Today, 15th June 2020, Marks the 10 Years of Launching of Anmolfankaar.com (we were launched in 2010). On this special occasion, We have another edition of our popular special series, Same Name Confusion written by Veteran Cinema and Music enthusiast Arunkumar Deshmukh ji. Thanks a lot to him for writing it for us and promising to write more!
The other day,I was talking to one of my friends, who is a connoisseur of old films and music. Having the same hobby,we happily discussed and exchanged a lot of matters of common interest. During the talk, we wondered, we talk so much about films,do we really know the names of all the artistes in Hindi films. We decided to separately write down names of actors and actresses-big and small-as we remembered, starting from 1931 to year 2000.
After spending about 2 hours on writing names, we checked each other’s lists and to our amazement, we found that we could not even touch the number of 100 in our lists individually !
Why I am writing this is, that the Hindi film industry is an ocean and has been a ” Mai-Baap” to provide Roji-Roti to thousands of people. Of course, it is not possible to list all names who all worked in films from 1931 to 2000. Or is it ? What is your idea of the number of people who worked in films ? 500 ?, 1000 ?, 2000 ? ????? How many ???
Few years back, a kind soul posted a list of all big and small ( also smaller and the smallest) actors and actresses, who worked in Hindi films from 1931 to 2000. I am surprised that there could be someone with so much free time and patience to do this monumental work. The list was posted on a site on the Internet and …hold your breath, it contained the names of 7000 ( seven thousand ) people !. Dr. Surjit Singh ji , from US, copied this list from that site ( now defunct) and had posted it on RMIM forum on the 29th August 2006. I had copied this list from RMIM.
Mind you, initially, there was a spill over of actors from the silent movies to the Talkie films, who could speak Hindi/Urdu fluently. In the beginning, Cinema was not having a glamour. On the contrary, working in films was considered a menial job. Therefore people from very poor families or girls from Tawayaf families or similar clans used to join films. They usually had very common names and hence you had actors with similar names in films. The Same Name Confusions started from here. It was an irritable phenomenon till the 50s or so, when people from a different generation, different class, different strata of society started joining films. These people had a variety of names. Those who had similar names changed their names to stay known. Thus the problem of Same Name Confusion diminished to a great extent. Today ofcourse it is absent altogether.
Students of Film History and genuine fans of old films and music had faced a great problem with similar names and then the lesser known of the two suffered in getting credit for his work. There was plenty of confusion with similar names. I took up this issue and collected information meticulously on 15 such pairs and published a series ” Same Name Confusions”, in 3 parts. This, hopefully, cleared doubts and clarified the status of those involved in this confusions. There were still many such pairs still remaining, waiting for clarifications. I decided to do further work on this and have written two more parts, having 5 pairs each.
Today, we will see ” Same Name Confusions”- IV being clarified in case of 5 pairs. From time to time I have written separately about them in individual articles. Here, of course, we will have only the relevant parts of those articles. So, Here we go…….
1. Leela Chandragiri and Leela Desai.
Leela Chandragiri aka Miss Leela……..
Leela Chandragiri was born in Chikodi, a town near Kolhapur, in a singing family. She learnt singing from a very young age. The talent hunters of Prabhat film company found her and she was brought to Kolhapur. She was beautiful, tall and wheat complexioned. She made her debut in V Shantaram’s silent film ‘Uday Kaal’ in 1930. She played the role of Bhawani Devi, who blesses Shivaji and gives him the Bhawani talwar (sword). Leela became famous by acting in the grand silent film ‘Chandrasena’ (1931) of Prabhat films.
Leela’s first talkie film was ‘Jalti Nishani’ (1932), a bilingual in Hindi and Marathi (as ‘Agni Kankan’). The hero in this film was Master Vinayak. Leela had no problem in delivering Hindi/Urdu dialogues as she was fluent in both languages. She became the heartthrob of the audiences. Being from a singing family and trained, singing came naturally to her. She sang her own songs starting from her first talkie film itself. In 1933, she appeared in ‘Maya Machhindra’ (1933), in which her hero was Master Vinayak again. They worked together again in a Marathi film ‘Sinhgad’. Prabhat’s first coloured film ‘Sairandhri’ (1933) also featured her in the main role. The film was processed in Germany.
