Veteran Bollywood singer faces poverty, neglect by film industry

By Hindustan Times

In 1963, when Mubarak Begum sang ‘Mujko Aapne Gale Lagalo’ from the movie Humarahi, she became an overnight sensation with fans queuing up to get her autograph.

But at Sultanabad in Behrambaug, Jogeshwari, where the singer now stays in a one-bedroom flat, few people are aware that the once-famous songstress lives there.

Mubarak Begum once sang for famous composers like S D Burman, Salil Chowdhury, Khayyam and Kalyanji Anandji.

She has not stopped singing, but her current assignments do not fetch her more than a few thousand rupees.

She says she needs the money desperately. Her 40-year-old daughter has Parkinson disease and her son, who stays in the flat with his wife and children, earns a meagre living in the tourism industry.

Her only stable income is a scarce monthly government pension of Rs700. “The rising cost of electricity, gas and medicines is making each day a struggle for me,” said Begum.

After her father brought her to Mumbai from their native Rajasthan, she acquired a following as a top singer in the 1950s and 1960s, but offers started drying up in the 1970s. “My songs started disappearing from films. When I went to watch the movies, I realised that the songs I recorded had been sung by some other singers. They ruined my career and I didn’t fight back,” said Begum.

Bitter that her singing career had a short life, she said, “My fans in USA want me to perform there, but I can’t travel so far. I love Delhi and want to perform there even if it is for a smaller audience.”

“After reading about me, people tell the newspapers that they will help me. But the help never comes. I never learnt to plead; if I was good at that, I would not be in this state. I have sung for all major directors and music directors of those times but today none of them ever call me.”

Jogeshwari is a relatively new address for her, having shifted to the small flat from Charni Road eight years ago. Lyricist Javed Akhtar and actor Sunil Dutt helped her get the Jogeshwari flat under the chief minister’s quota.

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