Pukar (Hindi: पुकार) is a 1939 Hindi film produced and directed by Sohrab Modi under the production house, Minerva Movietone. The film is about Mughal emperor Jehangir’s (Chandramohan) legendary justice and focuses how Jehangir offers himself to be killed when a washer-woman accuses the empress Noor Jehan (Naseem Banu) of killing her husband in a hunt. To those who have not heard of Naseem Banu, she is mother of actress Saira Banu, and mother-in-law of actor Dilip Kumar. Naseem Banu’s mother was a courtesan, singer-dancer, Chhamiya Bai, also known as Shamshad Begum (not to be confused with the famous playback singer Shamshad Begum).
The only son of Sardar Sangram Singh (Sohrab Modi), Mangal, is provoked into a fight with two men, which he accepts and wins, killing the two challengers. The families of the deceased men approach emperor Jehangir for justice, and Sangram Singh, trusting the justice of his employer, entrusts his son to the justice of his majesty. Jehangir makes it clear that his law is clear and there are no exceptions, and he orders the execution of Mangal, ignoring the pleas of Sangram Singh. Then a woman, whose husband has been killed, rings the bell for justice. Jehangir hears the matter, and he is told that this woman’s husband has been killed by an arrow. But the woman is hesitant to name the killer for fear of repercussion. Jehangir, however, assures her that there will be no repercussions, and she names the killer as the empress, Noor Jehan. This throws Jehangir into a quandary, as now he will have to apply the same law as he has been to others.
K L Saigal (1904–1947) is considered as the first superstar of the Hindi film industry. Kundan Lal Saigal was born on 11th April, 1904 at Nawa Shahar in Jammu State. His mother was a deeply religious lady who was very fond of music. She used to take young Kundan to various religious functions where Bhajan, Keertan and Shabad were sung in traditional styles. Kundan Lal often accompanied his father to the interior parts of the State where he would soak into the folk music of Punjab and Kashmir straight from the wandering shepherds.
His formal schooling was brief and uneventful. He started earning by working in the Railways as a timekeeper and later at the Remington Typewriters as a salesman, which allowed him to tour to several places in India. Meanwhile, his passion for singing continued and became more intense with the passage of time. Finally, he landed at Calcutta in early 1930s and met R C Boral, music director of New Theatres. R C Boral took instant liking to his talents and Saigal was employed on a contract basis.
K L Saigal – Ek Bangala Bane Nyara (President 1937) :
K L Saigal – Babul Mora Naihar (Street Singer 1938) :
K L Saigal – So Ja Rajkumari (Zindagi 1940) :
K L Saigal – Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya (Shahjehan 1946) :
It was in 1933 that his four Bhajans in the film Puran Bhagat created a sensation throughout India. Thereafter, Saigal never looked back. The real breakthrough came soon thereafter with the film Devdas in 1935, which established K L Saigal as the first superstar of the Indian cinema. It created history and the songs of this film were hummed in all corners of India. In 1941, K L Saigal shifted to Bombay where he acted and sang in a number of hit films.
K L Saigal – Hum Joliyon Ki Thi Toliyan (Non-Film) :
K L Saigal – Jhulan Jhulao Ri (Non-Film) :
K L Saigal acted in 36 feature films which include 28 Hindi, 7 Bangla and 1 Tamil. In all, K L Saigal rendered 185 songs which include 142 film songs and 43 non-film songs. In the film songs category, there are 110 Hindi, 30 Bangla and 2 Tamil songs. In the non-film category, there are 37 Hindi and 2 each in Bangla, Punjabi and Persian languages. By this time, alcohol had become a predominant factor in K L Saigal’s life. His dependence on alcohol had begun affecting his work and his health. It was said that he could only record a song after being fortified with liquor. He died on 18th January, 1947, at the age of 42. In 1995, The Government of India released a commemorative stamp in K L Saigal’s honour.