After this, Prabhat Films shifted to Poona, but Leela chose to stay back in Kolhapur and decided to work with Bhalji Pendharkar. They became attracted to each others and got married. Leela already had two children, a son, Jaysingh and a daughter, Madhavi. Bhalji adopted both children and gave them father’s love. Even Bhalji had one son from his first marriage – Prabhakar. Later, when they built their own studio, it was given the name Jayprabha. It combined his two sons’ names – JAYsingh and PRABHAkar. Madhavi got married to the Marathi author Ranjit Desai. Madhavi also authored one book herself.
Miss Leela appeared in the following films –
- Jalti Nishani (1932)
- Maya Machhindra (1932)
- Sairandhri (1933)
- Akashwani (1934)
- Kaal Koot (1935)
- Kaliya Mardan (1935)
- Raja Gopichand (1938)
- Alakh Niranjan (1940)
- Maharathi Karna (1944)
- Swarna Bhoomi (1944)
- Valmiki (1946), and
- Chhatrapati Shivaji (1952).
She mostly worked in films directed or made by Bhalji Pendharkar only. During the riots in 1948 (on account of Gandhi ji’s assasination), their Jayprabha studio was burnt down, because Bhalji was a Brahmin. However, within few years he built it again. After Bhalji’s death the studio was purchased by Lata Mangeshkar.
During Miss Leela’s career, contemporary to her, there were 3 more actresses named Leela active in Hindi films. One was Leela Desai (daughter of a Gujarati father and a Bengali mother from Bihar. She was born in America.). The second was Leela Mishra – who became Leela mausi later on. The third one was Leela Sawant – essentially a stunt film actress who worked in master Bhagwan’s films.
Now let us take a look at the other Leela- Leela Desai….
Leela Desai was the daughter of Dr. Umedbhai Desai-a Gujarati and his second wife Satyabala Devi- a Bengali from Bihar, who was a prominent singer of the 1930s. She was born in America, where her parents had gone for a 3 year trip. She grew up in India. She learnt dancing from Amla Devi-who married Uday shanker, Lachhu Maharaj and Sohan lal. She also learnt music at Morris College , Lucknow. Actress Kamala Kumari of New Theatres had also learnt from here. In one of her stage performances in Lucknow, NT’s Director Hem Chander saw her and invited her to Calcutta for working in films.
She worked in the film President-37 as the sister of Kamlesh Kumari,opposite Saigal. It was followed by Vidyapati-37, Dushman-38, Kapal kundala-39 and Nartaki-40. She also did Adarsh Mahila-37 with Ideal Film company. Chimanlal Trivedi brought her to Bombay to act opposite Jairaj in the film Tamanna-42. She acted in 5 films of Chimanlal Trivedi. After tamanna, leela Desai acted in films like Sharafat,Paraya Dhan, Nagad narayan,Inkaar, Mujrim, Miss Devi,Kaliyan, Meghdoot,Maharani Minal Devi,Magadhraj,Kamla, Dev kanya, Soorat and last film Geet Govind-47.
She acted opposite leading actors like K L Saigal, Najmul Hasan, Jairaj, Pahadi Sanyal, Surendra, Chandra Mohan, Khalil, Baburao pendharkar etc etc. She worked under top directors like Debki Bose, Nitin Bose, Kidar Sharma, Phani Mujumdar and others. Her sisters Monica Desai ( who married Phani Mujumdar) and Ramola were also in films. In a span of just 10 years, Leela Desai acted in 21 films and then left films. She settled in Darjeeling with her mother. Baburao Patel said this about Leela Desai….
