indian cinema heritage foundation

Kaumudi Munshi

  • Born: 3 February, 1929 (Varanasi)
  • Died: 13 October, 2020 (Bombay)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Parents: Kunvar Nandlal Munshi, Anuben Munshi
  • Spouse: Ninu Mazumdar
  • Children: Uday Mazumdar, Meenal Patel and Sonal Shukla

Celebrated as the ‘Nightingale of Gujarat’ – Kaumudi Munshi was born in 1929 in Uttar Pradesh, into a family that originally hailed from Vadnagar, Gujarat. Famed for her Sugam Sangeet or light music, she trained in Thumri, Gazals, Chaiti, Hori and Zoola under famous Indian Classical singer Siddheshwari Devi. Kaumudi started her career singing Hindi and Rajasthani Geets. After moving to Bombay at the age of 21, she started singing in Gujarati for All India Radio. She also spent five years learning Gazals from the famous Taj Ahmed Khan, presenting them in a distinctive and appealing style. Kaumudi was a preferred artist for HMV; her first album released in 1952 was on Garba. She also performed on Doordarshan. Her popular songs include Choryasi rango no saathiyo, composed by her music director husband Ninu Mazumdar, Dil ki lagi, Oh Kanhaiya oh Kanhaiya and Raton ko chori chori

Kaumudi Munshi was born on 3 February, 1929 in Varanasi (Banaras) where her forefathers had shifted six to seven generations before her birth. She was the sixth child of Kunvar Nandlal Munshi and Anuben Munshi. The ambience of her home was enriched with literature and music. While her grandfather, Madhavlal Munshi was a member on the advisory council of British Viceroy Lord Minto along with Rasbihari Ghosh, her mother Anuben’s sister was renowned Gujarati literatteur Ramanlal Vasantlal Desai (R V Desai). Kaumudi completed her degree in Arts from the Benaras University in 1950. Living in the Hindi speaking belt, she also gained proficiency in Hindi. Kaumudi trained in singing under the legendary Siddheshwari Devi, who was considered the Queen of Thumri at that point. However, as female singers were not encouraged to make a career in singing, she did not begin performing in public soon. 

Moving to Bombay where her brothers were settled, she received support and direction from her uncle R V Desai, and his son, her cousin Akshay Desai. Learning Gujarati songs, she auditioned at All India Radio and got selected. It was a turning point in her life, and in 1951 she started singing in public. While in Bombay, she got introduced to composers like Avinash Vyas, Ninu Mazumdar, Dilip Dholakia, and Ajit Merchant. Among the films she sang for are Manun Masi (1952), Teen Tasveeren (1954), Shola Aur Shabnam (1961), Jivno Jugari (1963), Panetar (1965), Kero Kankuna (1980), Kashino Dikaro (1979), and Raja Aur Runk (1968). Among her significant songs are Kyon gulal rang, Aa rang bhina, Phool no pavan, Choryasi bhaat no, Mesh na ananju, Lal lal chunri, Kajal aanjyo, Ek var ekla ma, Ranaji, main bairaagin hui and Aai gori. 

A rare Gujarati artist to excel at Thumri, she was adept at conveying the heartfelt emotion of the lyrics to the audiences, involving her listeners in a keenly felt, engaging experience. 

Married to music composer Ninu Mazumdar, she also rendered songs especially scored for her by her husband. The song Choryasi rango no saathiyo, composed by Ninu Mazumdar, remains forever bonded with Kaumudi Munshi in the minds of the Gujarati community.

Kaumudi Munshi passed away on 13 October, 2020.