A Befitting Tribute to an Entrancing Screen Icon
By Tahir Ali
Pictures by Malini Vardarajan and Alok Bhaskar
Natick, MA: A severe weather warning was in effect for Saturday the 16 th of February, but the show must go on, resolved a determined organizer Razia Mashkoor, and it did. Razia Mashkoor, the main organizer of “Madhubala Night - Ik ladki bheegi bhaagi si” - and her team wanted to put a show that would live in the memories of those who attended and gain the ‘best show’ ratings in the area. Dr Manoherlal Kapoor of West Virginia attending the Madhubala show, commented, “After a very long time I have had so much fun.” Dr Kapoor was comparing the show to the Pankhaj Malik show he attended 28 years ago.
Razia Mashkoor and her organizing team, along with a talented cast of 45, paid a befitting tribute to Madhubala by presenting a very engaging and entertaining show. They planned and delivered the event with so much love and care that apparently no details were left out, including memories from Madhubala’s on-and-off-screen life.
The program was destined to be a resounding success because the team consisted of accomplished organizers and well-known champions in the local musical arena: Siraj Khan, Dr Meena Sundaram, Dr KumKum Pareekh Malik, Harish Dang and Jawed Wahid. Siraj Khan’s musical direction ability and unique presentation style have been instrumental in entertaining local Pakistani and Indian community with great musical shows stemming from tributes to iconic personalities of the cinema, such as the legendary music director OP Nayar, including but not limited to, the versatile singer Geeta Dutt, the happy-go-lucky movie star Shammi Kapoor and many others. He has also ‘live shows’ on his musical resume: Featuring Film Fare award winner Indian playback singer Sharda [of ‘titli udi’ fame].
Dr Meena Sundaram, a cardiologist, takes a lot of time out of her busy schedule to sing her favorite songs off and on stage. She rehearsed tirelessly to master the musical numbers on karaoke tracks so that she could bring back to life those popular songs made immortal by Madhubala’s films. People have witnessed Meena Sundaram singing from her heart on numerous occasions but not everyone is aware that when Dr Meena Sundaram is not singing, she is tending to ailing hearts even similar to what Madhubala suffered from.
No karaoke based musical evening is complete without the sound engineering provided by Jawed Wahid. For years Jawed has been hosting many such musical evenings, at his residence he calls Bhaitak. Jawed's affinity toward music started early in his life and today he was seen busy behind the scenes putting his musical talents on his sound system. Harish Dang who runs the popular radio show, namely, Sounds of India, provided some entertaining episodes as he interviewed some of the talents on the spot when they appeared on the stage to perform. He proved to be an effective emcee - speaking in Urdu - with the help of his God-gifted radio voice. Another person working behind the scenes was Dr Kumkum Malik. Sheisa clinical psychologist by profession but today was putting her people’s skill to manage the stage. Juggling with many talents at a time on the stage and making the right queue call was not an easy task. Managing a cast of 45 talents including vocalist, dancers and actors was done rather effectively.
Razia Mashkoor was born and raised in Aligarh. Since her infancy she had a great responsibility on her shoulders - she was the eldest of seven sisters. She has an affinity for cooking, music and writing. She specializes in short stories, which have been published in renowned Urdu magazines in India and Pakistan. She herself owns ‘Deedahwar’, an Urdu magazine published quarterly. Pursuing her love for cooking and music, she hosted a cooking completion program “Tandoori Night” - and in September of last year presented “Chopaal-Atamseeli Mushaira.” She finds her husband Dr Suhaib Siddiqi to be very supportive and a good source of encouragement. “One of the ardent sponsors of this event is Dr Siddiqi,” she announced at the beginning of the show, and notably blushed as she added, “and by the way, he is my husband.”
The curtain opened with a dramatic voice over effect with the couplet:
Noor-e-haq Shamm-e-Elahi ko mita sakta hay kon
jiska haami ho khuda usko mita sakta hay kon
Razia Mashkoor in her welcome speech emphasized the reason everyone was gathered that night - basically to pay tribute to the beloved late actress Madhubala.
The evening started with the song ‘Salaam aapki meethi nazar ko salaam’ by Sankar Gangaikondan followed by a memorable dance performance by Shivani and her team on the song ‘Mohe panghat pay nand lal chedh gaye’ . The song was rendered by AnuRadha. The performance was so nicely done that on the request of the audience an encore presentation had to be interlaced with the ongoing program.
Madhubala Story: Harish Dang introduced the chief guest Dr Manju Seth and invited her to the stage to say a few words about Madhubala. Siraj Khan, a key member of the organizing team, also offered a few highlights of Madhubala’s life and her family background, while Razia Mashkoor reflected on Madhubala’s early and off-screen life.
Madhubala, “the valentine girl” as Siraj Khan rightly puts it, was born in the month of February and died also in the month of February, at the age of 36 years. Her beauty probably was inherited from the Pushtoon side of her family, her father Attaullah Khan was an Afghani. Mumtaz Jahan Begum Delhavi (Madhubala) was born with a ventricular septal defect , commonly known as a "hole in the heart". Dr Meena Sundaram, a cardiologist, presented a slide show and apprised the audience on the ramification of the heart condition that at the time, unfortunately for Madhubala, was incurable. She was a heart throb and stole the hearts of many, was born in the month of love and succumbed because of her own heart condition.
