Screen shot from Jhansi Ki Rani
28 April 1918
Sachin, Gujarat, India
|Died||10 April 1997 (aged 78)|
|Resting place||Bada Qabrastan, Marine Lines, Mumbai|
|Spouse(s)||Ashraf Khan (divorced)|
Sohrab Modi (1946-1984; his death)
Mehtab (1918–1997) was an Indian actress of Hindi/Urdu films who worked from 1928 to 1969. She was born in Sachin, Gujarat, to a Muslim family and named Najma. Her father, Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Mohammad Yakut Khan III, was the Nawab of Sachin, near Surat in the state of Gujarat. Starting her career in the late 1920s with small roles in films like Second Wife (1928), Indira B. A. (1929) and Jayant (1929), she went on to do character roles before acting in the lead opposite Ashraf Khan in Veer Kunal (1932). After almost a decade of doing mainly action-oriented roles, she came into prominence with the Kidar Sharma-directed Chitralekha (1941), due to her bathing scene in the film.
She married her early co-star Ashraf Khan with whom she had a son. They divorced later and she married Sohrab Modi in 1946. Modi cast her in the historical drama Jhansi Ki Rani (1953), which in spite of having spectacular scenes and lavish sets was a disaster. She stopped acting in films following 1953 except to act in her last role as a character artist in Modi's Samay Bada Balwan (1969). She died in Mumbai on 10 April 1997.
Mehtab acted in her early feature film Kamaal-e-Shamsheer (1930) with W. M. Khan, which was produced by her mother under Excelsior film company. Her other films at this time include Hamara Hindustan (1930), a silent film which starred Ruby Myers, Jal Merchant and Mazhar Khan. She went on to act in several films mainly in action roles produced by the Sharda Film Company under different directors. Finally in 1932, she acted under the banner of Indian Art Productions as the main female lead in Veer Kunal, opposite Ashraf Khan, an actor she was to marry and then divorce. She continued to work under different banners including Chandulal Shah for Ranjit Movietone in Bhola Shika (1933), directed by Jayant Desai, with E. Billimoria as hero, and Ranchandi directed by Babubhai Jani opposite Navin Chandra. She also acted in a couple of films directed by Jaddanbai like Moti Ka Haar and Jeevan Swapna, both in 1937. However, in spite of working for several banners, none of her films fared well at the box office.
Following the birth of her son, and subsequent divorce from Ashraf Khan, Mehtab acted in the Film Corporation of India film Qaidi (1940), which had Ramola, Madhuri, Wasti and Nandrekar co-starring along with her. Though not the main role, she was however noticed in the film leading to her being cast by Kidar Sharma for Chitralekha (1941), which had the famous bathing scene with Mehtab in the pool sans clothes. Sharma wanted to cast Mehtab in the title role, who till then had acted mainly in "stunt" films as he thought she was perfect for the role. As Sharma recalls, everyone except K.A. Abbas and a journalist of a magazine called Deen Duniya, published from Delhi panned the scene brutally. Chitralekha was also the debut of actor Bharat Bhushan, though in a small role. Mehtab was cast in Sharda (1942), along with Wasti, Ulhas and Nirmala Devi by A. R. Kardar for his Kardar Productions. The film is famous for the thirteen-year-old Suraiya, who became famous giving playback singing for a much older Mehtab. 1943 saw her acting in two more Kardar directed films; Kanoon with Shahu Modak, Nirmala Devi and Jagirdar and Sanjog a comedy film opposite Noor Mohammed Charlie, Wasti and Ulhas. The same year she did a Wadia Productions film directed by Homi Wadia, Vishwas (1943), which also starred Surendra, and Trilok Kapoor, with composer Firoz Nizami debuting as the music director.
In 1944, Sohrab Modi cast Mehtab in the Central Studio production Parakh. Mehtab recalled in an interview that it was while shooting for this film that the two had grown closer. Modi did not act in the film which starred Mehtab with Yakub and Balwant Singh. Parakh had music by Khursheed Anwar and Saraswati Devi. Mehtab acted in films like Ismat (1944), Ek Din Ka Sultan (1945), Saathi (1946) and Shama (1946). In 1953, Modi produced, directed and acted in Jhansi Ki Rani, which starred a now ageing Mehtab as the young Jhansi Ki Rani. The film was a big financial disaster and the last starring role of Mehtab. Mehtab acted in Modi's Samay Bada Balwan (1969) in a character role.
Mehtab a Muslim, married Sohrab Modi, a Parsi, on 28 April 1946, her birthday. According to Mehtab, the marriage was not approved of by Modi's family. This was Mehtab's second marriage and she had an eight-year-old son Ismail, from the previous marriage to her first co-star Ashraf Khan. Her condition for marrying Modi was that her son, Ismail, stay with them. Modi talked the situation over with her ex-husband, regarding Ismail, who then lived with Mehtab and Modi following their marriage. Modi was twenty years older at 46 years and had just finished his relationship with Naseem Banu. Mehtab and Modi had one child together called Mehelli, who they brought up as a Parsi. Sohrab Modi died on 28 January 1984, at the age of 85 years. Mehtab died on 10 April 1997 in Mumbai, Maharashtra and was buried at the Bada Qabrastan, Marine Lines, Mumbai.
- Second Wife (1928)
- Jayant (1929)
- Indira B. A. (1929)
- Kamaal-e-Shamsheer (1930)
- Hamara Hindustan (1930)
- Prithviraj (1931)
- Virni Vibhuti (1931)
- Diwano (1931)
- Husn Pari (1931)
- Shooro Sainik (1931)
- Jange Davlat (1931)
- Shaliwahan (1931)
- Khubsoorat Khawasan (1932)
- Veer Kunal (1932)
- Bhola Shikar (1933)
- Krishna Sudama (1933)
- Miss 1933 (1933)
- Pardesi Preetam (1933)
- Ranchandi (1933)
- Cinema Queen (1934)
- Prem Pariksha (1934)
- Veer Pujan (1934)
- Laheri Jawan (1935)
- Magic Horse (1935)
- Stree Dharma (1935)
- Taqdeer (1935)
- Bholi Bhikharan (1936)
- Moti Ka Haar (1937)
- Jeevan Swapna (1937)
- Devbala (1938)
- Baghi (1939)
- Leatherface (1939)
- Ek Hi Bhool (1940)
- Qaidi (1940)
- Chitralekha (1941)
- Masoom (1941)
- Bhakta Kabir (1942)
- Chaurangee (1942)
- Sharda (1942)
- Kanoon (1943)
- Sanjog (1943)
- Vishwas (1943)
- Bahar (1944)
- Jeevan (1944)
- Ismat (1944)
- Parakh (1944)
- Ek Din Ka Sultan (1945)
- Behram Khan (1946)
- Sathi (1946)
- Shama (1946)
- Jhansi Ki Rani (1953)
- Samay Bada Balwan (1969)
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