Suraiya’s songs by SD Burman

June 15, 2014

A tribute on her 85th birth anniversary, June 15


SD Burman and SuraiyaSD Burman getting into Navketan camp and Suraiya’s intense romance with Dev Anand meant that there would be a number of songs of this singer (and actor)-composer pair. Since SD Burman made his debut late, his songs for Suraiya are much less compared to, say, Naushad’s, but as was his wont, he had a talent to create something for every singer, which would easily rank among his/her landmark songs. We have seen this even with Mukesh, who was a peripheral singer in terms of quantity, but his every SD Burman song is memorable. With her love affair with Dev Anand encountering insurmountable obstacles from her family, Suraiya left the film world early (barring some sporadic appearances till the early 60s) and chose to live her life as a recluse, with her inner pain. This meant that Suraiya-SD Burman combo would be necessarily not very prolific. But even if we just count Man more hua matwala and Nain deewane, Suraiya’s songs by SD Burman have a place among her greatest songs.

This site gives a break-up of SD Burman’s songs with various female playback singers. Expectedly, after his big three – Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt – there is a sharp drop. Fourth in the list is Shamshad Begum (I thought she would come after Suraiya). Then comes Suraiya with just 12 solos and 2 duets from three films, barely sufficient for a post. However, in case of Anil Biswas and SD Burman, I have covered singers having similar number of songs composed by them, because their impact is much greater. Some readers have mentioned Suraiya among important singers for SD Burman who should be covered.

Had she been alive Suraiya would have been 85 today (b. 15 June 1929; d. 31 January 2004). Continuing my revived series on SD Burman’s songs for different singers, here are some of the best songs of this combination.

1. Pardesi re jate jate jiya mora liye ja from Afsar (1950), lyrics Narendra Sharma

Both Nain deewane (inspired from Rabindra Sangeet She din dujone) and Man mor hua matwala are very well known and have been covered earlier on this blog. But this rarely heard song is as good as the above two, and it is surprising why it has remained hidden.


At places you get the strains of a familiar tune, which he developed a year later as Aaj ki raat piya dil na todo by Geeta Dutt in Baazi. If you are thrilled by this discovery, listen to this ode to the river Padma, written by Kazi Nazrul Islam and sung by SD Burman himself. A synonym for Goddess Lakshmi, Padma evokes similar sentiments as Ganga does in North India, and it also finds mention in the Puranas. In some comments at YT, it is mentioned that SD Burman sang only four Nazrul Geetis. This one seems to be the most representative. I have mentioned earlier that he adapted many of his Bengali folk songs into film songs which have become landmarks. But if you go back to his original, you feel his singing was at a higher plane.

Padma dheu re (Bengali folk song) sung by SD Burman, lyrics Kazi Nazrul Islam


2. Gun gun bole re bhanwar from Afsar

This is another solo from Afsar. Suraiya sings in her usual sweet and simple style.


3. Preet ka nata jodnewale duet with Geeta Dutt from Afsar

The remaining song from this film is this duet with Geeta Dutt. Their styles are very different. Though Suraiya is the main singer in this film, Geeta Dutt would far surpass her to become a major singer for SD Burman in later years.


4. Kinare kinare chale jayenge from Vidya (1948), lyrics Yashoda Nandan Joshi

Let us go back to where it all started – the romance of Dev Anand and Suraiya, and Suraiya first singing for SD Burman. If the reel lovers are also real lovers, and you have them in a row-boat in a river, who can give music better than SD Burman. This must be one of her sweetest songs.


5. Kise maloom tha do din mein saawan beet jayega from Vidya, lyrics Shanti Swaroop ‘Madhukar’

The film seems to have followed the usual course of romance, separation and final union. This is the song of sad phase.


6. O Krisha Kanhai ashaaon ki duniya mein hai kyon aag lagaayi from Vidya, lyrics Anjum Pilibhiti

Dukh mein sumiran sab kare – there has to be a bhajan in the sad phase. But Suraiya is not grovelling before God, but complaining about his unfair ways.


