Thursday, April 23, 2020



                 ( Blessing Kailash Kher)

               ( With Talat Mehmood )


You may have forgotten this face   but not so easy to forget her voice. She sang many romantic songs , Gazals Bhajans and  Qawalis that Sahir penned . She also  sang Marathi , Bhojpuri and Punjabi  songs. She succeeded in creating   her space   when Mangeshkar sisters were controlling  the playback singing arena in  Mumbai film industry. She remained an active playback singer for  just  10 years but the songs she sang are fresh even to this day.

She  sang 264 songs for 155 films, some notable ones being Dilli Door Ast, Girl Friend, Dekh Kabira Roya, Barsaat ki Raat, Dhool ka Phool, Gauhar, Dil-e-Naadan, Babar, Didi and Kala Pani. She also acted in some films.

Her family  moved to Bhopal from Lahore  post partition. At Bhopal, Sudha continued  taking music lessons  apart from attending  her school / college . Her  father was  principal of a School  in Bhopal. She completed her graduation in music from Agra University.

In  Lahore she had sung as a child artist at  a  Red Cross charity event organised by master  Ghulam Haider. She sang at AIR Lahore as child artist when the legendary Jeewan Lal Mattoo was incharge of the  music section. Both Mattoo and Ghulam Haider had advised her to continue singing.
There is an interesting story to her film singing.   She was on a summer holiday in Mumbai staying with her maternal uncle's family. Anil Biswas was a friend of her maternal uncle. At a young age of 13 ,  she sang  at an event organised by Anil Biswas .Impressed by her dulcet voice, Biswas  offered her a song 'Mila Gaye Nain' in Aarzoo, a movie for which  he had been engaged as music director.. The song was well received  . Aarzoo was a debut movie for singer Talat Mehmood. After that, P.N. Arora, A.R. Kardar and others gave her  singing assignments .Some music directors also approached her and consequently ,  she kept coming to Mumbai and going back to Bhopal after finishing her work. It was hectic. . Finally at the  age 19 ,she shifted to Mumbai to live with the family of her maternal uncle (Mama) . In  Mumbai , she started  learning  classical music  from  Ustad Abdul Rehman Khan( Patiala Gharana)  and Pandit Laxman Prasad Jaipurwale. 

    Sudha Malhotra was in her early twenties when rumours of an alleged affair between her and Sahir Ludhianvi began doing the rounds in film circles in the late 1950s. Sudha had entered the world of playback singing and had managed to carve a niche for herself in a short time with a few songs, most of them penned by Sahir, which became enormously popular.
She was pretty, reserved and understood poetic nuances. Sahir recommended her name to Roshan for Barsaat ki Raat. She proved her versatility as playback singer in this movie singing Qawalis  to perfection with Manna Dey,Rafi ,Asha and others . The magic of 'Na to Karwan ki Talaash hai' is still capable to cast it's enchanting spell upon  music lovers .Her duet with Geeta Rai 'Na mein Dhan chaahun ' touched heights of popularity .Chetan Anand recorded Sahir's poem,'  Kabhi Kabhi meray Dil mein Khayaal aata hai 'as a duet sung by Sudha and Geeta Rai for a film project with Naushad as music composer. The project was abandoned halfway. Many people say that Sahir wrote this poem  for Sudha after he felt enamoured by her voice and looks. After many years,  Sahir  used the poem as song for Yash Chopra's  movie Kabhi Kabhi .Sahir recommended her to N Dutta as a  playback singer for Didi. When the recording day  for the  song 'Tum mujhe bhool bhi jaao to ye haw hai tum ko ' was fixed, N Datta suffered heart complications and remained in hospital for many days. Sahir prevailed upon the  producers to give a chance to Sudha to create a tune for the song. And a confident Sudha did the wonder. 
    After 1960, the year she got married, Sudha stopped singing in Hindi films. She did not sing for Sahir or anyone else. Neither did she meet him again.Sudha informs this  :

