An hour agoWriter: Ifat Qureshi
It was the pride of the Mughals to listen to the songs of the tawaifs in the rooms, which also became a hobby of the common people during the British Raj. India got its first female musicians from one of these places. The name was Jaddan Bai. This is Jaddan Bai herself, whose daughter Nargis was one of the top actresses in Bollywood and grandson Sanjay Dutt is also a superstar.
It was the period of 1900. India was ruled by the British. In those days, there was a famous tawaif in a place in Allahabad (now Prayagraj) in North India. Jaddan Bai was his daughter. The parenting took place in the cabin itself. The fun of the song was in the blood. There was a feeling in Jaddan Bai’s voice that anyone who heard it would have lost their senses. Such was the passion of his voice on the spot that young men from two Brahmin families who came to hear him accepted Islam to marry him.
Jaddan Bai had a total of three marriages. Jaddan Bai, who used to sing thumri and ghazal in Kotha, moved to Mumbai after his third marriage, where he used to do films. His journey from the kotha of Banaras to the film world of Bombay was full of ups and downs. In the pre-independence era, when girls’ work in cinema was considered worse than the tawaif profession, she became India’s first female music director to sing in a kotha.
Read the story of singer, writer, director and actress Jaddan Bai in today’s Unpublished Stories…
The mother had become a widow on the day of the marriage
Jaddan Bai was born in 1892 in Banaras. His mother was Dalipabai who was the most famous tawaif of Allahabad and father was Mian Jaan whom Jaddan Bai lost at only 5 years of age.
In fact, Dalipabai had reached the kotha after a serious accident. They had a child marriage, but after the marriage, when the procession returned with a separation, bandits attacked the procession near the village of Punjab. All the dowry and gold were looted and the bridegroom was shot. A stampede broke out and Dalipabai, who became the bride, also escaped after saving his life.
As soon as she reached her in-laws, she had to go through the hardships of the widow system, calling her unfortunate. Every day she was harassed at her in-laws’ house. Things got so bad that the family had decided to kill him. One day, the troupe, which arrived in the village, saw Dalipa, who was washing clothes while humming on the banks of the river. Impressed by Dalipa’s voice, he offered to follow. Tired of the family members, Dalipa also bravely agreed to go. But, as soon as she reached Allahabad, the people of the congregation sold her in a kotha. Then Dalipabai could never leave here.
A person working at the kotha got Dalipa married to Sarangi player Mian Jaan. Dalipabai belonged to a Brahmin family, but when she married Miyan Jaan, she too became a Muslim. After marriage, Jaddan Bai Hussain was born in their house.
Jaddan Bai started singing Thumri at a young age
Growing up in the house, Jaddan Bai got her singing and dancing skills from her mother. He definitely grew up in the kotha, but there was no meat trade in his kotha, only thumri and ghazals were offered. As she grew up, she took it upon herself to carry on her mother’s legacy and gained more recognition than her mother. People used to go so crazy for him at a glance that they even agreed to drop everything for him.
The first husband accepted Islam, but then left
Gujarati Hindi businessman Narottam Das came to his place; Those who were known as Bacchi Babu, fell so much in love with him that he accepted Islam for them and got married. They both had a son, Akhtar Hussain. Narottam left Jaddan Bai only a few years after the birth of his son and never returned.
Jaddan Bai, who raised her son alone for a few years, fell in love with maestro Ustad Irshad Mir Khan, who played the harmonium in the kotha itself. Jaddan Bai married him for the second time, with whom she had a second son, Anwar Hussain. After a few years, the two separated.
Worried about British incursions, he left Banaras and went to Calcutta
The British used to get slaves to raid Jaddan Bai’s house every day in India. The British suspected Jaddan Bai of harboring revolutionaries at home. The British put so much pressure on him that he had to leave his home at Dalmandi in Banaras. He left Banaras and came to Calcutta and started singing in a kotha here.
Mohan Babu had left everything for Jaddan Bai
Mohan Babu, from a noble family in Lucknow, was about to leave for London to study medicine from Calcutta on a ship. There was a delay in the departure of the ship, so he came to Jaddan Bai’s room to hang out in the evening. Seeing Jaddan Bai, Mohan Babu insisted on marrying her.
Mohanbabu was from a wealthy family, while Jaddan Bai had two failed marriages, was the mother of two children and a kothewali. She explained to Mohanbabu and said, first go and tell your family that you want to marry a Muslim tawaif. If they agree, I will think about your proposal.
