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Suraiya in film 'Shama Parwana' in 1954.jpg
Suraiya in the film Shama Parwana in 1954.
Background information
Birth name Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh
Also known as Baby Suraiya (early films)
Born (1929-06-15)15 June 1929
Gujranwala, Punjab, British India
(now in Punjab, Pakistan)
Died 31 January 2004(2004-01-31) (aged 74)
Krishna Mahal, Marine Drive, Mumbai, Maharashtra India
Occupation(s) Actress,Hindi films singing star.
Years active 1937, 1941–1963
Height 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m)

Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh (15 June 1929 – 31 January 2004) was an Indian Hindi/Hindustani film actress and playback singer in Bollywood in the 1940s to early 1960s. She was the most popular singing star of the Indian sub-continent of her generation. Till 1943, as a child singer, Suraiya gave play-back for one actress, namely, Mehtab in three films and also in some of her own films for her roles as a child artiste. After which, she only sang for her films as an actress, and as a heroine after 1946 till 1963. From 1948 to 1950, she became the singing superstar of Bollywood, earning the highest amount for her performances, over all the performing actors of the times, male or female, including Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Dileep Kumar, Nargis and Madubala .[1] She was the only child of her parents. She had a natural talent for singing, acting and dancing from childhood. She got basic music training in childhood, when her mother used to take her to Hindustani music trainer or 'masterji' for training. She first sang for a children's program for All India Radio in 1937. Later on Naushad gave her on the job 'training', while recording. She went on to become a most successful singing film star. She first sang for a children's program for All India Radio in 1937. She had received training in dancing from Mumtaz Ali, dancer-actor and father of famous comedian, Mehmood.[2] She was also known for her North Indian Muslim feudal style acting or 'Adakari' in many of her films (Mirza Ghalib, Phool, Afsar, Shayar, Jeet, Anmol Ghadi, Dastan).[3] This style 'endowed modernity with an aura of tradition' and brought nostalgic feudal tinge to the scenes. Her performance 'expertly integrated gestures, music and speech'.[3] Suraiya in her hey days was known as Malika-e-Husn (queen of beauty), Malika-e-Tarannum (queen of melody) and Malika-e-Adakaari (queen of acting), all rolled into one.

Early life[edit]

Suraiya as a child of six years in 1927

Suraiya[4] was born in Gujranwala, Punjab (British India) to the owner of a furniture shop, Aziz Jamaal Sheikh. Soon, her father moved to Lahore and Suraiya[5] was taken by her mother, Mumtaz Begum,[6][7] and maternal grandmother, Badshah Begum[8] to Bombay in early nineteen thirties, when she was one year old. Her maternal uncle, named Zahoor (also known as M. Zahoor) also came to Bombay and became a well known villain in films.[9] Suraiya's father, later came to live with her and he died on the day of 'Holi' in March 1963.[10][11] She attended New High School, now known as, J.B. Petit High School for Girls in Fort, Mumbai. Later, 1942 onwards, when she started singing for films as a 12 year old, her school principal Miss P.F. Patuck told her father not to let her be absent from school during school days. She sang for Mehtab in three films in 1942-43 and also acted and sang in a few films as a child artiste. In her childhood, Raju Bharatan, a few years younger to her who later became a famous music and sports writer, critic and correspondent, actor Raj Kapoor and composer Madan Mohan, both a few years older, were her neighbourhood friends. Raj Kapoor and Madan Mohan, both used to sing with her in A.I.R.(All India Radio), when she was a six-year-old girl. In fact, Madan Mohan first introduced her to A.I.R.(All India Radio) as a child singer.[12] Later in life, Raju Bhartan wrote extensively about Suraiya in his books, while Raj Kapoor was her hero in one of her films, Dastan (1950), and Madan Mohan composed music for her film, Khubsoorat (1952).


Suraiya (aged 16) as heroine in film 'Parwana' in 1947

Suraiya[13] made her debut as a child artist in Usne Kya Socha (1937). She got a prominent role as a child artiste with the help of her uncle M. Zahoor, who was then a popular villain in films. During a holiday from school in 1941, she accompanied him to Bombay's Mohan Studios to see the shooting of the film Taj Mahal (1941 film), which was being directed by Nanubhai Vakil. Vakil noticing the charm and innocence of young Suraiya, selected her to play the role of young Mumtaj Mahal.[2][14]

While she was singing for children's programs for All India Radio, Mumbai, as a six year old, Raj Kapoor and Madan Mohan who were her playmates in her neighbourhood and were 5–6 years older to her, used to be her co-artists. In fact, they first introduced her to AIR. Raj Kapoor, later, attained fame as an actor and a film maker, while Madan Mohan became well-known music director. Both were associated with her, later as an adult, as her hero and as her music director respectively in films. In AIR, Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari was then the Station Director at the Bombay Radio Station. Once, music director Naushad Ali heard Suraiya's voice, he chose her to sing as a 13-year-old for Mehtab in Abdul Rashid Kardar's film Sharda[15] (1942). He became Suraiya's mentor and she sang some of the best songs of her career under his baton. Later he gave hits after hits when Suraiya became full-fledged singing star in Anmol Ghadi (1946), Dard (1947), Dillagi (1949) and Dastaan (1950). Naushad Ali composed approximately 51 songs for Suraiya, coming at 2nd place after Husnlal Bhagatram for composing the highest number of songs for Suraiya.

Suraiya in the film 'Char Din' in 1949 opposite Shyam
Suraiya in a pre-1950 film-1
Suraiya in a film role

As a child artist, she acted and also sang in Tamanna (1942), Station Master (1942), and Hamari Baat(1943). As an adult, Suraiya initially played as a co-star with the heroine in K. Asif's Phool, Mehboob Khan's Anmol Ghadi (1946),(which was written by Aghajani Kashmeri also known as Kashmiri) and Dard (1947). She acted as a heroine in the film Tadbir (1945) on the recommendation of K. L. Saigal, who liked her voice during a rehearsal of a song for Jayant Desai's film 'Samrat Chandragupt'(1945) in which she was acting. He recommended her name to Desai opposite himself in 'Tadbir'(1945).[16] She went on to co-star with K. L. Saigal in Omar Khayyam (1946) and Parwana (1947 film). Although by then she had a couple of hit songs, but the four solo songs which she sang in Parwana for music director Khwaja Khurshid Anwar made her a genuine singer-film star. She had high regards for Khwaja Khurshid Anwar for whom she sang thirteen songs during 1943 to 1949 period. More opportunities arose for Suraiya after reigning famous actress Noor Jehan and Khursheed Bano migrated to Pakistan following the Partition of India in 1947.