"Sahir Sahib was the  greatest artist I ever met. He could write on any situation with intense feelings. He had great confidence in my singing. He recommended me to the  producers of  Babar , Dhool Ka Phool and many other films. Roshan Ji respected Sahir Sahib's words.The recording of 'Na to Karwan'  was  done non stop for 24 hours. Sahir Sahib, Roshan Sahib,all singers and musicians were doing a non stop job. This type of Qawali has neither been written nor composed till date.If I have inspired Sahir  Sahib to write Kabhi Kabhi poem , then I am happy. I  got married to Girdhar Motwani  in 1960  and stopped singing. However  , Raj Kapoor Sahib  insisted  upon me to sing for his Prem Rog after I  had stopped singing. He recorded a Gazal. I asked my husband who was in the US  as I had agreed to stop all film singing after my marriage. My husband however agreed to Raj Ji's request.  Our family is in the business of manufacturing and marketing 'Chicago Radio' mikes . We have worldwide business .We are in this business since 1909. Our public address systems were used by all national leaders including Gandhi Ji , Nehru Ji and Sardar Patel.. I got Padam-Shri in 2013."

Akshay  Manwani interviewed Sudha  Malhotra  in 2010.This is what she told him:

"   Sahir Sahib  must have liked my voice. I don’t know what it was, but he was definitely very enamoured. He kept giving me good songs to sing, which was my achievement. Every morning I used to get a call from him, but it was always related to work.    My uncle would tease me, ‘Teray morning alarm ka phone aa gaya hai’. All I know was that attention was being showered on me and I was lapping it up. As a young girl, if somebody, such an important person, is giving you so much attention, you enjoy it. I don't think I  ever entertained the idea of romancing Sahir: It didn’t even cross my mind once…"  

Personally, I don't subscribe to the story that Sahir wrote the song 'Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi bun jaayein hum donon ' when he learnt about the marriage of Sudha Malhotra. Prima facie ,it looks  sheer gossip. 'Unfortunately , some writers  have also  carried   this gossip in their books, columns , magazines and write ups  without proper verification. This  poem titled Khoobsoorat Morr ( beautiful turn)  is  included in Sahir's poetic collection 'Talkhiyaan'. ' Talkhiyaan ' was published by Sahir from Lahore  in 1945 .The poem was used as a song in Gumrah, a 1963 film. Sudha  was married in 1960. And in the same year,  she said goodbye to film industry .

Sudha has worked with  well known composers like  Ghulam Mohammed,Anil Biswas, Ravi, Roshan, N Dutta, C Ramchandra and S D Burman.Some songs sung by Sudha  Malhotra that come to my mind at the moment are:

(1) Kashti Ka khamosh Safar hai
 (2) Darshan do ganshyaam 
(3) Ka se kahuun mun ki baat
(4) Tum mujhe bhool bhi jaao
(4) Na me Dhan chaahun
(5) Na to karwaan ki talash hai
(6) Ji chaahta hai choom loon
(7) Malik teray jahaan mein
(8) Maiya Mori mein nahin maakhan khaayo
(9) Ye ishq ishq hai
(10) Salaam e Hasrat qabool Kar lo
(11) Ganga ki Ret pe(Mirza Ghalib)
(12) Bhaj mun Ram charan sukhdaayi
(13)  Kauni rang mungwa kawani rang motiya
(14) Yeh pyaar tha ya kuchh aur tha

She sang a mesmerising Bhojpuri song for the 1959 movie 'Heera Moti'  in a duet with Suman Kalyanpur. The song 'Kaune Rang mungwa kawan rang motiya' was written by Prem Dhawan and set to music by Roshan and picturised on Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy.  I simply love this great composition .

   Sudha  retains her poise and elegance even in her old age. She lives with her family  at  Khar (west ) in Mumbai. She loves reading and listening to good  music  .She loves to wear Saris.

(Avtar Mota)

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