Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chaand Se Preet Lagaaye - Khursheed

Many many moons ago, there was no Lata Mangeshker in the world of film music. Incredulous as it sounds, this is true. It was the great Kundan Lal Saigal who blazed the skies with his deeply expressive voice, outshining every other male singer on the firmament. But the corner of the sky occupied by female singers had many sparkling little stars. Each had her own strengths, character and personality. This was the era of singing stars and untrained and semi-trained voices ruled the roost. It was a fascinating period in the history of Hindi film music. There was an amazing variety of voices - varied timbres, tones and textures. These voices, even though rough on the edges, had a lot of emotive power very much in the folk traditions of the time. When Lata Mangeshkar made history with 'Mahal' and 'Barsaat' these semi-trained voices just got blown away. They could not keep up with the sheer range, virtuosity and polish of her voice. One by one they all faded away and soon history too sprinkled dust on their memories and moved on....

Khursheed Bano was one such voice. 

Born as Irshad Begum on April 14, 1914 in a small village near Lahore, Khursheed joined the film industry in its infancy. She was a popular actress in the era of silent films. When Indian cinema found it's voice with Alam Ara many leading lights fell by the wayside due to their inability to sing. Khursheed however made the transition to talkies effortlessly. She continued to enthrall the film-goers of her times both with her charismatic screen persona and with her dulcet voice which was expressive, earthy and robust at the same time.  This was the voice of the 30s and 40s. With the advent Lata this type of voice all but disappeared. It was not only the land of Punjab that suffered the wounds of partition but this school of singing also suffered a mortal blow with the  partition of the sub-continent. With most of the accomplished singers from this great Punjabi singing  tradition like Noorjahen migrating to Pakistan this style all but got phased out in favour of the softer singing styles from Maharastra and Bengal. It was only the spunky Shamshad Begum who held her own against the Lata wave all the way into the 60s. All other voices could just not keep up. Khursheed Bano's was one such voice that lost it's way and then perished during this tumultuous phase of Indian history.

The high noon of Khursheed's career was her pairing with KL Saigal in 'Tansen'. The film saw her hold her own against the mighty Saigal. Both in the duets as well as with her on-screen presence. Infact, I daresay in the acting department she actually outran Saigal by many miles. The songs of 'Tansen' remain popular to date with vintage music lovers.

On her birth anniversary today, I would like to showcase a song from her repertoire that I find most compelling - Panchhi bawara chaand se preet lagaaye.  It is from the classic 'Bhakta Surdas' which had a string of hit songs by the immortal Saigal. Hidden amongst this a slew of Saigal classics is this rare sparkler of a song by Khursheed.

The song is a wistful ode to one-sided love expressed through the age old metaphor of the 'chakor' and the 'chaand' - the love-crazed bird who continues to love the whimsical and elusive moon. The music is by Gyan Dutt and the lyrics by the legendary DN Madhok. The lyrics have many fine shades and strokes that makes it a fine piece of poetry. The sense of symmetry in the lines of the second stanza are particularly compelling. To sample :

kaun bataaye tujhe chakora
gore man ke kale
jyun jyun preet badhaayega tu
tyun tyun wo ghat jaaye
chaand se preet lagaaye ....

Khurshid renders the song in a simple, robust and straight style characteristic of the era, yet she manages to embellish it with little nuances that give the rendition multiple hues. It is a fine performance that will be remembered everytime one mentions the lost voices of the 30s and 40s.

So without further ado I leave you with the song.

Here are a few articles on Khursheed on the internet

Many thanks to Pavan Jha for bringing her birth anniversary to my notice. I suggest you read his excellent article on the Passion for Cinema blog to get a complete picture of this wonderful singer.


  1. Great...never thought that I would live to see an article on Khursheed anywhere other than r.m.i.m :) A friend once, rather truthfully said that if we start listening (and liking) these music personalities from 30s/40s, the 'risk' is that we would not like to listen to any later voice.

    Personally, I like most voices from that period ( except for a few who were absolutely loud throated). Among the female voices from pre-NoorJehan days, Khursheed and Kanan Bala stand out. While ( as you said) Khursheed was a more full-bodied voice, Kanan on the other hand was delicate and malleable. Anyway more on Kanan and her school of singing when you write a blog-post on her :-)

  2. Concert of 15 songs of Khursheed, Kanan Devi and Suraiya all co-stars of KL Sehgal ... by Jyotsna arranged by Pran Nevile in Epicentre Gurgaon on 11May 2009. Admirers of these singers are welcome