Suraiya who was working on Akashwani, entered the film industry from the movie ‘Nai Duniya’. The voice of Suraiya was noticed by Naushad ji. He used voice of Suraiya for heroine Mehtab in the movie ‘Sharda’. Singing of Suraiya became matured with song, ‘Panchhi Ja, Pichhe Rah Gaya Mera Bachpana’, in Sharda. Mehtab liked the song so much that she started to put a condition that playback for her roles will be by Suraiya only.
Suraiya gave her voice to Mehtab in all movies like ‘Sanjog’, ‘Shama’, ‘Kanoon’, ‘Jeevan’, etc. She was good looking and producer J. K. Nanda gave her opportunity to become heroine in his film ‘Ishara’. She never expected to be a heroine and thus she entered as singer actress like Noorjahan and Khurshid.
In 1943 her film journey started from ‘Ishara’ and it stopped in 1963 with the movie ‘Rustum Sohrab’. She was ruling as a singer actress for all 20 years. She successfully performed in ‘Umar Khaiyyam’, ‘Tadbir’, ‘Parwana’ with king of melody Saigal. She created her own place by singing in ‘Anmol Ghadi’ with Noorjahan and Surendra.
At that time people were just mad for voice of Suraiya than Lata. Suraiya was well introduced due to acting in ‘Pyar Ki Jeet’, ‘Badi Bahan’ when Lata arrived in industry. When we recall ‘Badi Bahan’ we remember sweet voice of Lata saying ‘Chale Jaana Nahi‘ and the song ‘Chupchup Khade Ho Jarur Koi Baat Hai’. Music lovers were tremendous fans of Lata for these songs on one hand and also of Suraiya for ‘Woh Paas Rahe Ya Dur Rahe,’ ‘Bigadi Banane Wale, Bigadi Bana De‘ on the other. Many singers have accepted defeat before Lata, but Suraiya had maintained her status independently.
When Suraiya came, the magic called Lata was arrived. Then it was not necessary for the heroine to be a singer. When Shanta Apte, Kananbala, Jayashree, Nalini Jaywant were acting and singing in own voice, Lata constrained them to have her voice and some of these heroines had accepted clearly that magical voice of Lata defeated our voices.
Suraiya had created her status as actress and singer with her strengths of acting and singing qualities. Her acting in movies of Kardar like ‘Dillagi’, ‘Natak’, ‘Dard’, ‘Dastan’, ‘Deewana’ had proved her acting capacities. She had entered as playback singer in movie Sharda by Kardar and then acted in many movies of Kardar. Voice and acting of Suraiya used to be an asset for the films. ‘Natak’ and ‘Dillagi’ became successful due to voice of Suraiya and music of Naushad. The song ‘Muraliwale Murali Baja‘ is still famous.
Though Naushad gave real break to voice of Suraiya, other music directors also used her sweet voice. Husnalal Bhagatram gave her song ‘O Dur Jaane Wale‘ as well as ‘Tere Naino Ne Chori Kiya‘ in the movie ‘Pyar Ki Jeet’. S. D. Burman made her sing the songs like ‘Man Mora Hua Matwala‘ and ‘Nain Deewane Ek Nahi Maane‘ (Afsar) and ‘Laayi Khushi Ki Duniya‘ (Vidya). She was never a step down while singing duets with Lata. She sang with her in movies like ‘Balam’, ‘Sanam’, ‘Shokhiya’; but her voice was never inferior.
Suraiya knew that music director C. Ramchandra always wanted voice of Lata for his songs, so she once asked him at the time of ‘Duniya’ movie, “You want Lata’s voice for every movie, then why don’t you borrow her voice for me in this movie?” C. Ramchandra replied, “If I stress for Lata’s voice for you, I will have to leave this movie.” Ghulam Mohammad, Anil Vishwas, Hansraj Bahal and some other music directors used melodious voice of Suraiya in many songs.
The gossips of affairs of Suraiya are equally popular as her songs. Chocolate hero Dev Anand became successful by working with Suraiya. All know that once upon a time, Suraiya was really mad for Dev Anand. When Dev Anand was failed by movies ‘Aage Badho’, ‘Mohan’, Uddhar; Suraiya made him successful taking him along with her. Suraiya Dev Anand pair became successful in movies Jeet, Nilee, Afsar, Sanam, Shayar.
Iftikar, brother of character artist Veena had become mad for beauty of Suraiya. He used to go to her house every evening and return in the morning. He used to tell that he loves Suraiya. When he used to sit in front of her door, thousands of people used to come to see him. Once the residents of Marine Drive had complained about this to Chief Minister.
Grandmother of Suraiya came to know that, Dev Anand loves Suraiya and going to marry her. She immediately stopped her working in movies. She was not ready to Hindu Muslim marriage. Senior actors like Durga Khote, Guru Dutt used to look after the correspondence of this affair. When the grandmother found the diamond ring given by Dev Anand to Suraiya, she threw it in the sea of marine Drive. Suraiya herself had told this in an interview. Her family members spoiled the plan of Dev and Suraiya about marrying on the set of film ‘Jeet’. When Dev realized that family of Suraiya are not allowing the marriage; he married with Kalpana Kartik.
When Suraiya was at the apex point of her success, she voluntarily retired from the films. Producers were shocked with this, however, Suraiya was tired of working for double roles of actress and singer. At that time, every actress had 10 to 12 movies and every movie used to have nearly 10 songs. At the time of shooting of movie ‘Mirza Ghalib’, she had vertigo problem and fell down unconscious. Then she completed the movies only for those she had executed agreements. ‘Shama’ and ‘Rustom Sohrab’ were her last two movies.
She was the only heroine who made the film lovers mad with her beauty and made music lovers contented with singing. Sulakshana Pandit was unsuccessful on both the fronts. Mubarak Begum who copied her was also unsuccessful. Salma Aaga whose singing was influenced by Amirbai Karnataki was constrained to say always, ‘Dil Ke Arman Aansuo Me Bah Gaye’. Suraiya never felt to return and see the silver screen again after retirement.
Her life ended at Krishna Bhavan residence at Marine Drive recalling the lines, ‘Woh Paas Rahe Ya Dur Rahe, Najaro Me Samaye Rahate Hai, Itana To Bata De Koi Hame Kya Pyar Isiko Kahate Hai’.
Founder Editor, Navrang Ruperi
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