“What shall be said of Leela Desai, who acted the part of the President’s sister, the mischievous school-girl, and who always took the active part in the love-making between her and Prakash Babu (Saigal)? I cannot find a single fault with her acting. She played up to Saigal splendidly. Even her eyes were most expressive. What naughtiness was in them? As a shameless hussy she could give points to any of your Hollywood actresses–and win. In the love-duet between her and Saigal it was she who always led. She was the personification of Mr. Bernerd Shaw’s pet notion that, in this eternal amorous game, it is the woman who leads the man on and not, as is commonly supposed, the other way about. From the moment she jumped down her school garden-wall and almost fell plump into the arms of Prakash Babu, who was sitting below chewing the end of his reflections anent his dismissal from his job, she never, in a manner of speaking, left him to himself. She would bring down the house with her: “Uske bad kya hua, Prakash Babu?” The poor man had to dance to her measure ever afterwards. When she found herself with him alone she gave us the impression of having fed on honey-dew and on the milk of paradise. Then, in addition to her sparkling dialogue and supremely ‘alive’ acting, she was gorgeous in her dancing performance. Her whole face was a mirror in which her thoughts were reflected. She was an imp of mischief from commencement to conclusion.”
Now we come to actress Menaka. In Mythology, Menaka broke the penance of sage Vishwamitra, but here, on Earth, these two Menakas have confused the film and music lovers so much that they broke their heads ! There were two actresses named Menaka Devi and Menaka- they were variously mentioned as Menaka, Menakabai, Menaka Devi etc. There were two major centres of film production, Bombay and Calcutta. Sometimes same name actors were present in both centres. Menaka is such an example.
2.Menaka Devi ( Calcutta)
Menaka Devi was born in Varanasi on 23-1-1921. Her mother was a resident of the holy city although her father was from Bengal. She studied upto Matriculation. She could speak fluent English and Hindi, but not much of Bangla, having been raised in Varanasi. Her interest in music and dance took her to Bombay where she starred in a couple of films like Prince Thaksen (1929), Uttara Abhimanyu, Ishwar Ki Maut and others as a child artiste. When the Talkie started she acted and sang in Bhedi Rajkumar-34, Pyara Dushman-35 and Krishna Shishtai – 35.
Reportedly, she met the legendary film director Debaki Bose of Bengal during a train journey and he was so impressed by her that he decided to cast her in the lead role of his next venture in the Hindi version of the bilingual Sonar Sansar (1936 in Bangla and Sunehra Sansar-36 in Hindi) and thus began the illustrious career of Menaka Devi.
Her devotion to work was such that she learnt Bengali, her mother tongue although she was anything but fluent in it having spent all her life till then outside Bengal, so that she could play the same role (that of Alka) in the Bengali version also. Dhiraj Bhattacharya was her first hero on the screen. P.C.Barua, who was on the lookout for a young and fresh face to play Jharna in his forthcoming production Mukti (1937) selected her for both the versions ( Bangla and Hindi) and a flow started whereby she starred in films like Adhikar (1939), Abhigyan (1938), Bardidi (1939 in Bangla and Badi Didi in Hindi), Rajat Jayanti (1940) and others.
She decided to try her luck in Bombay around 1944 and starred in a few films there and definitely made her presence felt although playing the second lead most of the time. Kishore Sahu procured her services for Hamari Duniya (1952). She was married to Pannalal Shrivastav and had 1 daughter ( Jaya Ganguly). She turned producer also and this proved her undoing. Both her films as producer, Apna na Huye Apne (No information of this film,probably incomplete) and Jeene Do-48, both starring herself with prominent Bombay stars flopped.
She returned to Calcutta a broken woman and found to her dismay that roles were not coming to her. She joined the MG Enterprise, a drama group of Molina Devi and performed on the stage to continue to live as an actress. She even arranged magic shows along with husband Pannalal Srivastava while small roles came pouring in films like Ekti Raat (1956) and others. The feature that strikes even today while seeing her performance is the spontaneous nature of her acting. Why good roles eluded her is a mystery. She was last seen on the screen in Bhombal Sardar (1983). In all, she acted in 60 films-Bangla and Hindi together.
