Death of Pakistani film star Neelo

With much going on in India and this cold weather, (that I hate from the bottom of my heart, makes me thoroughly lazy) in the past few days had not checked on the happenings in Pakistan. It was only when I started checking today, that I came to know that Pakistani actress Neelo, who was a mega star of the Pakistani film industry in the mid 60s and early 70s, had passed away recently.

Born Cynthia Alexander Fernandes, rechristened as Neelo in films, she gave the first diamond jubilee hit of Pakistan, the movie called Zarka, where guess what, she plays a Palestinian liberation fighter wreaking havoc on the Israelis (no wonder despite all their desire by the Pak army Generals, it is not going to be that easy for the politicians to reconcile with Israel). And if I remember correctly, the movie was released in the year 1969, so the demonisation of the Jewish state has a long history in Pakistan.

Now for the YouTube video I post here and the story behind it….

When the Shah of Iran was visiting Pakistan in 1965, he was hosted by the Nawab of Kalabagh, who was then the Governor of United Province of West Pakistan. He wanted to entertain the Shah and demanded that Neelo come and dance at the event. When Neelo refused, he sent police to forcefully bring her to the event. Realising that she may be forced to go, Neelo took sleeping pills and had to be rushed to the hospital to save her life. When the famous poet Habib Jalib heard of the incident, he wrote his famous Nazm, “Neelo”, as a dedication to her…

तू कि ना-वाक़िफ़-ए-आदाब-ए-शहंशाही थी

रक़्स ज़ंजीर पहन कर भी किया जाता है

तुझ को इंकार की जुरअत जो हुई तो क्यूँकर

साया-ए-शाह में इस तरह जिया जाता है

अहल-ए-सर्वत की ये तज्वीज़ है सरकश लड़की

तुझ को दरबार में कोड़ों से नचाया जाए

नाचते नाचते हो जाए जो पायल ख़ामोश

फिर न ता-ज़ीस्त तुझे होश में लाया जाए

लोग इस मंज़र-ए-जांकाह को जब देखेंगे

और बढ़ जाएगा कुछ सतवत-ए-शाही का जलाल

तेरे अंजाम से हर शख़्स को इबरत होगी

सर उठाने का रेआया को न आएगा

ख़याल तब्-ए-शाहाना पे जो लोग गिराँ होते हैं

हाँ उन्हें ज़हर भरा जाम दिया जाता है

तू कि ना-वाक़िफ़-ए-आदाब-ए-शहंशाही थी

रक़्स ज़ंजीर पहन कर भी किया जाता है

Riaz Shahid, who directed the superhit Zarka, and later married Neelo, used this Nazm in the movie. He however changed the word ‘आदाब ए शहंशाही’ to ‘आदाब ए ग़ुलामी’ in the first line, and also simplified the Nazm. The Nazm was beautifully sung by the maestro Mehdi Hassan, and I must confess, it remains one of my most favourite Nazms.

Rest in peace Madam!


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