As an actress, Suraiya had an edge over her contemporaries Kamini Kaushal and Nargis because she could sing her own songs. After three hits Pyar Ki Jeet (1948), Bari Bahen (1949), and Dillagi (1949), she became the highest paid film star, earning 1-2 lakhs of rupees per film, when male actors got much less. When 'Pyar Ki Jeet' was released, it drew large crowds outside Suraiya's house that had to be controlled by posting an inspector and four constables outside her house. During the premiere of 'Badi Behan', there was a very large crowd outside the cinema hall and the police had to lathi-charge when Suraiya was walking into the hall. People even pulled at her clothes, so that after that, Suraiya stopped going to the premieres of her films.[17] But her reign at the top was brief; her films started flopping in the 1950s. She made a comeback in Waaris and Mirza Ghalib (film) (1954). Rustom Sohrab (1963) was the last film of her career.

In the late 1940s, she worked with Dev Anand. While shooting the film Vidya (1948), she became romantically involved with Dev Anand. The two of them were paired in seven films together: Vidya (1948), Jeet (1949), Shair (1949), Afsar (1950), Nili (1950), Do Sitare (1951) and Sanam (1951), all of which were successful at the box office. In these films, Suraiya was always first-biller in the credits, indicating that she was a bigger star than Dev Anand. She fell in love with him during the shooting of the song Kinare Kinare Chale Jaayen Gae from the film Vidya,while shooting the scene, the boat they were in capsized, and Dev Anand saved Suraiya from drowning. Their entire romantic affair was conducted in a clandestine manner, with friends like Durga Khote and Kamini Kaushal going out of their way to engineer secret meetings. On the sets of the film Jeet, Anand finally proposed to Suraiya and gave her a diamond ring worth Rupees 3,000 at the time. Her maternal grandmother opposed the relationship as they were Muslim and Anand was a Hindu.As it turned out, Suraiya remained unmarried by her own choice for the rest of her life.They stopped acting together after her grandmother opposed their partnership.

Dev Anand with Suraiya at a party
Dev Anand with Suraiya at a party

From the late forties to the early fifties, she remained the highest paid as well as the most popular star of the Indian cinema[1]

Jawaharlal Nehru and Suraiya talking  after special screening of Mirza Ghalib in Rashtrapati Bhawan (President's Residence)
Jawaharlal Nehru and Suraiya talking after special screening of film 'Mirza Ghalib' in Rashtrapati Bhawan (President's Residence) in 1954

Her reign at the top was from 1947 to 1952.Her contract with A. R. Kardar ended with Deewana, after which she reduced her assignments in films.She made national news with Sohrab Modi's film Mirza Ghalib (film) (1954), which won a national award, the President's Gold medal for the Best Feature Film. In the film, she made vivid, the role of the married Ghalib's lover. Along with an emotionally fluid performance where her expressions of love, expectation and hurt just seemed to merge into one another, the queen of cadence also recorded songs, which are still regarded by many as the definitive Ghalib renditions and the standard by which Ghalib's gazal singing is measured. No less a personality than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru praised her singing and acting by saying, Tumne Mirza Ghalib Ki Rooh Ko Zinda Kar Diya, (You have brought Mirza Ghalib to life).

After Mirza Ghalib (film), she acted in movies like Bilwamangal (1954), Waris (1954), Shama Parwana (1954), Kanchan (which was scheduled to release in 1949 as Amar Kahani) (1955), Inam (1955), Mr. Lambu (1956), Trolly Driver (1958), Miss 1958 (1958), Maalik (1958) and Shama (1961). Rustom Sohrab (1963) was her last film. The song, 'Yeh kaisi ajab daastan ho gayi hai'[18] from the film, which was one of her finest songs, was also her last song, as with this song Suraiya also said "adieu" to her singing career, along with her film career.

As an actress, she worked the most with director D.D. Kashyap in 5 films – Aaj Ki Raat, Badi Behan, Kamal ke Phool, Do Sitare and Shama Parwana; with Abdul Rashid Kardar in four films – Dard, Dillagi, Dastaan and Deewana and with M. Sadiq in 4 films – Jagbiti, Dak Bangla, Kajal and Char Din. She shared great chemistry with director A.R. Kardar and three out of the four films they worked together were hits (Dard, Dillagi and Dastaan).

As a singer[edit]

Suraiya recording a song for film 'Pagalkhana' (1952)(incomplete) for Vasant Desai (composer)(with hair) and P.L. Santoshi (director)(balding)

Suraiya had a very sweet voice from childhood. She could sing all types of songs with ease, whether sad, with pathos in her voice, or romantic with amorous love, or comic with playful jest. Suraiya was initially, not a classically trained singer in Hindustani music, knowing the 'grammar' or theory of Hindustani music, yet she was a practical singer by nature. She became the most outstanding singing star of her times from 1945-1963 and reached dizzying heights during 1947-1950 in her popularity as an actress.

Suraiya photo of film 'Dillagi'(1949) with her autograph
Suraiya in 'Bari Behan' in 1949 opposite Rehman(hero) and Geeta Bali(supporting actress).
Suraiya and Raj Kapoor in film 'Dastan' (1950)
Suraiya and Dev Anand in film 'Sanam' in 1951
Suraiya with music director Madan Mohan, wife Sheila and Lata Mangeshkar in 1953 after Madan Mohan's marriage

Suraiya's first song as a child-singer was "Boot karun main polish babu" (as a playback singer) in the film Nai Duniya (1942), composed by Naushad. She went on to sing playback for Mehtab for Sharda, Kanoon and Sanjog (1942–43) under him, when her principal, Miss P.F. Puttack, took a strong view of her truancy from school, and her ‘adventure’ came to an abrupt halt. As a singer, Suraiya sang as a playback singer for actress Mehtab in Sharda (1942), Kanoon (1943) and Sanjog (1943), with Naushad as the music director and A R Kardar as director and producer. At first, seeing baby Suraiya, Mehtab was hesitant to have her as her playback singer, but on hearing her, she wanted Suraiya to sing all her songs in her films. Suraiya debuted with Manna Dey in his first Hindi film song in 'Tamanna' in 1942, for which his uncle, famous K. C. Dey was the music director. Again in 1942, Suraiya paired with Rajkumari in 'Station-Master' for the song 'sajan ghar aye'.

