Mumbai: In 1963, Mubarak Begum sang the song "Mujhko Apne Gale Lagalo" from the movie Hamrahi. It was just one of her many hits.
Through the 1950s and 60s, she worked with the best music directors in the film industry, collaborating with S D Burman, Shankar Jaikishan and Khayyam for movies that starred screen legends like Sunil Dutt, Nargis and Rajendra Kumar.
Today, she is an impoverished 70-year-old, living in a one-bedroom house in the Mumbai suburb of Jogeshwari. With her daughter, who has Parkinson's disease, and a son who freelances as a driver.
She has a government pension of Rs 700 and earns by singing occasionally. In 2010, she had gone to Jaipur. She goes wherever people invite her, but cannot travel for too long.
Speaking to NDTV, Mubarak Begum says, "Allah is great and help comes in from somewhere or the other. But, if I have to ask for help for myself, what can I say? Others should know how difficult it is to live like this."
Mubarak Begum was born in Rajasthan. She moved to Mumbai when she was 10 years old. Among her favourite memories is singing "Woh na aayenge palat kar" from 'Devdas' which released in 1955 starring Dilip Kumar and Vijayantimala.
"I may not have work but I still have a name," she says. She wants a chance to sing some more. "Please pray that I get some help," she says.
Music scholar Raju Bharatan explains why her career was cut short. "She came to prominence at a time when Lata Mangeshkar broke through. It was a time, when not just Mubarak Begum but many others lost out. Because the timber of Lata's voice was such that mighty singers like Shamshad Begum, Zohrabai Ambalewali lost out."
Mubarak Begum's condition led Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj to tweet "I am sorry even after the Copyright Amendment Bill has become an Act her life has not changed. Please help Mubarak Begum. Will the film fraternity please respond?"
Mubarak Begum says she wishes someday to thank Ms Swaraj in person for thinking of artists like her.
For music lovers, she has one request: any assistance that can help her live with dignity.
To help Mubarak Begum, please make donations to:
Name: Mubarak Begum Bank: State Bank of India Branch: Jogeshwari West Branch, Account Number: 10279255298 IFSC code: SBIN0004626 MICR code: 400002038 Address: Ghaswala Eastswami Vivekananda Road, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Pin - 400060
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