Born in Kasur, Punjab, British India and was one of the eleven
children of professional musicians Madad Ali and Fateh Bibi.
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 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 Bare Ghulam Ali Khan who was also a native
of Kasur. 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, Wasai drew
the attention of Punjabi musician Ghulam Ahmed Chishti, 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, Wasai 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 film theatres.
family moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in hope of developing
the movie careers of Wasai and her sisters. During their stay
in Calcutta, the renowned singer Mukhtar Begum, encouraged
Wasai and her two older 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. Wasai would later adopt Mukhtar
Begum's way of performance and sari attire.
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 Hairder 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.
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 player the
lead role, alongside Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, in the
movie Bari Maa.
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.
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),
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.
years after settling in Pakistan, Noor Jehan starred in her
first film in Pakistan, Chanwey (1951), opposite Santosh Kumar,
which was also her first Punjabi film as a heroine. Shaukat
and Noor Jehan directed this film together making Noor Jehan
Pakistan's first female director. Noor Jehan's second film
in Pakistan was Dopatta (1952) which turned out to be an even
bigger success than Chanwey (1951).
penultimate 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 Mujshe pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang
is a unique example of tarranum, reciting poetry as a song.
Noor Jehan last starred in Baaji in 1963, though not in a
leading role. Noor Jehan bade farewell to acting in 1963 after
a career of 33 years (1930 to 1963). The pressure of being
a mother of six children and the demanding wife of a hero
(Ejaz Durrani) forced her to give up her career. Noor Jehan
made 14 films in Pakistan, ten in Urdu, four in Punjabi.
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.
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
Mirza Ghalib (1961)
Patey Khan (1955)
Mirza Sahibaan (1947)
Maharana Pratab (1946)
Anmol Ghadi (1946)
Badi Maa (1945)
Gaon Ki Gori (1945)
Lal Haveli (1944)
Red Signal (1941)
Yamla Jat (1940)
Gul Bakavli (1939) (as Baby Noor Jehan)
and meant for information only.