Hearing Jaddan Bai, Mohanbabu left and did not return for four years. After four years, Mohanbabu left his entire family and came and said, I have broken all ties with my family and now I want to marry you. Faced with this brave step of Mohanbabu, Jaddan Bai had to surrender. Mohan Babu converted to Islam before marriage and became Abdul Rashid. After breaking ties with the family, Jaddan Bai also took the responsibility of Mohanbabu.
When they sang, the king-nawab used to rain gold and silver.
Jaddan Bai was mentioned in an anecdote by the famous Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto. At Jaddan Bai’s gatherings, the king and the Nawab, pleased with her singing, used to shower gold and silver ornaments on her. On the other hand, Jaddan Bai was such a sincere woman that regardless of this, after every meeting, she used to stand with folded hands in front of her husband Mohan Babu.
When Jaddan Bai narrowly survived the meeting of the Nawabs
Jaddan Bai was once invited to a Nawab’s meeting. Tabla player Ahmedjan Thirkwa Sahab was called to accompany him. Nawab Saheb was fond of music but of a capricious mood. He gave presents when he was happy and a lot when he was angry. Before the talk started, the tabla asked what you will hear today. Jaddan replied: I will narrate something that Nawab Saheb will get drunk. Thirkava sahib asked, which bandish?
You have the answer, sinful Nawab, you have committed atrocities, Naihar Mora has been freed. Hearing these words, Thirkava Sahib’s senses were stunned. He said, why do you want to be jealous, Bai. Jaddan nervously replied, what’s up? Thirkava explained that if the Nawab Sahib took these bitter words upon himself, he would have to give them for acceptance. Jaddan Bai had been doing Riyaz in this bandish for months and had nothing else to narrate. They both decided that by changing the words of this banishment, the sinful Nawab should be changed to the good Nawab and the atrocious Nawab should be changed to the age of Tohri. Jaddan Bai, understanding the urgency of the occasion, sang changing the lyrics. As a result, the Nawab was pleased with this prohibition and returned them with a large reward.
From Banaras to Calcutta, Karachi and then to Bombay
Jaddan Bai left the place within a few years and came to Calcutta to become a singer. Here he received music lessons from Shrimant Ganpat Rao, Ustad Moinuddin Khan, Ustad Chaddu Khan Sahib and Ustad Lab Khan Sahib. Soon his songs were liked all over the country. The British rulers used to invite them and arrange meetings at different places like Rampur, Bikaner, Gwalior, Jammu and Kashmir. His songs began to reach the country through radio stations, while the Gramophone music company in the United Kingdom recorded his ghazals and took them away.
As recognition began, Phototone Company of Lahore offered her the role of the hero’s mother in the film Raja Gopichand (1933). He entered the world of acting by making films. Next, for the Karachi company, he did the film Insan Ya Shaitan. He also appeared in Prem Pariksha and Sewa Sadan. After a few years, he moved from Lahore to Bombay (Mumbai) with his family.
If the son was not working, the daughter took Nargis to the cinema.
Jaddan Bai was losing money making films. When he launched his second son Anwar Hussain in films, the film flopped a lot and Jaddan Bai suffered a lot. Jaddan Bai and Mohanbabu managed to get Nargis enrolled in the English Medium Elite School in Mumbai, but she had to change schools when the production house began to suffer.
Mohan Babu had already given up his dream of becoming a doctor to marry Jaddan Bai, so he wanted to make daughter Nargis a doctor, but Jaddan Bai felt it necessary to take Nargis to cinema to pay off the debt.
Nargis in front of the camera for the first time at the age of 6
Jaddan Bai also performed and composed music in Talaash-e-Haq. Jaddan Bai featured 6-year-old Nargis as a child artist in the same film, in which he got the credit as Baby Nargis. After playing small roles in many films, Nargis gained recognition at the age of 14 with the film Takdeer. Jaddan Bai’s decision for the daughter turned out to be right.
Jaddan Bai’s production house closed in 1940
In the 1940s, large-scale films began to be made in Hindi cinema and many production houses began to open. As a result, Jaddan Bai’s production company was on the verge of closing down. The company closed and Jaddan Bai distanced himself from films. When Jaddan Bai’s son Akhtar Hussain made the film Darogaji, Jaddan Bai himself wrote all the dialogues of the film. Released in 1949, this was the last film of his life.
Cancer took her life, she couldn’t see her daughter become a star
Jaddan Bai died of cancer on April 8, 1949. He was then about 57 years old. Sadly, he didn’t get to see his daughter Nargis become a star. Jaddan Bai was buried in the Baba Cemetery in Bombay. As a tribute to Jaddan Bai, the shooting of all films in Mumbai was halted and the studios closed for a day.