7. Jhoom rahi jhoom rahi khushiyon ki naav aaj from Vidya (1948)

We started with the lovers in a row-boat. If you are in love, you can feel the boat of happiness and  boatman even in a drawing room.  With Dev Anand on the piano, Suraiya’s sakhis too get into the mood and are swaying to the beat and her melodious voice. Not only naav was a recurring theme, khushi was, too – we had earlier seen her duet with Mukesh, Laayi khushi ki duniya hansti hui jawaani, from this film.


8. Nigaahein kyu milaayi thi agar yun chhod jana tha from Laal Kunwar (1952), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi

Laal Kunwar should be the last film in which SD Burman composed for Suraiya. She sang till 1963, but SD Burman had other singers in his fold, who were going great guns for him. Here is a rarely heard song, but extremely melodious.


9. Preet sataye teri yaad na jaaye teri from Laal Kunwar

Other songs from this film were unknown to me until I started researching for this post.  Suraiya’s songs were basically very simple tunes. But even in this complex song she is in command. It is surprising why SD Burman dropped her so completely after this film.


10. Ayi hun main raja tere dwar from Lal Kunwar (1952), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi

I end with what should be the last SD Burman song composed for Suraiya. It is an absolutely melodious song, I see seeds of some later landmark songs, such as Saari saari raaton teri yaad sataye (Aji Bas Shukriya, Roshan).

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rakesh Srivastava June 15, 2014 at 11:26 am

I read somewhere that Vidya song ‘Kinare Kinare’ was penned by Shanti Swaroop.Kindly check-up.There was one more melodious song in Vidya viz.Aaj mere dil kisi pe aa gaya.In ‘Lal Kunwar’ also I remember a sweet song-Tum Jo Mile. Sad that this combo gifted us very few numbers.Thanks for the post.

2 mumbaikar8 June 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm

I join in remembering Suraiya on her 85th birth anniversary, by doing so I have violated my self-imposed ban of staying away from SOY of 15 days:)

Asha Bhosle is only 5 years younger to her but because of her early rise to fame and early retirement Asha seems to be of the next generation.

You have done it once again making the most of limited resources you have on hand, each gem has been embedded beautifully. Padm dheu re is a treat. SDB repeated bhavre ki gunjan beautifully once again with Rafi in Tere ghar Ke samne.

SDB probably stayed away from her, for his closeness to Dev camp.

Some people cannot gather courage at the right time (other example Madhubala) and then later become rebellious, not accomplishing anything out of it and making life miserable for themselves as well as people around them, but they wouldn’t do anything otherwise, alas they were destined to be so.

3 AK June 15, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Rakesh Srivastava,
HFGK credits Kinare kinare to Yashoda Nandan Joshi. Shanti Swarup ‘Madhukar’ is also one of the 4 lyricists in the movie. One song has been attributed to him: Kise maloom tha do din mein saawan beet jayega by Suraiya.

You are right, Pyar ban ke mujh pe koi chha gaya chha gya re, aaj mera dil kisi pe aa gaya is an absolutely melodious song. It is sung by Lalita Deolkar, but sounds to me surprisigly close to Suraiya.

Yes, Laal Kunwar has the song Tum jo mile aarzoo ko dil ki raah mil gayi, but I found the other songs better which I have included.

4 Rakesh Srivastava June 15, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Lalita Deolkar had a very distict voice as in Sajan(1947) and Nadiya Ke Paar (1949) but in Aaj mera dil kisi pe aa gaya ,her voice resembles very much that of Suraiya. I stand corrected.Thanks, AK ji.

5 AK June 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Subodh says ‘Tumse door chale hum majboor chale’. You vow to be away from SoY for 15 days. What has SoY done to deserve this?.