Mukti, directed by P C Barua was released in 1937. Kanan Devi, whom P C Barua wanted to play the lead in his earlier film Devdas (1935), but she couldn’t, was the lead actress and singer. P C Barua himself was in the male lead. Music was directed by Pankaj Mullick. Mukti made Kanan Devi a star which led to her fruitful association with New Theatres, Calcutta. The storyline of the film was much ahead of it’s time.
This classic adultery story is about an artist, Prasant (P C Barua) who is married to the rich Chitra (Kanan Devi). The couple are in love but neither partner is prepared to compromise their ideals. The marriage falls apart. Prasant concedes his wife’s demand for a divorce and goes to the jungles of Assam, where for many years his closest associates are a wild elephant and Jharna, the wife of an innkeeper named Pahari (Pankaj Mullick). Chitra marries a millionaire, Bipul and they go on an elephant hunt. They kill Prasant’s pet elephant. Since Chitra believes Prasant to be dead, he avoids meeting her, but rescues her from the villainous Bipul. Prasant succeeds but dies at Chitra’s feet.
During the 1940s, the two faces which dominated the Indian film world with their music and acting were Noor Jehan and Suraiya. In fact, Suraiya was ranked after Noor Jehan who had created a sensation with her lively acting, tuneful singing and glamorous personality. Both appeared in Mehboob’s musical Anmol Ghadi (1946), and enraptured the audiences. Though overshadowed by Noor Jehan, it goes to Suraiya’s credit that though in a supportive role, she was able to hold her own and make her presence felt with her evergreen melodies. Suraiya decided to stay back in India after partition, while Noor Jehan left for Pakistan.
Noor Jehan – Chandni Raaten (Dupatta 1955) :
Noor Jehan – Hamen To Sham-E-Gham Mein (Jugnu 1947) :
Suraiya – Raaton Ki Neend Chhin Li (Shokhiyan 1952) :
She gave us music and she gave us laughter. Her career, first as precocious crooner and then as Tun Tun, the comedienne is her undeniable legacy, one too short-lived, the other enduring but both immortal. Born Uma Devi Khatri in an obscure village in Uttar Pradesh, she lost both her parents at an early age. Raised by her uncle in a conservative Punjabi family, her one enduring passion remained singing. With no formal training, she like many little children, picked up film songs from the radio. In a place and time when educating girls was a luxury and ambition in them was unheard of, Uma Devi showed remarkable courage teaching herself to read and write Hindi along with a smattering of Urdu and English to help her singing career.
At the age of 13, Uma Devi ran away from home and boarded the train to Bombay to seek her future, to challenge the voices she had imitated for years. She wanted to sing for Naushad, with his distinctly refined brand of music. For she believed firmly that he was the greatest composer. After repeated requests to sing for the maestro, she was finally granted an audience. This intrepid 13 year old charmed the renowned composer with a rendition of one of Noor Jehan’s classics. Uma Devi was on her way to success. Talk about impressive debuts, Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon from Dard (1947) became a runaway hit. But the success did not last too long.
Uma Devi – Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon (Dard 1947) :
Uma Devi – Aaj Machi Hai Dhoom (Dard 1947) :
Uma Devi – Dilwale Jal Jal Kar Hi Mar Jana (Natak 1947) :
Uma Devi – Chandni Raat Hai (Chandni Raat 1949) :
The partition of India threw the country into bloody chaos, and work was dwindling as the Mangeshkar sisters entered the fray. Uma Devi knew her inability to handle higher scales would compare unfavourably against the well-honed voices of these promising newcomers. Personally, she had put on an enormous amount of weight. Once again Naushad, her Rakhi brother saved the day. Knowing her gift of comic timing, he suggested she take up acting.
This was her second more popular avatar. Debuting in Babul, produced by Naushad himself, she was cast with Dilip Kumar and Nargis. In it she was christened Tun Tun, a name that has stayed with her to date. Her career as the first true comedienne of Indian cinema saw her entertain in films like Aar Paar, Pyaasa, Mr and Mrs 55 and Mom Ki Gudiya. Tun Tun is one of the few artists, who could make a shift of profession worth remembering in the Hindi film industry.