A charm unparalleled
By Anis Ahmed Shakur
zanjeer pehan kar bhi kiya jata hai
kay na waqif-e-Aadabay ghulami hai abhi
In the year 1954, a Hollywood film crew
reached India to conduct the outdoor movie shoot of the historical film ‘Bhawani Junction’.
The film was based on the India’s independence movement.
In fact, during the independence movement, some Indian congress party workers laid down over the Rail
tracks to protest British rule and its policies in the then undivided India.
Since the incidence took place at ‘Bhawani Junction’ in the pre-partition India, Hollywood
wanted to re-create the scene at the same place.
Long story short, the then Indian government did not grant permission to shoot the scene.
Dejected, the Hollywood team turned to the Pakistani government for easy access to its Railway station.
Happily, the then Pakistani authorities agreed and assured the Americans of utmost co-operation.
Excited, the Hollywood guys chose the Lahore Railway station.
The signs ‘Lahore Railway Station’ were temporarily replaced with ‘Bhawani Junction’
to make it look real ‘Bhawani Junction’.
A Pakistani youth by the name of Abdul Lateef Baloch was appointed production assistant in the film.
Additionally, Lateef also played the role of a congress leader in the film.
A very pretty Christian girl, Perveen Alexander, was dubbed as a budding reporter in the movie.
Thus, the gorgeous little lady, Perveen Alexander, debuted in the film ‘Bhawani Junction’.
Later, Miss Alexander achieved tremendous popularity and came to be known as Neelo in the Pakistani
Her striking beauty and very charming face paved way to numerous romantic stories, which revolved
Moreover, her celluloid persona earned her various titles like ‘Princess of romance’ and
‘Fatal attraction’ to name a few.
One captures the insinuating sparkle that was always present in Neelo’s eyes, when one watches
Whether she was on a movie shoot or off—that reality, that she was influencing everyone in the
audience is very much alive today.
Below are seven movies in which Neelo performed with affecting sincerity:
The Golden jubilee film ‘Yakkay Wali’, theatrical release was on February 22, 1957, cast
included, Neelo- Musarrat Nazeer- Sudhir. Producer, Bari Malik, director, M.J. Rana, music, Baba G.A. Chishti.
Neelo is an endearing dynamo as the lover. She fell in love with Musarrat Nazeer, mistaking her for
a boy! Oh boy!
The beautifully produced super hit movie ‘Saat Laakh’, October 9, 1957, starring, Neelo-
Sabiha- Santosh- Talish. Producer, Saif Uddin Saif, director, Jafar Malik, composer, Rasheed Attre, popular song, ‘Aaye
mausum rangeelay suhanay’, singer, Zubeida Khanum, pictured on Neelo, dubbed as a mountain girl, waiting for her lover.
‘Zeher-e-Ishq’, April 21, 1958, stars included Neelo as supporting actress, Musarrat Nazeer-
Habib. Producer, Sultan Jeelani- Khursheed Anwar, director, Masood Pervez. Music- story- screen play, Khursheed Anwar.
In the film ‘Jaan-e-Bahar’, a song in Raag Darbari, was pictured on Neelo, ‘Ab to
jee bhar kay khanjar chala yain gey hum’.
‘Koel’, December 24, 1959, cast included Neelo- Noor Jehan- Aslam Pervez- Nazar. Producer-
composer, Khursheed Anwar, director, Masood Pervez.
‘Nagin’, June 18, 1959, starring, Neelo- Ratan Kumar- Yusuf Khan- Saqi. Producer, Wazeer
Ali, director, Khalil Qaiser.
‘Neend’, October 16, 1959, stars included Noor Jehan- Aslam Pervez- Neelo. Producer, S.A.Malik,
director, Hasan Tariq, music, Rasheed Attre.
Neelo is apparently an actress, many of whose movies celebrated silver, golden and diamond jubilees.
She conveys an almost desperate eagerness to please.
This is part of her artistic makeup.
For Neelo, it is a challenge she meets with ferocious gusto. Below are three of her innumerable success
The film ‘Azra’, April 20, 1962, cast included Neelo- Aijaz- Nazar- Talish- Alauddin.
Producer, G.A. Gul, director, Munshi Dil, composer, Inayat Husain.
‘Banjaran’, September 14, 1962, stars, Neelo- Kamal- Azad- Alauddin. Director, Hasan Tariq,
music, Deebu Bhatta Chariya.
In it she plays the role of a poor innocent Banjaran, who fell in love with a man, taking him to be
a sincere person.
