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There have been many playback singers like
Lalita Deulkar, Sulochna Kadam, Mubarak Begum, Meena Kapoor, Jagjit Kaur,
Madhubala Zaveri and Kamal Barot in the field of Hindi film music, their
contribution is significant even in the limited work they did. With their
talent they made a mark but soon they left this glittering world due to various
reasons. Among such highly talented singers is the sweet voiced singer, Sudha
Malhotra, who was active for just about 10 years but the songs she sang
are fresh even today.
Sudha Malhotra was born in Delhi on
30th November 1936 and raised in Lahore, her hometown. She was
the eldest among 4 siblings with 3 younger brothers. Sudha Malhotra says,
“All of us at home had an inclination towards music. My parents encouraged me
to learn singing after they saw my passion for music. At the age of 6, I
got a chance to sing in a program in front of Master Ghulam Hyder, that too
with his orchestra. I sang Noorjehan’s “tu kaun si badli me mere chaand hai aa
ja” from the film “Khandaan” which impressed Master Ghulam Hyader to such an
extent that he immediately said that I’ll earn lot of name and fame in
forthcoming years. I started taking lessons from Deshbandhu Sethi ji in
classical vocal while in Lahore and also started singing on All India
radio. After the partition we shifted to Delhi where I started learning
from Pandit Amar Nath”.
SudhaMalhotra’s father was an academician. He shifted to Bhopal after he got
the Principal’s job there. According to SudhaMalhotra, all her maternal relatives were based in Mumbai thus she
often visited the city since childhood. Composer Anil Biswaswas her maternal uncle’s family friend. Anil BiswasonceheardSudhaMalhotrasing and he was
so impressed that he gave her a chance to sing in his film “Aarzoo”. Her debut song in the film “Aarzoo”, a 1950 release was a solo “mila
gaye nain” which was picturised on Shashikala. SudhaMalhotrawas just 14 at that time.
recording the song she returned to Bhopal. “Mila gaye nain” was highly
appreciated by the masses. According toSudhaMalhotra, she was offered many songs after the
grand success of her debut song. She used to come all the way from Bhopal to
Mumbai for the recordings and after finishing the job returned to Bhopal. This
continued for 2-3 years but due to increasing work pressure, eventually she had
to permanently shift from Bhopal to Mumbai.
SudhaMalhotrasays, “I got an opportunity to sing under the
baton of all the big-small composers of that era. In a career spanning around
10 years I sang approximately 250 songs in 135 movies. Many of my songs like “mohabbat
ki dhun beqararon se poochho” (dil-e-nadan / 1953), “awaaz de raha hai koi
aasmaan se” (gauhar / 1953), “ganga ki reti pe bangla uthwai de” (mirza ghalib
/ 1954), “ghoonghat hataai ke nazrein milai ke” (rangeen raatein / 1956),
“maalik tere jahaan me” (ab dilli door nahin / 1957),
“mera jala raat bhar
diya” (chamak chandni / 1957), “sapnon ka chanda aaya” (Mr.X / 1957), “hum
tumhaare hain zara ghar se nikal ke dekh lo” (chalti ka naam gaadi / 1958),
“jaane kaisa jadoo kiya re” (parvarish / 1958), “dekho ji mera haal, badal gayi
chaal” (solva saal / 1958), “hat hat hat ja re natkhat piya” (swarn sundari /
1958), “kaase kahoon mann ki baat” (dhool ka phool / 1959), “san san san wo
hawa chali (kagaz ke phool / 1959) and “gham ki badli me chamakta…kal hamara
hai” (kal hamara hai / 1959) were greatly appreciated by the masses.
