The Famous Bollywood Singer We Never Knew

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Shamshad Begum, playback singer on many early Bollywood films, has died at the ripe old age of 94. Too bad we’ve never heard of her.

We do know about sisters Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. They hold the Guiness World Record for most recorded singers: younger sister Asha has done 12,000 songs, older sister Lata has done over 25,000. They hold Bollywood playback singer hegemony.

No wonder we don’t know much about Shamshad. Her career started earlier than the famous sisters, in 1931. In 1941, she recorded her first big film, Khazanchi, followed by Aar Paar in 1954, and C.I.D. in 1956. After her lawyer and amateur photographer husband died in 1955, she retired from singing and lead a quiet life.

Here she sings in a 1951 film Bahar: remember the actress singing is only lip-synching; it’s Shamshad’s voice.