Where is the Muslim actress?
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What was the name of the actress who played Bahar, the jealous courtier who spills the beans about the romance between fellow courtier Anarkali and Prince Salim in the epic Mughal-e-Azam? Her name was Nigar Sultana. No, this is not trivia for the film buff. Nigar Sultana is, in fact, another name in the long list of Muslim actresses of yore that I have stumbled upon recently.
So, why am I suddenly talking about Nigar Sultana and a list of yesteryear Muslim actresses? Well, for this, I'd like to thank journalists who've been writing profuse obituaries to Dev Anand, all of which throw up names of four Muslim actresses: Suraiya (with whom he had a failed romance), Mumtaz (with whom he had paired in some memorable films), Waheeda Rehman (who starred in his most unforgettable film, Guide), and Zeenat Aman (whom he introduced in Hare Rama Hare Krishna).
I checked out the Wikipedia page of Suraiya (yes, I love sad love stories), and landed up on the names of two other Muslim actresses of the time — Khursheed Bano and Noor Jehan. The Wikipedia page says that Suraiya, who was born in a district of Punjab, chose to stay in Mumbai after Partition, unlike Khursheed Bano and Noor Jehan, the other two Punjabi actresses of the '40s and the '50s, who migrated to Pakistan in 1947.
The images of Suraiya reminded me of the actress who played Anarkali's sister in Mughal-e-Azam (ironically, the character was called 'Suraiya'). An IMDB search, however, showed that Anarkali's sister was not played by Suraiya, but by an actress called Sheela Delaya. But the list of actors in Mughal-e-Azam on IMDB threw up an unfamiliar name, that of Nigar Sultana, who played the shrewd courtier, Bahar. Of course, there was the beautiful Madhubala on the list too.