A few years later, the great singer actor, K.L. Saigal was so impressed by the singing of 16 years old youthful Suraiya, that he readily agreed to have her opposite him in the film 'Tadbir' as a heroine and a singer in 1945. Saigal again opted for Suraiya as his heroine and a singer in films 'Omar Khayyam'(1946) and 'Parwana'(1947). 'Parwana' was Saigal's last film and was released after his death.[2]

Later, Suraiya continued to work with music director Naushad in a few films and in 1946, she appeared with actress Noor Jehan in Anmol Ghadi as a co-star and Naushad as the music director. She sang three songs in the film, which became popular, of which "Man Leta Hai Angdai" went viral throughout the country. In a span of 22 years, she gave a number of hits. In her honey-rich voice, songs like "Woh paas rahain, ya door rahein",[19] "Tere naino ne chori kiya",[20] "Tu mera chaand, main teri chandni",[21] "Yaad karun tori batiya"[22] and the rare classical number, "Man mor hua matwala"[23] created hysteria in the country.

Khursid Anwar was the music director in Suraiya's three films, viz. 'Ishara (1943)', 'Parwana(1947)' and 'Singar(1949)'. Suraiya sang 13 songs in these films. Some outstanding songs of 'Parwana' are "Jab tumhi nahin apne",[24] "Mere munderey na bol",[25] and "Papi papiha re".[26]

With music directors duo, Husnlal-Bhagatram, Suraiya worked in 11 films and recorded the highest number of songs for any music director from 1948-1958. The films were Pyar Ji Jeet (1948), Aaj Ki Raat(1948), Naach(1949), Balam(1949), Bari Behen(1949), Amar Kahani(1949), Sanam(1951), Shama Parwana(1954), Kanchan(1955), Trolley Driver(1955).[27] Her song 'O, door janewale, wada na bhul jana'[28] in 'Pyar Ki Jeet' in 1948 became a hit all over India.

Suraiya did only three films with music composer Sachin Dev Burman, viz. Vidya(1948) (with Dev Anand), Afsar (1949) (with Dev Anand) and Lal Kunwar (1952)), as she was associated with other composers and SD Burman came late into the scene in Bombay. Yet, most of their songs are memorable. 'Man mor hua Matwala'[29] (Afsar), 'Nain Dewane'[30] (Afsar), 'Layi khushi ki dunia'[31] (with Mukesh in 'Vidya') and 'Preet sataye teri yaad na'[32](Lal Kunwar) being some of them.[33]

All of Suriya's songs from her film 'Mirza Ghalib'(1954) have become classical songs and have enhanced the beauty of his ghazals for the connoisseur and the layman alike. The songs 'Yeh na thi hamari kismat',[34] 'Nukta- cheen hai gam-e-dil',[35] 'Dil-e-nadan tujhe hua kya hai',[36] 'Aah Ko Chahiye',[37] 'Rahiye ab aisi jagha'[38] are the finest examples of ghazal singing.

Another movie of Suraiya which has evergreen songs is 'Shama'(1961). The lyrics were written by the stalwart lyricist Kaifi Azmi and the music composer was another 'Great', Ghulam Mohammed . The memorable songs sung by Suraiya are 'Mast aankhon mein shararat',[39] 'Dhadakte Dil Ki Tamanna ho',[40]'Aap se pyaar hua jata hai'.[41]

Suraiya was the only singing actress, who also worked as a heroine and co-star with many other singing-stars of her times, including Noor Jehan (Anmol Ghadi), C. H. Atma (Bilwamangal), Talat Mahmood (Maalik and Waris), Mukesh (Mashuqa), K.L. Saigal (Tadbeer, Omar Khaiyyam and Parwana) and Surendra ( 1857 and Anmol Ghadi). Her last film as a singing actress was Rustom Sohrab, with the song "Yeh kaisi ajab dastan ho gayi hai",[42] being her last, yet one of the most remembered songs.

Suraiya was recognized as the first Melody Queen of the sub - continent and was the first singer to be given the honorific "Malika-e-Tarannum" (Melody Queen) for her singing talent before partition, ahead of any other singer.

Suraiya's songs, as a tribute to her, are played every year on her death anniversary on 31 January by Radio Srilanka (Hindi music) and are recorded on Youtube by eraksoldies.[43]

Personal life[edit]

Suraiya with Mumtaz Begum (mother), Badshah Begum (maternal grandmother) and Frank Capra (director-producer of Hollywood) in 1952 during his visit to the International Film Festival in India.
Gregory Peck at Suraiya's home, Krishna Mahal, Mumbai in 1954

Suraiya was an ardent fan of the Hollywood star Gregory Peck, who paid her a surprise visit at 12 o'clock at night, when he came to Bombay in 1954 for the first Filmfare Awards.[44] In 1952, Suraiya had given Frank Capra, a signed photograph of hers to be delivered to her idol, Gregory Peck, when Capra came to India for 20 days to attend the International Film Festival.

In the late 1940s, Dev Anand used to enact Gregory Peck's mannerisms to please Suraiya, as she was a fan of Gregory Peck and she often expressed this to Dev Anand. Their love-affair continued for four years from 1948 to 1951. During the shooting of director Rana Pratap's film 'Jeet', both Dev Anand and Suraiya, with the help of the film members, namely Durga Khote (actress), Dwarka Divecha (cinematographer) and others, had made plans for marriage in a temple, and elopement, but at the last minute, an assistant director, jealous of their marriage, informed Suraiya's grandmother, who dragged her home from the scene.[45][46] Suraiya's grandmother, Badshah Begum, who controlled the family, was fiercely opposed to Suraiya marrying Dev Anand. She was also supported by Suraiya's maternal uncle and some film persons, viz. composer Naushad, director-producers AR Kardar and M. Sadiq.

