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Noor Jehan

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Subject: Nigar Awards, Tahira Syed, Naheed Akhtar, Nayyara Noor, Runa Laila
Collection: 1926 Births, 2000 Deaths, 20Th-Century Pakistani Actresses, 20Th-Century Singers, Actresses in Hindi Cinema, Nigar Award Winners, Pakistani Expatriate Musicians in India, Pakistani Female Singers, Pakistani Film Actresses, Pakistani Film Directors, Pakistani Film Singers, Pakistani Ghazal Singers, Pakistani Muslims, People from Kasur District, People of British India, Playback Singers, Pride of Performance, Punjabi People, Punjabi-Language Singers, Recipients of Tamgha-E-Imtiaz, Recipients of the Pride of Performance, Recipients of the Pride of Performance Award, Tamgha-E-Imtiaz
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Noor Jehan

Noor Jehan
Noor Jehan in Anmol Ghadi
Background information
Native name نور جہاں
Birth name Allah Rakhi Wasai
Born (1926-09-21)21 September 1926
Kasur, Punjab, British India
Died 23 December 2000(2000-12-23) (aged 74)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Genres Film music, Ghazal, Classical music, Urdu and Punjabi film songs, Qawwali
Occupation(s) film director, film actress,playback singer, music composer
Years active 1930–1996

Allah Rakhi Wasai (21 September 1926 – 23 December 2000) better known by her stage name Noor Jehan or Noor Jahan[1][2] and her honorific title Malika-e-Tarannum was a Pakistani singer and actress who worked both in India and Pakistan. Her career spanned seven decades (1930s-1990s). In the Indian subcontinent she was renowned as one of the greatest and most influential singers of all times and was given the honorific title of Malika-e-Tarannum (Urdu: ملکہ ترنم‎, the queen of melody).[2] in Pakistan.

Born into a family with music traditions,Noor Jehan was pushed by her parents to follow in their musical footsteps and become a singer but she was more interested in acting in films. She recorded about 10,000 songs in various languages of India and Pakistan including Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and Sindhi.[3] Along with Ahmed Rushdi, she holds the record for having given voice to the largest number of film songs in the history of Pakistani cinema. She is also considered to be the first female Pakistani film director.

Noor Jehan was awarded the Pakistan President's Award in 1965 for her acting and singing capabilities,especially for singing patriotic songs passionately during 1965 India-Pakistan war.


  • Early life 1
  • Her career 2
  • Acting career in Pakistan 3
  • As playback singer 4
  • Personal life 5
  • Last years and death 6
  • Filmography 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Noor Jehan was born into a Muslim family in Kasur, Punjab, British India[4] and was one of the eleven children of professional musicians Madad Ali and Fateh Bibi.[3][5]

Her career

Noor Jehan began to sing at the age of five or six years old and showed a keen interest in a range of styles, including traditional folk and popular theatre. Realising her potential for singing, her mother sent her to receive early training in classical singing under Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. He instructed her in the traditions of the Patiala Gharana of Hindustani classical music and the classical forms of thumri, dhrupad, and khyal.

At the age of nine,Noor Jehan drew the attention of Punjabi musician Ghulam Ahmed Chishti,[6] who would later introduce her to stage in Lahore. He composed some ghazals, naats and folk songs for her to perform, although she was more keen in breaking into acting or playback singing. Once her vocational training finished, Jehan pursued a career in singing alongside her sisters in Lahore and would usually take part in the live song and dance performances prior to screenings of films in cinemas.[7]

Theatre owner Diwan Sardari Lal took the small girl to Calcutta in early 1930s and the entire family moved to Calcutta in hopes of developing the movie careers of Allah Rakhi and her older sisters, Eiden Bai and Haider Bandi. Mukhtar Begum encouraged the sisters to join film companies and recommended them to various producers. She also recommended them to her husband, Agha Hashar Kashmiri, who owned a maidan theatre (a tented theatre to accommodate large audiences). It was here that Wasai received the stage name Baby Noor Jehan. Her older sisters were offered jobs with one of the Seth Sukh Karnani companies, Indira Movietone and they went on to be known as the Punjab Mail.[3]

In 1935, K.D. Mehra directed Punjabi movie Pind di Kuri in which Noor Jehan acted along with her sisters and sang the Punjabi song Langh aja patan chanaaN da O yaar which became her earliest hit. She next acted in a film called Missar Ka Sitara (1936) by the same company and sang in it for music composer, Damodar Sharma. Jehan also played the child role of Heer in the film Heer-Sayyal (1937). One of her popular songs from that period Shala jawaniyan maney is from Dalsukh Pancholi’s Punjabi film Gul Bakawli (1937). All these Punjabi movies were made in Calcutta. After a few years in Calcutta, Jehan returned to Lahore in 1938. In 1939, renowned music director Ghulam Haider composed songs for Jehan which led to her early popularity, and he thus became her early mentor.

In 1942, she played the main lead opposite Pran in Khandaan (1942). It was her first role as an adult, and the film was a major success. Khandaan's success saw her shifting to Bombay, with director Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. She shared melodies with Shanta Apte in Duhai (1943). It was in this film that Jehan lent her voice for the second time, to another actress named Husn Bano. She married Rizvi later the same year.[8]

Acting career in Pakistan

After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Rizvi and Jehan decided to move to Pakistan. They left Bombay and settled in Karachi with their family.

