Naseem Banu, in her heydays, was known as “Pari Chehra” (fairy-face). In Eastern folklores and Muslim literatures, fairies are supposed to be the most beautiful and desirable females on earth, just as a howri (‘Hoor’) is a desirable species of Paradise (‘Jannat’) Coming from a wealthy family, Naseem Banu was endowed with beauty, grace and elegance that charmed the people around her. She was “the most ravishingly beautiful actress ever” and had the most gorgeous eyes: large, round-shaped and heavy lidded. She did not need any fine silk or satins or jewels to attract attention but was the original Beauty Queen. Beginning her filmy career in 1935, (KHOON KA KHOON) she went on playing the heroine roles for almost twenty years, till 1953 (BAGHI). Being one of the finest actresses of her time, Naseem Banu left her imprints in many movies, including KHOON KA KHOON or HAMLET (as Ophelia), TALAAQ (as Roopa), BASANTI, CHANDNI RAAT, CHAL CHAL RE NAUJAWAN (as Sumitra), SHEESH MAHAL (as Ranjana Singh), AJEEB LADKI, ANOKHI ADA, SHABISTAN, and a swashbuckling adventure movie, SINBAD THE SAILOR (remember the song ADAA SE JHOOMTE HUWE?) and of course the classic 1939 flick, PUKAR, where she portrayed the role of Empress Noor Jehan and wife to Jehangir (the grey-green eyed Chandramohan). She was the first female Super Star of her time.
The second phase of Naseem Banu's filmy career began with her donning important supporting roles from NAUSHERWAN-E-ADIL (1957) where she played the role of the mother of actor Rajkumar, but still looking beautiful as the Mallika-e-Iran and wife to Nausherwan (Sohrab Modi,) till 1972 (PAKEEZAH) and beyond (KABHIE KABHIE - 1976). In the meantime, beginning 1964 (APRIL FOOL) she took charge of costume designing and the costume and wardrobe department for her daughter, Saira Banu, in many memorable movies, such as PADOSAN, JHUK GAYA AASMAAN, PURAB PACHHIM, VICTORIA 203, JWAR BHATA, POCKETMAAR, RESHAM KI DORI, CHAITALI, BAIRAAG right up to KALA AADMI (1978). The sarees, the mini-sarees, the mini-skirts, the bathroom towels, two-piece towel wear, the pearl strings, the mink stoles, chokers, the tom-boyish pants and shirts, silver anklets, the daring décolletage, that we have seen Saira Banu wearing in most of her movies, were all designed by Naseem Banu. In the early Sixties, Naseem Banu also dabbled in film production along with her son, Sultan Ahmed. As a teenager I remember seeing in "Screen" and "Cine Advance" (both prestigious Weekly film Papers) an entire page being devoted to the promotion of that film called PALKON KI CHAAON MEIN. Unfortunately, for some reasons or the other this film never took off.
It was Naseem Banu who had taken active steps in getting Saira Banu married to Dilip Kumar, who certainly needs no introduction. Besides being an inspiration for generation of actors in India, he is also a philanthropist, a great human being, and one of the most revered and multi-dimensional personalities in India. Dilip Kumar being the most eligible bachelor of his time, Saira Banu was thrilled beyond words at the marriage prospects. So thrilled was she that she did not mind surrendering the 35 movie projects , including the English version of the film GUIDE, and JEWEL THIEF, as well as Mehboob Khan’s (d.1964) HABBA KHANTUN, that she had in her hands.
Soon after the marriage, Dilip Kumar, too, for the love of his wife, spent most of his free time or rather began living in Saira Banu’s Bungalow where his mother-in-law, Naseem Banu, also resided.
Dilip Kumar’s own landmark Bungalow is at a distance of couple of minutes’ walk or so from Saira’s. By the way, Dilip Kumar’s Bungalow (48/B, Pali Hills) has always been a reference point for the traffic moving about the Pali Hills which had acquired the equivalence of Hollywood’s Beverley Hills. As for Naseem Banu, she remained with them till her dying day and as long as she was alive, she supervised the going-abouts in their home, including the repairing of the wear and tear of the walls and bricks and furniture. She was a past-master at selecting the right colour for painting the walls and often gave tips to the contractors and painters on how to arrive at the correct shades of the desired colours – much to their surprise and delight. She was also an expert in interior designing, and in fact, the spacious foyer inside the Bungalow was designed by Naseem Banu.
Naseem Banu used to celebrate Dilip Kumar’s birthday in a grand style, by decorating their home with fragrant flowers and inviting guests to a sumptuous feast and making every bit of supervision to make that occasion a great success. She and Saira Banu would pamper Dilip Kumar silly. Saira Banu’s devotion to her hubby, Dilip Kumar, is well known. But some aspects of that devotion are not known and should in fact make for interesting reading in a separate blog article.
That Dilip Kumar is a doting husband is universally known. What is generally not known about one of the facets of Dilip Kumar is his thoughtfulness and care for his mother-in-law, Naseem Banu, too. Of course, Saira Banu was very fond of her mother and looked after her with great care and affection. Dilip Kumar had great respects for his mother-in-law whom he used to address as “Aapa Ji”. He used to listen to her whenever the occasions demanded. Whenever he came to come out of his room in order to go down the hall, he, like an obedient son-in-law, never failed to wish Salaam to Aapa Ji: “Salaam Alaykum Aapa Ji”. Naturally, what would appear as insignificant and mundane, assumes significance for us when it is associated with the original On-Screen Legend, Thespian Dilip Kumar. In this regard, I would like to bring on record an incident of the late 1970’s, that was narrated by a friend of mine.
It appears that one day Naseem Banu wanted to go out somewhere for which she needed a car. To her dismay, she found that all the cars had been taken and she was left with no car. So much unhappy was she at her plight, that this piece of news instantly reached Dilip Kumar. That was the time when Dilip Kumar used to sit in his office which was located in his own Bungalow. As soon as he learnt that Naseem Banu had no car to take her out, he came to her immediate rescue like the knight in the shining armour. He began making phone-calls from his office. Within no time, a fleet of 19 cars were lined up outside the Bungalow. More were coming. Word was sent to Naseem Banu that the cars were ready. Naseem Banu was pleasantly surprised at the fleet of cars at her disposal. She selected one and went away happily, elated at the thoughtful gesture of her son-in-law, Yusuf Khan – also known as The Dilip Kumar.
Naseem Banu was born on 4th July, 1916 and died on 18th June, 2002. On this occasion of the death anniversary of Naseem Banu, we pray that may her soul rest in everlasting heavenly peace.