Sabiha Khanum: Remembering the First Lady of Pakistani Cinema on her 86th birthday

By: News Desk      Published: 08:48 PM, 16 Oct, 2021
Sabiha Khannum
Sabiha Khanum

The 86th birthday of late Pakistani film actress Sabiha Khanum was celebrated on Saturday.

She was acknowledged as “First Lady of Pakistani Cinema” for her classic acting skills and contribution to the Pakistani film industry.

Sabiha, considered one of the greatest actresses of the Pakistani silver screen. Her real name was Mukthar Begum and she was born in a village near Gujrat in Punjab.

She experienced tragedy at the early age of six, when her mother passed away. Sabiha was raised by her grandparents in village, as her father was based in Lahore.

While, spending time in the village, Khanum learned the way to milk cows and make rotis and stir butter.

After Sabiha Khanum grew up, her father took her back to Lahore. This was the time when Sabiha’s friend took her around to explore the city and for the first time in her life, Sabiha watched a movie on the big screen.

Soon after, Sabiha visited Radio Pakistan, where her father’s friend worked. In the spur of the moment, she was given the chance to sing in a live programme.

A few days later, Sabiha had an opportunity to saw a play in the theatre and found out they were auditioning. Sabiha made an attempt for an audition and stole the show in no time.

She made her silver screen debut with the movie “Beli” which was released in 1950. The same movie was also marked the debut of Santosh Kumar who would go on to become next big product for Pakistani cinema.

Sabiha rose to prominence with the movie “Do Aansoo” which was her second released movie followed by “Beli”. This movie also considered to be the first silver jubilee film of Pakistan.

After an overnight popularity with the film “Do Aansoo”, Sabiha went to appear in several movies. The plot of the story of her 1954 movie “Sassi” is based on the legend of Sassi and Pannu.

But it was Gumnam (1954) that showcased her multi-tasking acting abilities, in which she played a role of mentally-challenged woman.

There is no doubt that Sabiha Khan and Santosh Kumar are considered to be the golden pair of the silver screen, as they were flawless. Waadah (1957) and Saat Laakh (1957) are marked to be the superhit films in Pakistan, both co-starring Sabiha and Santosh.

After catchy performances by both Sabiha and Santosh, there came a time when the filmy couple was a talked of the people in the same way as Raj Kapoor and Nargis were in India.

It was unavoidable with numerous films they were doing together and the on-screen chemistry they shared, that they fell in love with each other off-screen as well.

This is in spite of Santosh being married with children. After initial opposition from Sabiha’s father, the two got married in 1958. This was the time when the couple was busy filming the movie “Hasrat”.

Sabiha continued to carry the fame of 1950s to 1960s. As, the silver screen diva proved to be the top actress through the 60s. In the 60s, she starred in many movies included Rahguzar, Saltanat, Shikwa, Sawaal, Taveer.

 The movie which added new dimension to the Sabiha’s her filming carrer was the highly rated fim, “Devar Bhabi (1967)”. The film starred, Sabiha with Santosh Kumar, Waheed Murand and Rani. The song of the movie, “Mera Ghar Meri Jannat” is still very much alive in people’s hearts.

In 1981, Sabiha received a special Nigar Award, awarded for completing 30 years in the Pakistani film industry.

In 1982, her husband Santosh Kumar passed away. The death of her husband shattered Sabiha completely.

Gradually, she moved away from the big screen and went on to do the odd television serial. In addition to Nigar Award, she also bagged Pride of Performance Award.  

She later shifted to the United States where she spent the rest of her life with her daughter and her grandchildren. In 2020, she passed away on 13 June 2020 at the age of 84, in Leesburg, Virginia.     

Categories : Entertainment