Awarded ‘Mallika-e-Tarannum’ for her performances and entertainment… if ever there was a time to reminisce the brilliance that she was, it would be now, as the Pakistani film industry is attempting to stir from its long stretch of induced slumber. Noor Jehan Ji, an entertainer second to none, an artist’s artist who charmed her fans and followers till she left us nineteen years ago. Born on September 21, 1925, in Kasur, Punjab, India, Noor Jehan Ji was classically trained to become a star under Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and made her debut as an actress in a Punjabi film, ‘Pind Di Kurri’, which was famous for being the first Punjabi film with sound! At the time, Pakistan and India were one country, the movie had been shot in Calcutta yet released in Lahore, a city where she then moved to and fell in love with Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, who directed her first major film Khandaanm opposite the Indian actor Pran Krishan Sikand. Syed Shaukat Hussain and Noor Jehan moved to Mumbai to settle down, and it was here that she was given the role to star opposite the great Dilip Kumar as a leading lady in the film Jugnu, and then… partition happened.
Post partition led Noor Jehan to move to then-new Pakistan and she settled in Karachi where she worked in multiple movies and made her name as the top actress of Pakistan. In the two-decade period, the 50s and 60s, she did almost 40 films being honoured with the President’s Award for Pride of Performance for her contribution to acting and singing. Not resting on her laurels, Noor Jehan ji became the first female director of Pakistan after she directed the movie Chanwey in 1951.
Noor Jehan Ji the legendary Singer:
After the 60s era, Noor Jehan Ji took a break from the big screen to focus on her career as a playback singer, a career spanning half a century as one of the greatest careers for a female singer in the East Asian sub-continent.
Noor Jehan Ji still holds multiple records as a singer, one of which is giving voice to the greatest number of songs in the Pakistani Film Industry to date. She was also listed in the top ten most influential personalities of Pakistan, a list which included dignitaries and notables such as Sir Quaid-E-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
What Bollywood singers had to say about Noor Jehan?
Lata Mangeshkar once said in an interview that Noor Jehan could sing as low and as high as she wanted and that the quality of her voice always remained the same. A very few artists have managed to achieve such skill.
Mohammad Rafi had always wished that he could make a duet song with Noor Jehan.
Asha Bhosle in an interview said, “The world will never see a singer like her. Just as people have not seen another Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar there would never be another Noor Jehan.”
Eastern Eye, a famous newspaper of India, it’s Entertainment Editor commented that “Noor Jehan was the first female singing star of the Indian cinema and helped to lay the foundation of playback singing as we know it. She inspired a generation of singers including Lata Mangeshkar before single-handedly kick-starting music In Pakistan and inspired subsequent generations there.”
In the mid-80s, Noor Jehan ji was diagnosed with coronary heart disease. It was whilst on tour in North America that her health brought itself to her attention.
In the year 2000, Noor Jehan ji left us and passed to the other world. It was a blessed night for muslims, one of the 27th of Ramadan, a significant and poignant passing, one that is a testament to the great and loving soul that she was.
Two decades later, Noor Jehan ji is an unconscious inspiration to artists, established singers and those taking their first step on the movie industry ladder… She was a legend and an asset to Pakistan, and indeed to the world.
In this slumber, in this post-apocalyptic wake, we need to turn to the legends of old and reinvigorate their passion through a new generation. We’re excited at the rebirth of the classics and Noor Jehan Ji, any ode to your music is indeed our great fortune.