Real Name Cynthia Alexander Fernandes, Neelo was Pakistan’s first oomph girl. Born 30th June 1941 in Bhera Village – Sargodha, she started her career as a child artiste in Hollywood’s Bhowani Junction (Starring – Ava Gardner, George Cukor, 1955) which was shot in and around Lahore – Pakistan. Her first Pakistani film was Sabira (1956), directed by Rafi Chaudhary, which had Swaranlata and Nazir in leading roles. In the early part of her career, Neelo was mostly cast in supporting roles in films like Saath Lakh (1957), Aakhri Nishan (1958) & Zehr-e-Ishq (1958). One of the songs from Saath Lakh picturized on her, Aaey mausam rangile suhaney captivated a great number of film-goers and made her known all over the country. In 1959, Neelo proved her acting mettle in two films starring Noor Jehan – Neend and Koel. Neend was made on the lives of coal workers by Hassan Tariq, assistant director to Jaffer Malik in Saath Lakh. It was a touching tale of a woman worker (Noor Jehan) at the coke storage in a conglomeration of small foundries in Lahore. She has a weak constitution and falls asleep at odd hours and places. Neelo played Noor Jehan’s friend in Neend. Koel, a musical about Lost and Found where the hero and heroine in their childhood lose each other and the reunion comes after a musical concert, won Neelo best Supporting Actress award. This was the beginning of Neelo’s long and illustrious career. Later she became successful heroine of Pakistan after the success of film Saathi (1959) where she played the lead role. Another film Nagin released the same year made her the most successful dancer-cum-heroine of Pakistan.
During Ayub Khan’s rule, the Emperor of Iran paid an official visit to Pakistan in 1965. For the entertainment of His Imperial Majesty, the organizers wanted Neelo to give a live dance performance. When she refused to comply with their wishes, they harassed and threatened her with dire consequences. Habib Jalib, popularly remembered as the poet of the people, on hearing of the incident, expressed his anguish through the poem Tu ke na waqif-e-adab-e-shahinshahi hey. After this tragic incident, famous screenwriter Riaz Shahid married Neelo. Zarqa (1969), a film Riaz Shahid wrote, directed, and produced with the support of his actress-wife, became most famous film of Neelo’s career. Zerqa (1969) was the story of the struggle of Palestinians for their land against Western and Zionist forces. Neelo, famous for her sexy and glamorous image, gave an authentic and sensitive performance in Zerqa (1969). Neelo left film industry temporarily after her marriage, but joined it again to support her family after the sudden death of her husband in 1972.