Her end came on 22-1- 2004 after a prolonged fight not only against poor health but also poverty. Her death was reported only in one Bengali daily although her death news received good coverage on television.
Filmography- Only Hindi
|Title||Place of production||Comments|
|Bhedi Rajkumar-34||in Bombay||Acted and sang 1 solo|
|Pyara Dushman-35||”||Acted and sang 2 solos|
|Krishna Shishtai-35||”||Acted and sang 2 solos|
|Sunehra Sansar-36||in Calcutta||Acted and sang 1 solo|
|Mukti-37||“||Acted and sang 1 solo|
|Shrikrishna Arjun yuddha-45||Bombay||Acted|
|Jeene Do-48||”||” ( produced also)|
|Do Bigha Zamin-53||Calcutta||“|
Menaka/Menakabai / Menakabai Shirodkar ( Bombay )
Menaka was born in Lahore in or around 1910. She was from a professional singer family and got training in classical singing. The family was originally from Belgaon and her maiden name was Menaka Belgaonkar. Later she was married and became Menaka Shirodkar.
At the age of 23-24 she landed in Bombay to try her luck in films. In those days such girls from singing families used to get into films easily, due to their singing capability. She joined Minerva and sang in their films, starting with Pukar-39,in which she got only one song.
She was more interested in classical singing and hence concentrated on singing more than acting. However, she did act in 5 films, in which she also sang.
After her film Gul Bakavli-47 she devoted her full time in singing and holding jalsas. Soon she became a known figure in singing circles. After marriage she got two daughters. One of them Shobha became a famous singer and was known as Shobha Gurtu.
After her singing was over Menakabai Shirodkar-as she came to be known later- retired and settled in Ponda,Goa.
She died on 23-12-2003 at the age of around 93 years.
|Pukar-39||1 solo song|
|Paak Daman-40||Acting and 3 solos+ 1 Duet|
|Main Haari-40||1 solo, 2 Duets|
|Bharosa-40||Acting and 2 solos, 1 Duet|
|Ulti Ganga-42||1 solo, 1 Trio|
|Phir milenge-42||Acting and 3 solos|
|Prithwi Vallabh-43||2 solos, 2 Duets and 1 Trio|
|Bhakta Raidas-43||Acting and 1 Duet as Menakabai|
|Dr. Kumar-44||1 solo|
|Gul Bakavali-47||Acting and 4 solos, a Duet..all as Menakabai.|
Now we come to the third name. I keep on getting various types of queries by mail and phone, from all over the places wherever Music and Old film lovers are living in the world. I was surprised to get a query from Fiji Islands one day ! This time the name is Nasir Khan and Al Nasir. Both were actors, operating in almost the same period. People get confused when they are mentioned only as Nasir. Here is some information from both.
3. Al Nasir and Nasir khan were two different persons. Both operated almost in the same period,so many people have this confusion about them.
ABDUL REHMAN AL NASIR GAZNAVI ( popularly known as Al Nasir ) was born on 27-11-1922 in Kabul. His father was a big shot-Chancellor of Law. He was related to the Begum of Junagadh and also to the Nawab of Bhopal. His schooling was done in Dehradun upto Sr. Cambridge and degree was obtained from Kabul college. He was a tall and handsome young man,whowas keen on joining the Air Force. he went to Bombay in 1941 for this purpose.
While in National studios to meet a friend, Mehboob spotted him and offered him a job. He was taken on the rolls of the studio.
For the next 6 months there was only pay,but no work. In 1942 national Studios closed down,but Mohan Sinha offered him the Hero’s role in film Preetam-42. His father did not like this. However Al Nasir worked in 17 films till 1957.
Being handsome and polished he impressed women . He was a womaniser. During Prithvi vallabh-43 ‘s shooting he married Khursheed Jehan commonly known as Meena ( Shorey). Whenever she was away,he would run after women. He had an affair with Nigar sultana. After the divorce with Meena, he married actress Manorama,when he had gone to Lahore.
