Saturday, July 22, 2017


        ( With Devanand )
                 ( With Nehru )
        ( With Gregory Peck)
       ( With Gregory Peck)




 Suraiya or Suraiya Jamal Sheikh  belonged to a Punjabi  Muslim family   from Gujranwala who chose to stay back in India  during 1947   when her friends and co-singers like Noorjahaan and Khursheed moved to Pakistan. Like Manto , she was in Love with Mumbai  and its openness. From singing , she moved to acting in Hindi films .

Born on 15th June , she had all the traits of a typical Gemini , her zodiac sign. She was fiercely loyal friend, true ally and a sensitive lover . She was  highly talented and artistic . She had prominently expressive and beautiful eyes. And like a true Gemini ,she happened to be a little indecisive as well.

It is said that if a Gemini woman does not get the right life partner / companion , she will spend her time alone unwilling to disturb others. And Suraiya proved it true.

Suraiya’s father owned a small furniture shop in Gujranwala Punjab  ( Now in Pakistan ) where from he moved to Lahore.   Suraiya was taken to Bombay on the request of her mother .Her  maternal   uncle Zahoor  was already in Mumbai trying his luck in film industry. In an interview to Raju Bhartan, Suraiya has said that she wanted to study and become a doctor but her maternal uncle introduced her to films as a child artist and then she could not move out. At one point of her film career, she was the highest paid artist earning  rupees one lakh per film.

In films, she worked with stalwarts like K L Sehgal and also with the flamboyant Devanand . She did seven films with Dev. And they came close and closer in real life during this period. Add to that, Dev saved her from drowning while they were shooting for a movie. That built an ineffaceable trust in the man she was romancing with . Suraiya was, however, under the watchful eyes of her family. Her maternal grandmother, who had a strict control over her entire family, remained with her all the time. Accordingly, this love gradually blossomed through letters. Common friends like Durga Khote, Guru Dutt and Kamini Kaushal  helped them secretly in  this exchange of letters . Devanand gifted her a   golden ring as a token of this romance.
They  had even decided to get married but the proposal was opposed by Suraiya's grandmother ,maternal uncle and aunt   .  For many days, Suraiya was stopped from  coming  out of her house . Later her  grandmother  would accompany her to shooting and never leave her alone .  Her grandmother and maternal uncle   used all types of pressure tactics to oppose this marriage. Zahoor , her maternal uncle even threatened to get Devanand killed. Unable to cope up with this pressure, she dropped the idea of marriage once for all .However Devanand remained in the  depths of her heart.

In her interview to Raju Bharatan She said:

“Eventually, my grandmother succeeded in separating us. Dev was deeply hurt and offended by my lack of courage. But I was afraid for him. In retrospect, I don’t think anything would have happened if I’d been bold enough. But I was terrified of my grandmother. And was heartbroken. But time is the greatest healer.”

A deep crush on Gregory Peck resulted in an unusual meeting with this Hollywood star in 1954.Gregory Peck rang the doorbell of her Marine Drive house with a  bouquet of flowers one day. He was In Mumbai that time . He had also seen some Hindi films wherein Suraiya was in lead role . Amazed at this , Suraiya chatted for two hours with Gregory Peck that day. A dream come true and life moved forward .

A feature film “ Mirza Ghalib “ brought her to the notice of Pandit Jawahar lal Nehru. Sohrab Modi got Sadat Hassan Manto’s original Story / Screen play polished from J K Nanda and used services of Rajinder Singh Bedi as dialogue writer. Manto had written the story for a film project that was shelved due to partition and some other issues . Suraiya acted as Ghalib’s courtesan beloved Moti Begum and also sang some soulful Ghazals of Mirza Ghalib for this movie . It won many awards and also the coveted President’s Medal. After watching the screening of this film inside Rashtrpati Bhawan , Nehru said:
“ Rarely we see such feature films .I must give due credit to Mr Sohrab Mody for this project. I am equally delighted to know the contribution of Suraiya Ji for this film. She has really brought back Ghalib to life."
Every Gazal that she sang for Mirza Ghalib broke all previous records of popularity .Some songs that Suraiya sang are still popular . I quote a few ..

(1) Dhadaktay dil ki Tamnaaaon Mera Pyaar ho Tum

(2) Yeh kaisi ajab Dastaan ho Gayi Hai

(3) Chup Chup Khade zaroor Koyee baat hai

(4) Tum Mujh Ko Bhool Jaao

(5) Mun Dheere Dheere Gaaye re Maloom Nahin Kyon

(6) Chali Pee Ke nagar Ab Kaahe ka dar morey Baanke balam Kotwaal

(7) Tu Mera Chaand me Teri Chandini

(8) Voh Pass rahein Ya Door Rahein

(9) Phir duniya ko yaad Rahega.

(10) Aap se pyar huva jaata hai

(11) Naina Deewane ek Nahin maane

(12) O door Jaane waale

(13) Socha thha kya kya ho gaya

(14)  Hum dard ka afsaana

(15)  Tere naino ne chori kiya

(16) Murli wale murli bajaa

(17) Raahi matwaale (duet with Talat)

My father would always talk about Badi Behan , Anmol -Ghadi and Dil-lagi as his faourite Suraiya films .
Suraiya sang more than 340 songs in her career spanning  20 years.Among male singers Suraiya sang maximum duets with  Mohd Rafi (24 Duets) and among female singers she sang maximum duets with Lata and Shamshad Begum (5 Duets each). She acted in more than 75 films.

Suraiya had a lonely end in her   Marine Drive flat after being admitted to a private hospital for about three weeks .She owned  an orchard in Lonavala hills  and a building   in Worli ( Mumbai ) that had some flats.
She died without leaving a will for her property .
For quite sometime before her death, she had distanced herself from the world of glitter and glamour of Bollywood.

So Long so much on Suraiya .

(Avtar Mota)

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