Three years after settling in Pakistan, Jehan starred in her first film in Pakistan, Chan Wey (1951), opposite Santosh Kumar, which was also her first Punjabi film as a heroine and playback singer. Shaukat Hussain Rizvi and Noor Jehan directed this film together making Jehan Pakistan's first female director. Jehan's second film in Pakistan was Dopatta (1952) which was Produced by Aslam Lodhi, Directed by Sibtain Fazli and assisted by A. H. Rana as Production Manager. Dopatta turned out to be an even bigger success than Chan Wey (1951).

During 1953 and 1954, Jehan and Rizvi had problems and got divorced due to personal differences. She kept custody of the three children from their marriage. News of Noor Jehan's several affairs followed, including one with cricketer, Nazar Mohammad. In 1959, she married another film actor, Ejaz Durrani, nine years her junior.[8]

Durrani pressured her to give up acting,[8] and her last film as an actress/singer was Mirza Ghalib (1961). This contributed to the strengthening of her iconic stature. She gained another audience for herself. Her rendition of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang is a unique example of tarranum, reciting poetry as a song with superb music of Rasheed Attre in Pakistani film Qaidi (1962). Jehan last acted in Baaji in 1963, though not in a leading role.

Jehan bade farewell to film acting in 1963 after a career of 33 years (1930 - 1963). The pressure of being a mother of six children and the demands of being a wife to another fellow- film- actor, forced her to give up her career. Jehan made 14 films in Pakistan, ten in Urdu, four in Punjabi as a film actress.

As playback singer

After quitting acting she took up playback singing. She made her debut exclusively as a playback singer in 1960 with the film Salma. Her first initial playback singing for a Pakistani film was for 1951 film Chann Wey, for which she was the film director herself ! She received many awards, including the Pride of Performance in 1965. She sang a large number of duets with Ahmed Rushdi, Mehdi Hassan, Masood Rana, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mujeeb Aalam.

She had a great understanding and friendship with many great singers of Asia, for example with Alam Lohar and many more singers also. Jehan made great efforts to attend 'Mehfils' (live concerts) of Ustad Salamat Ali Khan , Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Roshan Ara Begum. Lata Mangeshkar commented on Jehan's vocal range that Jehan could sing as low and as high as she wanted and that the quality of her voice always remained the same. Singing was,for Jehan, not effortless but an emotionally and physically draining exercise.[9] In the 1990s, Jehan also sang for then débutante actresses Neeli and Reema. For this very reason, Sabiha Khanum affectionately called her Sadabahar (evergreen). Her popularity was further boosted with her patriotic songs during the 1965 war between Pakistan and India.

Jehan visited India in 1982 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Indian talkie movies, where she met Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi and was received by Dilip Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar in Bombay. The website Women On Record stated, "Noor Jehan injected a degree of passion into her singing unmatched by anyone else. But she left for Pakistan".[10]

Personal life

Jehan married Shaukat Hussain Rizvi in 1942, the marriage ended in 1953 with divorce; the couple had three children, including their singer daughter Zil-e-Huma. She married Ejaz Durrani in 1959. The second marriage also produced three children but also ended in divorce in 1979.

Last years and death

Jehan's gravesite at the Gizri Graveyard near the Saudi Consulate in Karachi

Jehan suffered from chest pains in 1986 on a tour of North America and was diagnosed with angina pectoris after which she underwent a surgery to install a pacemaker. In 2000, Jehan was hospitalised in Karachi and suffered a heart attack. On 23 December 2000, Jehan died as a result of heart failure. Her funeral took place at Jamia Masjid Sultan, Karachi and she was buried at the Gizri Graveyard near the Saudi Consulate in Karachi.


Year Film
1935 Sheela
1939 Gul Bakawli
1939 Imandaar
1939 Pyam-e-Haq
1940 Sajani
1940 Yamla Jat
1941 Chaudhry
1941 Red Signal
1941 Umeed
1941 Susral
1942 Chandani
1942 Dheeraj
1942 Faryad
1942 Khandan
1943 Nadaan
1943 Duhai
1943 Naukar
1944 Lal Haveli
1944 Dost
1945 Zeenat
1945 Gaon Ki Gori
1945 Badi Maa
1945 Bhai Jaan
1946 Anmol Ghadi
1946 Dil
1946 Humjoli
1946 Sofia
1946 Jadoogar
1946 Maharana Pratap
1947 Mirza Sahibaan
1947 Jugnu
1947 Abida
1947 Mirabai
1951 Chan Wey
1952 Dopatta
1953 Gulnar
1955 Patey Khan
1956 Lakt-e-Jigar
1956 Intezar
1959 Nooran
1958 Choomantar
1958 Anarkali
1959 Neend
1959 Pardaisan
1959 Koel
1961 Mirza Ghalib


  1. ^ Firoze Rangoonwalla, Indian Filmography, publisher: J. Udeshi, Bombay, August 1970, passim.
  2. ^ a b Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, British Film Institute, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 166.
  3. ^ a b c "Noor Jahan Biography". Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2008. , Retrieved 7 July 2015
  4. ^ Internet Archive Wayback Machine, Noor Jehan Biography, [5], Retrieved 7 July 2015
  5. ^
  6. ^ [6], Chishti Biography, Retrieved 3 August 2015
  7. ^ [7], Internet Archive Wayback Machine, Retrieved 27 July 2015
  8. ^ a b c "Noor Jahan". Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ [8], The Friday Times Weekly-Lahore, Pakistan. Noor Jehan article title, Madam Ji, Retrieved 27 July 2015

External links

  • Noor Jehan Biography at the Internet Movie Database, Retrieved 27 July 2015
  • "ISLAMABAD: Rich tributes paid to Noor Jehan". Dawn. 24 December 2004. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  • Ramzi, Shanaz (10 February 2002). "The Melody Queen lives on". Dawn. Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
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