Munawar Sultana – Popular Bollywood actress of 1940s-50s

Munawar Sultana (1924 – 2007) was a famous and successful Bollywood actress of second half of 1940s and early 1950s, with many hit films to her credit. She was one of the early hit heroines of early talkies who appeared in around 30 films. She joined film industry with Dalsukh Pancholi’s Khazanchi (1941), in a supporting role. She got her first major break in a lead role through Pehli Nazar (1945) directed by Mazhar Khan, which changed her fate forever. She remained one of the most sought heroines of late 1940s, and was mostly associated with family dramas playing a loyal wife. She played female lead in hit movies such as Pehli Nazar, Sartaj, Dard, Elaan, Kaneez and Babul.


Munawar Sultana was born into a Punjabi Muslim family in Lahore. Her father was a radio announcer. As a child she wanted to become a physician. But destiny was something else. She was preparing for her medical studies when she was spotted by director Dalsukh Pancholi. When she started receiving film roles, she accepted them, though they were character and supporting roles. She also moved to Mumbai from Lahore where she got finally settled. She was supported by actor-director Mazhar Khan, who made her a star with the movie, Pehli Nazar in 1945. She shared screen space with Motilal and Veena, and the movie was a hit. After she turned a lead heroine, she fully concentrated on to her film career. By late 1940s, she became a busiest star alongside Suraiya and Nargis.


Munawar Sultana featured in popular song of Mukesh – ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne Do’ from the movie, Pehli Nazar

She met her future husband, Sharaf Ali in a film set in the late 1940s. He was a businessman who financed her movies Meri Kahani and Pyar Ki Manzil. With early 1950s new heroines dominated the scene, and with less film offers she slowly withdrew from film industry. Later she got married in 1954 and settled with the family life, with husband and 7 children. Jallad in 1956 was her last release. After the sudden death of her husband in 1966, she brought up the kids. She was so engaged as a dutiful mother that she fully kept herself away from spotlight and filmy friends. She lived in Pali Hill, Mumbai, and was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for the last 8 years.

Munawar Sultana – Some interesting and less-known facts

bollywood heroines 1940s

1. She played female lead opposite Dilip Kumar in 1950 release, Babul. Naushad composed music, which includes the hit song – Milte Hi Ankhen Dil Hua Deewana Kisi Ka, filmed on Sultana and Dilip.

2. She took the screen name of Asha during her early phase of career in the 1940s before she reverted to her original name.

3. In her debut film Khazanchi (1941), she played the short role of a barmaid who serves liquor to men in a bar. The song “Peene Ke Din Aaye” was filmed on her.

4. She was offered a monthly payment of 4000 rupees and an apartment by Mazhar Khan, and also casted her in lead role for Pehli Nazar. That’s how she moved to Mumbai and settled there.

5. The popular song, Afsana Likh Rahi Hoon from 1947 hit movie, Dard was filmed on her. The song is one of the top songs of comedian Tun Tun (Uma Devi) as a playback singer, during her early phase in Bollywood. Suraiya who played second lead rose fame to a singing star after songs tuned by Naushad became instant hits.

6. Her career as a lead actress was short, but glorious.

7. This beautiful actress has been featured in the ad of Lux soap, which was regarded highly prestigious and a great honour to actresses those days.

8. She wished to do simple films of realistic nature. However she became a part of highly emotional family dramas most.

9. She has been paired with Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Motilal, Mahipal, Ajit, Shyam etc during her glorious years.

10. Dilip Kumar’s younger brother, Nasir Khan starred opposite her in her last release – Jallad (1956).


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A freelance writer and blogger by profession since October 2011, interested in writing over a wide range of topics. Hope you enjoy my writings. I belong to one of the beautiful places of the world, Kerala, nicknamed as 'God's own country'.

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