Author Archives: somecreativevoices
Mehrunissa aka Ashalata
You know, there was a time when most film stars would get themselves a screen name upon entering Hindi cinema, which producers probably felt would appeal to a wider audience. This somehow often lead to Muslim actors getting Hindu screen names. Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Raj Kumar, Meena Kumari were all screen names.
My beautiful grandmother, my Nani, was named Mehrunissa at birth, but changed her name to Ashalata when she signed 3 films with Shakti Movietone, all of which released in 1935 when she was still in her teens.
She went on to act in several films, one of them – Deepak – opposite Prithviraj Kapoor. She was also one of the few glamorous stars to model for the then coveted Lux ad.
She then met my grandfather, Anil Biswas, who was a famous film composer and they got married. It was an inter-religious marriage which, back in those days, was not exactly commonplace.
They later separated when my mother was 7. Again, a fairly uncommon practice for those times.
Post acting, Nani became a producer and distributor, a rarity for women at that time. But then she was always different. Not the kind to ever give up on life or feel she was too old for something. She learned to cook and swim at the age of 40. This at a time when at 50, you had supposedly entered old age and had to lead a retired life.
My mother always told me one thing about my Nani – that she never forgot to love herself.
I salute that spirit in her, and all such glorious, gutsy women who paved the way for women to lead their lives with freedom, just the way it should always have been.
Happy birthday Nani. I love you.
(The Post was originally shared on Instagram by Tuhinaavohra. Grand daughter of Music director Anil Biswas)
Music director duo Amar-Utpal
In 1992, the music director duo Amar-Utpal was recording the songs for a new film in which Gulshan Kumar was to launch his brother Krishan Kumar. The film was T-Series’ Aaja Meri Jaan, and it was about to catapult a new singer onto the path of fame.
This singer came recommended twice to them – first by Utpal’s father Anil Biswas, considered the doyen of Hindi film composers, and secondly by Usha Khanna, the only female music director of her time.
But I tell you this story not because of its other characters, but because of one half of the composer duo Amar-Utpal : Utpal Biswas. He was my mama (maternal uncle) and 29th April was his birth anniversary. We called him Munna mama.
So Amar-Utpal recorded two songs in this singer’s voice : Aag Lage Sawan Ko and O Aasman Wale. Every evening for six months at a stretch, Gulshan Kumar and Krishan Kumar would come to the studio and listen to these songs.
And yet, when the film was finally made, the songs were redubbed in the voice of SP Balasubramaniam.
The struggling singer was absolutely heartbroken.
But destiny will always have its own way.
When Gulshan Kumar watched the rushes, he realised that one of the songs seemed to suit the hero much more in the original voice.
And so it was that my mama, or the duo Amar-Utpal, were able to give the now legendary singer Sonu Nigam his first break with the song O Aasmaan Wale Zameen Par Utarke Dekh.
When Sonu Nigam became famous and was recording 2, sometimes 3 songs in one day, my mama happened to call him saying he was stuck at a studio without a singer. Sonu stopped by on the way from one recording to the next and recorded his song in 20 minutes flat, refusing to take payment from him.
Gulshan Kumar was so happy when Aaja Meri Jaan became a hit that he gifted my mama a Maruti 800, a highly popular car in those days.
One day, Munna mama went to Gulshan Kumar’s office asking him for a few extra cassettes to give around to people. The producer told him he was welcome to go ahead and buy the cassettes from him. My uncle said, “Gulshanji, you literally just gave me a whole car! Why on earth would you skimp over a couple of cassettes??”
GK said, “Because that was a gift, and this is my business. Don’t you dare mess with my business!”
Utpal had a hearty laugh and readily bought the cassettes from him.
Gulshan Kumar used Sonu Nigam for countless songs after that and even gave him his first big hit, Achha Sila Diya Tune Mere Pyar Ka.
Other than the films they did for T-Series, Amar-Utpal also recorded 47 songs for Gulshan Kumar for a music bank he was creating, in which they were the highest paid among all their compatriots.
Amar-Utpal… My dearest brother Utpal, you were loved by so many for your loving, caring and helpful nature. Not a day goes by when I don’t remember you and my heart weeps and longs to hear your madcap imitations once more. Happy Celestial Birthday, wherever you are, enjoy your party!!Shikha Vohra for on his brother Utpal’s birthday on 29th April.