Everyone must have heard it many times, but only few knew that it was a famous song sung by Smt Gulab Bai. She was a famous actor in Nautanki. Little did you knew that she lived in Kanpur??. Nautanki had always been a male dominated field of art. So did many other fields, even films were too!! remember males used to act female roles. Similarly in Nautanki also males dominated the scene. I had heard from my grandmother that there was a BAN on Trimohan nautanki. Trimohan was that time a famous nagada (drum) player. There was strict regulation about the timings as to when he can play his drum and when he is not allowed. I don’t know whether a rumour was true or wrong? she told that few woman tried to run away with Nautankiwala.. that’s why there was a ban imposed on him and he had to play with restriction on timings? I cannot say that was true.
But yes, When GULAB BAI as a young girl did try to join the Trimohan Nautanki and ran away with the group. That was the against the wish of the family and social norms of those times. That proved she was a courageous lady and full of determination. She later became first woman to join Nautanki. As was the Smt Apte who joined the films as the first lady of Hindi Films. Since the age of 12 or 13 Gulab Bai started working in the Nautanki group. She learnt the trade of Nautanki from the scratch. She became famous on STAGE, as a Singer and as an actor with no match to her. I had seen few Nauatanki(s). The role of Rani Taramati in Harishchandra was a powerfull role. In Nautanki the role is played to full colors. It has many colors. Thus this role had a vast scope of acting. The tragedy, the elegance, the mamata or Karuna as the mother, and as the pleader in the SAMSHAN, where she pleads with the Chandal (the King himself, who worked as a slave to the chandal) She pleads that she do not have anything to offer him, and request to burn the body of her son…..Often in this role the responsibility lies on the actor. this role brings TEARS to the eyes of audience… this role is so DEMANDING, that very few actor could succeed. But Gulab Bai with her power became famous for her role as TARAMATI. It is said that often on stage Gulab Bai enacted this role in true spirit and people had seen even pieces or bunch of hairs being pulled by her during the acting- assaying the role of weeping TARAMATI.
However, being the FIRST lady of NAUTANKI she policed and developed the craft on her own. She was a perfectionist. PURE at heart. It is also said that Once the program started no artist was allowed to drink, or chew pan or smoke. EVERY one in the group once adorned the makeup has to follow strict rule or no smoking or drinking. She was strict for stage but as she herself was a struggling artist that’s why it is said that she always respected Artist, she loved and took care of her team of artist. She later started a nautanki company of her own, after breaking away from TRIMOHAN group. Thus by every standard she was path breaker. A lady that too an owner of a theatre company, it was never heard til then in those days. She performed many places, Gwalior, Indore, and lots of places in UP and bihar also. She was awarded with Sangeet Natak akademi award and Padma Shri for promoting the folk theatre (art). She will always be remembered. She once organised a workshop at Kanpur, i think with the association of UP natak akademi or Central natak akademi. I think workshop was held in (if i am correct?) in the Gandhi sangeet vidyalaya, Kanpur. She had been awarded with the Sangeet Natak Akademi award
With her she opened door for other women artist in Nautanki. But even then her life was full of struggle. her family had to suffer alot. her daughters and others lived a very hard life. despite of her family condition she always lived as a true artist. Many always felt she was very helpfull. She offered all possible help to everybody who asked her help.
here are few links which i found appropriate. The film by Shri Raghav ji