First time she appeared as an extra standing in a mob scene in Hollywood's Bhwani Junction (1955) which was shoot in and around Lahore.
This is very interesting to know that Shabab Keranvi rejected her for films when she approached him for acting in films. Shabab sahib said: " this girl can not be a film actress, never never...
Her film career
She started her career as supporting actress . Neelo’s first film was “Sabira” in 1956 .
Her Golden jubilee film 'Yakkay Wali', which theatrical release was on February 22, 1957, cast included, Neelo- Musarrat Nazeer- Sudhir. Producer, Bari Malik, director, M.J. Rana, music, Baba G.A. Chishti.
Super hit movie 'Saat Laakh', October 9, 1957, starring, Neelo- Sabiha- Santosh- Talish. Producer, Saif Uddin Saif, director, Jafar Malik, composer, Rasheed Attre, popular song, 'Aaye mausum rangeelay suhanay', singer, Zubeida Khanum, pictured on Neelo, dubbed as a mountain girl, waiting for her lover.
'Zeher-e-Ishq', April 21, 1958, stars included Neelo as supporting actress, Musarrat Nazeer- Habib. Producer, Sultan Jeelani- Khursheed Anwar, director, Masood Pervez. Music- story- screenplay, Khursheed Anwar.
In the film 'Jaan-e-Bahar', a song in Raag Darbari, was pictured on Neelo, 'Ab to jee bhar kay khanjar chala yain gey hum'.
'Koel', December 24, 1959, cast included Neelo- Noor Jehan- Aslam Pervez- Nazar. Producer- composer, Khursheed Anwar, director, Masood Pervez.
'Nagin', June 18, 1959, starring, Neelo- Ratan Kumar- Yusuf Khan- Saqi. Producer, Wazeer Ali, director, Khalil Qaiser.
'Neend', October 16, 1959, stars included Noor Jehan- Aslam Pervez- Neelo. Producer, S.A.Malik, director, Hasan Tariq, music, Rasheed Attre.
The film 'Azra', April 20, 1962, cast included Neelo- Aijaz- Nazar- Talish- Alauddin. Producer, G.A. Gul, director, Munshi Dil, composer, Inayat Husain.
'Banjaran', September 14, 1962, stars, Neelo- Kamal- Azad- Alauddin. Director, Hasan Tariq, music, Deebu Bhatta Chariya.
The film 'Daman', October 4, 1963, cast, Neelo, - Sabiha- Santosh- Waheed Murad- Lehri. Producer, Santosh, director, Qadeer Ghauri, music, Khalil Ahmed.
The film 'Daachi', February 15, 1964, stars, Neelo- Sudhir- Naghma- Munawwar Zareef. Producer, G.A. Gul, director, Aslam Irani, composer, G.A. Chishti.
The film 'Jeedaar', November 19, 1965, starring, Neelo- Sudhir- Habib-. Producer, Malik Mubarak, director, M.J. Rana, music, Rasheed Attre.
In Neelo's voice, the dialogues always seem appropriate. Below are six more interesting movies of Neelo:
In director Ata Ullah Shah Hashmi's film 'Naya Daur', she worked opposite Yusuf Khan as supporting actress.
In director Jafar Bukhari's film 'Anjaan', too, Neelo appeared as supporting actress.
In the films 'Kacchian Kalyan' and 'Nai Larki' directed by Ameen Malik, she worked as lead actress.
She worked as supporting actress in the films 'Aakhri Nishaan' and 'Yaar Beli'.
Neelo's fame knew no bounds after the enormous success of director Khalil Qaiser's super hit film 'Nagin'.
After the theatrical release of 'Nagin', Neelo worked as lead actress opposite Ratan Kumar in a few more movies.
The films 'Ghunghat', 'Saathi', 'Insaaf', 'Qatal kay baad', 'Aladin ka beta'.
In 'Taj aur talwaar', Neelo is a genuine star triumphing over roles in movies like 'Naghma-e-sehra', 'Payal ki jhankar', 'Beti' and adding zest to such films like 'Gehra Daagh', 'Husn-O-Ishq' and 'Mumtaz'.
'Nehlay pay dehla', 'Mera mahi', 'Himmat', 'Doshiza', 'Nizam lohaar', 'Ravi Paar'.
She became one of the most enchanting stars of the 1950s and 1960s.
'Shair dee bacchi', 'Night club', 'Sehti', 'Jaddi', 'Shera', 'Abba jee', 'Jug beeti'.
Her greatness shines through in movies like 'Aankh ka nasha', 'Pholay Khan', and 'Subha kaheen shaam kaheen'.
Likewise, her acting potential is quite evident in movies like 'Sheikh chilli', 'Changhez Khan' and 'Mr. Allah Ditta'. Furthermore, the choreography has zest in Neelo's film 'Oonchay mehal'.
She acted in the film 'Badnaam', co-starring Ejaz- Asad Jafri- Rangeela- Alauddin. Producer, -director, Iqbal Shehzad, music, Deebu, released under the banner of 'Montana films' on September 2, 1966.
