A tribute on her death anniversary January 31
Aside from Lata Mangeshkar Suraiya is among my top favourite female singers. She debuted as a child artiste in 1942 (film Sharda). Within three years she rose to become one of the top singing stars acting opposite the greatest legend KL Saigal in 3 films. Within the next three years her beauty, singing and romantic pairing with Dev Anand both on-screen and off-screen became a national craze.
Her voice had none of the roughness and sharpness characteristic of the style of 40s. Her singing was rounded, smooth and extremely melodious. She belonged to the 40s, she belonged to 50s and 60s, and you hear her today, she does not sound dated. There is something timeless about her singing. Therefore, I was surprised to read many accounts that she was herself quite dismissive about her singing abilities – that it was her good looks that made her a star and it was great composers who created melodious and simple tunes which even an unaccomplished singer like her could sing. In early fifties she was also contemplating that Lata Mangeshkar could give playback for her, which the music directors wisely rejected. Whether she was a trained singer or not, for me she is one of the most melodious and delightful singers.
The end of her relationship with Dev Anand because of family pressure and Lata Mangeshkar emerging as the dominant voice made her gradually withdraw from films; from mid-60s she became a complete recluse and out of public sight. Dev Anand even at the age of 80 remembered the unfulfilled love affair with deep sadness. But he moved on with life, raised a family and remained active til the very end. Suraiya suffered her pain within herself and died a lonely death on January 31, 2004. My last post was on KL Saigal whose death anniversary falls on January 18. Suraiya was his last heroine, and the last and one of the greatest singing stars of Hindi films. I pay my tribute to her with my favourite songs of her second phase -50s and 60s. I would write about her vintage period sometime later.
1. Manmor hua matwala from Afsar (1950), lyrics Narendra Sharma, music SD Burman
Based on Gogol’s Inspector General, this Dev Anand-Suraiya starrer had two great Suraiya songs composed by SDB. It is difficult choice between two outstanding songs Nain diwane and Manmor. Manmor hua matwala has a haunting feel about it with elongated Manmor sounding like an echo and beautiful flute piece.
2. Ae shama tu bata from Dastan (1950), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni music Naushad
AR Kardar – Naushad combination is unusual for Raj Kapoor. This film has great music with 9 songs by Suraiya (solos and duets). With such a treasure it is difficult to choose one, but Ae shama tu bata is incredibly beautiful and has excellent picturisation. The story seems to be a replay of Andaz (1949), with now Suraiya on the piano, with ambiguity between the two lovers Suresh and Raj Kapoor. I find that aside from his Charlie Chaplin act, Raj Kapoor is master of such scenes of ambiguous relationships.
3. Koi dil mein samaya chupke chupke from Kamal Ke Phool (1950), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Shyam Sundar
This is a virtually unknown film, the other cast being names like Amarnath, Raj Mehra etc. But Shyam Sundar was a highly respected composer of his time. And with Suraiya he creates a masterpiece, though not so well known.
4. Majboor hun main nashad hun main from Shaan (1950), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Hansraj Bahal
Does this song reflect the anguish in her personal life? A beautiful, but less heard song.
5. Raste pe hum khade hain dil beqarar lekar from Rajput (1951), lyrics Kaif Irfani, music Hansraj Bahal
Suraiya again in her sweet voice expressing pathos, composed by one of the great composers of early 50’s.
6. Raton ki neend chheen li ankhon ke intezaar ne from Shokhiyan (1951), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music Jamal Sen
An unhard melody by a virtually unknown composer, but this song can easily rank among Siraiya’s sweetest song.
7. Meri zindagi mein tum kyun aye from Goonj (1952), lyrics DN Madhok, music Shardul Qwatra
Many songs of the period have become poignant because of the sadness in her personal life. As this extremely beautiful song carrying Punjabi folk style shows, Shardul Qwatra, one of the forgotten composers, deserves greater recognition. I hope to write a post on him on my blog at an opportune time.
8. Mora nazuk badan from Deewana (1952), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
Suraiya in a tantalising bath towel.
9. Nigahein kyun milayi thi agar yun hi chhod jana tha from Laal Kunwar (1952), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music SD Burman
We keep on getting poignant songs as if she was expressing her inner feelings.
10. Parwanon se preet seekh le from Bilwamangal (1954), lyrics DN Madhok, music Bulo C Rani
One of all time favourites of Suraiya.
11. Rahiye ab aisi jagah chalkar jahan koi na ho from Mirza Ghalib (1954), lyrics Ghalib, music Ghulam Mohammad
Mirza Ghalib was a landmark film of her career for her sensitive acting and beautiful singing. The film won National Award for the best film. After KL Saigal, her rendering of Ghalib was recognised as a masterpiece. When she gave good songs in a movie, it did not come in one or two’s, the songs poured. Mirza Ghalib was one such movie. Among her many outstanding songs the poignant Rahiye ab aisi jagah chalkar jahan koi na ho also refleceted her own personal life in which she had withdrawn from the outside world.
12. Mera dildar na milaya from Shama Parwana (1954), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music, Husnlal Bhagatram
This is a twin song, its twin version sung by Mohammad Rafi. Suraiya is so sweet that this is one of the exceptions to my rule that male versions are better in twin songs. Shama Parwana has Shammi Kapoor in the lead role in one of his earlier films as a staid hero in moustache, before his transformation into the rebel hero we know.
13. Taron ki nagri se chanda ne from Waris (1954), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Anil Biswas
The most famous song from this film is Rahi matwale which has many versions. But this less heard lullaby should rank among the sweetest.
14. Mast ankhon mein shararat kabhi aisi to na thi from Shama (1961), lyrics Kaifi Azmi, music Ghulam Mohammad
While doing this post I felt like breaking my rule of taking not more than one song from a film,several times. Shama presents the same dilemma. How do you choose between this and Apse pyar hua jata hai or Dhadakte dil ki tamannaon mera pyar ho tum? . There is just no rule to choose one from so many equally beautiful songs. Do we care that she was untrained in music?
15. Ye kaisi ajab dastan ho gayi hai from Rustam Sohrab (1963), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi, music Sajjad Hussain
Rustam Sohrab was her last film composed by the maverick and temperamental genius Sajjad Hussain. He was known for not being able to maintain good relations with anyone in the industry. This also affected his output, but not his quality. And what stunning music he creates with Suraiya in her swan song. One feels sad just to imagine how much talent was left in her when she decided to withdraw from scene.