To her dismay, her lover proved to be a dacoit, who plunders her home.
Neelo did full justice, while giving lip service to this extremely tragic score, sung by Noor Jehan,
‘Na janay kaisa safar hai mera, jahan hai manzil, waheen lutera’.
The film ‘Mauj Mela’, February 26, 1963, starring, Neelo- Habib- Rani. Producer, Agha
G.A. Gul, director, Aslam Irani, composer, G.A. Chishti.
Neelo’s heady rise to the top has a lot to do to the performance that, against the odds, holds
on to its integrity.
She attained renown without resorting to parody, caricature or imitation.
Neelo is definitely one to watch. Ultimately, so are the three movies below:
The film ‘Daman’, October 4, 1963, cast, Neelo,- Sabiha- Santosh- Waheed Murad- Lehri.
Producer, Santosh, director, Qadeer Ghauri, music, Khalil Ahmed.
Famous song, ‘Na chura sako gey daman’, pictured on Sabiha Khanum.
The film ‘Daachi’, February 15, 1964, stars, Neelo- Sudhir- Naghma- Munawwar Zareef. Producer,
G.A. Gul, director, Aslam Irani, composer, G.A. Chishti.
The film ‘Jeedaar’, November 19, 1965, starring, Neelo- Sudhir- Habib-. Producer, Malik
Mubarak, director, M.J. Rana, music, Rasheed Attre.
Movie- goers sense her magic as soon as the lights came up on Neelo at any given shot. She channels
energy with a rejuvenating life force all her own.
In Neelo’s voice, the dialogues always seem appropriate. Below are six more interesting movies
In director Ata Ullah Shah Hashmi’s film ‘Naya Daur’, she worked opposite Yusuf
Khan as supporting actress.
In director Jafar Bukhari’s film ‘Unjaan’, too, Neelo appeared as supporting actress.
In the films ‘Kacchian Kalyan’ and ‘Nai Larki’ directed by Ameen Malik, she
worked as lead actress.
She worked as supporting actress in the films ‘Aakhri Nishaan’ and ‘Yaar Beli’.
Neelo’s fame knew no bounds after the enormous success of director Khalil Qaiser’s super
hit film ‘Nagin’.
After the theatrical release of ‘Nagin’, Neelo worked as lead actress opposite Ratan Kumar
in a few more movies.
None of them could compete with ‘Nagin’ in popularity.
However, false romance scandals of Neelo- Ratan Kumar surfaced in the public for a while and subsequently
Her every little gesture shows an actress’s understanding of various film situations.
In her thirty- six years of movies, 1954- 1990, Neelo managed her performance in a way, so as to express
a genuine, intense joy and the effect was electrifying.
In real life, she often smiles innocently as well. She dealt with her role in a magnificent manner.
Additionally, she never took refuge in cheap celebrity imitation.
Below are five glaring examples of her true caliber:
The films ‘Ghunghat’, ‘Saathi’, ‘Insaaf’, ‘Qatal kay baad’,
‘Aladin ka beta’.
There is sophistication or nuance in her acting. Like the character she plays in ‘Taj aur talwaar’,
Neelo is a genuine star triumphing over roles in movies like ‘Naghma-e-sehra’, ‘Payal ki jhankar’,
‘Beti’ and adding zest to such films like ‘Gehra Daagh’, ‘Husn-O-Ishq’ and ‘Mumtaz’.
This movie celebrity has every reason to feel buoyant.
Film great Neelo reminds us of the images of those artists and pioneers who still live in our hearts.
She used to be an actress wrapped in beauty and elegance.
Her gorgeous appearance made pupils snap to attention.
Below are six standout movies:
‘Nehlay pay dehla’, ‘Mera mahi’, ‘Himmat’, ‘Doshiza’,
‘Nizam lohaar’, ‘Ravi Paar’.
Over the years, she swayed almost imperceptibly from one role to another with utter ease.
Neelo was obviously an actress of unbelievable beauty. Something nature had produced in one of her
most bounteous moods.
She became one of the most enchanting stars of the 1950s and 1960s.
She continued to flourish as a star in her later films like the seven below:
‘Sheir dee bacchi’, ‘Night club’, ‘Sehti’, ‘Jaddi’,
‘Shera’, ‘Abba jee’, ‘Jug beeti’.
Her greatness shines through in movies like ‘Aankh ka nasha’, ‘Pholay Khan’,
and ‘Subha kaheen shaam kaheen’.
