Noor Jehan: The Queen of Melody, The Queen of Hearts

A rare collection of images from the private collection of Noor Jehan's family, and interviews with those she touched.

Noor Jehan in her youth playing a SitarThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

The Nightingale of The East

Noor Jehan (born Allah Rakhi Wasai) was a famous Pakistani singer and actress whose career spanned more than six decades, during which she recorded over 10,000 songs. This image shows Madam Noor Jehan in one of her most iconic photos. Holding a Sitar, looking off camera and striking a pose, we see her at her most comfortable: in front of a camera.

Noor Jehan Surrounded By A CrowdThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

She could sing in several languages including Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and Sindhi, making her one of the most influential singers of all time in South Asia.

Noor Jehan sang 12 war songs which were recorded and broadcasted by Radio Pakistan during the 1965 war. She was given the title of Malika-e-Tarannum (the Queen of Melody) in Pakistan for her services during the war, and was popularly known as Madam by her adoring fans. Being surrounded by multitudes of people did not faze her and she was accustomed to being admired.

Here she is seen with her son-in-law, Haroon Rasheed, and relatives from his bridal party.

Madam Noor Jehan In A White SariThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Her persona and glamour in the East can easily be compared to that of Marilyn Monroe in the West.

In this image, Madam Noor Jehan poses in a white sari.

Noor Jehan's Steely Eyed DeterminationThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Early life

Noor Jehan was born on September 21, 1925 in Kasur, Punjab. One of eleven children, she came from a Muslim family with a rich musical tradition. She began singing at the age of 5 and received early training in classical singing under Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, a famous Hindustani vocalist.

The studio of Radio PakistanThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

As a young girl, Noor Jehan appeared in the K.D. Mehra directed Punjabi movie Pind di Kuri (1935) and next acted in a film called Missar Ka Sitara (1936). Noor Jehan also played the child role of Heer in the film Heer-Sayyal (1937).

In 1938 Noor Jehan moved to Lahore. Her first major film role was opposite the Indian actor Pran in Khandaan (1942). The film became a major hit and she moved to Mumbai with its director, Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, who she later married.

After the Partition in 1947, Jehan decided to move to Pakistan and settled in Karachi.

Young Noor Jehan During The Shooting Of The Film Jugnu in 1947The Citizens Archive of Pakistan

This picture shows a young Noor Jehan during the making of her 1947 film, Jugnu. Starring opposite veteran actor, Dilip Kumar, Noor Jehan played the titular leading lady in the Indian film.

She is seen here dressed in a checked coat, a silk headscarf and adorning her forehead is a traditional bindi. A little girl is also seen with her, who could possibly be one of her daughters who was visiting her and keeping her company on the film set.

It was shortly after making this film that Noor Jehan moved to Pakistan.

Noor Jehan At The Karachi Sea With RelativesThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Her first big break in Pakistan was in 1951 with the film, Chanwey, opposite Santosh Kumar.

This picture, set against the scenic background of the Karachi Sea, was taken in the early 50s. Keeping her social calendar filled, Madam Noor Jehan enjoyed the company of family and friends.

Noor Jehan's Influence On The Common ManThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Captured in the early 50s, this picture characterizes the type of woman Madam Noor Jehan was and the influence her work had on the public. She appears to be at ease as she rests on a sofa with some sort of cast on her hand; perhaps she was injured or possibly she was wearing a glove of some kind to help her have better control of her mike during her performances.

Her comfortable sitting position is juxtaposed against a background of mayhem. As her fans knew, Noor Jehan was the center of attention in all gatherings, and, here, she certainly was. The body-language of the man in front of reveals all; his bent posture and clasped hands imply how he was willing to make sure that the Madam was comfortable and had everything she needed.

Noor Jehan - Pure EleganceThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Career and Achievements

Noor Jehan established herself as a top actress with films like Dopatta (1952), Intezar (1956) and Koel (1959). She made over 40 films, the last of which was Mirza Ghalib (1961). After this she pursed a successful career as a playback singer. 

Noor Jehan - Style IconThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

She holds the record for having given voice to the largest number of film songs in the history of Pakistani cinema.

The original Prima Donna of Pakistan, throughout her career Madam Noor Jehan was known for her flamboyant and theatrical personality. This iconic picture highlights her glamorous style.

Noor Jehan and Dilip KumarThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

In 1957, she was the recipient of the President’s Award for Pride of Performance for her contribution towards acting and singing.