The principal reason of opposition was that Dev Anand was of a different religion and the covert one was that Suraiya was the only earning member of the family. The film people had also their own professional and personal interests in opposing an early marriage of their popular singing star.[10][47][48] Rather, M. Sadiq, who was a married man, himself wanted to marry her. Suraiya's parents wanted her to marry Dev Anand, but being a mellow couple, their voice was ignored by the grandmother.

The painful dalliance with Dev Anand, left her bruised emotionally, a phase from which many said she never recovered.[49] A retreat from the public atmosphere was followed by a return in films like Mirza Ghalib (1954,) for which she received praise even from the Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, but she never attained the dizzy public popularity she had attained earlier on. Suraiya refused to marry anyone in future, in spite of efforts by her family to persuade her to marry certain film directors and businessmen of their community. Dev Anand who was very depressed on her reluctant refusal to marry him, and was counselled by his brother Chetan Anand to recover and stand up from the break up, went on to marry Kalpana Kartik after four years in 1954 in a hurried simple marriage, but as he said in his auto-biography, Suraiya was his first true love.

Suraiya and Dev Anand later did meet on a few occasions in parties as friends in Mumbai in their lifetime. Suraiya gave up her professional career as an actress and singer in 1963, and even later on refused to sing for music directors, like Naushad and for music companies like HMV and Polydor, despite several requests by them. She went on to live life away from media glare and public eye thereafter, except appearing on a very few public occasions, like during Noor Jehans visit to India in 1982. She did give a few interviews for magazines and some media people from India and Pakistan in 1970s and 80s. Only later in life in the 1990s and thereafter, she accepted awards and mementos and appeared on a few public occasions.

Later life and death[edit]

Suraiya's maternal grandmother, Badshah Begum, who played a major part in her career and even personal life, later went to Pakistan to live with her brother, and she was left alone with her mother, Mumtaz Begum. The time with her mother were her happy years, when her mother took care of her daily needs and she would occasionally go to her film world friends. She had a few friends like old timer Jairaj, Nimmi, Nirupa Roy and Tabassum, whom she met once in while.[50]

After her mother's death in 1987, Suraiya started feeling lonely in her rented apartment (owned by Aswin Shah)[51] in Krishna Mahal, Marine Drive in Mumbai, where she lived from the early 1940s until her death in 2004 at the age of 74. She possessed several apartments in Worli and some orchards in Lonavala.[52]

Tabassum, who worked with Suraiya in 'Bari Behan' and 'Moti Mahal' as her younger sister, met her often at her home, or rang Suraiya from her home. In her last few months, Tabassum said "It’s sad that she had shut her doors to the world in her last days. Sometimes when I visited her, I’d find papers and milk collected at her door. She never opened the door. But she’d talk comfortably with me on the phone. I remember our last conversation. I asked her, “Aapa kaisi hain?”(Elder sister, how are you?") She replied in verse, “Kaisi guzar rahi hai sabhi poochte hai mujhse, kaise guzaarti hoon koi nahin poochta."( "Everbody asks me, how are you, but nobody asks me, how I spend my days and nights".)(As told to Farhana Farook in 2012)"[53]

She died on 31 January 2004 aged 74, after being hospitalized for a few days. In her last six months, she was taken care of by her neighbour and family friends, Dhimant Thakar's family, with whom she stayed during this period. She was very close to the two daughters (Amee and Camy)of Dhimant Thakar.[54][55][56][57][58][59][60] She was admitted for a brief period for hypoglacemia, ischemia and insulonoma to Harkshandas hospital in South Mumbai by Thakars'.

In the hospital, actor Sunil Dutt, music director, Naushad and Pratap A. Rana, writer-producer of her films, "Jeet" and "Vidya", visited her during this period. She died at 9.25 AM on 31 January 2004.[61][62] Actor Dharmendra, who was her ardent fan, also attended her funeral. She was buried at Badakabarastan in Marine Lines, Mumbai.[63]

After her death, Suraiya's property at Worli and her house at Krishna Mahal, where she lived on rent for over 70 years at Marine Drive, went into legal dispute, as she did not leave behind an explicit will.[64][65] While the house at Krishna Mahal was claimed by her landlord, her adopted family and lawyer, and her distant cousin in Dubai, her property was claimed by her adopted family and lawyer (based on his daughter being nominee in Suraiya's papers and gift to her as 'hiba'), and her distant cousin.

Honours and recognitions[edit]

In 1948, Suraiya was awarded a gold medal by the noted theatre personality, Adi Pherozeshah Marzban, for her role in Kajal(film), in which she acted as a sixteen year old to a sixty-year-old woman.[66]

In 1955, Mirza Ghalib (film), a film in which Suraiya acted, was awarded the President's Gold Medal for the Best Feature Film of 1954 (first Hindi film) during the 2nd National Film Awards and her acting was highly appreciated and extolled by the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru.

In 1994, a retrospective of Suraiya's films was held at Mumbai by the "Cine Club" during 21–26 March 1994, which was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Mumbai, Vilas Rao Deshmukh, in Suraiya's presence, wherein she gave an introductory talk about her films and the prevailing trends in Bollywood films. This event is recorded in YouTube as "Suraiya-Khusboo ka Safar"[67] in four parts.

