In the good old days Mala was sometimes compared (erroneously) to Lata, perhaps due to her shrill voice and the duo of Rushdie-Mala was to the Pakistani films what Rafi-Lata was to the Indian counterpart.
Mala’s real name was Naseem. She was born in Faisalabad, Punjab. She had been interested in singing and music from a young age. Fortunately, her sister, Shamim Nazli, happened to be her first music teacher and Mala learnt the essentials of music from her.
Mala started her career somewhere around late fifties but her real break came through Naila, the first West Pakistani color film. Many were surprised in the beginning when Master Inayat Husain announced his decision to give away all female numbers from that movie to this lesser known crooner. Most surprised was Syed Afzal Husain, the chief recordist at the Evernew for he didn’t know what to do with a voice that was so shrill and high-pitched. At last he came out with the ingenuous idea of switching off all the lower keys on the recording machine – something that had never been tried before. The experiment was successful (who could forget such pieces from that movie as Tarapna bhi hamain aata hai and Mujhe arzoo thhi jiski) .
Soon after that early success came Arman. Sohail Rana had actually asked Noor Jehan to render the sad climactic version of Akailay na jana but as destiny would have it, the song somehow could not be got recorded in her voice and came to the lot of Mala. There was no looking back for her after that. Even a brief list of her popular songs would be too long to be presented here. Perhaps we should say that, as a rule, any popular female song from the mid 60′s to late the mid 70′s that is not a Noor Jehan or Runa Laila number is sure to be a Mala feature. A few of the absolutely unforgettable ones are: Mujhe talash thhi jiski (Jahan Tum Wahan Hum), Yeh ada yeh naz (Road To Swat), Hum nay to pyar bohat (Neend Humari Khwab Tumharay), Kiya hai jo piyar (Dil Mera Dharkan Teri),Tujh pay qurban (Sarhad), Hava nay chupke say keh diya kiya (Lori). Also should be mentioned a popular song that has seen a revival through quite a few modern singers these days but was originally a Mala soundtrack from Naaz – Ghunghroo toot gaye.
Mala also tried her luck with film production with Baharein Phir Bhi Ayengi, in which she also gave a break to her sister Nazli as the first ever (and the only so far) female composer in Pakistani films. Ahmed Rushdie, who had also cherished a desire for acting, also played a side role in that movie but it bombed at box-office. Some of the songs did become very popular but they were plagiarized from Indian film hits (For instance, the most popular Mala song Piyar kay naghme kisne chhairay was a carbon copy of Aaj kal teray meray piyar kay charchay hain zaban per from the Shashi Kapoor starrer Brahmchari).
Mala faded out of the popular music scene towards the late seventies and died on March 6,1990 – Khurram Ali Shafique