- Birth Date: 15 Jun 1929
- Birth Place: Lahore
Save for her arresting, almond-shaped eyes, Suraiya was not a classic beauty; nor did she trained in classical music. Suraiya , the lovely melody queen created aura with her popular numbers like 'tu mera chaand, main teri chandani' ,'dil-e-nadan, tujhe hua kya hai' and 'woh paas rahe ya door rahe' .
Suraiya was born in 1929 as Suraiya Jamal Shaikh in Lahore. She received formal education at the New (J.B,Petit) High School for Girls in Mumbai and studied Persian and Quran at home. Her maternal uncle M. Zahoor used to perform character roles in films. During school vacations in 1941, she accompanied him to the Mohan Studios where shooting of film "Taj Mehal" was being done. There was a role for a child in this film. The director Mr.Nanubhai Vakil suggested her to perform the role and she agreed to face the camera for the first time. The shot was considered OK.
During her school days she used to participate in "Children Program" on Radio along with Shammi and Rajkapoor. She could sing some popular songs of that time with melody and fidelity. Appreciating her singing talent, a song "Boot karun mein polish" was recorded in her voice by Naushad Sahib in 1942 for the film "Nai-Dunia". In the same year she performed a role in film "Station Master" Other films of her playback singing with music by Naushad Sahib were "Sharda" (Punchi Ja- pechey raha hae bachpan mera), "Qanoon" and "Sanjog".
Her singing career found a mentor in music maestro Naushad. Suraiya had participated in a children`s programme on All India Radio after friend Raj Kapoor and neighbour Madan Mohan had cajoled her. Naushad heard Suraiya on the radio and chose her to sing as 13 year old for Mehtab in Kardar`s Sharda, 1942. Suraiya had to stand on a stool to reach the mike to croon Panchi ja, picturised on the much-older heroine, Mehtaab.
She was effectively launched as a singing star in Bombay Talkies Humaari Baat (1943). She made her presence felt in perhaps India's first multi-starrer K.Asif's Phool (1944) and played strong supporting second lead roles to Noorjehan in Mehboob Khan's Anmol Ghadi (1946) and Munawar Sultana in Dard (1947).Suraiya had her moments with Socha Tha Kya, Main Dil Mein Dard Basa La Aayee and Man Leta Hai.
She was starred opposite the legendary K.L. Saigal in three of his later films - Tadbir (1945), Omar Khaiyam (1946) and Parwana (1947), the last remembered for her haunting rendition of Jab Tumhi Nahin Apne.Her pairing with the then superstar Dev Anand was a huge hit and the two went on to star in many successful movies together - Afsar, Shayar and Jeet etal. They were romantically linked and were all set to marry when her strict grandmother put her foot down and broke their relationship (Dev Anand is a Hindu while Suraiya is a Muslim). The heartbroken Suraiya never married though many leading men of her time were interested in her.Surraiya's idol was Gregory Peck and he visited her by surprise during a night of 1954 while in transit at Mumbai on his way to Srilanka for shooting. He was much impressed by her simplicity.Dev Anand molded himself in postures of Gregory Peck but after long awaiting he married Kaplna Kartak.
The 1948-49 phase saw her rise to her peak. With Pyar ki Jeet (1948), Badi Bahen (1949) and Dillagi (1949) she became the highest paid female star of her time. At her peak, Suraiya generated hysteria comparable only to Rajesh Khanna in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shop owners would down their shutters to see her starrers on the first day itself, crowds would throng outside her residence at Marine Drive in Bombay just to get a glimpse of her and actor Dharmendra recalls going to see Dillagi 40 times! Her songs from the above films Tere Nainon Ne Chori Kiya, O Door Jaanewaale (Pyar ki Jeet), Woh Paas Rahe Ya Door Rahe, O Likhnewaale Ne, Bigdi Bananewaale (Badi Bahen) and Tu Mera Chand, Murliwaale Murli Bajaa (Dillagi) were hummed in every nook and corner of the country.
Most of her films in the 50's flopped till she made a short lived comeback with Sohrab Modi's 'Mirza Ghalib' in which she played the role of the married Ghalib's lover.She made a short-lived comeback with Waaris (1954) and Mirza Ghalib (1954). The latter saw her finest dramatic performance as she made alive and vivid the role of the married Ghalib's lover, a courtesan. Ghalib also saw some of her finest singing - Aah ko Chaihiye Ek Umar, Nuktacheen Hai Gham-e-Dil, Dil-e-Nadaan Tujhe Hua Kya Hai, Yeh Na Thi Humari Kismet etc. Her singing is till date regarded as the definitive Ghalib. In fact India's then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru paid her the ultimate compliment by telling her " Tumne Mirza Ghalib ki Rooh ko Zinda Kar Diya" (she had brought Mirza Ghalib to life).
Unfortunately her work thereafter remained largely undistinguished. Shama (1961) was a musical hit and her last film was Rustom Sohrab (1963), which also boasts of one of her finest ever songs - Yeh Kaisi Ajab Dastaan Ho Gayi.
Now she has no restrictions on her eating and as such gaining weight in natural way. She is very fond of "Biryani" dish. She has a craze for ornaments. Her selection and collection of jewelry is unique. Even while going to bed, she often continues to wear them.