In 1996, Suraiya was awarded the Screen Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to her by the actor-politician Sunil Dutt[62][68]

In December, 1998, she was especially honoured for perpetuating Mirza Ghalib's memory by her acting and songs by the then Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee during Mirza Ghalib celebrations in New Delhi conducted by the Urdu Academy and Sahitya Academy.[69]

In 1999, she was honoured with the Bimal Roy Memorial Trophy, instituted by the Bimal Roy Memorial and Film Society, Mumbai.[70]

[71] In 2003, she was honoured by the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy and Screen World Publication at a special function on the 134th birth anniversary of Dada Phalke, the occasion was chaired by the Cultural Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan.[72]

A postage stamp, bearing her face, was released by India Post owned by the Government of India to honour her on 3 May 2013, on the occasion of the "100 Years of Indian Cinema".[73]

In 2013, in a poll conducted by the ethnic Indian brand Seven East,in association with the International Indian Film Academy, as part of the 100 years of Indian Cinema, Suraiya was voted as the "Best On Screen Beauty with the Most Ethnic Look", followed by film Indian actresses Mumtaz, Waheeda Rehman, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Sharmila Tagore and Hema Malini.[74]

Suraiya's Personality[edit]

"Suraiya was a pretty, fair and lively girl in her younger days, always giggling, even during her takes in films". (Dev Anand speaking about Suraiya in an interview 'ANR Award to Dev Anand' on Youtube). He said that she laughed so much, that sometimes during shooting, all the cameras had to be switched off, when she continued to laugh.[75]

Suraiya continued to be so mesmerized by Dev Anand's memories and her love for him that in a much later interview with Raju Bhartan, she always kept referring to him as "my Dev', when talking about Dev Anand and her aborted love-affair (aborted by her granny, AR Kardar (producer-director) and Naushad (music-director)). "I should have stood up to my granny, then and there. Gone ahead and wed my Dev. But, I was too much under Granny's thumb and the moment was gone. What hurt like hell was their "Woh Hindu hai" ("He is a Hindu") line on which they based their opposition. I owe so much to Kardar and Naushad (for her professional life), but I will never forgive them for the one-track outlook they adopted in creating hurdle after hurdle for me in the purely personal matter of my marrying my Dev"."[76]

Suraiya had a calm temperament and never showed any bitterness or rancour that is often found in people who have tasted the fruits of success and have to move on. On the contrary, there was a sense of relief from having escaped from the applause, bright lights and camera.(Interview to 'Society Magazine' in January,1982.) [77]

Suraiya was friendly with elderly journalist, B.K. Karanjia, editor of Filmfare and Screen, She stood by him when a section of the movie industry did not support his hosting 'Constellation Nite' for a charitable cause for a technical reason. When she went on stage to sing a song, Dilip Kumar was so moved that he garlanded her on the stage, which brought the whole house down.( 'Counting my Blessings' by B.K. Karanjia.)[78]

Tributes to Suraiya[edit]

On her death on 31 January 2004, the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee in a condolence message said Suraiya was "not only a good actress but a talented singer" and "the legendary singer was endowed with a mellifluous voice".

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Suraiya was "one of the most popular singing superstars of the forties and her famous honey voice and rich songs will remain popular for all times to come. Her contribution to the development of the Indian cinema will be remembered for long".[79]

O.P. Dutta, director-writer, the only living director (when she died) to have worked with her in "Pyar Ki Jeet" remembered her as "a lonely heart and bundle of unforgettable qualities"."Suraiya, Bano to me, was a bundle of unforgettable qualities. A sublime voice, the ring in the voice, the perfect diction, the effortless rendering. But she always insisted that she was no singer." "There were congratulations all around (on her success in his film). But Suraiya insisted she was no great shakes as an actress. The argument was over when she gave a sterling performance in 'Bari Bahen'. The success made Suraiya smile that unforgettable smile that could send a thousand hearts aflutter. She was right at the top and I was very happy for her."[80]

Dilip Kumar, veteran actor, said on her passing away, "She was a caring girl, very affectionate, particularly with junior artistes,". "Suraiya will be sorely missed, even though she had been a recluse for decades."[81]

Dev Anand said on her death, "I felt sad when she died. One does feel sad at death. I did not go to her funeral because I would have been reminded of her past. I cried from a distance.".[82] In an interview with Simi Grewal in her show, 'Rendezvous with Simi Grewal', Dev Anand paid his ultimate tribute to Suraiya, speaking poignantly about their failed love affair and Suraiya's loneliness in life. He said "in her death, maybe she was relieved of her sorrows in life".[83]

Lata Mangeshkar, Suraiya's co-singer in Balam, Sanam and Diwana, narrated to Subash K Jha of Times of India, "My eyes mist over when I remember Suraiya ji’s stardom. Oh-ho-ho ho! 'Kya naam tha unka'! (how popular was she!). I used to just gaze at her long sleek car. I remembered her car’s number by heart. 'Humlog sochte thay kitne bade artiste hain'! (how big an artiste was she!). People say Suraiya ji's death is a big loss to the film industry. But who went to see her when she was alive?"

Singer Nitin Mukesh said Suraiya had played heroine opposite his father, playback legend Mukesh, in his first movie, "Mashuqa"(1953), as lead actor.‘‘Papa was very fond of her. She met me at a couple of award functions and was always affectionate.’’[84]

The Outlook (magazine) wrote after her death: "She evoked the kind of hysteria [in the late 1940s] that can be compared only with Rajesh Khanna in his heyday from 1969 to 1972. Ask any old-timer and they would confirm that people bunked offices, schools and colleges, even shops closed on the opening day of her films, to see her films first day, first show."[85]

Suraiya's songs, as a tribute to her, are played every year on her death anniversary on 31 January by Radio Srilanka (Hindi music) (formerly Radio Ceylon) and are recorded on Youtube by eraksoldies.[43]


Suraiya acted in the following films, along with singing her own songs in most of them.[86] Two of Suraiya's films were left incomplete. 'Janwar' with Dilip Kumar (early 50s) was abandoned by Suraiya, owing to behavioural problems by the lead actor and producer director, K. Asif.[87] 'Pagalkhana' (also, in early 50s), with Bharat Bhushan as lead actor, was abandoned by the producer director P.L. Santoshi after eight reels, because of financial constraints.[88]

