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Last Updated 16.10.2019 | 5:05 PM IST



Book Review: Noorjehan – The Melody Queen

This is one of the rare books that attempt at taking an honest and unbiased view of the subject in question. And the subject this time around is none other than Noorjehan, the singer/actress who has been fondly addressed ‘Mallika-e-Tarannum’ over the years. Author Aijaz Gul makes sure that he pays a tribute to Noorjehan through his write-up. But while doing so, he also makes sure that he doesn’t come across as a star struck fan whose job was to only paint a ‘perfect’ picture of hers.

Never once does he go gaga in appreciation of the artist who has been hailed as one of the greatest ever of this century on either side of the border. He reflects the greatness of Noorjehan as an artist but doesn’t fail to mention about her in numerous love affairs. He talks about how she had her heart in the right place for the needy but doesn’t shy away from making repeated references to the immense wealth that she accumulated in her lifetime. He talks about the love that she carried for her two husbands and many children but also tells the story from their point of view, especially her first husband, who was bitter about her even when she was on deathbed. He presents extracts of her interviews from the past where she spoke in appreciation of the new talent emerging in the industry but also provides interesting anecdotes around her unique and manipulative way of handling rivalry. He hints of her love for her ‘janmabhoomi’ [Pakistan] and ‘karmabhoomi’ [India, at least for the initial phase of her career] but also shows her patriotic side which truly indicates where her heart really lied.

In this context, Aijaz Gul does really well in maintaining a very good balance throughout this book which brings to fore quite a few heard and unheard stories about Noorjehan for which Kaifi Azmi once commented – ‘Noorjehan’s voice and her stature could not be confined to one country!’

Of course for those belonging to the current generation, songs like ‘Jawan Hai Mohabbat‘ have been heard only in the remix version but they were quite a rage when released more than half a century back. All of this and more is revealed in this book which could have easily become one boring thesis or a research exercise if not for the interesting storytelling that the author does. One has to give it to Aijaz for having painstakingly done his homework well as he goes down the memory lane and extracts unheard of songs from the past. Not just that, he also speaks to quite a few celebrities from that era as well as her friends and relatives who describe the personal and professional life of Noorjehan. Meanwhile, he digs down various interviews of hers to bring to fore some interesting stories that she had to tell.

But as chapters after chapters unfold and scandals/hidden skeletons/closet lovers in the life of Noorjehan are revealed, one senses a strong undercurrent of passion in Noorjehan’s life. No, there aren’t any bedroom talks that the author indulges in. Still, if one goes by the written words in the book, it is quite obvious that even though Noorjehan married twice (both being love marriages) and tried her best to be the perfect wife, there were temptations galore with situations being such that she had to eventually give in. Also, her passion for art was such that she could go to all lengths to not just deliver her best but make sure that her competition stood nowhere in the picture. That could follow any of the routes from ‘saam-daam-dand-bhed’ but no one could dare challenge Noorjehan. Well, at least in open!

This very aspect of Noorjehan’s personality is also presented in great detail in this book which is quite relatable even till date. Though the events had happened decades back and the characters involved were the ones that belonged to the time of our grandparents, one can’t deny that the situations shown are prevalent even in today’s time.

Of course, what the book lacks though is a face value since other than die hard fans of Noorjehan or the followers of the great singer, there aren’t many who would make a beeline to pick the book from the stands and know about her life. Moreover, even as a reader, first 20 odd pages have to be deeply absorbed before one starts getting a hang of things. However, once you have immersed yourself into the book and moved to that part of her life where she started becoming famous and much in demand, pages start turning by themselves.

The book also makes for an interesting read for those who love to know about the inside stories of the Hindi film industry (it wasn’t called Bollywood when Noorjehan ruled). The games people played, casting decisions, manipulations, egos, sweet talks, back stabbing, broken trust, emotional blackmail, fake tears, real consideration, bitter memories, sweet remembrances – it’s all there in the dramatic life that Noorjehan lived! In fact her ex-husband Shaukat once commented that ‘Noorjehan was a dangerous woman who knew that art of seduction by heart!’

After reading the book, one thing which clearly comes out is that apart from her being a great artist (something that doesn’t require any introduction or other detailing actually) Noorjehan also lived a colourful life. In fact Aijaz Gul makes this facet of her personality quite clear at the very beginning, hence paving the way for a reader to get further curious as the pages turn. Though the author does mention that he would maintain a line of decency in the book, even some clean writing by him is spicy enough for the book to be alternatively termed as ‘Sex, Lies and Recordings’!

Price: Rs. 395


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