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The curious case of Pakistan’s first item girl: Niggo Begum

The curious case of Pakistan’s first item girl: Niggo Begum

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Misogyny, bigotry and violence would be the ideal words to define the cultural norms of Pakistan’s film industry. Just like any other entertainment industry in the world, Lollywood also has a dark side filled with conspiracies, gangsters and murders. Many of these chilling stories are associated with actresses or dancers. Female entertainers always had rough time within the industry because of our double standards towards them. Back in 2016, Qandeel Baloch, a social media entertainer was murdered by her brother to restore family honor.  According to the world reports, there are about 1,000 “honorkillings every year in Pakistan.

Qandeel Baloch killing didn’t happen within a vacuum, before her a lot of women entertainers were murder in the name of honor. Nimmo, Niggo, Ragini, Ghazala, Sonia Khan, Rozina and Meena Ch these are the women who either committed suicide or killed by their family members in the name of honor.

Niggo Begum is one of the legendary figures in Pakistan’s film industry who was crowned as the first item girl in 1960s.She contributed in 100 movies in Lollywood and made a promising career at a very young age. Niggo, who was the child of a prostitute, made herself the most demanding item dancer in just a few years. But this fame didn’t last long because Niggo was brutally murdered by her husband on 5th August, 1972.

But who was Niggo and how she became the dream girl of Lollywood?

Childhood: Niggo was raised in an unfamous locality of Lahore, Red Light Area also called Heera Mandi. Heera Mandi is a hotspot for sex workers in a conservative society of Lahore. Her mother was a prostitute which already made her existence controversial and illegitimate. But hiring dancers from Heera Mand for films in Lollywood is not a new phenomenon. Niggo was introduced as an extra in C-class movies. After a few movies  her career seemed to skyrocket to success.

Epitome of Success: Niggo was chosen by all the Punjabi filmmakers of her time to perform classic mujra dance numbers in their films which were equivalent to the ‘item’ numbers in present-day films. Niggo, thus, was the first and foremost choice for the mujra girl. 

The crisis: While working in the film Qasu (1972) produced by Khawaja Mazhar, she fell in love with the producer and they got married soon after. The marriage sparked fury in Niggo’s family (according to the old tradition of Lahore’s Shahi Mohalla no girl can marry or travel without her family being compensated financially)

When all attempts to bring her back proved futile, Niggo’s mother pretended to be terminally ill and begged Niggo to come and see her one last time. Upon her visit, the mother and some close family members brainwashed Niggo into believing that her husband was not right for her and her family. 

The showdown: Then came the fateful day when a furious Khawaja Mazhar reached the red light area and opened fire with a Sten Gun (a popular choice of firearm in those days) and killed his wife Niggo on the spot. The news of her murder spread like wildfire since such an incidence within the industry was unheard of during those days. Niggo’s mother vowed revenge, and Khawaja Mazhar was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court of law. 

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