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Who is Munawar Sultana?

Remembering the yesteryear actress on her 9th death anniversary (15 September).

Sonal Pandya

The Hindi film star of the 1940s, Munawar Sultana was born on 8 November 1928 in Lahore, Pakistan. Sultana came to Bombay and was introduced to the screen by Mazhar Khan in Pehli Nazar (1945) co-starring Motilal.

Singer Uma Devi (later known as comedienne Tun Tun) made her singing debut under Naushad in the hit song ‘Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon’ for Dard (1947) which was picturised on Munawar. She was the lead actress of the film with Suraiya and Husn Bano as co-stars.

Unlike other Muslim actresses who chose to migrate to Pakistan after the Partition, Munawar Sultana remained in India and went on to star in hits like Mehboob Khan’s revolutionary Elan (1947), Majboor (1948), Kaneez (1949), Sartaj (1950), Pyar Ki Manzil (1950) and Babul (1950). In the latter film, she co-starred with screen stalwarts Dilip Kumar and Nargis in the romantic drama.

With Dilip Kumar in Babul (1950)

Baburao Patel, discerning editor of Filmindia wrote of the star that she “is one of those few artistes gifted with a pleasant screen personality. She possesses, in addition, a husky voice which forms the basis of her sex appeal. Well-modulated and distinct, her voice keeps harmony with her expressive face and she never fails to move the audience in emotional situations.” Coming from Patel, this was considered high praise.

Lux advertisement

Like her popular contemporaries Leela Chitnis and Husn Bano, she too appeared in the Lux beauty soap ads, touting the product of the film stars of her time.

However, Sultana only worked for six years after appearing in Babul and gave up acting post marriage. Her last film was Jallad (1956) opposite Nasir Khan. She continued to live in Mumbai in relative obscurity. During the last years of her life, she suffered from Alzeheimers and died at 79 on 15 September 2007.