Noor Jehan was born at Qasur, Pakistan on September 21, 1926. Baby Noor Jehan pursued her early training with Ustad Ghulam Mohammed Khan.
Noor Jehan moved to Calcutta where she became a stage actress at the rather tender age of 6. It was also around that time that Punjabi movie makers, like K.D. Mehra, were looking to staff their Lahore productions with the right kind of people. Mehra can take credit for bringing the stage child of Calcutta to Lahore cinema. During the years 1935-37 Baby Noor Jehan was given bit parts for the child in movies like Ghaibi Gola, probably her first film, Misar Ka Sitara, Aazadi, Nari Raj, Fakhr-i-Islam.
It was Dalsukh M. Panchholi who provided Baby Noor Jehan with her first prominent role as well as a stable job in a series of Punjabi movies. People really took notice of the glamour girl in the Punjabi hit Gul-e-Bakawli (1939). The Punjabi bit parts continued with movies like Heer Sayal, Sassi Punnu, Yamla Jatt, Choudhary.
Director and story writer Shaukat Hussain Rizvi had become a close friend of Mr.Panchholi. He met Noor Jehan, quite possibly on the sets of Gul-e-Bakawli, or soon thereafter… But after Gul-e-Bakawli, there was someone in Noor Jehan’s life. Three years after she had her first break, Shaukat Hussain made his directorial debut with Panchholi Studio’s Khandan (1942) starring Noor Jehan and Ghulam Mohammed with music by Master Ghulam Haider. Khandan was the first big movie in Noor Jehan’s life and It put her name right alongside the blockbuster names of the 1940s.
In 1943, following the great success of Panchholi movies, director Vishnukumar Maganlal Vyas at Sunrise Pictures ventured to bring Noor Jehan to Bombay to star in Duhaai with Kumar and Shanta Apte. This was followed by another hit, Naukar, directed by Shaukat Hussain Rizvi. Both movies had music by Rafique Ghaznavi. Another great hit, Nadan, came from Zia Sarhadi with music by Datta Koregaonkar. Dost was another hit with Sajjad’s music, followed by Lal Haveli starring Surendra with music by Mir Saheb.
In 1944, Master Vinayak brought Noor Jehan and Lata Mangeshkar, both 16 year old, in Badi Maa, both as singer actresses, their only movie together, with Datta Koregaonkar’s music. Badi Maa marked the beginning of a great friendship between Lata and Noor Jehan that is alive to this day. In 1945 came Bhaijan and Gaon Ki Gori, with music by Pandit Shyam Sunder. Zeenat was another big musical success. And then in 1946 came the greatest one, Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi, with Surendra and Suraiya as costars with music by Naushad.
In 1944, Noor Jehan and husband Shauqat Hussain had already started Shauqat Art Productions in Bombay. They had recruited the little-known 24-year old Yusuf Khan (Dilip Kumar) to play the lead role opposite Noor Jehan in Jugnu with music by Maestro Feroze Nizami. Jugnu was released in 1947 and proved a big hit
In 1946, with Shauqat Arts still in its infancy, Shaukat Hussain and Noor Jehan decided to move again. In 1947-48, they finished Mirza Saheban, their last Bombay project, and settled in Lahore, Pakistan.
In 1951, she co-produced and acted in Chanway, a Punjabi movie under the Shauqat Arts banner. But the music was just not there. In 1952, the new Lahore studio Film Asia produced Dupatta, and once again, Feroze Nizami delighted the world with Noor Jehan songs. In 1953, Noor Jehan would star in Gulnar and Laila. Master Haider scored for both movies. She starred in around 10 more movies between 1955 and 1963, that included Patey Khan, Lakht-e-Jigar, Qaidi, Intezar, Nooran, Chhoo Mantar, Anarkali, Pardesan, Neend, Koel, and Ghalib.
Ventured into her new married life with actor Ijaz, she then bid farewell to acting and became the dominant playback singer of Pakistan’s film industry. She sang playback for Urdu and Punjabi films during the following two decades that included a large number of hit musical films with hundreds of memorable songs, many of those are among classics.
In 1955, in a weak nostalgic moment, Noor Jehan put in a half-song for Bombay. The movie was Musafir Khana, and it starred Shyama and Karan Diwan, with music by O. P. Nayyar. For Rafi, the Musafir Khana duet Jhoote Zamaane Bhar Ke, Jadu Kaisa Daar Gaye Mo Pe, Neechi Nazar Kar Ke must have been a replay of the Jugnu dream all over again.
She was honored with the Pakistan’s National Award and officially crowned as Malika-e-Taranum by the President of Pakistan.
In the early ‘1980s, upon invitation from Bombay’s old fans, the melody queen visited India for that grand concert where she met her long-time friend Lata, her Jugnu dream Dilip Kumar, and the creator of the immortal Anmol Ghadi music Naushad, after the lapse of four decades.
Some time in the ‘1980s and ‘1990s, Pakistan Television ran a musical series called TARANNUM. Noor Jehan had recorded a few pieces of that serial. But other than that, she had been in semi-retirement for a few years battling her health problems. She died in Karachi on December 23, 2000.