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Tun tun
Born Uma Devi Khatri
July 11, 1923(1923-07-11)
Uttar Pradesh, India
Died November 23, 2003 (aged 80)
Mumbai, India

Tun Tun [1] (11 July 1923 – 24 November 2003) [1] was the screen name of Indian playback singer and actor-comedienne, Uma Devi Khatri, who is often called the 'first woman comedienne of Hindi cinema' [2].


Early life

Uma Devi Khatri, was born in a conservative Punjabi family, in a small village in Uttar Pradesh, where after the premature death of her parents while she was still her teens, she was raised by her uncle.


She arrived in Bombay (Mumbai) at the age of 13, having run away from home, and knocked on composer Naushad’s door. She told him that she could sing and that she would throw herself in the ocean if he didn’t give her a chance. He auditioned her, and hired her on the spot. She made her debut as a solo playback singer, in Nazir's Wamiq Azra (1946) [3][4], working with legends like Naushad Ali, soon she signed a contract with the producer-director A.R. Kardar, who used Naushad as music director, and went on make a place for herself amidst music stalwarts like, Noor Jehan, Rajkumari, Khursheed and Zohrabai Ambalewali.

In 1947, she had huge hits with " Afsana likh rahi hoon dil-e-bekrar ka" ("I Am Writing My Saga of desperate heart"), "Yeh Kaun Chala Meri Aankhon Mein Sama Kar" ("Who is This My Love?") and "Aaj Machi Hai Dhoom Jhoom Khushi Se Jhoom", which she sang for actress, Munawar Sultana, in A.R. Kardar's production, Dard (1947), again under the music direction of Naushad; she also sang a duet, "Betaabhai Dil Dard-e-Mohabat Ke Asar So", with Suraiya [5] In fact, a Pakistani gentleman, got so enamoured by her song, " Afsana likh rahi hoon", that he never went back, and later married her, the couple had two daughters; her husband, whom she called Mohan, died in 1992 [6].

Success of Dard, meant that she next received Mehboob Khan's, Anokhi Ada (1948), which again had two hit numbers, "Kahe jiya dole" ("Why the Heart Throbs") and "Dil ko lagake humne kuch bhi na paya" ("I Got Nothing by Falling in Love"). This brought her into the league of highly rated playback singers [4]. She reached her peak as a vocalist in, director S.S. Vasan’s, "Chandralekha" (1948), made by Gemini Studio, Chennai, her seven songs, which include hits like, "Saanjh ki bela" ("These Moments of Evening"), remain her most accomplish work in her singing career; though signing the film also meant a breach of contract with producer-director, Kardar, which lead to her dwindling fortunes in the industry.

Moreover, in coming years, owing to her older style of singing and limited vocal range, she found it difficult to compete with the rising singing stars, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Eventually Naushad suggested that she take up acting, because she had a very bubbly personality and wonderful comic timing. He asked his friend Dilip Kumar to cast her in one of his films, and she appeared in Babul (1950) with him , which had Nargis as the lead actress; it is he who renamed her as 'Tun Tun' to suit her comic persona [2], and name stayed with her, and a comedic legend was born.

She went on to act in Guru Dutt’s classics like Aar Paar, (1954), Mr & Mrs 55 (1955) and Pyaasa (1957) [7]. In the 1960s and 1970s, she remained as a permanent comic relief in numerous Bollywood films, a few years down the line, she most notably starred in Amitabh Bachchan starrer, Namak Halaal (1982), a Prakash Mehra's blockbuster [3]

In her career spanning five decades, she acted in around 198 films, pairing with top comedy actors of her times like, Bhagwan Dada, Agha, Sunder, Mukri, Dhumal, Johnny Walker to Keshto Mukherjee [8], and was last seen in Hindi film in 'Kasam Dhande Ki' (1990).

owing to her popularity the name Tun Tun has been synonymus with fat women in India.


She died on 24 November 2003 in Andheri, Mumbai [9], after a prolonged illness, at the age of 80, and was survived two daughters.


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