78rpm vintage : Jaddan Bai

Are Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru/Gandhi family, and actor Sanjay Dutt, son of film stars of yesteryear, Nargis and Sunil Dutt, related to each other? Yes, if you believe IMDB, an Internet Movie Database site, owned by Amazon.com, a Fortune 500 company. Jaddan Bai, mother of Nargis, was born in Benares, around the year 1900. She was rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of Motilal Nehru and famous courtesan Daleep Bai. Her mother (before she became a courtesan) hailed from a Brahmin family but was abducted by a group of trained tawaifs. Jaddan Bai was born a Hindu, picked from a mela of dancing girls when she was a child and groomed a tawaif. Though Jaddan was born in Benares, she was brought up in Allahabad. Jaddan Bai, became a disciple of noted Thumri singer Ustad Moijuddin Khan and the equally noted Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, younger brother of Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Jaddan Bai became a very famous singer, composer, actress and filmmaker and was a good friend of Mehboob Khan who later became Nargis’s mentor.

Jaddan Bai had three children from three different men. The story of the union of Jaddan and Mohanbabu is very interesting. Uttamchand Mohanchand belonged to an orthodox Mohyal Brahmin family of Rawalpindi. He was to go to England to study medicine but heard the voice of Jaddan Bai and fell in love with her. His family refused to accept Jaddan Bai as their daughter-in-law but that did not deter him from marrying her and dedicating his entire life to her. Nargis was named Fatima A Rashid by her father but she later adopted the name Nargis for Hindi movies. Jaddan Bai’s two sons from different men, Akthar Hussain and Anwar Hussain became film directors and actors.

Jaddan Bai – Lagat Karejawa Mein Chot :  Download

Jaddan Bai – Roop Joban :  Download

Jaddan Bai – Tere Sang Raja :  Download

Jaddan Bai cast Nargis in Talashe Haq (1935), becoming the first woman composer of Indian cinema. In 1936, Jaddan Bai established Sangeet Films, producing films featuring her daughter, Nargis, as a child artiste. However, failing family fortunes forced Jaddan Bai to cast her daughter in leading roles from the tender age of fourteen and Nargis became the sole bread-earner for the family. Jaddan Bai died on 8th April, 1949.

Disclaimer : The information on Jaddan Bai was collected from various credible and not-so-credible sources on the internet. The author of this blog does not in anyway mean to hurt the sentiments of anyone alive or disregard the souls of the dead.

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  1. June 7, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks so much for this fascinating post! More than anything, learning that Jaddan Bai was both a film composer and owner of a film company is monumental in my ongoing research on tawaifs.

    In collaboration with my co-producer and editor Mars, I am in the final stages of post-production of an ethnographic point-of-view documentary film. In addition, I am developing an article for an anthology on women performers in India as agents of change to be edited by Dr. Regula Qureshi, Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, University of Alberta.

    The film, “Disrupted Divas – Conflicting Pathways,” looks at the lives, lore, and performance of tawaifs in Muzaffarpur, Bihar; Bowbazaar, Kolkata; and Shivdaspur, Benares. I present them as part of a tradition of divas, by virtue of their identity and historical contributions as court entertainers.

    I provide an overview of how their status in society has fallen, due to historical and more contemporary, pragmatic disruptions that they encounter. I then argue that disintegration of what was once a great artistic tradition has made access to the mainstream diva identity very difficult, if not impossible, for these women to attain. I show how this fact also negatively impacts their economic situation, often forcing them into prostitution. Nevertheless, despite the disruption of a once-revered tradition, we suggest through footage that the efficacy of these divas can be discovered in their voices, both narrative and musical.

    We ask what are their options. We show how the small NGO Guria Sansthan (www.guriaindia.org) provides a ray of hope and empowerment for these women as grassroots performing artists and women deserving a life of dignity through its micro-philanthropic, social entrepreneurial patronage.

    In the article, I intend to flesh out a section on the involvement in and contributions to the media by tawaifs (and other non-conventional women performers). So this is just the kind of information I’m looking for! I already included the information on Kamla Jharia in the film. (Interestingly, I did a mini-concert tour of Jharkhand in Dec. ’09, with my first performance at Dhanbad. My hosts took me to Jharia while showing me around Dhanbad!)

    Could you please cite some of the sources where you got the information on Jaddan Bai, in particular that about her composing film scores and owning the film company?

    Many thanks and best wishes, Amie

  2. indianraga said,

    June 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    You may visit this link to get a full insight on Jaddan Bai’s work as film producer and director, actor, singer and music composer. Her production house was called Sangeet Film Company.


    or you may click on these direct links for each film:

    Jaddan Bai artiste information:

    As Artiste:
    Madam Fashion (1936)
    Hridaya Manthan (1936)
    Talash-E-Haq (1935)
    Nachwali (1934)
    Prem Pariksha (1934)
    Seva Sadan (1934)
    Insaan Ya Shaitan (1933)
    Raja Gopichand (1933)

    As Director:
    Jeewan Swapna (1937)
    Moti Ka Haar (1937)
    Hridaya Manthan (1936)
    Madam Fashion (1936)

    As Music Director:
    Jeewan Swapna (1937)
    Moti Ka Haar (1937)
    Hridaya Manthan (1936)
    Madam Fashion (1936)
    Talash-E-Haq (1935)

  3. lakshmi said,

    September 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I loved the clips and the write up. I know that Salim Kidwai in Lucknow works on tawaifs and their movement into Bonbay cinema. There is a phenomenal archive waiting to be unearthed and put in the publci domain.

  4. prabir pandit said,

    February 6, 2012 at 12:30 am

    antic song..

    good job.. brevo…

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