Noor Jehan

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ملکہ ترنم

Noor Jehan
نور جہاں

Pakistani singer Noor Jehan in 1966.jpg
Noor Jehan in 1980s
Background information
Native name نور جہاں
Birth name اللہ رَکھی وسائی Allah Rakhi Wasai
Also known as 03
Born (1925-09-23)23 September 1925
Kasur, Punjab, British India
Died 23 December 2000(2000-12-23) (aged 75)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
  • Playback Singer
  • Music Composer
  • Actress
  • Director
Years active 1935–1997
Pride of Performance Award Recipient
Pakistani singer Noor Jehan in 1966.jpg
Noor Jehan was recipient of the Pride of Performance Award 1965[1]
Date 1965
Country Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Presented by Muhammad Ayub Khan

Noor Jehan[2][3] (Urdu: نور جہاں‎, born Allah Rakhi Wasai; 21 September 1925 – 23 December 2000), better known by her honorific title Malika-e-Tarannum (Urdu: ملکہ ترنم‎), was a Pakistani singer and actress who worked first in British India and then in Pakistan. Her career spanned more than six decades (1930s–1990s). She was renowned as one of the greatest and most influential singers of all time especially throughout South Asia and was given the honorific title of Malika-e-Tarannum (the queen of melody) in Pakistan.[3] She had a great command of Hindustani classical music as well as other genera of music.

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 over 18,000 songs in various languages of India and Pakistan including Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and also in Persian. 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 thought to be one of the most prolific singers of all time, alongside her protégé: renowned Indian playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. She is also considered to be the first female Pakistani film director.

Noor Jehan was awarded the Pakistan President's Award by Ayub Khan (general) in 1965 for her acting and singing capabilities, especially for passionately singing patriotic songs during Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Moreover, she also received some of the highest Pakistani civilian awards "Tamgha-e-Imtiaz" and "Sitara-e-Imtiaz".

Noor Jehan received the Life Time Achievement Award twice, once in 1987, and again in 2002, after her death.

Early life[edit]

Noor Jehan was born into a Punjabi Muslim family in Kasur, Punjab, British India[4] and was one of the eleven children of Madad Ali and Fateh Bibi.[5][6]

Poster of Yamla Jatt (1940) Noor Jehan, M. Ismail, Pran

Her career in India[edit]

Noor Jehan began to sing at the age of five 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 khayal.

At the age of nine, Noor Jehan drew the attention of Punjabi musician Ghulam Ahmed Chishti,[7] who would later introduce her to the stage in Lahore. He composed some ghazals, na`ats and folk songs for her to perform, although she was more keen on breaking into acting or playback singing. Once her vocational training finished, Jehan pursued a career in singing alongside her sister in Lahore, and would usually take part in the live song and dance performances prior to screenings of films in cinemas.[8]

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 Wasai 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.[5]

In 1935, K.D. Mehra directed the 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 then 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 (1939). 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. The success of Khandaan 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.[9]

Acting career in Pakistan[edit]

In 1947, Rizvi and Jehan decided to move to Pakistan. They left Bombay and settled in Karachi with their family.[10]

Three years after settling in Pakistan, Jehan starred in her first Pakistani film Chan Wey (1951), opposite Santosh Kumar, which was also her first Pakistani 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. In 1959, she married another film actor, Ejaz Durrani, nine years her junior.[9]

Durrani pressured her to give up acting,[9] 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 the 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 and four in Punjabi as a film actress.

As playback singer[edit]

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 the 1951 film Chann Wey, for which she was the film director herself. She received many awards, including the Pride of Performance in 1965 by the Pakistani Government. 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. Jehan made great efforts to attend the "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.[11] 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.

In 1971 Madam Noor Jehan visited Tokyo for the World Song Festival as a representative from Pakistan.

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. She met all her erstwhile heroes and costars, including Surendra, Pran, Suraiya, composer Naushad and others. 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".[12]She received more than 13 Nigar Awards for Best Female Playback Singer.

Ustad Salamat Ali Khan said that "Allah Nay Un Ko Pur Asar Awaaz Di Hai Jiss Ki Waja Say Sur Ka Jadoo Jagta Hai Or Ganay Ka Asar Qaim Rehta Hai"

Madam Noor Jehan evovled the playback singing as Ustad Mehdi Hassan Khan has done to Ghazal and Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali has done to Qawwali.

Personal life[edit]

Noor 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 1970.

Last years and death[edit]

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 bypass surgery. In 2000, Jehan was hospitalised in Karachi and suffered a heart attack. On 23 December 2000 (night of 27 Ramadan), Jehan died as a result of heart failure. Her funeral took place at Jamia Masjid Sultan, Karachi and was attended by over 400,000 people. 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 - Second Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1942
1943 Nadaan
1943 Duhai
1943 Naukar - Fifth Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1943
1944 Lal Haveli
1944 Dost
1945 Zeenat - Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1945
1945 Gaon Ki Gori - Second Highest Indian Grossing Film of 1945
1945 Badi Maa - Third Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1945
1945 Bhai Jaan
1946 Anmol Ghadi - Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1946 (with Surendra (actor))
1946 Dil
1946 Humjoli
1946 Sofia
1946 Jadoogar
1946 Maharana Pratap
1947 Mirza Sahibaan - Fourth Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1947
1947 Jugnu - Highest Grossing Indian Film of 1947 (with Dilip Kumar)
1947 Abida
1947 Mirabai
1951 Chan Wey - First Film in Pakistan, Biggest Hit of 1951
1952 Dopatta - Biggest Hit of 1952 in Pakistan
1953 Gulnar
1955 Patey Khan
1956 Lakt-e-Jigar (released 17 February 1956)
1956 Intezar (released 12 May 1956)
1957 Nooran (released 30 May 1957)
1958 Choo mantar
1958 Anarkali (released 6 June 1958)
1959 Neend (released 16 October 1959)
1959 Pardaisan
1959 Koel (released 24 December 1959)
1961 Mirza Ghalib (released 24 November 1961)


  1. ^ Pride of Performance Awards (1960–1969)#1965
  2. ^ Firoze Rangoonwalla, Indian Filmography, publisher: J. Udeshi, Bombay, August 1970, passim.
  3. ^ a b Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, British Film Institute, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2002, pp. 166.
  4. ^ Internet Archive Wayback Machine, Noor Jehan Biography, [1], Retrieved 7 July 2015
  5. ^ a b "Noor Jahan Biography". Archived from the original on 4 June 2008. Retrieved 29 May 2008. , Retrieved 7 July 2015
  6. ^
  7. ^ [2], Chishti Biography, Retrieved 3 August 2015
  8. ^ [3], Internet Archive Wayback Machine, Retrieved 27 July 2015
  9. ^ a b c "Noor Jahan". Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ [4], The Friday Times Weekly-Lahore, Pakistan. Noor Jehan article title, Madam Ji, Retrieved 27 July 2015

External links[edit]