Here you can see Madam Noor Jehan with the famous actor Dilip Kumar. Both of them are smiling widely: a sign of their friendship and appreciation for each other.

They co-starred together in the 1947 film Jugnu.

Noor Jehan - Inner LifeThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Not only a prolific performer in front of the screen, Jehan also became know as Pakistan's first female director when she directed Chanwey in 1951 along with her husband.

Mumtaz Ahmed Speaks About Madam Noor Jehan, The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, From the collection of: The Citizens Archive of Pakistan
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Mumtaz Ahmed was born in 1946 in Lahore. In this interview with The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) he speaks about Madam Noor Jehan and how he remembers her going to the studio at Radio Pakistan. He mentions that Sufi Tabassum used to call Noor Jehan to the studio to do live recordings and then her songs would be on air immediately. She would record almost daily and her songs were enjoyed by many people across the country, and they also motivated many during times of war.

Noor Jehan With General Pervaiz MusharrafThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

During the 1965 war, Noor Jehan contributed towards boosting the morale of Pakistani soldiers and citizens with a collection of patriotic anthems and uplifting tunes. She sang 12 war songs that were recorded and broadcasted by Radio Pakistan.

Due to this she received much respect from the Armed Forces and in 1966 was given the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in recognition of the legendary patriotic songs—one of the highest Pakistani civilian awards.

These songs not only motivated the Armed Forces of Pakistan but also enabled Pakistani civilians to amass courage. Even today when these songs are played, they rekindle the same spirit of 1965.

Taken around the 90s, this image shows Madam Noor Jehan entertaining General Pervaiz Musharraf.

Surriya Ashraf Speaks About Madam Noor Jehan, The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, From the collection of: The Citizens Archive of Pakistan
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Surriya Ashraf was born in 1936 in Nowshera, India. In her interview with The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) she remembers how Madam Noor Jehan had sung many songs during the 1965 War that were broadcasted on Radio Pakistan. Her songs motivated the nation so much that people from every household were coming out to help in whatever way that they could.

Noor Jehan The MotherThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Family Life

Madam Noor Jehan was married twice, her first husband was Shaukat Hussain Rizvi and her second husband was Ejaz Durrani. She had six children in total from both marriages: Zil-e-Huma, Hina Durrani, Mina Hasan, Nazia Ejaz Khan, Akbar Hussain Rizvi, and Asghar Hussain Rizvi. Despite her busy schedules, fame and stardom, Madam Noor Jehan maintained a balance between her home life and her career. 

Noor Jehan with Shaukat Hussain RizviThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Caught in an unguarded moment, Madam Noor Jehan is seen here with her first husband Shaukat Hussain Rizvi and two little girls. Mr. Rizvi is seen here looking totally enamored by Madam, having eyes only for her.

Noor Jehan's Daughter Zil-e-Huma's WeddingThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Zil-e-Huma dressed as a bride, Madam's first husband Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, Haroon Rasheed Butt and Madam Noor Jehan.

Dressed to the nines, Madam Noor Jehan exhibited her extravagant personality through her fashion sense.

Noor Jehan Fixing Her HairThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Caught in the act of fixing her hair, this picture is from the Murree Convent days, a girls school in Punjab, Pakistan where her daughters were studying.

Noor Jehan's Daughter's Birthday PartyThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

This candid, family photograph is a true representation of Noor Jehan’s top priority: her family. Madam’s affection and need to protect her family, especially her daughters, is clearly evident through their smiles and laughter.

Noor Jehan always put her family life on a pedestal. In this photograph, Madam is elated as she claps and cheers on her daughter who is cutting her birthday cake.

The man in this picture, assisting with the cutting of the cake, is her second husband, Ejaz Durrani.

From the extreme right the order of the girls is: Hina Durrani, Nazia Durrani and Zil-e Huma (her daughter holding Noor Jehan’s grandson Muhammad Ali Butt). Shazia Sardar is seen at the back.

Noor Jehan Daughter Zil-e-Huma's WeddingThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Seen here at a wedding, we get a glimpse into the side of Madam Noor Jehan’s life as a family woman.

We see people crowd around her as she tries to get a picture taken with her family, highlighting the struggle she must have faced in maintaining a peaceful family existence amidst a life of stardom.

