Born in Aligarh on 12 July 1919 in a Muslim family, the actress Neena was named Shahida Begum at birth. She was the eldest of six siblings. Her father was a city magistrate in Lucknow. Neena completed her graduation in Aligarh. During her time in college, she met Mohsin Abdullah, brother of the famous Bombay Talkies actress Renuka Devi. They got married and she moved to Bombay with her husband when Mohsin got a job in the Bombay Talkies Laboratory.
In 1942, Mohsin joined the Shalimar Film Company, owned by W.Z. Ahmed. W.Z. Ahmed presented Neena with her first film offer, and she debuted onscreen opposite Prithviraj Kapoor in Ek Raat (1942). Laying stress on her sudden entry into the film world, the publicity materials for the film advertised her as the “mystery woman Neena”, stoking a public curiosity that might have been a factor in the success of the film. Neena’s impressive performance and her sparkling personality soon became widely discussed, and most were of the belief that W.Z. Ahmed had introduced a star of rare brilliance and promise to the screen.
She continued her association with Shalimar Pictures in the hit musical Prem Sangeet (1943) opposite Jairaj. In her next film, Man Ki Jeet (1945), a social drama with Shalimar Pictures, she was seen with Shyam. The film was a screen adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the D’urbervilles where she played the role of a milkmaid. The film had melodious songs of which Nagari Meri Kab Tak Yun Hi Barbaad Rahegi and Aye Chaand Na Itraana became particularly popular. In her fourth film with Shalimar Pictures, Prithviraj Sanyukta (1946), she was paired with Prithviraj Kapoor again. Based on the historical tale of the emperor Prithviraj, the film featured a memorable performance by Neena as princess Sanyukta. Following this, she played Meera in Meera Bai (1947) and Shree Krishna Bhagwan (1946).
Neena led a simple life offscreen. Unfortunately, her marriage ran aground due to Mohsin’s callous attitude towards both her and his work. Rumoured to be a rampant womanizer, Mohsin lost most of his money to gambling. Increasingly distanced from her husband, Neena developed a close bond with the ever courteous W.Z. Ahmed. In 1946, she divorced her husband. Noted by many for her sympathetic attitude, she gradually moved forward from this time in her life. In a voting conducted by IFJA, Neena was voted the most graceful beauty in the film world. In film studios she was called 'Begum Sahiba' with respect.
Later, she married director W.Z. Ahmed and they moved to Pakistan after partition.