Veteran playback singer Jagjit Kaur passes away

Published : August 15, 2021 20:56 IST

Jagjit Kaur with her husband veteran music composer Khayyam. Photo: AFP

There was an inescapable beauty to her singing. The way she combined a little lilt with a faint shade of pathos was uniquely her own. Little wonder in the era of Lata Mangeshkar-Asha Bhosle, Jagjit Kaur carved out her own niche. And what a niche it was! What she could do, nobody else could even attempt to do. Result? Even in films like Umrao Jaan, Bazaar and much earlier Shagoon, she got a chance to sing songs nobody else could do justice to. Hardly anybody would have forgotten Tum Apna Ranj-o-ghham from Shagoon. The song which was released in 1965 became the satire of love birds faced with loneliness and separation. It was a poignant blend of Jagjit's pathos and Khayyam's dipped-in-melancholy music. The 93-year-old singer breathed her last on August 15 owing to age-related illness.

The Khayyam-Jagjit Kaur combination was to last a good 65 years, that is, until 2019 when the legendary music composer passed away. The two had married in 1954, soon after the singer entered the industry with Posti, a Punjabi offering, and Dil-e-Nadan starring Talat Mahmood. She fell in love with the music composer after listening to his song Sham-e-gham ki qasam in Footpath. Later, when Khayyam reached out to her over a cup of tea, she knew much more was brewing in her life. Despite her father’s opposition – she hailed from an aristocratic family in Punjab – they got married, and sustained their marriage against heavy odds.

In almost every film of Khayyam, Jagjit sang a song. It was no concession of a loving spouse to a talented partner. For evidence, just tune in to the music of Bazaar. It was a film that brought out the best of Talat Aziz. It was also a film remembered for Jagjit's Dekhlo aaj humko jee bhar ke. The ghazal, picturised on Farooque Sheikh and Supriya Pathak, conveyed the longing and loneliness of a companion going away for good. Jagjit brought to life the love of a heart accustomed to sorrow.

She showed her versatility in the same film by rendering Chale aao saiya rangeele main haari re. It had lilt and good cheer associated with songs at the time of marriage. Both offerings of Bazaar were super hits. Any other singer would have gone on a signing spree after such heady success. Not so Jagjit. Like her husband she chose to do only a few songs, but left her imprint doing them. It probably meant lesser financial rewards, but that was a price Khayyam and Jagjit were ready to pay in the quest for perfection. Some 15 years ago, the two started a trust for financially needy artistes and poured in their life savings of Rs.10 crore into the trust. It was their way of paying back for the love they had received from the industry. As Jagjit once said, “I have seen sorrow. I have seen poverty of artists. It was a small effort to help those who won’t ask for help out of sheer self-respect.”

While being alive to the plight of many struggling artists, Jagjit conveyed the picture of domestic bliss with her husband. It spilled over to her professional life too. She sang many a marriage song in her career. Her voice was often used by Yash Chopra. For instance, Sada chidiya da, Chamba ve in Kabhi Kabhie, and Ashiq ho to aisa ho in Noorie. Later, Muzaffar Ali reserved Kahe ko bitahi bides in Umrao Jaan, a film that is otherwise known for the Asha Bhosle-Rekha partnership. Likewise, Razia Sultan, known for the skills of Lata Mangeshkar and Kabban Mirza, had a Jagjit special, Haryala banna ayaa re. Or take Gori, sasural chali which she rendered for Shagoon. The song is still heard in marriage albums. When Jagjit sang these marriage songs, it seemed the world had no sorrow. And life was all about blissful marital union.

In real life, though, Jagjit had a close acquaintance with sorrow. Some nine years ago, she lost her only son Pradeep to a heart attack. It was as a token of remembrance to him that Jagjit and Khayyam started the Khayyam Jagjit Kaur KPG Charitable Trust. She leaves behind a treasure trove of memories. And aid for fellow artists.

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