1950’s was a very busy decade in SudhaMalhotra’s career. Then she got married into the Motwani
family, the owners of famed “Chicago Radio”. SudhaMalhotrasays,
“At that time, people connected with films were not looked up to and working in
films was a taboo in respectable families. It was not easy for a newly wed
daughter-in-law like me to continue with my singing career but there was one more
big reason behind this denial from my in-laws. However out of respect towards
the wishes of the elders in the family, I bid adieu to the film world. My last
recorded song was a duet with Mukesh, “tum mujhe bhool bhi jao to ye haq hai
tumko” for the 1959 release “Didi”. Though the composer for this film was
N.Dutta, this particular song was composed by me. Thus my singing career which started at the age of 14 ultimately came
to an end at the age of 23”.
the release of the film “Didi”, many of SudhaMalhotra’s earlier recorded songs came in market and were applauded by
such songs were “kashti ka khamosh safar hai” (girlfriend / 1960), “salaam-e-hasrat qubool kar lo” (babar / 1960), “na mai dhan chahoon”
(kala bazar / 1960), “assalaam aalekum babu kaho kaisa haal hai” (kalpana /
“alif zabar aa” (love in simla / 1960), “ye haath hi apni daulat hai”
(masoom / 1960), “jaane waale dekh le” (dekhi teri bambai / 1960), “jao ji jao
badi shaan ke dikhaane waale” (razia sultan / 1961), “sachche ka hai bolbala”
(sachche moti / 1962), “kadmon me shama ke parwaane” (kinare kinare / 1963) and
“hum bhi anjaan they” (mai suhagan hoon / 1964), and the famous qawwalis “ye
ishq ishq hai”, “na to kaarwaan ki talaasha hai” and “ji chahta hai choom loon”
from the film “barsaat ki raat” (1960).
SudhaMalhotrasays, “Composed by Naushad Saheb, all the songs
from the film “Uran Khatola” were initially recorded in my voice. But my voice disappeared
from the songs when the movie and the gramophone records released. I also recorded
a duet with Geeta Dutt, which was composed by Khayyam for a Chetan Anand movie.
As the movie remained incomplete, the said song was later used by Yash Chopra
in one of his films with the same tune and lyrics but with different voices.
And, that song was, “kabhi kabhi mere dil me khyaal aata hai”. During those
days I was a very busy singer and had gained a lot of recognition from the
qawwalis in “barsaat ki raat”, thus started a lot of conspiracies against me. I can’t say if there was any pressure on the company, but HMV which had
a monopoly in the field of film music then didn’t release a single gramophone
record of mine during that period.
SudhaMalhotra, apart from Anil Biswas, Sahir Ludhiyanvi
also played an important role for the shaping up her singing career. In a
recorded interview, the recording of which is still in our possession, SudhaMalhotrasays,
“Sahir saheb wrote some very beautiful lyricsespecially for me. After I got engaged, some of my pictures with Sahir
Ludhiyanvi were published in the Blitz. I don’t know who was behind that
all and what he or she intended to, but even though the Blitz later
apologized, the publication of the pictures was one of the main reasons behind
why I wasn’t permitted to sing after my marriage. Had this not happened, maybe
I would continue with my singing career after marriage as well”.
preparing this write up we again spoke to Sudha ji for the updates and she also
supported us. But she flatly refused to talk on the Blitz controversy
this time. Out of respect towards her feelings, we also didn’t insist on this
Even after leaving
the film world, SudhaMalhotrakept her passion for music alive. She continued her “riyaaz”, gave stage
performances and taught music.After a gap of 24 years, on the behest
of Raj Kapoor, she sang a duet “ye pyaar tha ya kuchh aur tha” with the singer
Anwar in Raj Kapoor’s 1982 release “Prem Rog” which is her last recorded
playback song as on today.
77 years old SudhaMalhotraresides in her bunglow on the 15th
Road of Khar (West) with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
It’s been 4 years since her husband Mr. Girdhar Motwani passed away. Her son
looks after the family business whereas daughter-in-law is busy with the
editing and publication of renowned fashion magazines “L Official” and
“Seventeen”. Taking an account of singer SudhaMalhotra’s contribution into the field of Hindi Film Music, the
Government of India has recently felicitated her with the Padm Shri Award –
: We are thankful to Shri Harmandir Singh ‘Hamraz’, Shri Harish Raghuvanshi,
Shri Biren Kothari, Ms. Aksher Apoorva and Shri S.M.M.Ausaja for their valuable suggestions, guidance and
thanks to Maitri Manthan for the editing of English translation.