He divorced Manorama in 1946 and married actress Veena. They had 2 children. Daughter Huma became a Professor and son was Altamash.
Al Nasir was fond of hunting and reading English books. He acted in Preetam,Prithvi vallabh,Pathron ke shehar,Shehar se door, Dhamkee, Shalimaar, Khamosh Nigahen, Aarsi, Ek roz, Daastaan, Beewee, Kashmir, Mr. and Mrs. 55, Hatimtai ki Beti,Sakhi haatim,Indra sabha and Mera Salaam-57.
Al Nasir died at the age of only 35 years,on 17-10-1957.
Dilip Kumar’s younger brother Nasir Khan ( born on 1-10- 1924) will always be remembered as the leading man of Pakistan’s maiden production Teri Yaad (1948). Nasir Khan started his career in 1945 with Filmistan’s Mazdoor(1945). His next film Shehnai (1947) opposite Rehana was a hit and is still remembered for C. Ramchandra’s songs especially Maar katari mar jana (sung by Amirbai Karnataki) and Aana meri jaan meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday (sung by C. Ramchandra, Shamshad Begum and Meena Kapoor).
He shifted to Lahore at the time of partition and appeared in two Pakistani films i.e. Teri Yaad (1948) and Shahida (1949). Teri Yaad with Asha Posley was Pakistan’s first released film. It flopped because it was lacking in production quality and that along with Jinnah’s death soon after contributed to its failure.
Deewan Sardari Lal’s Shahida, Nasir Khan’s second Pakistani film in which he starred with Shamim, best remembered for her role in Kishore Sahu’s family drama Sindoor also failed to click. Disheartened, Nasir found it hard to support himself and sought help from his brother Yusuf Khan, alias Dilip Kumar, the emerging matinee idol of Indian cinema. Under the banner of Best Pictures, Nasir Khan distributed four films from Bombay – India to Pakistan, including Mela, a Nargis-Dilip blockbuster by filmmaker S.U. Sunny, featuring some of Naushad’s most enchanting musical compositions. Overwhelmed by his sudden wealth Nasir then became involved in a love affair with a girl belonging to a feudal Punjabi family. As a result of this imbroglio he had to leave the country overnight, that too stealthily only with whatever clothes he had on his body.
He returned to Bombay, but not before having his name recorded in the history of Pakistani cinema as the hero of its maiden film.
After returning to India, Nasir resumed his career in 1951 and appeared in 6 Hindi films including Khazana, Nagina, Nakhare, Nazneen, Phoolon Ke Haar and Saudagar. Of these special mentions must be made of Nagina, a mystery-thriller where he appeared opposite Nutan.
Nagina was issued an Adults only certificate and is still remembered for its haunting melodies sung by C.H. Atma and Lata Mangeshkar.
Later, Nasir Khan appeared with many top Indian heroines including Suraiya (Lal Kunwar), Nargis (Angarey), Meena Kumari (Daera) and made somewhat successful team with Nutan (Nagina, Aagosh and Shisham), but he never achieved the success his brother Dilip Kumar did because of his limited acting abilities and wooden expressions. He worked in 30 films in all.
He married the sensual Indian beauty and his co-star in 3 films i.e. Begum Para. Nasir Khan’s most memorable film was perhaps the hugely successful Ganga Jamuna (1961) where he was cast opposite his own brother Dilip Kumar. The film was a story of two brothers on opposite sides of the law, Ganga (Dilip Kumar) and Jamuna (Nasir Khan).
When films stopped coming to him, he shifted to Deolali,near Nashik and started farming and poultry also,but failed miserably. According to his wife Begum Para, Nasir developed this physical condition, where he began to lose all his hair and eyebrows prematurely. He really lost out on his career because of that. During the making of Ganga Jamuna, he wore a wig and got away with it. So he concentrated all his efforts on making films.
He died on 3rd May, 1974. His last film Bairaag (1976) was released after his death.