I can’t even imagine what Suraiya would have gone through. It is difficult to fathom why some people cannot, or decide not to, forget and move on. I think the Sahir’s lines are easier said than done:

Wo afsana jise anjaam tak lana na ho mumkin
Use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodanaa achcha

6 AK June 15, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Rakesh Srivastava,
Absolutely. In Shaheed (1948) too she is very distinct in Bachpan ki yaad dheere dheere pyar ban gayi. One indication is that Vidya song is picturised on Cuckoo, and if you hear very carefully you notice the difference from Suraiya.

7 Ashok M Vaishnav June 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Suaraiya may not have as many number of songs as other female playback singers had with S D Burman.
But till the adevnt of 50s , and with that the Lata Mangeshakar phenomenon, she was quite an important player in the arena. Hence, documenting and reviewing her association with major music directors of that era would be a must.
SoY has made good that piece in this jigsaw.

8 Anu Warrier June 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Suraiya evoked a kind of hysteria in her heyday that was then typically the male artiste’s privilege. I grew up listening to her songs, but must confess that I began to appreciate her voice only after I grew into my late teens. Thanks for a trip down the memory lane.

9 AK June 16, 2014 at 7:38 pm

We have already covered Suraiya with Anil Biswas and SD Burman, besides another post of her best post-50s songs. Hopefully I should be able to do some more. She is my favourite singer.

10 AK June 16, 2014 at 7:41 pm

I fell for her voice the first time I heard her. Even though she was self-confessedly a limited singer, I found her absolutely melodious. I am happy you enjoyed it.

11 N Venkataraman June 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Suraiya had an incredible voice and had already reached her peak when she sang for S D Burman. She was at the top when she was only 20 and S D Burman with two years and 5 films was relatively a new comer. Interestingly in all the three films she sang for S D Burman she was in the lead female role opposite Devanand in two and Nasir Khan in the other film. But all the three films were not that successful. Some of her songs and Amirbhai Karnataki’s songs became popular. It is a pity that SDB- Syraiya combo had very few songs.

Out of the 14 songs, you have presented ten and other four were presented before and/or discussed. Thanks for the post and the 10 wonderful songs, especially song no. 2 and 9.

12 AK June 18, 2014 at 6:19 am

You were the one who mentioned Suraiya and some more singers with SD Burman though, as it turns out their total output was quite small. It is remarkable that Suraiya-SDB still produced some everlasting songs. Thanks a lot for your encouragement.

13 Subodh Agrawal June 18, 2014 at 7:27 am

Thanks for a beautiful post on a beautiful theme. I had not heard many of the songs earlier, and I suspect even you discovered some of them while researching this article; otherwise they would have figured in your posts on ‘naiya’ or ‘kinare’. Good for us: you do the hard work, we enjoy!

‘Padma dheu re’ seems to bridge the entire span of the Ganges from Gangotri to Sundarbans. The tune is fundamentally Pahadi, and it is presented in its regular Pahadi avatar in ‘Pardesi re’ and ‘Aaj ki raat piya’. However SDB sings it with the lilt typical of Bhatiyali. Great find.

14 N Venkataraman June 18, 2014 at 9:56 am

Yes the total numbers may be small, but just enough to do a post and some of the songs were too good. Subodhji has rightly said ‘you do the hard work and we enjoy.’ It is easy to suggest something and sit back and watch the hard work done by someone else as it has happened in the past.

BTW we will be looking forward to the post on SDB- Hemant Kumar combo. Here too you will find the numbers just enough to do the post.

Thank once again.

15 AK June 18, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Thanks a lot. Indeed many songs I discovered while working for this post. ‘Padmar dheu re’ has been my greatest find.

16 AK June 18, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Hemant Kumar, yes, with one advantage that most of his songs would be very well known.

You remember I said SoY has made me less selfish, so it is a pleasure to do the hard work for others.

