye raat phir na aayegi, ye jawani
beet jayegi' (1950).
I WISH I COULD SING NOW...
I think I was the only artiste who
never sang songs that weren't for films. Though there was a time
when I was employed by HMV to sing some Gujarati songs. I was
paid Rs. 400 per month and was supposed to do 12 songs a year.
I sung four background numbers in 'Pakeezah', of which the most
popular was 'Nazariya ki maari mari mori guiyyan'. This song
became so representative of the 'kotha'. It was also used in
'Mirch Masala' - the Naseeruddin-Smita Patil starrer and was
played throughout the film (Naseer is shown listening to it over
and over again).
I must say I enjoyed my career. In fact, even today, I wish I
could sing now - I'm bored. But I suppose my days are over.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS...
It was such a beautiful time - when I
started singing - the camaraderie, the affection and the respect
we received! If I have any regret, it is that I didn't get an
opportunity to work with Madan Mohan. I loved his music. I did
sing for him once, but would have loved to do more work with him.
But it never happened. In retrospect, I can say I've sung all
types of songs - 'geets', 'qawwalis', 'bhajans', 'ghazals', happy
songs, sad ones...
HER SWAN SONG
Practically, the last time one saw Rajkumari per-
form was when Nurjehan visited India and the TV programme 'Mortal
Men, Immortal Melodies' was made. Rajkumari sang along with the
other singers who had gathered to welcome the nightingale from
Pakistan, evoking memories of an era gone by.
Till recently, Rajkumari has been performing on stage
and on TV, having even travelled abroad to Holland and London.
Even though 72, her reflexes are just as sharp as ever. You real-
ise this is no ancient grandmother needing your sympathy but a
woman who has become aggressive possibly because life hasn't
always been fair to her. But even now, her voice has retained its
I've worked with practically all the composers of my time -
Khemchand Prakash, Ghulam Haider, Sajjad Hussain, Husnlal Bhaga-
tram, Naushad, Anil Biswas, OP Nayyar, SD Burman, RD Burman and
Khursheed Anwar. Among the composers I sang for, I think the late
Sajjad Hussain was the most difficult - his compositions were
intricate and his way of explaining very complex. Take, for exam-
ple, 'Khel Khel Main' where I sang 'Koi kis tarha raaze ulfat
chhupaye, aji raahein mili aur kadam dagmagaye'. Most other
singers also found him very difficult. I also sang for OP Nayyar
in 'Aasman', picturised on Shyama, 'Piya aan sakhi mere nainan
mein mori nindiya churaye'. In the early '70s, RD Burman called
me and said, 'Here's a song which is just right for you' and,
indeed, it was a pleasure to sing. The song was a 'bhajan' for
Gulzar's 'Kitaab', picturised on Dina Pathak: 'Hari din to beeta
sham hui, ab raat baki kataa de'.