Home Education #GoldenFrames: Begum Para

#GoldenFrames: Begum Para

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Begum Para acted in twenty-seven movies during a career span of fifteen years. Her voguish stature was unfathomable for actresses in her era. Para was widely known for her boldness. She loved her whisky and openly indulged in it. She was India’s first pin-up girl who was a global sensation!


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Born as Zubeda Ul Haq on December 25tth, 1926, in Jehlum, Pakistan, Begum Para’s family was originally from Aligarh. Her father, Mian Ehsanul-Haq, was chief justice of its highest court in Bikaner, Rajasthan.


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Para was sent to Aligarh in a hostel as her father was posted elsewhere. She continued her education till class 12th at the Aligarh Muslim University. Her elder brother Masrurul Haq left for Mumbai in the late 1930s to become an actor, where he met and fell in love with the Bengali actress Protima Dasgupta and married her. Whenever Para visited them in Mumbai, she was quite taken up with the glamour world of her sister-in-law. Para often accompanied her on many occasions and get-togethers. It was hard to miss a beauty like her.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

She was offered many roles—one such offer came from Sashadhar Mukherjee and Devika Rani. Para’s father consented to her wishes reluctantly and requested that she never work in Lahore.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

Begum Para’s first break was the movie ‘Chand’ (1944) from Prabhat Studios, Pune. Prem Adib was the lead actor, and Sitara Devi was the vamp in the movie. It did exceptionally well, and Para started getting paid about Rs. 1500 a month. Following this, she and her sister-in-law Protima made a movie ‘Chamia’ (1945) based on the novel ‘Pygmalion’, which was a huge success. Para signed a lot of movies after that but couldn’t quite establish herself as an actress.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

She was always given the role of glamour doll in most movies. Para didn’t mind it because she always played herself on screen. She did ‘Sohni Mahiwal’ (1946) and ‘Zanjeer’ (1947) with Ishwarlal and Dikshit; ‘Neel Kamal’ (1947) with Raj Kapoor; ‘Mehendi’ (1947) with Nargis; ‘Suhaag Raat’ (1948) with Bharat Bhushan and Geeta Bali; ‘Jhalka’ (1948); and ‘Meherbani’ (1950) with Ajit Khan.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

Para also worked in ‘Ustad Pedro’ (1951), produced and directed by Sheikh Mukhtar’s then well-known actor. It was a fun movie packed with action, romance and stunts. Para posed for photographer James Burke for a Life magazine photoshoot. Her bold photoshoot was sensational like no other! Rumour has it that American soldiers carried her photo in their pocket when they used to go to the wars. Para’s last role was in the movie ‘Kar Bhala’ (1956). She was also offered to play Nigar Sultana’s role, Bahar, in ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1960) but refused to play it because she considered it against her image.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

Para was honoured with the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award during Dadasaheb Phalke’s 136th jubilee year function organised by Dadasaheb Phalke Academy in 2005.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

After keeping herself away from the camera for fifty years, Para made a comeback on the silver screen in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Saawariya’ (2007) as Sonam Kapoor’s grandmother. Para was very close friends with Nargis, Geeta Bali, Nadira, Shyama and Nilofer in the industry.


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#GoldenFrames: Pictorial biography of Begum Para

During the peak of her career, Begum Para married Dilip Kumar’s brother Nasir Khan. The couple had three children, including the actor Ayub Khan. Her eldest son Madir Khan died at a young age, while her daughter is a successful entrepreneur. Following her husband’s death, Para briefly moved to Pakistan in 1975 to be with her family. She relocated back to India two years later. Begum lived with her daughter and grandchildren in Versova, Mumbai. Her all-time favourite actress is Shabana Azmi, and Tabu and Kajol were her favourites from the list of younger actresses. Rukhsana Sultana, Para’s niece, was Amrita Singh’s mother. Para passed away in her sleep at the age of eighty-two on December 10th, 2008.


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