1 Junglee (1961)
Saira Banu received her only Filmfare nomination for her debut film, Junglee, with Shammi Kapoor. It was Kapoor’s first colour film and went on to become a silver jubilee hit. The 17-year-old daughter of actress Naseem Banu became a star after her first film. Her graceful and feisty demeanour in the film was the perfect foil to Kapoor’s wildness.
2 Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (1966)
In RK Nayyar’s Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai opposite Joy Mukherjee, Saira Banu played a princess on the run from her stifling home environment. She enters a Miss Universe beauty contest where she meets Mukherjee’s Sanjay who has entered in the Mr Handsome contest. As Princess Sarita, she refuses to wear a swimsuit in the pageant and wears an elegant sari instead.
3 Padosan (1968)
Saira Banu was the object of affection, Bindu, between Mehmood’s Masterji and Sunil Dutt’s Bhola in the cult classic Padosan. Bindu is appreciative of good music and gets drawn to both her music teacher (Mehmood) and her next-door neighbour (Dutt). As any typical Hindi film heroine, she is clueless about the grand scheme Bhola and his friend Vidyapati run to eventually win her over.
4 Purab aur Pachhim (1970)
In Manoj Kumar’s patriotic Purab aur Pachhim, Saira Banu played the London-bred Preeti, the supposed ‘antithesis’ of a typical Indian girl. Her look in the film – blonde hair, mini-skirts, and a cigarette in her hand, was instantly iconic. Preeti is changed by her acquaintance with Kumar’s nationalistic Bharat, who shows her what India really is.
5 Gopi (1970)
Four years into her marriage with superstar Dilip Kumar, the two first came together to star in A Bhimsingh’s social drama Gopi. The film was placed in a village setting and Saira Banu played the ideal village belle, Seema, to Dilip Kumar’s headstrong prankster Gopiram. They also acted together in Bairaag (1976) where Kumar had a triple role.
6 Victoria No. 203 (1972)
Even after marriage, Saira Banu continued with her acting career. In filmmaker Brij’s comic diamond heist caper, Victoria No. 203, she is a super agent by night, trying to figure out who framed her father, while driving a Victoria carriage as a man during the day. She had two distinct looks in the film, one a femme fatale and the other, a daughter in disguise as a carriage driver.
7 Chaitali (1975)
Saira Banu ventured out to more serious roles as well towards the end of her career. In the last production from Bimal Roy Productions directed by Hrishikesh Mukerjee, Banu starred as the lead character Chaitali in Ashapoorna Devi's story opposite Dharmendra. She took on a character who has to overcome a difficult past and tries to find solace in a sanctuary for respite. Saira’s beauty shone even in the latter half of the film where she dressed up in a simple sari and minimal makeup.