I express my sincere gratitude towards my dear friend Cattie for inspiring me write this review which is my tribute to the legendary lady artist of the Indian screen – Suraiya. The way there cannot be another Talat Mahmood or Lata or Kishore or Madhubala or Dev Anand likewise, there cannot be another Suraiya who was Malika-e-Husn (queen of beauty), Malika-e-Tarannum (queen of melody) and Malika-e-Adakaari (queen of acting) all rolled into one in her heydey.Born at Lahore on 15th June, 1929, Suraiya got her first break to sing for movies through Naushad in Sharda (1942). She also sang for movies like Station Master and She had to climb up the stool to reach the mike for singing. Effectively, she was launched as a singing star in Hamaari Baat (1943). She started her acting career as a child artist in Taj Mahal (1941). She played supporting roles in some Noor Jehan starrer movies including the all time classic – Anmol Ghadi (1946). However, in Tadbir (1945), she got the first lead role of her life opposite the legendary singer hero – K.L. Saigal. Since then there was no looking back for Suraiya as a heroine as well as a singer. She did give playback for other heroines for some songs but most of her popular songs were those sung by her for herself only. After K.L. Saigal, she was the first singing star of India in the true sense as Noor Jehan left India upon partition.Suraiya was very beautiful. Her beauty was not titillating or sensuous but dignified. Her almond shaped eyes spoke a lot. She was truly the Malika-e-Husn (queen of beauty).
She was quite apt in expressing pain of the heart not only through her songs but also through her dialogue delivery. However she was quite proficient in romantic comedy too. I remember watching Sanam (1951) in which Meena Kumari played second fiddle to her. Suraiya created generous laughters through her on-screen interactions with the famous comedian of that era – Gope.
Consecutive box office hits viz. Pyar Ki Jeet (1948), Bari Behen (1949), Dillagi (1949), Jeet (1949), Shayar (1949), Afsar (1950) etc. took Suraiya on top of the world. On one hand, her songs were ruling the hearts of the melody lovers, on the other her emotional acting performances coupled with her graceful beauty was ruling the young hearts. No wonder, thick crowds were there outside her residence at Marine Drive, Bombay in the early morning hours to have a glimpse this gorgeous lady. None of the Bollywood heroines could command such a craze after Suraiya (including Saadhana, Hema Malini, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit).
Mirza Ghalib (1954) was the zenith of this immensely talented artist in which she played Chaudvin Begum who falls in love with the legendary Shaayar, Mirza Ghalib (played by Bharat Bhooshan). The immortal Ghazals of the great Shaayar sung by Suraiya alone (Nukta-Cheen Hai Gham-e-Dil Jisko Sunaaye Na Bane, Ye Na Thi Hamaari Kismet Ki Visaal-e-Yaar Hota & Aah Ko Chaahiye Ek Umr Asar Hone Tak) as well as sung in duet with Talat Mahmood (Dil-e-Naadaan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai) are invaluable gems of Bollywood music. Ghulam Mohammed had composed the music of this movie directed by Sohraab Modi. Suraiya dies in the end of this movie, conquering the hearts of the audience forever. This movie strongly established that she was not only Malika-e-Husn but also Malika-e-Trannum (queen of melody) as well as Malika-e-Adakaari (queen of acting). After listening to the songs of this movie, then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said to her – ‘You have brought Mirza Ghalib to life’.With the change intimes, Suraiya’s time also started walking into sunset. Her last movie – Rustam Sohrab (1963) was another example of her abundant talent in which she sang one of her most memorable songs – Ye Kaisi Azab Daastaan Ho Gayi Hai, Chhupate Chhupate Bayaan Ho Gayi Hai. But she preferred to gracefully retire for good and never faced the camera in her life again. She could sing but melody and Soz were being replaced by beats in Bollywood music then. So she retired as a singer also. She also preferred to stay away from limelight and attended very few filmi functions afterwards.
Suraiya’s classic songs like Tu Mera Chaand Main Teri Chaandni (Dillagi), O Door Jaane Waale (Pyar Ki Jeet), Woh Paas Rahen Ya Door Rahen Nazron Mein Samaaye Rehte Hain (Bari Behen), Bann Jaao Hindustani Ab Kaisi Manmaani (Jeet), Kuchh Phool Khile Armaano Ke (Jeet), Tere Naino Ne Chori Kiya Mera Chhota Sa Jiya (Pyar Ki Jeet), Dhadakte Dil Ki Tamanna Ho Mera Pyar Ho Tum (Shama) etc. are such that they can be listened to any number of times by true lovers of Indian music. She will remain in our hearts forever through her songs.
Suraiya was a great fan of Hollywood star – Gregory Pack and she was fortunate to meet him too. She inspired her lover, Dev Anand to adopt his style and that changed Dev Anand’s career forever. Even today he is known as the Indian Gregory Pack. Suraiya and Dev were in love when she was a star and he was struggling to build a career. Suraiya’s grandmother became the wall in the way to their marriage because they belonged to different religious faiths. Dev Anand later on married Kalpana Kartik but Suraiya never even thought about marrying anyone else and remained unmarried forever. Such was her true love for him.
Suraiya took interest in Shaayari too. She passed away on 31st January, 2004 at her residence. The people who found her dead body also saw a SHER written nearby which read as –
KAHIN ATKA HUA DIL SHAAYAD
WAQT MEIN PAD GAYA HAI BAL SHAAYAD
JO DIL HAI TO DARD BHI HOGA
ISKA KOI NAHIN HAI HAL SHAAYAD
(the heart is stuck somewhere perhaps;, there seems to be a bend in the time perhaps; when the heart is there, the pain is bound to be there; there is no solution to it perhaps).
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