Year Film Director Producer Role Cast Music Director Other notes (singing, others)
1937 Usne Kya Socha Child artist
1941 Taj Mahal Nanubhai Vakil Mohan Pictures Baby Mumtaz Kumar, Sarojini, S. Nazir, Suraiya, Indurani, Khalil, Ram Marathe, Mubarak Madhavlal Damodar major break as a child artist
1942 Boot Polish (only sang a solo song, no acting) A.R.Kardar Circo Production no role (only playback singer) Jairaj, Shobhana Samarth Naushad Suraiya's first song 'Boot karon mai polish, babu'
1942 Station Master C.M. Luhar Prakash Usha Pratima Devi, Jagdish Sethi, Prem Adib(Hero), Jeevan, Umakant, Kaushalya, Shakir, Amirbai, Suraiya, Gulab, Ratnamala Naushad Supporting role--2 duets with Rajkumari Dubey---

Silver Jubilee film

Tamanna Phani Majumdar Laxmi Production Jagdish Sethi, Shanta Kumari, Jairaj, Leela Desai, K. C. Dey, Karan Dewan, Suraiya, Rani K.C. Dey Supporting role--Suraiya's first duet with Manna Dey 'Jago, jago aye usha' (Also Manna Dey's first film song in Hindi).
1942 Sharda A.R.Kardar Kardar Productions only as a playback singer for Mehtab Amir Banu

Shyam Kumar

Mehtab (Heroine)

Naushad Only as a playback singer-2 solos, 1 duet with Nirmala Devi
1943 Kanoon A. R. Kardar Kardar Productions only as a playback singer for Mehtab Shahu Modak,,Mehtab(Heroine),Gajanan Jagirdar, Nirmala Devi, Ulhas and Badri Prasad, A. Shah, Jetha, Amirali, Amir Bano, Padma. Naushad Only as a playback singer--2 solos, 3 duets with Shyam Kumar
1943 Sanjog A.R. Kardar Kardar Productions only as a playback singer for Mehtab Noor Mohammad 'Charlie', Mehtab (Heroine), Anwar Hussain,

