indian cinema heritage foundation

Nigar Sultana


Memorable for the role of Bahar Begum with shades of grey which she essayed in Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Nigar Sultana featured in films such as Rangbhoomi (1946), Shikayat (1948), Aag (1948), Patanga (1949), Bazaar (1949), Sheesh Mahal (1950), Mirza Ghalib (1954), Yahudi (1958), Raaz Ki Baat (1962), Do Kaliyaan (1968), Bansi Birju (1972), and Jumbish: A Movement - The Movie (1986). She was considered among the most beautiful actresses of her time. 

Born on 21 June, 1932 in Hyderabad, Nigar was the youngest of five children. Growing up in the princely state where her father was a Major in the Nizam’s State Army, she attended school for some years, before being home-schooled. The acting bug bit when she took part in a school drama, enforced by the first film she watched, Hum Tum Aur Woh (1938). When she was offered the lead in a film her father’s friend Jagdish Sethi was making with Mohan Bhavnani, Nigar immediately accepted. Entering films with Rangbhoomi in 1946, her first big film was Shikayat made in Poona, followed by Ranjit Productions’ Bela, which was the start of a slew of films in which she played leading roles. Raj Kapoor’s musical drama Aag (1948) is considered her first big break, for which she received appreciation from audiences and critics. Nigar went on to play character roles in a number of films. She featured in Patanga (1949), Dil Ki Basti (1949), Sheesh Mahal (1950), Khel (1950), Daman (1951), Dara (1953), Anand Bhavan (1953), Mirza Ghalib (1954), Tankhah (1956), Durgesh Nandini (1956) and Yahudi (1958), among other films. She is mainly remembered for her role of the court dancer Bahar, who is jealous of Prince Salim (Dilip Kumar)’s love for Anarkali (Madhubala) in the film Mughal-e-Azam (1960). Nigar had two songs picturised her in the K Asif directorial, namely Teri mehfil mein and Jab raat ho aisi matwali. 

Active in the 50s, she gradually appeared in fewer films. The last film she was seen in released in 1986, titled Jumbish: A Movement - The Movie

On the personal front, Nigar was first married to S M Yusuf. She later married K Asif, producer-director of Mughal-e-Azam (1960). Her daughter Heena Kausar acted in secondary roles in several films during the 1970s and early 1980s. Nigar was also the aunt of 50s actresses Chitra (born Afsar-un-nisa) and Paras (born Yusuf-un-nisa).

Nigar was known to be well-read, glamorous, fond of Urdu poetry which she recited and occasionally also composed well, played the sitar, sang, sewed, designed her own clothes, and also cooked well. 

Nigar Sultana passed away on 21 April, 2000 in Mumbai.