Nurjehan was the adopted stage name for Allah Wasai who was a singer and actress in British India and Pakistan. Her career spanned seven decades. She was renowned as one of the greatest and most influential singers of her time in South Asia and was given the honorific title of Malika-e-Tarranum.
Born in a family of musicians, Wasai was pushed by her parents to follow in their musical footsteps and become a singer but she was more interested in acting in films and graced the earliest Pakistani films with her performances. She holds a remarkable record of 10,000 songs to her singing credits in various languages of Pakistan including Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi languages, Along with Ahmed Rushdi, she holds the highest record of film songs in the history of Pakistani cinema. She is also considered to be the first female Pakistani film director.
In 1957, Jehan was awarded the President’s Award for her acting and singing capabilities.
Born in Kasur, Punjab, British India and was one of the eleven children of professional musicians Madad Ali and Fateh Bibi.
The family would often perform at theaters, although only Wasai’s eldest sisters would go on to pursue a career in acting. Two of her sisters, Eidan Bai and Haider Bandi, were successful actors at the rural Taka Theatre in Lahore.
Wasai began singing at the age of five or six years old, showed great interest in a range of styles, including traditional folk and popular theater. Realize her potential for singing, and her mother sent her to receive training in the early classical singing under Professor Bad Ghulam Ali Khan who was also born in Kasur. He instructed her in the traditions of the Patiala Grana Hindustani classical music and classical forms of thumri, dhrupad, and khyal. In the age of nine, and drew the attention of Punjabi musician Wasai Ghulam Ahmed Chishti, which comes out later her on stage in Lahore. It is composed of some ghazals, naats and folk songs to enable them to perform, although they were more eager to break in acting or singing playback. One time for vocational training has finished, and continued to Wasai career in singing along with her sisters in Lahore and will usually take part in the song and dance live before viewing films in the cinemas.
The family moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the hope of the development of film professionals Wasai and her sisters. During their stay in Calcutta, and Mukhtar Begum, the famous singer, encouraged Wasai and her two older sisters to join film companies and producers of various recommended. It also recommended to her husband, Agha Hashar Kashmiri, who owned the theater field (theater tents to accommodate the large crowd). It is here that the child received Wasai stage name Noor Jehan. Older sisters and made her a job with one of the Seth Sukh Karnani, Indira Movietone and they went to be known as the Punjab Mail. And Wasai dependent later in the way of performance Mukhtar Begum, clothing and Surrey.
In 1935, K.D. Mehra directed Pind di Kurhi in which Jehan acted along with her sisters.She next acted in a film called Missar Ka Sitara (1936) by the same company and sang in it for music composer, Damodar Sharma.Baby Noor Jehan also played the child role of Heer in the film Heer-Sayyal (1937). After a few years in Calcutta, Noor Jehan returned to Lahore in 1938. In 1939, Ghulam Haider composed songs for Jehan which led to her early popularity. She then recorded her first song Shala Jawaniyan Mane for Dalsukh M. Pancholi’s movie Gul Bakavli.
Prior to Khandaan Jehan was cast as a child artist. It was in 1942 that she played the main lead opposite Pran. Khandaan’s success saw her shifting to Bombay (now Mumbai), where she shared melodies with Shanta Apte in Duhai (1943). It was in this film that Noor Jehan lent her voice for the second time, to another actress named Husn Bano. In 1945 Jehan played the lead role, alongside Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, in the movie Bari Maa.
In 1945, she achieved a milestone, when she sung a Qawwali with Zohrabai Ambalewali and Amirbai Karnataki which was “Aahen Na Bhareen Shikave Na Kiye”. This was the first ever Qawwali recorded in female voices in South Asian films.
Noor Jehan’s last film in India was Mirza Sahibaan (1947) which starred Prithviraj Kapoor’s brother Trilok Kapoor. Noor Jehan sang 127 songs in Indian films and the number of talking films she made from 1932 to 1947 was 69. The number of silents was 12. Fifty-five of her films were made in Bombay, eight in Calcutta, five in Lahore and one in Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma.
Acting career in Pakistan
After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Jehan decided to move to Pakistan along with her husband Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. She left Bombay and settled in Karachi with her family.
After three years of stability in Pakistan, Noor Jehan starred in her first film in Pakistan, Chanwey (1951), Santosh Kumar return, who was also a Punjabi film hero. Shawkat Jahan and directed the light of this film together making Noor Jehan Pakistan director of the first woman. The film Noor Jehan Pakistan’s second-in Dopatta (1952), which turned out to be the biggest success of Chanwey (1951).
The penultimate film as an actress / singer Mirza Ghalib (1961), and this contributed to the promotion of its prominent position. Gained another audience for herself. Her delivery of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Mujshe pehli socialism Mohabbat just loved NA maang is a unique example of tarranum, poetry and singing. Noor Jehan last starred in Beja in 1963, but not in a leadership role. Called Nur Jahan farewell to acting in 1963 after a march of 33 years (1930-1963). Forced the pressure of being a mother of six children and a wife calls a hero (Ejaz Durrani) have to give up her career. Noor Jehan made 14 films in Pakistan, in 10 languages Urdu, four in Punjabi.Noor Jehan as a playback singer
After quitting acting she took up playback singing. She made her debut as a playback singer in 1960 with the film Salma. Her first initial playback for a Pakistani film was for Jan-e-Bahar (1958), in which she sung the song Kaisa Naseeb Layi Thi, picturised on Musarrat Nazir. She received many awards, including with the highest Pakistani honour in entertainment, Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (The Pride of Performance) in 1966, Pakistan’s top civil award. She sang a large number of duets with Ahmed Rushdi, Mehdi Hassan, Masood Rana and Mujeeb Alam.
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 where she met Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi and was received by Dilip Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar in Mumbai.
Last years and death
In 1986, on a tour of North America, Jehan suffered from chest pains and was dignosed with angina after which she underwent a surgery to install a pacemaker. In 2000, Jehan was hospitalised in Karachi and suffered a heart attack. On Saturday afternoon, December 23, 2000, Noor Jehan died from 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.
1939 Gul Bakavli
1944 Lal Haveli
Gaon ki Gori
1946 Anmol Ghadi
1947 Mirza Sahibaan
1955 Patey Khan
1961 Mirza Ghalib