A contemporary of the legendary Gauhar Jan, prima donna of early recordings of Indian music, Indubala (more famously known as Miss Indubala) was the daughter of Rajbala, a circus trapeze artiste. Rajbala married Motilal Bose, owner of The Great Bengal Circus, also known as Bose’s Circus or Professor Bose’s Circus. The marriage was not really accepted by Motilal’s family as he was already married to another woman. Indubala was born in November, 1899 at Amritsar, where the circus party had gone for performance. The initial plan was to train Indubala as a nurse and she was admitted as a trainee in a hospital in the Pataldanga locality of Calcutta. Indubala did not take fancy to the job and ran away from the hospital, much to the disappointment of her mother, who never wanted her only daughter to be forced into a life of indignity. After this incident Indubala’s musical training started. This also marked the entry of Indubala into the red light world. Amongst her trainers was Gauhar Jan. Apart from music, Indubala also learned etiquette from the elder artiste and developed a close friendship with her. This association provided Indubala with valuable musical knowledge and experience.
In 1916, Indubala recorded her first songs. In the beginning she did not take any money from the Gramophone Company and as such was credited in the records as Miss Indubala (Amateur). She was not the first amateur artiste of the company but enjoyed the privilege of announcing her name at the end of each song saying ‘My name is Indubala’. The amateur status continued for a fairly long period. Later on she received Rs. 200 per record and also received a royalty of 5 per cent over the sales. To Indubala also goes the credit of being the first Bengali artiste to record Hindustani songs for the Gramophone Company. For the All India Radio, Indubala first sang on the second day of the radio’s broadcasting in 1927 in Calcutta and went on singing in this medium for nearly fifty years. Indubala sang not only from Calcutta but from several other stations by special invitation from all over India. Apart from discs and the radio, Indubala was well established by the 1930s in cultural functions all over India. In 1936 she was appointed court musician to the Maharaja of Mysore. She received a monthly salary of Rs. 250 that continued till the 1960s.
In all, Indubala had recorded some 280 songs, including about 240 classical songs, the rest being from films. The songs posted below are very rarely found anywhere else. You may easily term these as my find of the year.
The government of India never considered her name for any award. The Sangeet Natak Academy however honored her with a lifetime achievement award in 1975. In personal life, Indubala was most humble and polite but bold in her behavior and was never ashamed to admit or discuss her origin. Even when established as a major singing artiste with an all India fame, she refused to move out to a respectable place leaving her residence in Rambagan, a notorious red light area of Calcutta. Her end came on the 30th day of November, 1984 after a prolonged illness.