Tributes to legendary singer and actress ‘Malika-e-Tarannum’ Noor Jehan, on her 92nd birth anniversary today.
Noor Jehan was renowned as one of the greatest and most influential singers of her time in South Asia. Madam, as Noor Jehan was referred to, was loved on both sides of a border that didn’t exist when she was born.
Born into a family of professional musicians in the Punjabi city of Kasur in 1926, Noor Jehan, who was born as Allah Wasai, spent time under the tutelage of such greats as Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Ghulam Hussain. Her first experience of public singing was as a young girl, singing songs with her two sisters before and during the intermission of movies in Lahore.
In order to give their children greater opportunities, the family moved to Kolkata in the 1930s, where they met the great female singer Mukthar Begum who provided the sisters with introductions to film producers and directors. Soon the girls were given stage names and Allah Wasai debuted as Baby Noor Jehan.
At this stage, the girl was more interested in being an actress and landed several roles, in which she often sang as well. In 1938 she returned to the Lahore film world for a few years before finally making the critical move to Mumbai.
In 1942, Baby was dropped from her name as she moved from juvenile to her first leading lady role in the hit Khandaan. Around this time she sang the songs for another actress and got her first taste of playback singing.
In the 1940s, Noor Jehan was India’s most famous singer and actor. She had become a household name with such movies as Khandaan (1942), Naukar (1943), Dost (1944), Zeenat (1945), Village Girl (1945), Badi Ma (1945), Anmol Ghadi (1946) and Jugnu (1947).
Noor Jehan ruled the film industry for more than 35 years and sung appropriately six thousand songs for Urdu‚ Punjabi and Sindhi films. She contributed towards the South Asian film industry with her remarkable songs, which to date are popular among the Pakistani and Indian disapora.
Her clear tone, classical-influenced delivery and expressive colouring quickly earned her awards, including the Pride of Performance (1966), Pakistan’s highest arts accolade. Perhaps more precious was the title Malika-e-Tarannum (Queen of Melody) given to her by the people and by which she is referred to even in death.
On December 23‚ 2000‚ Noor Jehan died as a result of heart failure and was buried in Karachi.
The sweetness of her voice, and the emotions of her melodies still bring tears in the eyes of the listeners; and her songs have still enough power to capture millions of heart. She will always remain alive in her songs and in millions of hearts forever.