Punjabi film 'Lado', released on August 26, 1966, starring, Neelo- Habib- Rangeela- Munawwar Zareef- Alauddin. Producers, Chaudhry Meraj Din- Safdar Masood, director, Sharif Nayyar, composer, Master Abdullah.
'Payal ki jhankar', released under the banner of 'Ever new pictures' on November 18, 1966. Cast included Neelo- Darpan- Deeba- Nazar- Talish. Producer, G.A.Gul, music, Rasheed Attre.
Neelo's Punjabi film 'Dil da jani', released on March 23, 1967. Stars included Neelo- Habib- Saloni- Rangeela- Alauddin. Producer, Aftab, director, Riaz Ahmed Raju, composer, Wazeer Afzal.
After the death of Riaz Shahid in order to live a respectable life and to raise her three children, she returned to show business.
The first film in which she worked after her come back was the mega hit film 'Khatarnaak'. Neelo enjoyed a second coming with her starring role in 'Khatarnaak', released on August 23, 1974. 'Khatarnaak' successfully completed diamond jubilees in Karachi and Lahore. Cast included Neelo- Yusuf Khan- Aneeta- Nazli- Mustafa Qureshi. Producer, Shahid Afzal, director, Rehmat Ali, music, Safdar Husain.
Besides acting, Neelo also produced a film 'Baheesht', director, Hasan Tariq, composers, Rasheed Attre- A. Hameed. Writer, Riaz Shahid, released on November 29, 1974.
'Jatt kurian to darda', released on October 15, 1976. Cast included Neelo- Kamal- Nisho- Najma- Rangeela- Nayyar Sultana- Munawwar Saeed. Producer- director, Kamal, music, Wajahat Attre. This was Neelo’s another achievement.
She worked in 'Ajj dian kurian', November 22, 1977, stars included Neelo- Kamal- Nisho- Naghma- Badar Munir- Jamshed Ansari- Rangeela. Producer - director, Kamal, composer, Wajahat Attre.
Her another Punjabi film 'Ghunda', March 10, 1978, starring, Neelo- Sultan Rahi- Najma- Iqbal Hasan. Producer, Jamal Masood, director, Masood Bin Aslam, music, Safdar Husain.
'Barood ki chaoon', 1989, cast included Neelo- Nadeem.
'Director Jafar Bukhari's film 'Izzat'. Also movies like 'Balunat Koar', 'Sultana Daku', 'Sar ka badla', 'Mera naa paatay Khan'.
The films 'Malik zada', 'Danka', 'Meray badshah chaman Khan', 'Inqilaab', 'Shareef shehri'.
The film 'Nagina' was presumably the last movie in which Neelo appeared as an actress.
'Nagina' was released on October 5, 1990, starring, Neelo- Madiha Shah, Shaan. Producer, Arif Chaudhry, director, Altaf Husain, music, M. Ashraf, double version, Urdu and Punjabi film.
Below is a look back at her Nigar Awards:
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best supporting actress in the film 'Koel' in 1959.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best supporting actress in the film 'Daman' in 1963.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best actress in the film 'Zarqa' in 1969.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best producer and best film of the year 'Baheesht' in 1974.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best actress in the film 'Khatarnaak' in 1974.
Neelo won the Nigar Award for best actress in the film 'Jat kuryan tu darda' in 1976.
Her private life
Neelo's real name was Cynthia Alexander Fernandes, after the marriage with Riaz Shahid, she converted to Islam and renamed Abida Riaz. A tragic incident happened one of those days. Neelo was compelled to sing and dance at a musical get-together, which was also attended by Riaz Shahid among others. Neelo's song- cum dance was totally unacceptable to Riaz. Hence, he lost his temper and started ignoring her thereafter. Desperate to get Riaz's attention, Neelo tried to commit suicide by swallowing sleeping pills. She was rushed to the hospital and within minutes doctors successfully brought her back from the clutches of death. Here is the silver lining to the true story. Neelo's unrequited love for Riaz became crystal clear to him. Because Neelo's sacrifice worked as a litmus test. Soon Neelo embraced Islam and married Riaz Shahid. Riaz gave Neelo her new Islamic name, Abida, and Neelo became Abida Riaz. They lived a storybook life. It was the extraordinary power of love, which brought them closer than ever to each other.
Riaz's hearty tone made Neelo soar, while he gave her the meaning and drive of a true performer. Unfortunately, Riaz Shahid, who had been suffering from leukemia passed on October 1, 1972.
Neelo is the one of Pakistani film heroines who worked minor/extra and song item roles in a maximum number of films (about 20 films) like Sabira (1956), Anjam, Saat Lakh, Phooley Khan, Ankh ka nasha, and Sehti (1957), Jane Bahar, Shaikh chilli, Naya dour, Kacha kalian, Zehr-e-ishq, Nai larki, Darbar, Mumtaz, and Akhri Nishan (1958), Yaar beli, Sola aaney, Lukan mitti, Neend and Lalkar (1959). Neelo is also the mother of super star Shaan.