Likewise, her acting potential is quite evident in movies like ‘Sheikh chilli’, ‘Changhez
Khan’ and ‘Mr. Allah Ditta’.
Furthermore, the choreography has zest in Neelo’s film ‘Oonchay mehal’.
She acted in the film ‘Budnaam’, co-starring Ejaz- Asad Jafri- Rangeela- Alauddin. Producer,
-director, Iqbal Shehzad, music, Deebu, released under the banner of ‘Montana films’ on September 2, 1966.
Her efforts took on a new intensity and Neelo proved her worth in the movie scene.
She was instantly distinct in her role in the Punjabi film ‘Lado’, released on August
26, 1966, starring, Neelo- Habib- Rangeela- Munawwar Zareef- Alauddin. Producers, Chaudhry Meraj Din- Safdar Masood, director,
Sharif Nayyar, composer, Master Abdullah.
Director Najam Naqui brings a consummate understanding and a lush imagination to the film ‘Payal
ki jhankar’, released under the banner of ‘Ever new pictures’ on November 18, 1966. Cast included Neelo-
Darpan- Deeba- Nazar- Talish. Producer, G.A.Gul, music, Rasheed Attre.
Neelo’s Punjabi film ‘Dil da jani’, holds interest, thanks to her fiercely committed
and convincing performance. Released on March 23, 1967. Stars included Neelo- Habib- Saloni- Rangeela- Alauddin. Producer,
Aftab, director, Riaz Ahmed Raju, composer, Wazeer Afzal.
Legendary director- writer, Riaz Shahid, became Neelo’s
A tragic incident happened one of those days. Neelo was compelled to sing and dance at a musical get-together,
which was also attended by Riaz Shahid among others.
Neelo’s song- cum dance was totally unacceptable to Riaz. Hence, he lost his temper and started
ignoring her thereafter.
Desperate to get Riaz’s attention, Neelo tried to commit suicide by swallowing sleeping pills.
She was rushed to the hospital and within minutes doctors successfully brought her back from the clutches
Here is the silver lining to the true story. Neelo’s unrequited love for Riaz became crystal
clear to him. Because Neelo’s sacrifice worked as a litmus test.
Soon Neelo embraced Islam and married Riaz Shahid. Riaz gave Neelo her new Islamic name, Abida, and
Neelo became Abida Riaz.
They lived a storybook life. It was the extraordinary power of love, which brought them closer than
ever to each other.
Riaz’s hearty tone made Neelo soar, while he gave her the meaning and drive of a true performer.
Neelo returned to extremely serious melodrama with what she called her dream role.
Her title role of ‘Zarqa’ in the greatest movie of her career, ‘Zarqa’, made
her the superstar and a favorite of the Pakistani cine-goers.
The film revolves around the Palestinian – Israeli conflict. A parable about a prisoner of war,
played by Neelo, is a pleasure to watch.
She brilliantly projected the sadness and suffering that were an integral part of the prisoner’s
As the story goes, Neelo as ‘Zarqa’ was captured by the enemy and ordered to dance.
Upon refusal, she is whipped on the back, until she can take it no more.
With this superfluous song played on the background:
Aaj qatil ki ye marzi hai keh sarkash larki
muqtal tujhay koroan say nachaya jaye
ka raqs zamanay ko dikhaya jaye
tarhan zulm ko nazrana diya jata hai
At the end of the lyric, ‘Zarqa’
utters the word ‘Allah’ with excruciating pain, which was simply too much for the public to endure as well.
That is what made Neelo the darling of the Pakistani movie buffs.
In ‘Zarqa’, the role of a lifetime, in which her most memorable performance never lets
the audience forget that she is acting and gunning for a third Nigar Award, too.
‘Aaj qatil ki ye marzi hai’, the notes flew in the air with a pitch so accurate that they
caused physical sensations.
The film carries such unexpected bursts of pain and misery that they hijack ones heart.
Further, the whole performance was dream like.
It was an other worldly experience. But that also added enormous credibility to Neelo’s work.
Eyes misting, the public was spell bound, since Neelo came too close to reality.
Furthermore, she had never been as close to perfection, as she was in ‘Zarqa’.
Riaz Shahid productions, ‘Zarqa’, Pakistan’s first diamond jubilee film, theatrical
release was on October 17, 1969. Cast included Neelo- Ejaz- Nasira- Saqi- Alauddin- Talish- Yusuf Khan- Zulfi- Ilyas Kashmiri-
Fomi- Fazal Haq- Aslam Pervez. Producer-director- writer, Riaz Shahid, composers, Rasheed Attre- Wajahat Attre, songwriter, Habib Jalib.