Razia Mashkoor gave a brief account of young Madhubala in reference to her first movie “Basant” as a child actor. She related a story of Nawab Bano who after watching the movie in a theater in Agra, wanted very much to meet young Madhubala. Razia Mashkoor reported, “Nawab Bano was destined to co-star with Madhubala in a film after 13 years, ‘Amar’ in 1954. This child (Nawab Bano) was Nimmi,” Razia Mashkoor pointed out. She also made reference to Dilip Kumar and Madhubala’s on and off screen romance, in the song “Uthe Janaza jo kal hamara - Kassam hai tumko na denna kandha” from the film Mughl-e-Azam. “In real life, Dilip Kumar was unable to attend Madhubala’s funeral, because he was not in Bombay.”
The program continued with profound statements and jokes. Ranjani Saigal of Lokvani Magazine introduced some of the skits in Urdu with great command on the language. She said, “If life had been faithful to Madhubala, we would have seen more of her films and great performances.” Ranjani added with a sigh, “Indian cinema lost an icon - we all lost something when the curtains started to fall way too early on the life-stage of Madhubala.”
The song “Ayega Anewala” from the movie Mahal set the mood of the audience who braced themselves for a show to remember. Meena Sundaram respectfully sang this song that made Lata Mangheshkar a household name. Sudha Laxmirao welcomed the audience in her own rendition of “Aayiye Maharbaan.” Meena was joined with young starlet Anusha Kulkarni and offered the duet “Chun Chun Ghungroo bole.” Then Salman Dar and Nayanika sang “Dil mein sama gaye sajan”. Shekar Shastri dressed like Kishore Kumar sang ‘Ik ladki bheegi bhaagi si” - with one side of his pants tucked in his socks. Pallavi Nagesha dressed in a white sari acted out Madhubala’s role in the background during the song which added to the enjoyment. Shekar also joined Meena to sing “Chand sa Mukhra kiuN sharmaya”, while Sudha and Pankaj Shah wanted to know the response to “Haal kaisa hay janab ka”. When Salman Dar joined Sudha and admitted, “Udhar tum haseen ho idhar mein jawan,” Pushpa and Suresh were dancing to the tune. Shekar Shastri and Pallavi Nagesha acted out a scene from Mughal-e-Azam where the famous lines were uttered, “Anarkali, Salim tumhe marne nahiN deNga aur hum tumhe jeene nahiN deNge” thus setting a prelude to the qawwali, “Jab raat hai aisee matwali..”. - A scene from Barsaat ki raat was enacted before Mohan Subramanium sang ‘Zindaagee bhar nahi bhulay gee who barsaat ki raat.” Anuradha joined with Mohan to sing the duet “Yeh wada karo chand ke samne.” Salman Dar looked like an ‘out-of-towner’ to Sudha Rao when she sang “Ik pardesi mera dil legaya”
Then came the trump card - “Pyar kiya to darna kya” - sung by Anuradha and the dance sequence done by Isha Phadke. And as the curtain closed the audience jumped up on their feet and gave a standing ovation.
Despite the blizzard warning the hall was packed to capacity.
Madhubala never received any awards during her acting career. In 2008, the Government acknowledged Madhubala’s contribution to the film industry by commemorating a stamp in her name. To her utter surprise, the team presented Razia Mashkoor a replica of the same stamp embedded on a plaque.
“Aye Meherban” was superb. - Syeda Khan.
“Good effort” - Mr. Kapoor of Masala Art.
“This was a great tribute to Madhubala. It is nice to see that the young generation is keeping her memories alive. It was not only the songs, but the preludes to the songs too were rich.” - Vijay Aggarwal, VP Tilera Corp.
“Every performer dressed up according to the song and scene.” - Syed M. Ali
Razia Mashkoor thanked everyone and made special reference to the entire team who were key to the success of the event:
Local vocalists: Nayanika Yelledippi, Sankar Gangaikondan, Meena Sundaram, Mohan Subramanium, Sudha Lakshmi Rao, Salman Dar, Shekhar Shastri, Pankaj Shah, starlet Anusha Kulkarni and Anuradha Palakurthi.
Dancers: Shivani Shrivastava…………..Mohe panghat pay nand lal chedh gaye Nikita Rao, Aarthi Arvind, Shikha Bajpai, Priti Shokeen….Qawali scene; Jub raat hay aisi matwali
Pushpa and Suresh Naidu……..Udhar tum haseen hu idhar dil jawan hay.
Isha Phadke…………………..Piyar kiya tu darna kiya jub piyar
Organizing Committee: Siraj Khan, Dr Suhaib Siddiqi, Harish Dang, Ranjani Saigal, Meena Sundram, Kumkum Pareekh Malik, Jawed Wahid and Razia Mashkoor.
Stage deco’r: Salman Dar, Nayanika Yellepeddi.
Sounds: Jawed Wahid
Stage Manager: Kumkum Pareekh Malik
Sponsors: Learn Quest Baithak, Framingham, and Cafe India, Nashua, NH
Supporters: Manjhu Seth,Upendra Misra, Puran Dang, Akhtari Alam, Alka Parwani, Nadeem Panwala.