Sabiha Khanum

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Sabiha Khanum
Mukhtar Begum

16 October 1935
Died13 June 2020(2020-06-13) (aged 84)
Other namesFirst Lady of Pakistani Cinema
Years active1948–2000
(m. 1958; died 1982)
ChildrenSyed Ahsan Raza, Fareeha Shaharyar and Afia Chaudhry
ParentMuhammad Ali (Maahia) & Iqbal Begum (Baalo)
AwardsPride of Performance Award by the President of Pakistan in 1986
8 Nigar Awards

Sabiha Khanum (Urdu: صبیحہ خانم; born Mukhtar Begum; 16 October 1935 – 13 June 2020), was a Pakistani film actress. She is also known as the "First Lady of Pakistani Cinema", and is often recognized for her role in Pakistani cinema during the 1950s and 1960s. The recipient of the Pride of Performance and Nigar Awards, she debuted in Lollywood films with Beli (1950),[1][2] and also appeared in television dramas.[1][3]

Some of her notable films include Do Ansoo (1950), Sassi (1954), Gumnaam'' (1954), Dulla Bhatti (1956), Sarfarosh (1956), Mukhra (1958), and Devar Bhabhi (1967).[4]

She appeared mostly in Santosh Kumar's films playing protagonist roles opposite to her throughout the career.[5] Sabiha and Santosh are sometimes known for the on-screen chemistry they shared and built following the 1950s and 60s films, in particular after they worked in Qatil (1955) film.[6]

Early life[edit]

Sabiha Khanum was born Mukhtar Begum in a village near Gujrat in Punjab, Pakistan, to Mohammad Ali (Maahia), who was from Delhi, and Iqbal Begum (Baalo), who was from Amritsar.[1] She was raised in a conservative rural environment by her grandparents, but got her first acting opportunity on stage in Lahore, after moving there to be with her father.[1]

A cultural delegation visited a cinema house in Sialkot, Pakistan in 1948. Mukhtar Begum (then a young girl in 1948), who was part of the delegation, sang the Punjabi song "Kithhay gae yoon pardesia way" from the film Sassi Punnoon (which starred Baalu and Aslam).[1] Her performance was praised, and soon Mohammad Ali introduced his daughter to a stage drama writer and poet, Nafees Khaleeli. Noting her determination, Khaleeli offered her a role in the drama Buut Shikan, which she accepted. Nafees Khaleeli gave her the screen name Sabiha Khanum.[1]


At Nafees Khaleeli's request, the film director Masood Parvez offered her a role in the film Beli (1950), giving Sabiha her debut as a film actress in 1950. Beli was also the first film by Masood Pervez as a director.

Next Sabiha played the role of 'Noori' in famous director/producer Anwar Kamal Pasha's Do Ansoo (1950), starring Santosh Kumar, Gulshan Ara and Sabiha. It was the first film to celebrate a Silver Jubilee in the new film industry of Pakistan. The film was based on an earlier Noor Jehan's hit Bhai Jaan (1945) and looks at how a man inadvertently ruins the lives of his wife and daughter. In fact, such was the impact of the film that it was re-made twice subsequently in Pakistan in Punjabi and Anjuman in Urdu.[2]

Sabiha gained some more recognition in her next movie Aaghosh, directed by Murtaza Jilani, starring Santosh, Sabiha, and Gulshan Ara. Her role, in the film 'Ghulam', released in 1953, directed by Anwar Kamal Pasha, with Santosh was also well received. Film directors admired her ability to improvise because she was talented and ambitious.

Her role in the film Gumnaam (1954) was also appreciated by the movie-goers. The movie was directed by Anwar Kamal Pasha, starring Seema, Sudhir and Sabiha Khanum. This film is a story about a mentally retarded girl, played by Sabiha, and is a pleasure to watch. She played the role of 'Nooran' in the romantic Punjabi film, Dulla Bhatti (1956) directed by M.S. Daar and this movie celebrated its Golden Jubilee at the Pakistani cinemas.

