29 April 2013

His Master's Voice-16

Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh (15 June 1929 - 31 January 2004) was a singer and actress of the Indian films in the 40s and 50s, and was popularly known by her first name Suraiya.

Suraiya was born in Gujranwala, Punjab, (which is in Pakistan), and was the only child of her parents. She was not formally trained in music; yet she went on to become a successful singing actress. She attended New Girls' also known as J.B. Petit High School for Girls, in Fort, Bombay (Mumbai). She received religious Islamic teachings in Persian at home.

Suraiya made her debut as a child artist in Usne Kya Socha (1937). She got a prominent role as a child artist with the help of her uncle Zahoor, who was then a popular villain actor. During a holiday from school in 1941, she accompanied him to Mohan Studios to see the shooting of the film Taj Mahal which was being directed by Nanubhai Vakil. Vakil noticed Suraiya and not having in his mind at that time any particular young girl to play the role of young Mumtaz Mahal in Taj mahal, selected Suraiya to play that role.

Music director Naushad once heard Suraiya's voice on All India Radio while she sang for a children's program, and chose her to sing as a 13 year old for Mehtaab in Kardar's film Sharda (1942). He was 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 composed approximately 51 songs for Suraiya, coming at 2nd place after Husnlal Bhagatram for composing the highest number of songs for Suraiya.

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), Badi Behen, and Dillagi (1949), she became the highest paid female star. But her reign at the top was brief; her films started flopping in the 1950s. She made a comeback in Waaris and Mirza Ghalib (1954). Rustom Sohrab (1963) was her last film. she fall in love with Dev Anand but they didn't succeeded it to marriage. it was opposed by her family, especially by her grand mother took step against this inter religious life bonding. that made Dev Anand to tie his knot with Kalpana Karthik. then after Suraiya get broke down for ever.

Suraiya lived in her apartment on Marine Drive in Mumbai until her death due to cancer in 2004 at age 74. She was interred at Badakabarastan in Marine Lines, Mumbai. Suraiya was declared the first Melody Queen (Malika-e-Tarannum) in the sub-continent and much later Noor Jehan was awarded with the same title.

Her greatness can be judged by these comments. "You have put life in the soul of ‘Mirza Ghalib’", were the remarks of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Indian Prime Minister. The Hollywood legend Gregory Peck was keen to meet Suraiya. In connection with the shooting of some film he happened to visit Bombay (Mumbai) where he was honoured by the great actress by meeting him.

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