Remembering the Lollywood legend Neelo Begum

Neelo Begum

Lollywood and its fans are mourning the sad demise of Pakistani cinema’s yesteryear star and Lollywood superstar Shaan Shahid’s mother, Miss Neelo begum. The news was revealed by Shaan Shahid himself through a tweet on his official Twitter handle mentioning the tragedy. Neelo Begum was 80 years of age.

Born on 30 June 1940, Neelo started her career in her mid-teens with a small stint in Hollywood’s magnum opus, Bhowani Junction in 1956 which was the first Hollywood production to be shot in Lahore. After that, she kept doing small roles till she rose to fame after her memorable performance in the song ‘Aaye Mausam Rangilay Suhanay’ in the film Saat Lakh in 1957.

Neelo Begum abd Riaz Shahid

The most frequent mentioning of Neelo begum comes with regard to her performance in the Palestine freedom struggle based blockbuster Zarqa in 1969. She received one of her four Nigar Awards for best actress in the film. The song ‘Raqs Zanjeer Pehen Kar Bhi Kia Jata Hai’, penned by legendary poet Habib Jalib, was inspired by an incident that took place in Neelo’s personal life; Neelo refused to perform on the orders of the Nawab of Kalabagh in front of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, when he visited Pakistan. The Nawab sent over the police to seize Neelo who then took to the floor to perform but collapsed. Some say she fainted, others say she may have attempted to commit suicide. The song was about Neelo Begum’s bravery and that very incident persuaded the legendary filmmaker, Riaz Shahid, to marry Neelo and then make a film that would defy dictatorship and glorify the human struggle for freedom.

Neelo Begum in Zarqa

Neelo, however, did not just perform in that song but also helped her husband produce the film. Besides becoming the best-known film of her career, Zarqa is regarded as the first film in the history of Pakistani cinema to earn Diamond Jubilee status, running for over 100 weeks. She performed in more than a hundred films in her career of four decades. Neelo Begum will always remain alive through her Marvelous work.

Lets not forget Neelo’s saucy comeback to cinema in the mid seventies via Khatarnaak; she radiated with life on the big screen, her oomph and presence commanded an instant bond with the viewers.

Neelo Begum knew how to steal the show even when she was not playing the heroine. In Dhee Rani, released in the mid-eighties, it was she who outshone starlets like Anjuman, Mumtaz, Nazli, and Shahida Minni as she grooved her way through the dance number ‘Disco Dildar Mera’ sung by Madam Noor Jahan.

Personal life

Born Cynthia Alexander Fernandes on 30 June 1940, Neelo remained a notable name of the Lahore-based film industry that thrived in the ’60s and the ’70s which ranked as the fourth-largest film producing hub of the world. Neelo married the then revolutionary filmmaker Riaz Shahid who had joined the industry following a detour from his career as a journalist after working in a magazine owned by Faiz Ahmad Faiz called Lail-o-Nihar. Her son, Shan Shahid, Pakistan’s superstar of the 90s and 2000s was merely an infant when her celebrated husband passed away.

The internet, specifically Twitter, has been deeply saddened by the demise of the legend. Condolences have been pouring in from the entertainment fraternity bigwigs like Samina Peerzada and Adnan Siddiqui, fans, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Samina Peerzada
PM Imran Khan
CM Punajb
Sanam Baloch

Neelo Begum will always pulsate with life in her fans’ hearts and minds. Galaxy Lollywood offers its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family.

May her soul rest in peace.


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