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The Story Of India’s First Female Music Composer Ishrat Sultana

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By Sahil Razvii | Youthkiawaaz.Com

When Ishrat Sultana stepped into the film world, it was not considered respectful for women to work in this malevolent film world. There was no story of the life of women on screen. At such a time, Ishrat Sultana was an artist to work in the film world and earn a name in not one but two countries with her talent, music and performance.

Ishrat Sultana aka ‘Bibbo‘ is considered one of the first female composers of Hindi cinema and India. She not only won the heart of India with her music and performance but also earned a lot of name in Pakistan. Ishrat Sultana, who started her career in the year 1933, moved to Pakistan after the partition of India-Pakistan in 1947.

Before moving to Pakistan, she worked under the banner of Ajanta Cinetone Limited with director M.D. Bhavnani and A.P. She started her acting career with Kapoor.

Ishrat Sultana soon included her name in the list of big artists of that time due to her unmatched performance and contribution to music. It was to the fame of Ishrat Sultana that during that period a song “Tujhe Bibbo Kahun Ki Sulochana” was filmed in her name.

Bibbo was born in the Ishratabad area near Chawri Bazar, Delhi in British India. She was born to Hafeezan Begum. His mother also used to sing and dance. Little is known about his early life. She was a trained singer, who possessed singing qualities like the then famous Zohrabai, Ambalewali and Shamshad Begum.

Ishrat Sultana, aka Bibbo. Photo: Rashid Ashraf/Flickr

In the late 1930s, Bibbo married director Khaleel Sardar. During this she also moved from Bombay to Lahore. There, she worked as a musician in the film “Kazzak Ki Ladki”. However, she did not receive the success for her work that she had anticipated. After working as a music composer in the film, she returned to Bombay again following which she worked in many movies.

Bibbo started her film career with the film “Mayajal” in 1933. Bibbo soon became the leading actress of Hindi cinema. The film was directed by Shanti Dave and produced by Mohan Bhavnani, owner of Ajanta Cinetone Company.

Mohan Bhavnani was also the person who called Hindi screenwriter Premchandra to Mumbai and signed a contract with him to write the story of the film. Bibbo played the role of heroine in the first and only film “The Mill”, i.e.,  Mazdoor written by Premchandra.

Ishrat Sultana was the first female composer of Indian cinema, who composed the song “Adal-e-Jahangir” in 1934 by tying it to her own tunes. Her second film as a composer was “Kazzak Ki Ladki” in 1937.

Ishrat Sultana had worked a lot with the then famous artist Master Nisar, Surendra and Kumar. The pairing of Surendra and Ishrat Sultana was considered in the successful pair of the silver screen of that time. Together they worked in films like “Manmohan” (1936), “Jagirdar” (1937), “Gramophone Singer” (1938), “Ladies Only” (1939), “Sneh Bandhan” (1940). In the cinematic history of India, Bibbo acted in more than thirty films.

Ishrat Sultana’s film journey was going on at a fast pace. She kept on working. She was improving her art by doing more and more films. Be it music or acting, she excelled in every field. In the year 1936, she gained huge success in the films “Garib Parivar” and “Manmohan”.

In the film “Manmohan“, she worked with a veteran director like Mehboob Khan. This film is considered to be a commercial success film of that time, whose songs were very much liked by the people.

Ishrat Sultana. Photo: Film Heritage Foundation

Bibbo’s film graph was growing rapidly, doing films one after the other. In 1937, she acted in four films. Mehboob Khan’s “Jagirdar” was one of them. This small budget romantic film was very much liked by the audience.

After this, Bibbo worked as an actress and composer in the film “Kazzak Ki Ladki”. It was the same film in which she used the name Ishrat Sultana for the first time as a composer. Surendra was her co-star in the film and the film was directed by Sultan Mirza. In 1938, Ishrat Sultana had become an influential name in the film world.

She was the first choice of the big directors of that time. She was delivering hit films one after the other made under big banners. “Watan”, “Gramophone”, “Dynamite”, “300 days later” proved to be successful films. “Akela”, which was released in 1941, was considered one of her most successful films.

In 1945, she worked with Noor Jahan in the film “Zeenat”. The film became a huge success for Noor Jahan. Her last film in India was “Pehla Pyaar”, directed by AP Kapoor under the banner of Sagar Movietone.

Ishrat Sultana continued to work in the film even though India-Pakistan was partitioned. In Pakistan, she further strengthened her identity as a character artist. She acted in about twelve films with strong performances one after the other.

In 1950, in Pakistan, she did his first film “Shammi” which was a Punjabi film. In 1952, she did an Urdu film titled “Dupatta”. This film was considered one of the most successful films of that time and whose music was well-recieved.

Like India, her films were touching the heights of success in the newly formed Pakistan. She continued to do successful films. Ishrat Sultana was awarded the ‘Nigar Award’ for outstanding performance in the movie “Zahr-e-Ishq” 1958. After achieving the pinnacle of fame and success, she bid goodbye to this world on 25 May 1972, passing through hardships.

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