Another confusing name is that of Noor jehan. There were many actresses with this name, but two were operating at the same time and both sang in the films, causing further confusion. After the more famous Noorjehan migrated to Pakistan, the other Noorjehan had open fields, but she had already become quite senior and within 6-7 years she too retired from films. Let us first know something about the Senior Noorjehan.
Noorjehan-Sr.’s real name was Zebunnisa,but since there were already many Zebs in the film line,she took the name of Noorjehan. She was from a Tawayaf family of Lahore. She started with Silent film Gulnar-1930,then came All for love, Chandramani, Hind ke Tare, Shaliwahan etc. After doing about 10 silent films,she first appeared in a Talkie Mirza Sahibaan-1933. (The silent films were produced till sept.1934).
She was actually not a professional singer,but in those days it was compulsory for the Lady actors to sing songs also,since playback had not started. That is the reason she sang also. She did about 57 Talkie films like patit pawan,
Kala wagh,Kismet ki kasauti,Vaaman avtaar,Delhi Express,Jaane aalam, karvaan e husn, Rangeela Nawab, Sati toral, Stree dharma, Romantic India, Shaahu chor,tope ka Gola,Adarsh mahila etc. After 1937,she did not get major roles and songs also diminished. Her last film was Anarkali-53.
The confusion causing films of Noorjehan Sr. are….
1941- Radhika- sang 2 songs, Sasural- 3 songs, Ummeed-1 song. She also worked in Sikander and Red signal.
1942- Dhiraj- sang 1 song. Also acted in Chandni
1943- Adab Arz-sang 1 song. Also acted in Vish kanya
1946-Jadugar, Eight days, Gwalan, Maharana Pratap, Sofia, Talwarwala
1947- Aabida, Do Bhai, Meerabai.
After retirement from films, she lived in Bombay, Dadar area. She knew Driving, so she became a Lady Driver instructor in a Driving School, to sustain for some time. Thereafter no information on her.
Noorjehan Jr. Mallika-E-Tarannum ( 21-9-1926 to 23-12-2000). Her life story is well known, however here is a short version-
Born to Madad Ali and Fateh Bibi at Kot Murad Khan, Kasur (A small village in Punjab – now in Pakistan) in the late 1920’s, Melody Queen Noor Jehan was named Allah Wasai by her parents.
It is not clear exactly when Noor Jehan was born. Some put it in 1926 and others in 1929, on the 21st September. If she was born on this date in 1929 it would make her exactly a week older than the other singing colossus, Lata ji.
Noor Jehan had five brothers – Nawab Din, Gul Muhammad, Muhammad Hussain, Muhammad Shafi and Inayat Hussain and five sisters – Eidan Bai,Haider Baandi, Gulzar Begum, Meena Begum and Undam Begum. From an early age she displayed signs of having a melodious voice, which became even more apparent by the time she was five or six years old. She could pick up just about anything – be it a folk song or popular number from a theatrical drama – imitating it to perfection.
Realising her immense talent, Noor Jehan’s mother started her training in singing and dancing. She took up singing when she was only seven when she started making appearances on stage with her elder sisters Eidan Bai and Haider Baandi for rural theatre companies known as Taka Theatre. She did not sing original songs but sang the famous film hits of the day.
She came to Lahore with her sisters for better opportunities where she took part in the zinda nach gana (live song and dance) which usually preceded the actual film show.
Looking for an even bigger stage the sisters moved to Calcutta in 1934/1935 where Mukhtar Begum, the leading singing star of the stage, encouraged the three sisters and recommended them to various producers. In later life Noor Jehan adopted Mukhtar Begum’s style of performing and wearing of a sari. The sisters got permanent jobs with one of the Seth Sukh Karnani Companies, Indira Movie Tone. Their popularity grew and they became known as Punjab Mail.
