indian cinema heritage foundation

'Qaid Me Hai Bulbul'- Jabeen Jaleel

30 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Actress Jabeen Jaleel’s name is well known to fans of Hindi cinema of the 1950s and 60s. Although she acted in merely 23 Hindi and 4 Punjabi films in her almost 20 year career, she made millions fans with her beauty and wonderful acting. This popular actress of the Golden Era of Hindi cinema is once again active in the field in the form of a producer.

Jabeen belongs to an illustrious and well educated family from Bengal. Her paternal grandfather Sayyad Maulvi Ahmed was the first Bengali Muslim to get the graduation degree from Kolkata University and her father Sayyad Abu Ahmed Jaleel was an I.C.S. officer during the British period.

Jabeen’s mother Dilaara Jaleel was also a well educated lady who had got Munshi Faazil’s degree. She hailed from Lahore’s famous Faqeer brothers family. These three brothers Sayyad Faqeer Nooruddin, Sayyad Faqeer Saeeduddin and Sayyad Faqeer Azizuddin were respected ministers in the court of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. It was Maharaja Ranjeet Singh who had bestowed them with the title of Faqeer and their name is a part of Indian history. Lahore’s Faqeerkhana Museum is named after them. Sayyad Faqeer Azizuddin was the Foreign minister in the Maharaja’s court. Jabeen’s mother Dilaara Begum was his great granddaughter. 

Actress Jabeen Jaleel. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Jabeen was born on 1st April 1937 in Delhi and was merely two years old when her family shifted to Japan due to her father’s transfer. After staying in Japan for four years, her father moved to Mumbai on his appointment as the Controller of Textiles. Jabeen joined the famous Queen Mary School situated at Nana Chowk, Mumbai. During her education there she also served as the school’s Head Girl. For further studies she took admission in the Elphinstone College. 
" I once played a major role in the play Nek Parveen whose judges were famous producer-director S.M. Yusuf and his actress-wife Nigar Sultana."
Jabeen recalls, "I used to participate in the colleges cultural programs with great vigor and enthusiasm. I once played a major role in the play Nek Parveen whose judges were famous producer-director S.M. Yusuf and his actress-wife Nigar Sultana. They both liked my performance so much that not only did I get the Best Actress award but they offered me the heroine’s role in their next movie. Our family’s only filmy connection was that actor-producer-director Sohrab Modi was my father’s good friend. My father had passed away in 1949. My two elder sisters had migrated to Pakistan after their marriages. My home consisted of just my mother, myself and my younger brother. It was difficult for me to take a decision on the offer independently, hence Yusuf sahib came to my home the following day itself. On his persuasion, my mother gave me the permission to work in the film, albeit after some resistance."

Jabeens first film Guzaara released in 1954 where her hero was Karan Dewan. The music of the film was composed by Ghulam Mohammed. Although the film was not very successful Jabeen managed to attract people’s attention towards herself. Her second film Lutera released in 1955 where her hero was Nasir Khan. She however got true recognition with her third film New Delhi where she played the role of Kishore Kumar’s sister Nikki. This 1956 release had veteran actor Prabhu Dayal, who was actress Nalini Jaywant’s husband, cast opposite her. Shankar Jaikishan had composed the music for the producer-director Mohan Segal in this film. It was a successful movie of its time.
A poster of the film Char Minar. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Jabeen Jaleel was benefitted by the success of New Delhi. Towards the end of the decade, many films starring her released, including Char Minar (1956), Fashion (1957), Jeevan Sathi (1957), Hathkadi (1958), Panchayat (1958), Raagini (1958), Bedard Zamana Kya Jane (1959) and Raat ke Rahi(1959). Many songs picturised on her were extremely popular including Tum aur hum (Fashion), Madbhari yeh pyaar ki palken (Fashion), Ta thaiyya karte aana (Panchayat), Piya mai hoon patang tu dor (Raagini), Qaid mein hai bulbul sayyad muskuraye (Bedard Zamana Kya Jaane), Door kahin tu chal (Bedard Zamana Kya Jaane), Aa bhi ja bewafa (Raat Ke Rahi), Tu kya samjhe tu kya jaane (Raat Ke Rahi) and Ek nazar ek ada (Raat Ke Rahi).
Jabeen Jaleel in Fashion. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