Ulhas, Wasti, Raj Kumari, Shukal Chanda Bai

Ghulam Mohammad, Naushad Only as singer--3 solos, 2 duets with Noor Mohammad Charlie
1943 Ishara J. K. Nanda D. R. D. Production Suraiya (Heroine),Jagdish Sethi, Pratima Devi, K. N. Singh, Prithviraj Kapoor (Hero), Swarnalata, Suraiya, Satish, Vatsala Kumtekar, Masood Khurshid Anwar co-star---2 solos
Humari Baat M. I. Dharamsey Bombay Talkies Arun Kumar, Kamta Prasad, Dulari, Suraiya, Devika Rani (Heroine), David Abraham, Shah Nawaz, Raj Kapoor, Prabha, Mumtaz Ali, Jairaj (Hero) Anil Biswas Supporting role--4 duets with Arun Kumar Mukherjee
1945 Yateem Zia Sarhady Gautam Chitra E. Billimoria, Chandraprabha (Heroine), Yakub, Suraiya, Uday Kumar (Hero), Bhudo Advani, David Abraham, Lalita Pawar, Charlie Khurshid Anwar Supporting role
Tadbir Jayant Desai Jayant Desai Production Sugana Rehana, Jilloo Maa, K. L. Saigal(Hero), Mubarak, Suraiya, Salvi, Rewa Shankar, Shashi Chand Kapoor (Sr.), Shalini Lal Mohammed Heroine--3 solos, 2 duets with K.L. Sehgal
Samrat Chandragupta Jayant Desai Jayant Desai Production Ishwarlal, Mubarak, Nayampally, Renuka Devi, Suraiya, Sulochana Chatterji C. Ramchandra Supporting role---3 solos
Phool K. Asif Famous Pictures Wasti, Veena, Suraiya, Prithviraj, Yakub, Dixit, Ashraf Khan, Agha, Mazhar Khan, M. Esmail, Jilloo Maa, Sitara, Durga Khote Ghulam Haider Supporting role--3 solos
1945 Main Kya Karoon Sudhir Sen Flora Pictures Shah Nawaz, Suraiya, Pahari Sanyal, Hansa Wadkar, Bikram Kapoor, E. Billimoria Ninu Majumdar co-star---3 solos and 2 duets with Hamida Banu
1946 Jag Biti M. Sadiq Din Pictures Suraiya, Shakir, Sulochana Chatterji(Heroine), Abbas, Himalayawala, Bibi, Sadiq Ali Ghulam Haider co-star--3 solos
1857 Mohan Sinha Muarai Pictures Wasti, Surendra(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Nigar, Madan Puri, Leela, Menaka, Ganju, Munshi Khanjar, LaxmiSuraiya, Shakir, Sulochana Chatterji, Abbas, Himalayawala, Bibi, Sadiq Ali Sajjad Hussain Heroine--4 solos and 1 duet with Surendra
Anmol Ghadi Mehboob Khan Mehboob Production Basanti Surendra, Noorjahan, Suraiya, Zahur Raja, Leela Misra, Anwari, Bhudo Advani, Murad, Amir Banu Naushad co-star withh Noor Jehan--- 3 solos ---Silver Jubilee film
Omar Khaiyyam Mohan Sinha Muarai Pictures Suraiya, K.L. Saigal, Wasti, Benjamin, Shakir, Leela, Madan Puri, Muzammil Lal Mohammed Heroine---4 solos
1947 Parwana J.K. Nanda Jeet Productions Gopi K. N. Singh, K. L. Saigal, Suraiya, S. Nazir, Azurie, Najam Khurshid Anwar Heroine---4 solos
Natak S.U.Sunny Kardar Productions Pratima Devi, Amar, Suraiya, Sofia, Kanwar, Shyam Kumar, Amir Ali, Nazir Vedi, Nawab, Suleman Naushad Heroine---5 solos, one duet with Amar
Do Dil Jagdish Sethi Jamana Production Badri Prasad, Motilal, Suraiya, Karan Dewan, Gulab Gobind Ram Heoine---4 solos, 2 duets with Mukesh
Dard A.R. Kardar Kardar Productions Pratima Devi, Badri Prasad, Husn Banu, Munawwar Sultana, Nasrat, Suraiya, Shyam Kumar Naushad Co-star with Munnawar Sultana---4 solos, one duet with Uma Devi---Silver Jubilee film
Dak Bangla M.Sadiq Indian National M. Esmail, Suraiya, Gope, Kamal Kapoor, Wasti Naresh Bhattacharya Heroine---4 solos, 1 duet with Mukesh, 1 duet with Indrabadan Bhatt
1948 Aaj ki Raat D.D Kashyap Famous Pictures Motilal, Suraiya, Yakub, Leela Misra, Raj Mehra, Anita Sharma, Sangeeta, Shah Nawaz Husnlal Bhagatram Heroine---5 solos, 2 duets with G M Durrani
Vidya G.Tripathi Jeet Pictures Vidya Suraiya, Maya Banerji, Gulam Mohamed, Madan Puri, Amibai Karnataki, Cuckoo, Munshi Khanjar, Dev Anand S.D. Burman Heroine---4 solos, 1 duet with Mukesh
Shakti S.I. Hasan Greater Bombay Pictures Kailash, Karan Dewan, Suraiya, Sofia, Maya Devi, Seeta Bose, Cuckoo, Mumtaz Ali, Murad Ram Prasad Heroine---4 solos
Rang Mahal Pandit Anand Kumar Eastern Pictures Suresh, Suraiya, Anant Marathe, Lalita Pawar, Shah Nawaz K. Datta Heroine---2 solos, 1 duet with Suresh
Pyar Ki Jeet O.P. Dutta Famous Pictures Gyani, Rehman, Suraiya, Gope, Raj Mehra, Manorama, Leela Misra, Yashodhara Katju, Niranjan Sharma Husnlal Bhagatram Heroine---3 solos, 2 duets with Meena Kapoor and Surinder Kaur---Hit film
Kajal M.Sadiq Ratan Pictures Suraiya, Jayant, Gope, Sharda, Ram Kamlani, Cuckoo, Wasti, Amir Banu Ghulam Mohammed 4 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Gajre R.D.Mathur Ailled Art Production Motilal(Hero), Suraiya, Agha, Nihal, Sangeeta, Geeta Nizami, Sankatha Prasad, Murad Anil Biswas Heroine---4 solos
1949 Singaar J.K.Nanda Haldia Nanda Production Jairaj(Hero), Suraiya, Madhubala, Madan Puri, Randhir, K. N. Singh, Durga Khote Khurshid Anwar Heroine---4 solos, 1 duet with Surinder Kaur
Shair Chawla Jagat Pictures Vidya Cuckoo, Dev Anand, Kamini Kaushal, Murad, Suraiya, Agha, Sulochana, Shyama, Dulari Ghulam Mohammed Heroine--5 solos
Naach Ravindra Dave Kuldip Pictures Shyam(Hero), Suraiya, Kuldip, Raj Mehra, Gulab, Yashodhara Katju, Sofia, Shyama, Wasti, Om Prakash Husnlal Bhagatram 5 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Lekh G.Rakesh Liberty Art Production Anand Pal, Cuckoo, Motilal(Hero), Suraiya, Ishu, Jagirdar, Sitara Krishan Dayal 4 solos, 1 duet with Mukesh
Jeet Mohan Sinha Raj Kriti Chitra Shree Bhagwan, Durga Khote, Dev Anand, Suraiya, Kanhaiyalal, Madan Puri, Suraiya Choudhary, Habib Anil Biswas 5 solos, 1 duet with Shankar Dasgupta, 1 duet with Geeta Dutt, Vinod
Duniya S.F Hussain Fazli Bros Anwari, Karan Dewan, Suraiya, Yakub, Bhudo Advani, Shakila, Zubeida, Jankidas C. Ramchandra 7 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Dillagi A.R.Kardar Kardar Production Chandabai, Amir Banu, Shyam, Suraiya, Sharda, Amar Naushad 6 solos, 1 duet with Shyam Kumar (singer, co- actor, not hero Shyam( this film)---Silver Jubilee film
Char Din M.Sadiq Ratan Pictures Badri Prasad, Om Prakash, Shyam, Suraiya, Jayant, Randhir, Mohana, Shyama, Cuckoo Shyam Sunder 5 solos
Balam Homi Wadia Wadia Movietone Wasti, Nigar Sultana, Suraiya, Masood, Jayant, Agha Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos, 1 duet with Lata, 1 duet with Rafi