Sassi (1954) was based on the well-known tragic love story of Sassui Punnhun and went on to become the first Golden Jubilee film of Pakistan.[1]

Sabiha's achievement along with Santosh Kumar in the following films is still noteworthy; Mukhra (1958), Muskurahat (1959), Rishta (1963), Hasrat (1958), Ishrat, Shikwa (1963), Teray Baghair (1959), Mauseeqar (1962), Dulhan, Kaneez (1965 film), Dewar Bhabi (1967), Shaam Dhalay (1960), Pak Daman (1969), Anjuman (1970), Sarfarosh (1956), Inteqaam (1955), Qatil (1955), Sawaal (1966), Commander (1968), and Mohabbat (1972). Her role in the film Anjuman (1970 film) was very well-liked, as were director Hasan Tariq's films Tehzeeb (1971) and Ik Gunah Aur Sahi (1975), director Zia Sarhadi's film Rah Guzar (1960), director Zahoor Raja's film Deewana (1964) and director Jameel Akhtar's film Aik Raat.

Altogether, Sabiha starred in 202 movies and mainly in Urdu language.[7] She was awarded 6 Nigar Award and Pride of Performance Award on her acting career.[3]

Sabiha ventured into television serials in the 1980s. The most notables are Dasht and Ehsaas.

She also sang two patriotic songs:

  • Sohni dharti Allah rakhay qadam qadam aabad tujhay
  • Jug jug jeeye mera pyara watan, lub pay dua hai dil mein lagun[1]

In Anwar Maqsood's stage show Silver Jubilee in 1983, she rendered the song Yaad karoon tujhay shaam saweray from the film Mauseeqar (1962). As the final lyrics faded away that evening, the audience stood up and applauded.

Sabiha Khanum, who had been in the public eye for four decades, finally retired, and lived with her eldest daughter in the United States. Her other children also settled there.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Sabiha married co-star Santosh Kumar on 1 October 1958.[1]

Santosh was already a married man with children. The two, after initial opposition from Sabiha's father, married during the making of Hasrat (1958).[2] They starred together in 47 movies and played as a couple in the majority of them.[7] They together had three children including one son named Syed Ahsan Raza and two daughters named Fareeha Shaharyar and Afia Chaudhry. Sabiha's grand daughter Sarish Khan is a model and actress.[1]

Illness and death[edit]

She lived with her daughter in Leesburg, Virginia until her death on 13 June 2020 at the age of 84. She had been hospitalized for the past few months due to kidney issues.[1][8][9]


Television series[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1983 Silver Jubilee Herself PTV
1987 Ehsas Nafees PTV
1993 Dasht Dai Mah PTV
1993 Yes Sir, No Sir Herself PTV
1999 Tawan Safia PTV


