Character artistes are the backbone of any film industry. Even in the sub-continent obsessed with the romantic films, the hero and heroine are not generally considered the best actor and actresses of the country, but the characters artistes get the critical acclaim. In Pakistan, our character artistes ruled the screen in the 1950s and 1960s, when Talish got all the praise instead of Ejaz, the hero of Shaheed, and Bibbo was applauded for her role in Fanoos, above the heroine. Talat Siddiqui was another such character artiste who ruled the screen in 1960s.
Her real name was Adeeba Nazeer. She was born at Shimla, the capital of Punjab, in 1939. Her father, Nazeer Ahmed was a government servant. Adeeba did her F.A. with good numbers and as her father was a chronic asthma patient, she was married at a tender age of 15, with Bashir Ahmed Siddiqui, a close friend of her father. In 1945, Adeeba and her husband shifted to Karachi. As political conditions worsened in the country, her husband Bashir got involved in a court case and was imprisoned. It was now left to Adeeba to look after young Arifa and sustain the house-hold.
So, she gave audition at Radio Pakistan and became Talat Siddiqui. Blessed with a lovely voice and a charming personality, Talat not only sang some hit songs, but also did quite a few radio plays, which became very popular.
Talat first outing on the silver screen was for A.H. Siddiqui’s Choti Begum, where she had a small role. In 1965, Ishq-e-Habib was released, which was appreciated for her powerful characterization of a faithful and pious wife of a non-believer husband, played famously by Ibrahim Nafees. Through her sacrifices and continuous prayers and strength of characters, finally she is able to convert her husband to the ways of the faithful. The film is still remembered for that superhit qawwali by Sabri Brothers, titled Bhar de jholi meri ya Mohammad. Later, Jamil Mirza’s Mere Bachche Mere Aankhein also showed her caliber in the role of an old woman. Now, Talat shifted to Lahore and there the industry literally rained offers on her. The ones that prominently projected her talent include Pher Subah Hogee, Ladka, Ik See Maa, Khoon Da Badla Khoon, Maa Baap, Hukumat, Umrao Jan Ada, Lori, Bandagi, Professor, Kon Kisi Ka, Jithe Vadgi Ae Ravi, and Bhai Behen etc. In some of these films, she also sang the few numbers. One of which was Professor, which had a couple of semi-classical numbers. One can never forget her roles like those in Bandagi and Kon Kisi Ka, which were really brilliant. Again, in a vital role of Santosh Kumar’s first wife, in Lori, she did very well. The ever-loving mother of Ladla can also never lose its glimmer. Similarly, not many can forget her historic role in Umrao Jan Ada, which is still etched in the memories of the cine goers.
Talat’s young sister, Rehana Siddiqui also played some important roles. In film Hamdam, Rehana was the heroine while Talat also played an important character. Her daughter, Arifa has inherited a beautiful voice and good features from her erstwhile mother. She has worked in quite a handful of films too.