At this time, director K D Mehra was in the process of making a Punjabi film and persuaded his producer to cast the three in Pind Di Kuri or Sheela (1935). And so began the film career of Baby Noor Jehan. She next acted in a film called Misar Ka Sitara (1936) by the same company and sang in it for composer Damodar Sharma. Five films later Baby Noor Jahan played the role of Heer’s childhood in the film Heer Sayyal (1937). The role of Heer in this film was played by Balo, the mother of the 60’s star Sabiha Khanum (Pak).
After four years in Calcutta, she was back in Lahore where Master Ghulam Haider spotted her immense talent as a singer and composed songs that made her famous overnight.Baby Noor Jehan hit the nationwide rating with Gul Bakawali (1939) for renowned Mumbai producer Dalsukh Pancholi in 1939 where she recorded her first film song ‘Shala Jawaniyan Mane’ that was an instant hit. Baby Noor Jehan’s appeal changed from a child struggling to play bit parts into a young woman with immense potential ready to take off and launch her singing and acting career.
When it was decided to cast her as a heroine the basic problem with the producer and the director was how to erase the impression of her being a child from public perception. They feared that she would not be accepted as a heroine by the audience that had billed her a few years earlier as a child star. The first step was to remove the ‘Baby’ prefix from her name, and though she was young she was big built and appeared much older than her age. Her image on screen posed no problems to the director and so was born Noor Jehan, set to enter an adult world barely in her mid-teens.
Noor Jehan was first cast as a heroine in Khandan (1942) opposite Pran (who later became Indian Cinema’s most hated villain) as the hero. The film was also the debut for director Shaukat Hussain Rizvi (who later married Noor Jehan). Pancholi had previously involved Rizvi in the editing of Gul Bakawali (1939), Yamla Jatt (1940) and Chaudhry (1941). The songs of Khandan (1942) composed by Ghulam Haider became instant hits and established her as the leading singer of films in India. Its success saw her immigrating to Bombay where she shared melodies with the singing star Shanta Apte in Duhai (1943). After that there were hits after hits with songs from Nadan (1943), Naukar (1943), Dost (1944), Lal Haveli (1944).
By now her popularity outstripped all others. She was the darling of the masses, recognised and adored both for her singing and acting. After taking the role of leading lady in Nadan (1943), she was presented with the second lead role in Naukar (1943) while Shobana Samarth (Indian film actressNutan’s mother) played the heroine opposite Chandramohan.
Dost (1944), directed by Rizvi, had the extremely gifted Motilal as the leading man opposite Noor Jehan, with Rizvi (who was now her husband) playing her brother in the film. It was in this film that Noor Jehan lent her voice for the first time to another actress, Husn Bano. It was in Lal Haveli (1944) that Noor Jehan starred opposite singing star Surendra Nath for the first time (they later made the all time classic Anmol Ghadi (1946)). Lal Haveli (1944) was also notable for the fact that Meena Kumari, then a child star, acted as the young Noor Jehan.
The year 1945 was a turning point for Noor Jehan. In Master Vinayak’s Badi Maa (1945) she played the lead with “Baby Lata Mangeshkar” and “Baby Asha Mangeshkar” in supporting roles. During breaks in shooting she would ask the then unknown Lata to join in impromptu singing sessions and said “Mark my words, this girl will one day become a tremendous singer.”
Noor Jehan’s influence on the early songs of Lata is still discernible. Lata has always respected Noor Jehan and considers her one of her favourite singers. Some critics even believe that if Noor Jehan hadn’t left fame andfortune in India when migrating to Pakistan during the partition of India, Lata may not have been as successful as she is today. If Noor Jehan had stayed Lata would have had to face serious competition.
The year 1945 also brought Noor Jehan her first superhit in Bombay, Zeenat (1945). It was her inimitable rendition of “Bulbulo Mat Ro Yahan” that earned her the title Malka-e-Tarranum, Queen of Melody. She dethroned reigning singing star Khurshid and rendered obsolete the nautch girl style of Zohra Ambalewali and Amirbai Karnatki.
