She was only 16 when she entered films in 1960. But she made a big impact on her debut opposite Shammi Kapoor in the film Junglee.
Saira Banu had limited dancing abilities, particularly in the Indian forms. But she took lessons and became a fine dancer. She suited the more glamorous roles, often unafraid to wear skimpy dresses.
But she did some wonderful roles which won critical acclaim, particularly Padosan, where she sizzled among the likes of Sunil Dutt and Kishore Kumar. She did some films with her husband Dilip Kumar but only one, Gopi, had any impact.
Here are five films of Saira Banu which have been appreciated by audiences:
Aayi Milan Ki Bela (1964)
Cast: Rajendra Kumar, Saira Banu, Dharmendra, Nazir Hussain, Shashikala
Director: Mohan Kumar
A love triangle gets messy when two brothers fall for the same woman after the two, separated at birth, meet in a village. Shyam (Rajendra Kumar) falls in love with Barkha (Saira Banu) but their idyllic world in shattered when Ranjeet (Dharmendra) arrives after studying abroad.
Both Shyam and Ranjeet are similar in many ways, including their love for Barka. But this does not go well and the brothers get into a frictional mode. Love is put to test but who will win?
Cast: Joy Mukherjee, Saira Banu, I S Johar, Achala Sachdev, Madan Puri
Director: Subodh Mukherjee
Love can conquer even the staunchest bachelor as a professor finds out during a visit. Professor Brij Mohan Agnihotri (I S Johar) has no intentions of getting married and acts as mentor to his student Ramesh (Joy Mukherjee).
But he falls heads over heels for Poonam (Saira Banu) and now is determined to do something about it. However, Poonam likes Ramesh and this messes things up. The professor now faces a dilemma – should he eliminate Ramesh or make him his mentor.
Cast: Raj Kapoor, Saira Banu, Lalita Pawar, Kamal Kapoor
Director: Mahesh Kaul
A journey by a naive young man Pyarelal (Raj Kapoor) becomes quite an adventure as he falls in love with Kamini (Saira Banu). Pyarelal is an orphan brought up by Fatima ( Lalita Pawar). Kamini has been raised by Sammoyadar (Kamal Kapoor) who turns out to be Pyarelal’s actual father.
Things take a strange turn when Pyarelal is arrested for murder. And he actually confesses to the crime. But something seems amiss. Is Pyarelal the real killer or someone else?
Paise ki Gudiya (1974)
Cast: Ashok Kumar, Saira Banu, Navin Nishcol, Padma Khanna, Asrani, Sulochana
Kind-hearted Dr Vinayak (Ashok Kumar) brings home a woman Madhavi (Saira Banu), who is the orphan of a former employee. She is accepted in the household and works as a maid. However, their serene life is disturbed when the doctor’s son Vijay (Navin Nischol) arrives and falls in love with Madhavi.
Vijay is determined to marry Madhavi but his father prefers he marry another. Then skeletons begin to tumble from Madhavi’s cupboard and it becomes known that she is a daughter of a prostitute and had spent her time earlier with them. Will Vijay now accept Madhavi or comply with his father’s wishes?
Nehle Pe Dehla (1976)
Cast: Sunil Dutt, Saira Banu, Vinod Khanna, Premnath, Om Prakash, Ranjit
Director: Raj Khosla
An honest poilce officer is killed by a smuggler named General (Premnath) and this leads to both his sons being separated in childhood. Ram (Sunil Dutt) and Rahim (Vinod Khanna) are brought together at a gambling den and later they both fight for the same cause – get the General.
Joining them is judo instructor Beena (Saira Banu) whose father too was framed by the General. Later Ram and Rahim realise that they are brothers and their animosity disappears as the trio go on their mission.