Badi Bahen D.D. Kashyap Famous Pictures Suraiya, Ulhas, Gulab, Roop Kamal, Tabassum, Shanti Madhok, Niranjan Sharma, Ram Avtaar, Geeta Bali, Pappu, Rehman, Pran Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos---Hit film
Amar Kahani Baij Sharma Kamal Kunj Chitra Jairaj, Suraiya, Mehta, Ranjana Husnlal Bhagatram 6 solos
1950 Shaan Jayant Desai Kuldip Pictures Pratima Devi, Cuckoo, Suraiya, Sapru, Manorama, David Abraham, Rehman Hansraj Behl 4 solos, 2 duets with Rafi
Nilli Ratibhai Punatkar Ranjit Film Company Vidya Suraiya, Agha, Shyama, Dulari, Cuckoo, Dev Anand S. Mohinder 6 solos, 1 duet with G.M. Durrani
Khiladi Talwar Talwar Films Ashok Kumar, Suraiya, Kumar, Indu, E. Tarapore, Anoop Kumar, Narbada Shanker, Sunder, Cuckoo Hansraj Behl 4 solos, 2 duets with Rafi
Kamal Ke Phool D.D. Kashyap Famous Pictures Badri Prasad, Suraiya, Jeevan, Raj Mehra, Leela Misra, Niranjan Sharma, Shakuntala, Amarnath Shyam Sunder 5 solos
Dastan A.R. Kardar Musical Pictures Pratima Devi, Raj Kapoor, Al Nasir, Murad, Suraiya, Veena, Suresh, Shakila Naushad 6 solos, 3 duets with Rafi—Silver Jubilee film
Afsar Chetan Anand Nav Ketan Rashid Khan, Suraiya, Manmohan Krishna, Kanhaiyalal, Krishna Dhawan, Zohra Sehgal, Anand Pal, Dev Anand S.D. Burman 5 solos, 1 duet with Geeta Dutt
1951 Shokiyan Kidar Sharma Ambitious Pictures Nazira, Shanta Kanwar, Premnath(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Jeevan, Kamlesh, Achla Sachdev, Rajendra Vyas, Ramesh Sinha Jamal Sen 3 solos, 1 duet with Lata
Sanam Nandlal Jaswantlal United Technicians Vidya Jilloo Maa, Pratima Devi, Suraiya, Gope, Meena Kumari, Dev Anand, K. N. Singh Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos, 2 duets with Rafi, 1 duet with SD Batish, 1 trio with Shamshad and SD Batish, 1 duet with Lata
Rajput Lekhraj Bhakri Jubilee Pictures Shakuntala, Jairaj(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Sapru, Kuldip Kaur, Mumtaz, Maruti, Randhir Hansraj Behl 4 solos
Do Sitare D.D. Kashyap Famous Pictures Suraiya, Kuldip Kaur, Mumtaz, Baij Sharma, Prem Nath, Dev Anand, Shakuntala Anil Biswas 4 solos
1952 Resham Lekhraj Bhakri Jubilee Pictures Sunder, Jairaj, Suraiya, Sapru, Naaz, Achla Sachdev, Khurshid, Ramesh Thakur, Jagdish Hansraj Behl 4 solos
Moti Mahal Ravindra Dave Nigaristan Films Vidya Ajit(Hero), Veera, Suraiya, Jeevan, Tabassum, Satish Hansraj Behl 3 solos, 1 duet with Shamshad begum
Lal Kunwar Ravindra Dave Nigaristan Films Nasir Khan(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Jairaj, Usha Kiran, Agha, Durga Khote S.D.Burman 4 solos
Khubsoorat S.F. Hussain Fazli Bros. Nasir Khan(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Yakub, Bhudo Advani, Zubeida, Jankidas Madan Mohan 4 solos
Goonj Phani Majumdar Kwarta Art Production Bhagwan, Suresh(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Sapru, Majnu, Madan Puri, Randhir, Ravikant Sardul Sharma 5 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Diwana A.R.Kardar Kardar Production Suresh(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Sumitra Devi, Shyam Kumar, Ramesh, Madan Puri, Banerjee, Amirbai Karnataki, Amir Ali Naushad 4 solos, 1 duet with Lata—Silver Jubilee film
1953 Mashuqa Shanti Kumar Chitrakar Suraiya(Heroine), Agha, Kuldip Kaur, Durga Khote, Amirbai Karnataki, Mukesh(Hero) Roshan 4 solos, 2 duets with Lata
1954 Mirza Ghalib Sohrab Modi Minerva Movietone Bharat Bhushan(Hero), Murad, Durga Khote, Jagdish Sethi, Suraiya(Heroine), Nigar Sultana, Mukri, Baij Sharma, Kumkum, Sadat Ali, Iftekhar, Roshan Ghulam Mohammed 5 solos, 1 duet with Talat
Bilwamangal D.N. Madhok Minar Movies Vidya C. H. Atma(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Nirupa Roy, Ulhas, Asha Mathur Bulo C Rani 5 solos, 2 duets with C.H.Atma
Waris Nitin Bose Minerva Movietone Shobha Jagdish Sethi, Suraiya(Heroine), Talat Mehmood(Hero), Nadira, Sadat Ali, Meheli Modi, Yakub, Achla Sachdev, Roopmala Anil Biswas 3 solos, 4 duets with Talat
Shama Parwana D.D. Kashyap Kashyap Production Shammi Kapoor(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Roop Mala, Ulhas, Sunder, Mubarak Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos, 3 duets with Rafi, 1 duet with Asha
1955 Kanchan Baij Sharma Kamal Kunj Chitra Jairaj(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Mehta, Ranjana Husnlal Bhagatram 6 solos
Inam M.I. Dharamsey Zodiac Pictures Pratima Devi, Nasir Khan(Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Yakub, Bimla Kumari, Mukri S. N. Tripathi 3 solos, 1 duet with Mohantara Ajinkya
1956 Mr. Lambu N.A.Ansari Sheikh Mukhtar Bhagwan, Helen, Sheikh Mukhtar, Suraiya(Heroine), Kamaljeet, Vijayalaxmi, N. A. Ansari, Minoo Mumtaz O.P.Nayyar 2 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
1958 Trolly Driver Gajanan Jagirdar Divya Jyot Production Rehman(Hero), Cuckoo, Pratima Devi, Bhagwan, Suraiya(Heroine), Jagirdar, Usha Kiran, Madan Puri Husnlal Bhagatram 2 solos, 1 duet with Rafi, 3 unavailable
Miss 1958 Kuldip Kahar A.K. Movies Om Prakash, Suraiya(Heroine), Karan Dewan(Hero), Madan Puri, Naaz, Krishna Kumari N. Dutta 1 solo
Malik S.M. Yusuf Sunny Art Productions Jagdeep, Lalita Pawar, Roopmala, Suraiya(Heroine), Talat Mehmood(Hero), Jeevan, Mukri, Radhakrishen, Kumar Ghulam Mohammed 1 solo, 2 duets with Talat
1958 Taqdeer(not her film)-- 2 songs sung by her for her earlier incomplete film. These were used by the music director and picturized on Shyama. A S Arora Neela Productions Karan Dewan(Hero), Shyama(Heroine), Asha Mathur, Madan Puri, Helen, S K Prem Dhani Ram

(Lyrics by Verma Malik)

2 songs((1)Hawa uda kar layi; and (2)o, bewafa kar ke jafa) sung by her for an incomplete film- used by MD in 'Taqdeer'
1961 Shama Lekhraj Bhakri Tasveeristan Kumud Tripathi, Nimmi, Vijay Dutt (Hero)(Guru Dutt's brother),Suraiya(Heroine), Kumar, Kammo, Tarun Bose, Mumtaz Begum, Tuntun, Leela Misra, Renu Maker Ghulam Mohammed 3 solos
1963 Rustam Sohrab[89] Vishram Bedekar Ramsay Productions Murad, Prithviraj Kapoor (Hero), Suraiya(Heroine), Premnath, Mumtaz, Azad, Merlyn, Hiralal, P. Kailash, Sajjan Sajjad Hussain 1 solos , her last song ('Yeh kaisee ajab dastan ho gayi hai')


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