Year Title Language Role(s) Notes Ref(s).
1950 Beli Urdu her debut film [1][6]
Do Ansoo (first Silver jubilee film of Pakistan)[1][6]
Hamari Basti
1951 Ghairat
1953 Barkha
1954 Gumnaam [1]
Raat Ki Baat
Sassi first Golden jubilee film of Pakistan [1][6]
1955 Inteqam
Qatil [6]
1956 Chhoti Begum [1]
Dulla Bhatti [1]
Sarfarosh [1]
1957 Bholey Khan
Ishq-e-Laila [1][6]
Saat Lakh [1][3][6]
Waada [1][6]
Aankh ka Nasha
Aas Paas
1958 Darbar
Dil Mein Tuu
Hasrat [1]
Mukhra [10][1]
Sheikh Chilli
1959 Muskarahat
Tere Baghair
Aaj Kal
1960 Ayaz [3]
Shaam Dhalay
1962 Mausiqaar [1][6]
1963 Daaman
1964 Deevana
1965 Kaneez [3][6]
1966 Sawaal [1]
1967 Devar Bhabi
1968 Commander
1969 Ladla
Maa Beta
1970 Anjuman [3]
Matrai Maa
Mohabbat Rang Laaey Gi
Sajna Duur Daya
1971 Banda Bashar
Bhain Bhara
Jaltey Sooraj Ke Neechay
Tehzeeb [3]
Yaar Des Punjab De
1972 Ek Raat
Sirr Da Saiin
Aao Pyar Karein
1973 Khawab Aur Zindagi
1974 Deedar
Miss Hippy
Pyar Di Nishani
Sayyo Ni Mera Mahi
1975 Bikhrey Moti
Dhan Jigra Maa Da Punjabi
Farz Te Aulaad
Aik Gunnah Aur Sahi Urdu [6]
Neki Badi
Watan Iman Punjabi
Zanjeer Urdu
1976 Aulad
Rastey Ka Pathar
Wardat Punjabi
Zubaida Urdu
1977 Kalu
Mere Hazoor
Aag Aur Zindagi
1978 Abhi Tau Mein Jawan Huun
Haidar Ali
Shera Punjabi
1979 Do Raastey Urdu
Raja Ki Aaye Gi Barat
Waaday Ki Zanjeer
Behan Bhai
1980 Badmashi Band Punjabi
Rishta Urdu
1981 Anokha Daaj Punjabi
Chan Suraj
Parvah Nahin
1982 Sangdil Urdu
Wohti Jee Punjabi
1984 Ishq Nachawey Gali Gali
Kamyabi Urdu
1985 Angara Punjabi
Deewany Do Urdu
1989 Mohabbat Ho Tau Aisi
1989 Shaani
1994 Saranga Punjabi

Other appearance[edit]

Year Title Role Network
1997 Tum Jo Chaho Tu Suno Herself PTV

Awards and recognition[edit]

Sabiha Khanum has won several Nigar awards during her lifetime:

Year Award Category Result Title Ref.
1957 Nigar Award Best Actress Won Saat Lakh [11]
1963 Nigar Award Best Actress Won Shikwa [11]
1967 Nigar Award Special Award Won Devar Bhabhi [11]
1975 Nigar Award Special Award Won Aik Gunnah Aur Sahi [11]
1981 Nigar Award Special Award Won Thirty Years of Acting Career [11]
1982 Nigar Award Best Supporting Actress Won Sangdil [11]
1986 Pride of Performance Awarded by the President of Pakistan Won Arts [3][12]
1999 Nigar Award Millennium Award Won Herself [11]
2000 Nigar Award Honorary Gold Medal Won Herself [11]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Shoaib Ahmed (15 June 2020). "Screen idol Sabiha Khanum passes away in US". Dawn (newspaper). Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Sabiha Khanum, the First Lady of Pakistani Cinema, Passes Away". The Wire. 14 June 2020. Retrieved 14 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Icon Sabiha Khanum passes away at 84 Dawn (newspaper), Published 14 June 2020, Retrieved 20 January 2022
  4. ^ "اداکارہ صبیحہ خانم انتقال کر گئیں". Voice of America (in Urdu language).
  5. ^ Agencies (14 June 2020). "Pakistan's legendary film actress Sabiha Khanum passes away". Khaleej Times. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "ICYMI: Here's the ultimate guide to Sabiha Khanum's best films". Samaa TV News website. 19 June 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  7. ^ a b Jafferi, Aqeel Abbas (14 June 2020). "صبیحہ خانم: جو اپنی معصوم اداکاری سے پاکستانی سینما کی خاتون اول بن گئیں". BBC.
  8. ^ "لٹ الجھی سلجھا جا رے بالم: پاکستانی فلموں کا سنہری دور رخصت ہوا". Independent Urdu. 14 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Famed actress Sabiha Khanum passes away". The News International (newspaper), Published 14 June 2020, Retrieved 14 June 2020.
  10. ^ Aijaz Gul (9 August 2018). "Mukhra: Old fashioned romance". The News International (newspaper). Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Nigar Awards (1957 - 1971)". The Hot Spot Online website. 17 June 2002. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 20 January 2022.
  12. ^ Legendary film actress Sabiha Khanum passes away Geo TV News website, Published 14 June 2020, Retrieved 26 June 2020

External links[edit]