I wanted to dedicate a post to Umadevi for a long time. But I am not so organized when it comes to the tribute posts. All of you must have noticed I always regret missing the birthday centenary years of the stalwarts of HFM. That’s because I just do the post that comes to my mind. Ideally I should maintain a diary of birthdays and death anniversaries of the stalwarts of HFM. I think I should take it seriously and make it my new year’s resolution!
Anyways, let’s come to the point. My second new year’s resolution should be avoiding digressing. Boy!
Umadevi Khatri was born in 1926 in a poor family, in the village Alipur, near Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh. Even as a child she had only ever dreamt of becoming a singer. Her paternal uncle brought her up where she was not allowed to pursue singing. It wasn’t considered decent. Little Uma would act in Ramleela (perhaps religious plays were permitted) and listen to the radio. She was fascinated by Hindi film songs and tried remembering the names of the singers and music directors.
In 1944, the songs of Rattan became roaringly popular and Umadevi was thrilled. Now her dream was to become a playback singer and she wanted only Naushad to compose for her. It was her dream to sing for him. Fortunately her friend from Delhi, who had connections with the Hindi film industry in Mumbai, helped her out to reach there.
It wasn’t at all easy to reach Naushad, who was very fast reaching heights of popularity. Arunkumar Ahuja and Nirmala Devi (actor Govinda’s parents) were the ones who helped her meet music composers of Hindi film industry. And she was selected by Ustad Allah Rakha for a film, called Wamiq Azra. The film was released in 1946. Umadevi was finally a playback singer.
1. Haye Do Dil Milte Milte Reh Gaye – Wamiq Azra (1946) with A R Qureshi / A R Qureshi – Tanveer Naqvi
Though it’s commonly mentioned as Umadevi’s first song, the song uploaders on YouTube credit it to Naseem Akhtar. The sound quality of the audio is quite good, but the voice doesn’t sound like Umadevi. At least I couldn’t compare it with her voice in other songs. Experts please shed some light on this query.
Having sung for a movie, now Umadevi had confidence. She directly went to Naushad and requested him to listen to her songs. When Naushad asked her what was the “sur” she sang in, she was blank. It’s said that she sang Noorjahan’s song from Zeenat, Aandhiyan Gham Ki Yoon Chali. And she surely impressed Naushad, who then and there recommended her to producer, director A R Kardar. The latter instantly offered her Rs. 500/- as a signing amount and Umadevi signed a contract with Kardar productions. She was also offered an accommodation with the other staff of the studio.
Thus, her dream of singing for Naushad came true. Their first film together was Dard, where Suriya was the main lead and Umadevi was chosen for Munawwar Sultana. She had three solos and one duet to her credit, quite an impressive achievement for a newcomer!
I should confess that even if I knew about Suraiya being the main lead in the movie, I wasn’t aware of any of her songs from Dard for a long time. Anyways, let’s listen to a couple of songs from the movie, Dard.
2. Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon – Dard (1947) / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
The song has been her most popular Hindi film song. She’s mainly remembered for the soulful rendition of the song. The song made her popular in a very short time and she became one of the popular female playback singers of Hindi films.
3. Betaab Hai Dil – Dard (1947) with Suraiya / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
Suraiya was the leading singing actress of that era and Umadevi was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to sing with her in her very first film. What a beautiful melody it is! The song combines two moods, Suraiya sings in happiness whereas Munawwar Sultana sobs in despair. Umadevi has certainly done a great job if we consider the pressure and tension to sing with a star singer. It’s one of my favourites.
After the success of Dard, Naushad offered her songs in Naatak. It became more or less of a custom that he would have a song or a couple of songs by Umadevi in his films. Though the customary couldn’t last for more than a couple of years, Umadevi had her golden period with Naushad. He was well aware of her range and limitations, so he could offer a full justice to her voice. Before we turn to her songs with other composers, I will add her songs with Naushad.
4. Dilwale Jal Jal Kar Hi – Naatak (1947) / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
In the same year, 1947, Umadevi sang again for Naushad. A beautiful melody with a touch of western influence. Nevertheless it was a wonderful song and one of her bests for me. Her typical style is very pleasant to listen to.
5. Kahe Jiya Dole – Anokhi Ada (1948) / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
Umadevi’s next film was with none other than Mehnoob Khan. She sang for Zeb Qureshi and had a couple of songs, in two different moods. One was happy which I have added and the other one was melancholy.
Though Lata Mangeshkar had sung her first Hindi film playback in 1947 itself, she was yet to be popular. Naushad hadn’t yet offered her songs.
