Name : Noorjehan
Full / Real Name : Noorjehan
Born : Sep 21, 1929, Kasur, Punjab
Died : Dec 23, 2000, Pakistan
Notable Films : Anmol Ghadi, Badi Maa, Dopatta, Dost, Jugnu, Khandan, Mirza Saheban, Village Girl, Zeenat
Contributed by : K Vijay Kumar
Noorjehan was the first diva of Hindi cinema. A singing star without compare, even today, 55 years after her last film in India, there has been none to equal her charisma and popularity as a singing star.

She is said to have been interested in singing even as a child, and idolized Akhtari Begum and Kajjanbai. Akhtari Begum advised her to learn classical singing, and Noorjehan spent some time under the tutelage of Ghulam Mohammad Khan.

She first performed small roles as a child artiste, before she donned the leading role in a Punjabi film Gul-e-Bakavali, at the improbably young age of 10. However, it was Khandan in 1942 that really launched her movie career, with the hit - tu kaun si badli me mere chaand hai aa ja. Following Khandan's success, she moved to Bombay, where she proceeded to reign with aplomb till partition in 1947 when she chose to move to Pakistan. In the brief span of five years, she delivered several memorable hits - pioneering the Qawwali with "aahen na bhari shiqave na kiye" (Zeenat, 1945), and peaking with the ever popular Anmol Ghadi in 1946 which had songs like "aawaz de kahaan hai", "javaan hai muhabbat", "mere bachapan ke saathi mujhe bhool na jana" and "aa ja meri barbaad muhabbat ke sahare". "yahaan badla vafaa ke bewafai ke siva kya hai", "hame to shaam-e-gham me katani hai zindagi apani", "umangen dil kii machalii" (Jugnu, 1946), "haath siine pe jo rakh do", "tum aankhon se door ho" (Mirza Saheban, 1947) and "ye kaun hansaa kis ne" (Village Girl, 1945) were some of her other hits from this period.

Following partition, Noorjehan moved to Pakistan where her singing-acting career continued to prosper despite the political turbulence of the times, and despite her much publicized and much commented upon personal life. Dopatta (1952) (jigar kii aag se, chaandani raaten), Gulnar (1950) (bachpan ki yaadgaro, lo chal diye vo) Baa ji (1950) (dil ke afsaane nigaaho.n ki zubaan, ab yahan koi nahin aayega) were some of her early hits in Pakistan. After 1963, she gave up her acting career to concentrate solely on her singing, where she continued to enjoy unparalleled success well into the 80s and 90s.

Her uncomplicated singing style, her versatility and her deep voice gave a distinctive flair to her songs. Her emotive range covered everything from sorrowful (hame to shaam-e-Gam me) to joyful (javaan hai muhabbat), from smouldering sensuousness (ho tamanna aur kyaa) to plaintive pining (ab yahan koi nahin ayega), and from the hauntingly evocative (koi aaye) to the skittish (hava se moti baras rahe hain). Her ghazals are a connoiseur's delight, her non-film songs many a collector's pride. Like Saigal among her male counterparts, Noorjehan blazed a trail for other women to follow, demonstrating the way to sing for the intimacy of a recording studio. Music Directors and singers alike, Lata included, tried to cast every female voice in the Noorjehan mould, but no one could reproduce that magic.

Revered and missed in India, she was idolized in Pakistan and given the title of Mallika-e-Tarannum (the queen of music). Her "ai vatan ke sajiile javaano" dedicated to the slain soldiers of Pakistan was like Pakistan's answer to Lata and her "ae mere vatan ke logo." Where Naushad and K Datta had lavished their best tunes on her in Bombay, she had Khurshid Anwar, Rashid Atre, Sajjad Hussain and other masters who gave her some fine compositions to sing in Pakistan. The one glaring void in her otherwise glittering ouvre is the near total absence of quality duets as no other singer of her time matched up to her vocal ability and stature.

Noorjehan sang a number of ghazals, setting a new standard in the art of ghazal singing. She even composed a few songs - Mirza Ghalib's "main hoon mushtaq-e-jafa", Faiz Ahmed Faiz' "tum aaye ho na shab-e-intazar guzari hai". She returned to India only once - in 1982 - to commemorate 50 years of songs in Hindi films. She enthralled the audience in Shanmukhananda hall with her renditions of her old hits (only Rajkumari among the other singers on the occasion demonstrated an undiminished singing ability), with a memorable Noorjehan only version of "aavaz de kahan hai" with an ailing Surendra in the audience.

She passed away in Pakistan after a brief illness in December 2000.