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MALiKA PUKHRAJ (1912-2004)


Malika Pukhraj was a Hindustani classical singer. She was born in a remote village in Akhnoor in the then Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir. Her mother left her father, who ran gambling dens in Jammu, before Malika was born. Determined that her daughter should become ‘famous’, her mother later patched up with him so that her daughter could be educated in Jammu. Finding that Jammu did not have enough skilled teachers, she took Malika to Delhi where the young girl learnt the Kathak dance form and polished her Urdu. Malika began to sing in Delhi and was soon earning enough to support the two of them. She was taught by Ustad Allah Buksh, father of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. The new Raja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, was crowned in 1923, and Malika and her mother returned to Kashmir for the event. Delighted that a native Kashmiri had learned music, the new Raja invited Malika to sing at his coronation, and retained her as a court singer on a generous salary. Hari Singh was fascinated by this self-possessed, poised young woman, a fact that did not escape comment in court. Due to intrigues she was compelled to leave Kashmir and settle in Lahore. There people came from far and wide to hear her sing.

At the time of independence there were in all four film studio in Pakistan (all at Lahore) including two studios of Dilsukh Pancholi. One of the Pancholi Studios was initially allotted to Afzal Himaliyawala but the allotment was cancelled in 1954 and the same was re-allotted to Malika Pukhraj.(renamed as Malika Studio). To quote her ardent admirer “Malika Pukhraj’s silvery rich voice and her superb expressive style were ideally suited for rendering romantic ghazals and dadras; she used to present them in such an arresting manner that listeners were at once held spellbound. She displayed rare virtuosity in diverse types of songs for the recordings for gramophone discs and during radio broadcasts. While the ghazals appealed most to the sensuous, her dadras had a unique charm..” Her famous ghazal ’Abhi to main Jawaan huon, ‘ mesmerises people today also.

In recognition of her contribution to music, she had received the Presidential Pride of Performance Award and the Legend of Voice from the All-India Radio in the mid 1980s in Pakistan. Her daughter Tahira Syed is a singer in her own right. Her late husband Syed Shabir Hussain was a bureaucrat and a well- known literary figure.
 
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