December 23rd 2000 was the day that Punjabi music legend Noor Jahan breathed her last breath. Surrounded by her family in Karachi, she may have left us that day but what a legacy she left.
Noor Jahan also known as Madam Noor Jahan, not only did she leave us with a rich musical legacy, but this lady highlighted that women too can make it in the game. She had swag, style and class, this lady was truly a game-changer.
Noor at the age of 6 was having singing lessons from a classical teacher after she started singing aged just 3. Aged just 6 Noor Jahan featured in the film ‘Pind Di Kuri’, the name Baby Noor Jahan soon stuck. It was Noor Jahan’s talents as an actress and singer that took her to Bombay and later Lahore. She married the famous film director Shaukat Hussain Rizvi when she was only 17. Jahan was blessed with three children during this marriage. Unlike the norm in those days, Noor Jahan continued working despite being a mother. This was Jahan’s most successful period as a singer also.
Both Noor and Shaukat Hussain Rizvi had thriving careers in Bombay but after Partition they decided to move to the newly created Pakistan and create a new legacy in a new country. They established their famous Film Studio Shah Noor Studios (Shah from Shaukat and Noor from Noor Jahan) which exists to date.
However, after some time they parted ways and Noor had to give up on the studio because she opted to keep her children Zille Huma, Akbar Hussain Rizvi, and Asghar Hussain Rizvi as a part of her divorce settlement.
This was the time when Noor Jahan stopped acting and decided to focus only on her music career. Noor Jahan also confessed that acting happened by chance. Her sole interest was always singing.
The singer’s critics always criticized her for not being able to sing classical melodious ghazals. She was said to be unlike her contemporaries of that time Farida Khanum and Iqbal Bano. She was mostly made to sing commercial Punjabi songs.
However, always full of surprises and wonders, Noor Jahan also proved them wrong. Noor Jahan immortalized Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem ‘Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat’. Not only did she sing it but also composed it. Faiz Ahmed Faiz was in awe of Noor Jahan’s singing and had categorically declared that ‘Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat’ did not belong to him any more as it was all Noor Jahan’s.
Pakistan was in the hands of a dictatorship when things were not smooth for Faiz Ahmed Faiz. On one particular occasion, Noor Jahan was asked not to recite Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem but she stood up against this dictation and sang the poem for a huge audience. At that time Faiz Ahmed Faiz was in the prison. When he was released, he personally went to Noor Jahan’s house to thank her for her courage and support.
As well as having a political voice, Jahan was also famous for her glamour and style. Her distinct chiffon sarees with diamond jewellery were synonymous with her singing. Jahan also had a particular makeup style which was dramatic. This went well with her personality which was larger than life. People who have watched her on the famous show Tarannum can still recall her chunky diamond earrings and a fabric neckband matching with her sari. Elegance was Noor Jahan.