6. Meri Pyari Patang – Dillagi (1949) with Shamshad Begum / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
Dillagi had this beautiful duet of Umadevi with Shamshad Begum. Two friends, played by Sharda and (?) Yasmin, are enjoying themselves with their friends and the kites rising higher and higher up in the sky. Quite an enjoyable song!
7. Chandni Raat Hai – Chandni Raat (1949) with Chorus / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
This chorus backed melody wasn’t known to me. But even on the first listen, I liked it. The chorus participation is nearly equal to the main singer’s. It was her last song with the maestro. And it was her only song in the movie.
Meanwhile, Umadevi sang for Gemini, a South Indian production house and the songs were very popular. The songs actually needed much dedication and the majority were semi classical. It’s said that Umadevi, who had no formal training in singing, was very anxious about it. But S Rajeshwar Rao, the composer, reassured her and had a lot of rehearsals before she recorded the final takes. The result was good and the songs brought much acclaim to Umadevi. In all she had 5 solos and a couple of duets and the film was Chandralekha. I’m sharing a couple of songs,
8. Saanjh Ki Bela Jiya Akela – Chandralekha (1948) with Moti / S Rajeshwar Rao – Bharat Vyas
It’s considered one of the finest songs by Umadevi. The song is really very melodious and the musical arrangement is impressive too. It’s very easy on the ear. It’s picturised on T R Rajkumari and M K Radha. I really enjoyed listening to the song as well as watching the video.
9. Maai Ri Main To Madhuban Mein – Chandralekha (1948) / S Rajeshwar Rao – Pandit Indra Chandra
I liked the song a lot. I think it must have been a challenging task for an untrained singer like Umadevi to sing such songs. But she has sung it really well. We must appreciate the efforts she must have put into it. The song is an audiovisual treat as T R Rajkumari dances well.
But, it was actually a silver cloud that had a dark lining to it. Umadevi’s singing for another production house was actually a breach in her contract with the Kardar productions. Furious, Kardar abandoned all her future assignments with him. It must have been a great loss to the upcoming singer. And in my opinion, it turned out to be one of the reasons for Umadevi’s downfall. Still she had a good number of songs released in the year. I’ve already mentioned the ones with Naushad. Here I am presenting a few of her songs with other composers.
10. Aankhon Ne Kaha Dil Ne Suna – Bhakta Pundalik (1949) with a male singer / Chitragupt – Chandrashekhar Pandey
It’s a very good song. Sounds like a dance performance by a tawaif. There is no mention of the male singer(s) anywhere. It could be Chitragupt himself. The song is very catchy and though it has a commonplace rhythm, it does impress the listners.
11. Ye Bhi Hai Koi Reet – Hamari Qismat (1949) with K S Ragi / Nisar Bazmi – Rajjan
For this film, Umadevi was the main singer. The song may not be popular, but if you listen to it, you will realise how good the song is! It’s a cute romantic song. When I was researching for the post, I came across the singer K S Ragi for the first time. It would be interesting to add a few details about him. His name was Keval Singh Ragi, from Hanamkonda, Andhra Pradesh. He was a composer and singer, who tried his luck in Hindi films in the 40s and 50s. He sang duets with many singers of that era. In addition he also acted in films, Daag, Patita.
12. O Ilzam Denewale Badnaam Karnewale – Jiyo Raja (1949) with Yashwant Bhatt / Nisar Bazmi – Rajjan
It was also a movie of 1949 where Umadevi had three songs, one duet and a couple of solos. I preferred this playful duet over the other two soulful solos. I fell in love with this cute duet immediately. I felt very bad about Umadevi. The songs were so good ! Just because the songs belonged to obscure films, so many good songs remained in the dark. This one’s so melodious and good. It may not be great, but certainly pleasant to listen to.
13. Na Jane Aaj Kyun Ghabra Rahi Ho – Maang (1950) with Lata Mangeshkar / Ghulam Mohammad – Prakash
It’s the only song Umadevi sang with Lata Mangeshkar. Not an impressive song, but needed mention in the post. In the absence of any context, I couldn’t get the meaning of the song.
In the late 40s, however, Umadevi was quickly forgotten due to new upcoming and promising singers, including Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. Her limited range was one of her shortcomings. She was unable to survive in the changing scenario. Her style of singing was restricted to the older style with a noticeable nasal twang and had other limitations as well. It is said that she was fond of eating and went on putting on weight. At a certain point she became too fat. It could also be one of the reasons for her downfall. In the 50s she was mostly restricted to duets and trios. One of the movies, Deepak in 1951 however had a good number of her songs. The film however wasn’t successful and was unable to boost her singing career. Her last song for a Hindi film was for Premi Gangaram (1978).
Let’s have a look at a few of her songs from the 50s.
