Nayyar Sultana’s real name was Tayyaba Bano, and she was born in Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh in 1937. At the time of the partition of India, her family migrated to Karachi. While visiting Lahore, she met Anwar Kamal Pasha’s who gave her a small role in his forthcoming film Qatil with the screen name of Nazli. After this film, she went back to Karachi from Lahore, where she landed the second lead in Humayon Miraz’s Intikhab. After this, many offers started pouring in, so she left Karachi to settle permanently in Lahore.
When she broke into the Pakistani film industry in the early 1950s, Nayyar Sultana was almost an anomaly. She didn’t hail from the proverbial bazaar; instead she came from a respectable middle class family. So while she made all those memorable movies, there was still a sense of alienation from her chosen milieu and oeuvre. Perhaps that’s why henceforth, the typical Nayyar Sultana role was that of the tragic, tearful suffering woman. This type of role suited her private persona well. Nayyar Sultana’s aura was imbued with sadness. Tall and fair with a beautiful complexion, she was a sensitive, sedate and dignified woman whose career was never besmirched by scandal. Ironically though, one of her most unforgettable role was that of the `other woman’ from the same bazaar that she only dared to observe from a distance. This was Saath Lakh (1957) in which she co-starred with her future brother-in-law, Santosh Kumar.
In Baaji (1963), she was the forlorn widow who falls in love with a guy much younger than her. The film directed by her brother-in-law S.Suleman was not a huge success, perhaps because of the otherness of Nayyar’s role. But it was one of the finest films directed by S. Suleman, and one cannot ignore the subtlety and depth of her acting. She was truly remarkable in this film.
This still is from the 1950s Mazloom. Notice Nayyar’s soulful expression under doleful doe eyes, slick eye brows, and endnote with an innocent, albeit, glossy mouth. The look was retro and was dovetailed with a `40s coif; sculptural Mandarin collared silk sari blouse and a simple black and white fern motiffed sari.
Nayyar’s another outstanding role was in 1960’s Saheli with actress turned director Shamim Ara. It was a film about a love triangle; sacrifice, friendship, and loyalty; virtues that audience easily identified with Nayyar. During that period, she married her co-star Darpan. After marriage she completed her under production films and then left the film industry to become a devoted housewife. She tried to make a comeback as a leading lady in the late 1960s, but that did not work as in spite of fine performances, her films like Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1968), Meri Bhabhi (1969), Hamjoli (1970) and Azmat (1973) all flopped one by one at the box office.
With no other option, she gracefully moved to character roles. The woman who often wore and looked ethereal in white made a slew of indelible films as character actress in the late `70s which are still spoken with reverence today including S.Suleiman’s Abhi To Main Jawan Hoon and two films by director Hassan Tariq, Mazi Haal Mustaqbil and Seeta Maryam Margaret. These were her last critically acclaimed films before she gracefully faced away.
Darpan had a recruiting agency, and after his death in 1981, Nayyar successfully managed it. She gave almost 48 years of her life to the film industry and worked in dozen of films. She received a number of awards and was given the title “Malka-i-Jazbaat” for her acting. She died of cancer on 27th October, 1992 and is survived by her two sons Qaisar and Ali.