In 1946 Noor Jehan acted in the enduring classic Anmol Ghadi (1946). The title is a fitting description of the magical moments in this film with superhit songs like ‘Awaz De Kahan Hai’, ‘Jawan Hai Mohabbat’, ‘Mere Bachpan Ke Saathi’, ‘Aaja Meri Barbad Mohabbat’ and ‘Kya Mil Gaya Bhagwan’ composed by Naushad to make her the undisputed queen of films if there was any doubt left about her being the diva. Composers and lyricists vied to have their creations rendered by the Queen. In the film she plays a poetess called Lata caught in a love triangle featuring the other two singing stars of that era, Suraiya and Surendra Nath. So popular was the film that Noor Jehan’s other two films released that year, Dil (1946) and Humjoli (1946), were pale in comparison.
In Jugnu (1947) she starred with Dilip Kumar, then a rising star. The duet ‘Yahan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafai Ke Siva Kya Hai’ catapulted the then struggling Mohammed Rafi’s career, who also made a special guest appearance in the song ‘Woh Apne Yaad Dilane Ko’. Noor Jehan had very few duets as her voice did not require the support or enhancement of others. Her effortless emotive capabilities and her fluid grasp over the substance and essence of the lyrics is amazing, even in this day.
Noor Jehan’s last film in India was Mirza Sahiban (1947) which starred Prithviraj Kapoor’s (Father of Raj, Shashi and Shammi Kapoor, Grandfather of Rishi and Randhir Kapoor, Great-Grandfather of Karisma Kapoor) brother Trilok Kapoor. Many of the songs were hits like ‘Aaja Tujhe Afsana Judaai Ka Sunaye’ and the duet with G M Durrani ‘Haath Seene Pe Jo Rakh Do To Qarar Aaye’.
She acted in 18 films and sang 68 songs in 16 films.
Now we come to the last pair in this part. This is about an actor and a music Director, having the same name- KANU ROY.
5. Kanu Roy (the Actor) was in reality a name for Nalini Ranjan Roy, born on 9-12-1912 at Jabalpore. He was very fond of acting and so landed at Bombay Talkies,a company started by two Bengalis- Himanshu Roy and Devika Rani. Those days many people from Bengal used to come to Bombay Talkies, but only the capable ones like Amiya Chakravarty, Shashadhar Mukherjee or Ashok Kumar etc could make their careers here.
Kanu Roy started his acting career from the film Basant-1942. His name Nalini was sounding like a Girl’s name in Bombay ( there were already half a dozen Nalinis working in films those days), so it was changed and he opted for Kanu, his pet name in the house. Thus Kanu Roy came into films. Due to his good looks, he even became a lead actor in a few films. Nazrana-46 (UR) was one such film where he was working opposite Kamini Kaushal.
Kanu Roy worked in about 46 films from 1942 to 1983 ( kisi se naa kehna). Kanu Roy also left Bombay Talkies along with S.Mukherjee and others and joined Filmistan. He was in many Filmistan films like, Munim ji, Nastik, Naagin, Jagriti etc. He acted in a Bangla film ‘Samar’ too in 1950.
Kanu Roy (the Composer) gave music to very few films like Uski Kahaani-66, Anubhav-71, Avishkar-74, Tumhara Kallu-76, Grih pravesh-79, Mayuri-81 and Shyamla-79 which was re-censored in 1981 as Woh phir naa aayee. Some people and sites describe him as Geeta Dutt’s brother, but he was not her brother. Her brother was Mukul Roy. Kanu Roy, the composer died in Bombay on 20-12-1981.
We end this part here only. We will discuss some more such pairs in our next article.
Admin’s Note: Arunkumar Deshmukh ji is also the author of a book with Prof Surjit Singh, titled ‘Forgotten Artists of Early Cinema and The Same Name Confusion’. You can read about it here. The pictures you see in the article above are from the same book. We are extremely thankful to both of them for always sharing knowledge and encouraging our initiatives. They are really pillars of our site. May God bless them both with health, prosperity, happiness and wealth always.