In the 1960s, Jabeen acted in films like Batwara (1961), Khiladi (1961), Sachhe Moti (!962), Taj Mahal (1963) and Rajoo (1967). Her portrayal of Laadli Bano in Taj Mahal was quite appreciated. The Batwara song, Yeh raat yeh fizaayen phir aayen na aayen picturised on her and Jawahar Kaul is popular to this day. She also got the National Award for the 1960 Punjabi film Chaudhary Karnail Singh in which her hero was Prem Chopra which was incidentally his debut movie. Jabeen acted in three other Punjabi movies Kadi Dhoop Kadi Chhaon, Aye Dharti Punjab Di and Geet Baharaan De
A still of Jabeen Jaleel. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Jabeen got married in the year 1968. Her husband Ashok Kak was of Kashmiri origin and hailed from Jodhpur. He was the President of the Kodak company and was the youngest CEO of that time. He had completed his MBA from Pilani and belonged to an extremely educated family. He was a friend of Jabeen’s younger brother Asjed Jaleel. Jabeen says, "I am a Sayyad Muslim while Ashok is a Kashmiri Pandit. However, both our families were so liberal that religion did not play any role in our marriage. After marriage I acted in only one film Vachan which released in 1974."

After moving away from films Jabeen was active in social work also. When her son started attending a renowned Cathedral school, she became the Chairperson of the school’s Parent Teacher Association. While her elder sisters were settled in Pakistan, her younger brother had settled in the United States. They no longer had any relatives in India. Keeping in view their sons education and better future the family decided to settle in America. Due to the family’s regular visits to America, getting a green card was just a matter of time. The family moved to America in 1989. 

Jabeen and her family stayed in America for nearly ten years. Her mother and mother-in-law used to stay with them. When Jabeen’s mother passed away, her son Divvij who was extremely close to his maternal grandmother went into depression. The doctors suggested that for quick recovery Divvij should move back to the environment where he grew up. On their advice, they moved back to Mumbai in 1998 and Divvij recovered quickly. 
Jabeen also acted in the TV serial Hawaayen which was telecasted on DD-1 in 2004-05, nearly 30 years after her last release Vachan. 
Mr. Ashok Kak returned to India in 2002. Well known industrialist K.K. Birla was familiar with his management capabilities. Hence, he requested Ashok to help improve the financial condition of their loss making, Kolkata-based India Steamship Company which was one of the oldest companies of the group. During his three year contract, Ashok not only recovered the losses but made the company profitable as well. During the three years the family stayed in Kolkata and then returned to Mumbai. During this period, Jabeen also acted in the TV serial Hawaayen which was telecasted on DD-1 in 2004-05, nearly 30 years after her last release Vachan
Her son has taken up the acting profession following in her footsteps.
Jabeen now lives in Mumbai’s Worli area with her husband and son. Her elderly mother-in-law also stayed with them who passed away at the age of 101 years on 24 June 2013. Her husband is the top executive of a company situated in Vikroli.  Her son has taken up the acting profession following in her footsteps. Despite spending ten years in America, Divvij has an amazing command over Hindi and Urdu. His first release Saathi: The Companion in 2005 was directed by Faaiz Anwar. His second movie Pehli Nazar Ka Pyar (2008) has been released as well. The film sees Jabeen return to Hindi cinema as a producer under her banner Jabeen International. Jabeen says, "During my career, due to my family background, upbringing and values, I always found myself bit of a misfit in the industry. But my son will without doubt get benefited from my experience. As far as my memories of the period are concerned, I don’t recall anything which gives me great happiness and it’s better to forget many of the painful incidents of the time. I however cannot forget the help of famous actress Shakila who helped me selflessly in settling in Mumbai again. She is really a gem of a person whom I am glad to have as a friend."

(Translated from Hindi to English by Shri Gajendra Khanna)
(Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series.)

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