Vol. 5 Num 5 Tue. June 01, 2004  

Remembering a versatile artiste

Anjuman Ara Begum was the lady with a golden voice. She rose to popularity around the 1960s. Whether it was radio, television or gramophone records being played in wayside restaurants, her fresh, melodious voice was audible far and wide.

She was the daughter of Dr Kasiruddin Talukder and Begum Ziaunnahar Talukder of Bogra. Her father's dispensary at Thana Road was well known to the public. But tragedy struck the family when her father was arrested and killed by the Pakistan Army during the Liberation War in 1971. The ostensible reason for this drastic end was his role in providing medical aid and giving shelter to freedom fighters.

Anjuman Ara was born in a cultured family where almost all her family members were highly educated. She completed BA (Hons), MA from the Department of Sociology, Dhaka University while continuing her career as a professional singer. She was the youngest among her two brothers and five sisters.

Her eldest sister Begum Zabunnesa Jamal was a popular lyricist and educationist. Elder sister Mahbub Ara was also a singer of radio and television. Her niece, Zeenat Rahana, is a well-known vocal artiste and the famous Runa Laila is her cousin sister.

Anjuman Ara made her presence felt for the first time through radio in 1958 and instantly became everyone's favourite. There was a unique quality to her voice and listeners were captivated by the feeling that she put into singing.

During the early 1960s when there was no television and radio was the only medium to reach the masses, Anjuman Ara occupied the pride of place with three contracts every month. During each programme she was required to attend at least three sittings in the morning, evening and night during peak hours. Her fans seldom missed her programmes because she had a variety of items to offer like light modern, Nazrul song, folk song, semi-classical, patriotic, ghazal and geet.

She was soon chosen for playback in feature films. Her song in a dream sequence of Shutorang, Tumi ashbay boley kachhey dakbey boley was an instant hit. This was followed by Chandni bheegi bheegi haawa a song of Urdu film Chanda became a hot favourite. Thereafter came other film hits like Akasher hathay aachhey ek rash neel, Kay Shoronero prantoray chupi chupi chhoyan rekhay jaye, Sathti ronger majhey aami mil khunje na pai, Khokon shona boli shono, Maachhranga pakhita aye and many others.

Anjuman Ara's husband Masud Alam Siddiqui was a tremendous support all along. It was obvious that without his encouragement, she could not have made it as a singer. Masud retired as Secretary, Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation. Her son Tariq Masrur is a Sub-Editor (News Section) of The Daily Star and daughter Umana Anjalin is a Lecturer, Department of Business Administration at the University of Asia Pacific.

Anjuman Ara received many awards for her rich contribution to music. Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy gave her the 'Gunijan' award in the year 2000. In recognition of her contribution as an artiste, she received the National Award, Ekushey Padak in 2003.

After performing the Hajj she became very pious and gradually declined offers to sing although she held a respectable position as a senior vocalist.

Of late, she had been ailing. Her illness took a swift turn to acute pneumonia and she breathed her last in the morning of May 29, 2004. The news of her sudden death reached quickly and soon relatives, friends, well-wishers, artistes, fans and admirers gathered at her residence at Dhanmondi to pay their last respects to her.

Anjuman Ara was a very soft-spoken lady and always had a smile on her face. Personally she was very amiable and kind hearted. As an artiste she was always devoted to her profession.

Anjuman Ara is no more with us. However, she lives on in the memories of her numerous fans.

The author is a former Director, Department of Dance and Music, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy