Born to Daleepabai, one of the most famous tawaifs (courtesans) of Allahabad, Jaddanbai grew up in Calcutta. It was in Calcutta that Jaddanbai trained under Ustad Moujuddin Khan – known to be a prodigious classical singer, specializing in thumris. She also received training from Ustad Barkat Ali Khan, the younger brother of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.
Becoming a singer of repute, Jaddanbai gained even more renown as a courtesan than her mother – recording ghazals for the Columbia Gramophone Company and also participating in music sessions in princely states such as Bikaner, Jodhpur and Indore.
Her entry into films happened when she joined the Playart Phototone Company (Lahore) and acted in Raja Gopichand (1933) where she played the hero’s mother. Her other movies in this period include Insaan Ya Shaitaan (1935), Prem Pariksha (1934) and Seva Sadan (1935). Within 4 years of her entry into films, she set up her own production company, Sangeet Films. She wrote, directed and even composed music for films such as Talashe Haq (1935) in which her daughter Nargis made her debut as the child artiste Baby Rani, Jeevan Swapna (1937), Madam Fashion (1936) and Moti Ka Haar (1937).
Among the first women to compose music for Hindi films, Jaddanbai was a pioneer in many respects. Singer par excellence, musician and producer, she groomed her daughter to become a complete star. Unfortunately she did not live long enough to see her daughter scale great heights as an actress.
Jaddanbai had three children – two sons Anwar Hussain (from her harmonium and Tabla Master, Ustad Irshad Meer Khan) and Akhtar Hussain (from her first marriage with a rich Gujarati businessman, Narottam Das) and a daughter, Nargis from her third marriage with Mohanchand Uttamchand Tyagi – who converted to Islam and took up the name of Abdul Rashid.
Jaddanbai died on 8 April 1949 in Bombay.