14. Ashkon Ka Karwan Chala – Deepak (1951) / Ram Ganguly – Madhukar Rajasthani
The film had four solos and one duet by Umadevi. The songs included a lullaby and a fun duet. But I chose the soulful song, which was available in a comparatively better audio quality.
15. Kabhi Aaj Kabhi Kal Ka Bahana – Taksaal (1955) with S D Batish / Roshan – Prem Dhawan
This would be a surprise for the first time listeners. We generally don’t expect this type of song from Roshan, but for a refreshing change, the song is composed by Roshan. Nor do we expect S D Batish to sing such fast paced, western influenced songs. It’s catchy, interesting and really fun to listen to. It must have been picturised on the comedy sidetrack in the movie. It could be Johnny Walker.
16. O My Dear – Passing Show (1956) with S Balbir / Manohar – Prem Dhawan
Just forget the film. Enjoy the wonderful and melodious fun song. Evidently picturised on the comedy pair of the movie. We can note a strong western influence on the song, but nevertheless quite an enjoyable song. Umadevi certainly succeeded in bringing a smile on people’s faces, either with her acting as Tuntun or with her songs.
It is very interesting to note that she sang a few version songs and a few non-film songs as well in the 50s. I’m adding here a non-film song and a version sung by Umadevi.
17. Naina Ban Gaye Sawan Bhado – Non-film Song / K Murari Sharma – Madhukar Rajasthani
What a beautiful song! Umadevi was perhaps trying to maintain her zeal as a singer. For me it’s a wonderful song . I liked the lyrics, the tune and Umadevi’s rendition. I could find only one NFS by Umadevi. Please add additional information if any about her NFS.
18. Milte Hi Aankhen Dil Hua – Version song by Hemant Kumar & Umadevi (Originally sung by Talat Mahmood & Shamshad Begum) / Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni
It’s a bit slow paced as compared to the original one. Though not as magical as the original one, the song sounds good.
As Tuntun –
In the late 40s, when her singing assignments were drying up she must have faced financial problems. It was her mentor Naushad who came to her rescue once more. He suggested that she should take up acting as her career and she would make a good comedian. Umadevi had a natural flair for humour and she must have realized her own potential. But once again she knew exactly what she wanted. No one else but Dilip Kumar as her co actor. Naushad again helped her and pursued Dilip Kumar. A role was crafted for Umadevi in Dilip Kumar’s forthcoming film, Babul. It was none other than Dilip Kumar, who named her Tuntun.
Her first appearance as a comedian was hugely successful. She became the leading female comedian of Hindi cinema. I’ve no idea if she was the first female comedian of Hindi cinema.
Then she never had to look back. She was a favourite of Guru Dutt and acted in majority of his films. It is said that her favourite role was from Mr & Mrs 55. Soon she became the most wanted comedian of Hindi cinema. She also shared the silver screen with her fellow male comedians including Bhagwan, Johnny Walker, Agha, Sundar, Mukri etc.
She was last seen in a 1990 film called Kasam Dhande Ki.
She was ever so popular.
When I tried thinking about songs picturised on Tuntun, I remembered a song on one of my previous lists. It was a comedy song picturised on her. I found one more song Picturised on her. I take the opportunity to add these couple of songs to the list.
19. Wai Wai Qurbaan O Meri Jaan – Khufia Mahal (1965) with Rafi / Pardesi – Shyam Hindi
Not a particularly great song, but here Umadevi (Tuntun) sings for herself. It’s picturised on Sheikh and Tuntun. The film of course had Tuntun as a comedian. And I am aware of just a couple of Umadevi’s duets with Rafi. In addition to this song, there’s a duet from Dholak. But that has only a small part sung by Umadevi.
20. Pehen Ke Main Nau Gaz Ki Sadi – Narad Leela (1972) Mubarak Begum / Narayan Dutt – Madan Bharati
This song was on my lawani song list. I know it’s not a well known film. I wonder why she didn’t sing it herself. Tuntun is trying to distract a sage, who’s in penance. She looks very funny in the sari. The sage gets irritated and tries to run away from her. It’s fun watching the song. I don’t know why the song is composed in the Lawani style! After all, it’s a mythological movie. The quality of dance by the supporting dancers is really average, may I add.
I couldn’t get any coherent information about her family. I couldn’t even get her husband’s name and let alone how many children she had. Most of the sites mention she has four children but I can’t be sure.
Tuntun died on 24th November 2003 in Mumbai after a prolonged illness. My tribute to Umadevi on her 19th death anniversary.
I want to thank Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh for clarifying my queries.
Image source – Internet
Please add your Umadevi favourite.
Mehfil Mein Meri, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. Images on this blog are posted to make the text interesting. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube, only for the listening convenience of music lovers. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.