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Noor Jehan (1928 - 2000)

Madame Noor Jehan stands out among the great singers of Pakistan who have enchanted audiences and enlivened film, radio and television entertainment. Affectionately called "the Melody Queen," Madame Noor Jehan was a versatile singer.

Noorjehan was Born in 1928 in Kasur city of Punjab. She was named Allah Rakhi. Her mother and her father, Mian Madad Ali, were very religious people. As the youngest, she was her mother's favourite. Love and attention, and her natural good looks, gave this precocious girl the confidence that has lasted throughout her life. At the age of only four, Noor Jehan would copy Akhtari Bai Faizabadi and Mukhtar Begum after listening to their records. Her eldest cousin discovered this talent and suggested that she be taught classical music. She began studying under Ustad Ghulam Muhammad Khan, who taught her selflessly and remained with her throughout his life. By the time she was nine, she had developed a passion for singing.

She was only ten when she was cast in a film, "Gul Bakaoli." She first appeared as a heroine in "Chaudhary," and her next film,"Khandan" (1942), was a big hit. Though her fort was singing, she preferred starring in films to working as a playback singer. She soon caught the eye of film director Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, who married her and gave her the leading role in "Zeenat," for which she was awarded a gold medal by Z. A. Bukhari. Many other awards followed, of which the most memorable for her was the President's Pride of Performance medal for "Intizar."

After independence, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah invited a group of noted filmmakers to reestablish the industry in Pakistan. Well-known directors Mehboob, Kardar, and Shaukat Hussain Rizvi came to Pakistan to survey the situation, but Noor Jehan and her husband were the only couple who decided to stay on. Once settled in Lahore, the couple established Shah Noor Studios from scratch, enabling Madam Noor Jehan to create history later by becoming the first Pakistani woman director. Her first effort was "Chan Way," a Punjabi film produced by her husband.

Later, she married film actor Ijaz Durrani, who asked her to stop acting and singing. She willingly gave up acting but refused to abandon singing, saying it was like telling her to stop breathing. "I would prefer to leave a thousand such husbands," she remarked.

By the mid-1960s Madam Noor Jehan was the biggest name in singing. She cemented her position in history during the troubled times of the 1965 war by singing very emotional and beautiful songs which lifted the people's morale. At that time her husband was away in Kaghan, and Noor Jehan was alone in Lahore with her daughters. She used to go to work in the morning wondering whether she would see her daughters again in the evening. Noor Jehan volunteered to sing national songs at a time when even instrumentalists were hard to find. Her renderings of Sufi Tabassum's "Mera Sohna Shehr Kasur Ni" and "Ai Putar Hattan Tey Nahin Vikday" are still among her own favourites.

Her rich voice, fine modulations, and immense range have made Noor Jehan a rarity among Pakistani singers. She is an enchantress with the ghazal and the geet, but she is at her best when rendering Punjabi songs. Having been associated with show-biz for over half a century, Madam Noor Jehan is now writing her autobiography under the guidance of well-known writer Hijab Imtiaz Ali Taj.

Madam Noor Jehan has sung over 2,500 songs for feature films. She says, "My life has been and will be devoted to music until my last breath. I live to sing, and singing is my life. For me, fame and glamour are secondary. The appreciation of my listeners is my true reward."

She died on 23rd December 2000

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