After working in ‘Zarqa’, Neelo call it quits.
Neelo and Riaz Shahid loved each other dearly. To an extent that Riaz must have confided in Neelo:
When my last breath escapes me it will whisper your name.
When the soft breeze fans your cheek it shall be my breath.
Neelo was great first as mother, then as an actress.
Their first child was a girl and they named her ‘Zarqa’, in memory of their greatest achievement.
Zarqa grew up, married and settled in life.
Neelo also had two sons from Riaz, Shaan, who is now a great Pakistani film actor and Sarosh, who
also worked in two Pakistani movies.
Unfortunately, Riaz Shahid, who had been suffering from leukemia passed on October 1, 1972.
Neelo was literally devastated by his untimely death.
In order to live a respectable life and to raise her three children, she returned to show business.
Attractive, as she was, filmmakers welcomed her whole-heartedly.
The first film in which she worked after her come back was the mega hit film ‘Khatarnaak’.
Neelo enjoyed a second coming with her starring role in ‘Khatarnaak’, released on August
‘Khatarnaak’ successfully completed diamond jubilees in Karachi and Lahore. Cast included
Neelo- Yusuf Khan- Aneeta- Nazli- Mustafa Qureshi. Producer, Shahid Afzal, director, Rehmat Ali, music, Safdar Husain.
Besides acting, Neelo also produced a film ‘Baheesht’, director, Hasan Tariq, composers,
Rasheed Attre- A. Hameed. Writer, Riaz Shahid, released on November 29, 1974.
In some ways, her character is deluded and committed to her art. She, too, makes the most of the opportunity.
Neelo’s acting is so dazzling, she transforms it into great Pakistani entertainment.
Below are five examples:
‘Jatt kurian to darda’, released on October 15, 1976. Cast included Neelo- Kamal- Nisho-
Najma- Rangeela- Nayyar Sultana- Munawwar Saeed. Producer- director, Kamal, music, Wajahat Attre.
‘Ajj dian kurian’, November 22, 1977, stars included Neelo- Kamal- Nisho- Naghma- Badar
Munir- Jamshed Ansari- Rangeela. Producer – director, Kamal, composer, Wajahat Attre.
Punjabi film ‘Ghunda’, March 10, 1978, starring, Neelo- Sultan Rahi- Najma- Iqbal Hasan.
Producer, Jamal Masood, director, Masood Bin Aslam, music, Safdar Husain.
‘Barood ki chaoon’, 1989, cast included Neelo- Nadeem.
The direction is full of skillful touches. It does not become boring.
The stories are simultaneously resplendent and heart breaking.
Older readers may remember, Neelo’s talent is so huge, it transcends ones neuroses.
Her character was touching in the five movies below:
‘Director Jafar Bukhari’s film ‘Izzat’. Also movies like ‘Balunat Koar’,
‘Sultana Daku’, ‘Sar ka badla’, ‘Mera naa paatay Khan’.
In Neelo’s films there is a sweet open tone and a freshness that never sounds forced.
Below are five examples of her versatility:
The films ‘Malik zada’, ‘Danka’, ‘Meray badshah chaman Khan’,
‘Inqilaab’, ‘Shareef shehri’.
The film ‘Nagina’ was presumably the last movie in which Neelo appeared as an actress.
‘Nagina’ was released on October 5, 1990, starring, Neelo- Madiha Shah, Shaan. Producer,
Arif Chaudhry, director, Altaf Husain, music, M. Ashraf, double version, Urdu and Punjabi film.
Below is a look back at her Nigar Awards:
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best supporting actress in the film ‘Koel’ in 1959.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best supporting actress in the film ‘Daman’ in 1963.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best actress in the film
‘Zarqa’ in 1969.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best producer and best film of the year ‘Baheesht’ in 1974.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best actress in the film ‘Khatarnaak’ in 1974.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best actress in the film ‘Jat kuryan tu darda’ in 1976.
Half a century has elapsed since her first film was shown in theaters.
Similarly, she did the most cherished role of her life thirty- five years ago in ‘Zarqa’.
To date, her devoted admirers could not get Neelo off their minds.
Her life is a glorious tale of warmth and gratitude.
Now, in the twilight of her
life, Neelo is like a traveler caught between relief and loss within sight of her journey’s end.