Noor Jehan With Her Son-in-Law Haroon RasheedThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

This picture shows a touching family moment. Surrounded by loved ones at what seems to be the wedding of her daughter to Haroon Rasheed, we see the life that Madam Noor Jehan led behind the cameras and the silver screens.

Noor Jehan Looking Striking In A SareeThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Noor Jehan dressed in a striking saree and enjoying her dinner at wedding reception. To her left is Haroon Rasheed.

Noor Jehan With FamilyThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Madam Noor Jehan is pictured here with her second husband's cousin and Nazia Durrani, her daughter from her second husband, Ejaz Durrani.

Florence Villiers Speaks About Madam Noor Jehan, The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, From the collection of: The Citizens Archive of Pakistan
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Florence Villiers was born in 1947 in France. She came to Pakistan in the 1970s and was married to Madam Noor Jehan's son, Akbar Hussain Rizvi. In her interview with The Citizens Archive of Pakistan she speaks about how hardworking and dedicated Madam Noor Jehan was.

Noor Jehan and Zil-e-HumaThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Noor Jehan, adorned in a flamboyant saree lends an ear to her daughter Zil-e-Huma, who seems to be sharing her thoughts.

Noor Jehan With FamilyThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Madam Noor Jehan with her daughters and grandchildren.

Noor Jehan With Her Daughter and GrandchildrenThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Never missing out on an opportunity to flaunt her vibrant personality, Noor Jehan smiles for the camera. Her daughter Zil-e-Huma and her grandchildren Nazia Durrani, Muhammad Ali and Shazia Sardar also pose for the same picture.

Noor Jehan With Her Granddaughter Nazia DurraniThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Noor Jehan in a peaceful and touching moment with her granddaughter, Nazia Durrani.

Noor Jehan In Conversation With Her Daughter Zil-e-HumaThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Taken in the 1980s, Noor Jehan is seen at a later stage in her life, standing in close proximity to her daughter, Zil-e-Huma. Her daughter, a carbon copy of her mother, appears to be in deep conversation with her.

Noor Jehan, even at an older age, appears elegant, with a flower in her hair and donning a red Shalwar Kameez.

Noor Jehan - Overwhelming MomentThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Madam looks overwhelmed while sharing an intimate moment with her daughter Zil-e-Huma.

Noor Jehan - Admiration From FamilyThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Noor Jehan with her daughter Zil-e-Huma and Son-in-law Haroon Rashed.

Noor Jehan Blissful and HappyThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Here we see Madam Noor Jehan exuding an aura of pure bliss and glee.

Noor Jehan All Dressed Up At A Formal Function With Her Daughter Zil-e-HumaThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Madam Noor Jehan, in her later days, is seen holding tightly on to her daughter, Zil-e-Huma.

This moment represents the close relationship the mother-daughter duo shared; evident, through the adoring, gazing look she is giving her daughter. Zil-e-Huma, dressed in complete white and looking like a replica of her mother, clearly reciprocates the feelings.

Noor Jehan In Paris With Her Daughter Zil-e-HumaThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

A picture of an elderly Noor Jehan wearing a black outfit with a smart white jacket, standing with her daughter Zil-e-Huma in Paris

Noor Jehan's Stardom lives onThe Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Noor Jehan passed away on December 23, 2000, but, as Malak-e-Taranum, will always be remembered for her larger than life personality, and for bringing people together through her music.

Credits: Story

Initial Design, Concept and Layout:
Aaliyah Tayyebi

Primary Data collection:
CAP Oral History Project Lahore Team 2017
- Hiba Ali
- Sultan Ali
- Mustafa Kamal
- Rahma Sohail

Secondary Research:
Aaliyah Tayyebi
Serena Anthony
Syed Zain Haroon
Ihsan Arsalaan
Hafsa Tahir
Neha Maqsood

Anum Zahid (Photo Editing)

General Editing, Technical Support and Final Design:
Aaliyah Tayyebi
Aleena Mashood
Rumman Islam

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to cultural and historic preservation, operating in Karachi and Lahore. We seek to educate the community, foster an awareness of our nation’s history and instil pride in Pakistani citizens about their heritage.

Copyright © 2017 by Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP).
All rights reserved. No part of this Exhibit may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including copying, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP).
All the images shown here were donated to CAP by Noor Jehan's grandson Mohammad Ali Butt and her grand daughter-in-law Saira Khan.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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