Tribute to the singing star, the legendary Amirbai Karnataki on her 52nd death anniversary today.

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Tribute to the singing star, the legendary Amirbai Karnataki on her 52nd death anniversary today.

Amirbai Karnataki was a famous actress/singer of the early Hindi cinema and was famous as Kannada Kokila. Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent fan of her song “Vaishnav Jan To”.

Amirbai Karnataki was born in Bilgi town, District of Bijapur in Karnataka into a middle-class family. Of all of her five sisters, Amirbai and her elder sister, Gauharbai, earned fame and fortune. Amirbai completed her matriculation and went to Bombay at the age of fifteen.

Amirbai was a talented singer and actress who was fluent in Kannada (mother tongue) and gujrati. ‘Mahre te gamray ek baar aawjo’ is one of her famous sung gujrati song from the film ‘Ranrakdevi’ with music composer Avinash Vyas. A representative from HMV was so impressed by her singing talent that he made her sing a Qawwali, which became very popular. Her elder sister, Gauherbai, was an actress and helped Amirbai get a role in the film Vishnu Bhakti in 1934.

Initially, Amirbai sang songs in films, but they failed to attain the success she desired. In 1943, with the release of Bombay Talkies’ Kismet (1943 film) (1943), she achieved popularity: the songs of Kismet became a rage and Amirbai became famous. The man behind the success was the composer Anil Biswas. She was initially known as a singing star, but at the decline of her career, she became a playback singer. She reached her peak by 1947.

At this time Lata Mangeshkar became a rising star, so once again Amirbai switched over to acting. In her later years, she mostly played character roles. Amirbai also composed music for Wahab Pictures’ Shehnaaz (1948). In the same year, she almost left Hindi Cinema for Gujarati and Marwari films. One of the famous film magazine ‘Film India’ had mentioned in one of her articles that at the time in the 20th century when other singers use to get Rs. 500 as fees, Amirbai use to get Rs. 1000 per recording.

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Celebrating Cinema

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