17 SSW June 20, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Pardesi re and Padma deu re are both lovely. From an orchestral viewpoint Pardesi re breaks away from following the melody and provides some dark lines. Perhaps SD favoured this, because while
comparing SD’s version of Padma dheu re with this one by Firdausi Rehman

I thought her version has lighter lilt as compared to SD’s version which seems to be more serious. The flute in SD’s recording constantly providing a counterpoint I guess is closer to the Bhatiyali songs I am familiar with.

Songs 5 and 6 seem altogether too peppy to be sad. Of course a little bit of complaining is not too bad when addressing a little butter thief. .

The first song from Lal Kunwar has an interesting antara especially the way the second lines are taken. Suraiya did sing more complex lines for Husnlal Bhagatram, Ghulam Mohammad and her slight deviation from the perfect note was really quite nice.

18 AK June 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Firdausi Rehman’s version of Padma dheu re is an interesting contrast to SDB’s version. It reminds me more of Suraiya’s Pardesi re. Besides flute, the folk instruments in SDB’s version create a magical effect.

Songs 5 and 6 – even though there is some peppy rhythm in them, the words and the singing style make them appear as sad songs. If we make a list, some very famous fast and peppy songs were actually supposed to be in a sad background.

19 Hans July 2, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Writing about Suraiyya is a very tricky thing. Due to passage of time, her films have faded in memory and are rarely televised or visible except when someone chooses to view them on one’s own, but her songs are still alive in our memory. Due to this people tend to remember her only as a singer and try to compare her with other playback singers, which should not be the case. Though quality of her songs naturally gives her a very high place among singers, yet it should always be kept in mind that she was a singing star. The article and some comments hint that she has been taken as almost a singer.

AK expected her songs with SDB to be more than Shamshad, which was hardly possible, because Suraiyya was not a playback singer and SDB could only compose for her when he was called to compose for a film in which she was acting. He made his debut in 1946, the year in which Suraiyya became famous with Anmol Ghadi. So his late debut was not the impediment. The only thing was that initially her films had Naushad as composer and later with Pyar Ki Jeet and Bari Behan being super-hits there started a long association with Husnlal Bhagatram. So they had the lion’s share in her songs. In this context, this article should be seen as a tribute to SDB and not Suraiyya. Because, an article dedicated to her should certainly contain songs composed by Naushad, Husn-Bhagat and Ghulam Mohammad.

One thing more. Her affair with Dev was perhaps not the only reason for her leaving the film world early. She had a desire to continue in her role of singing star and she insisted that she would neither sing for others and nor would let others sing for her. She had put on weight (this was perhaps due to her revolt against family and she neglected fitness regime) and was becoming increasingly unfit for heroine roles. This stage had reached about mid-50s. Her two films Shama(1961) and Rustom Sohrab (1963) were left-overs of that period.

20 Hans July 2, 2014 at 4:00 pm

The first sentence of Anu Warrier’s comment No. 8, fairly sums up Suraiyya’s career. This is such a perfect evaluation of her career based on deep observation.

I want to share something which I know about Suraiyya. My father was a big fan of Sehgal and Suraiyya. He was studying Law in Delhi during prime of her career. He used to tell us that she was such a craze that spectators seated in the low-cost front rows in cinema halls used to throw coins (like nataks and nautankis) at the screen at the sight of her and would yell her name again and again. If within ten minutes of the start of the film, there was no Suraiyya song, there would be constant whistling and yelling until she appeared. Stories were selected, scenes and dialogues written and songs inserted only keeping her in mind. Who was the hero opposite her hardly mattered, because film’s success rested solely on her and her songs.

Perhaps no heroine either prior to her or after her commanded the same stature in hindi films. She deserves an independant post on her which certainly would include songs of MDs like Naushad, Husn-Bhagat and Ghulam Mohd.

AK has somewhere said that she was self-confessedly a limited singer. I dont know what is his source for that but that is not correct and should be taken as modesty. If AK has relied on the chapter in Raju Bharatan’s book on Lata, then I would like to say that his story about Suraiyya in that book has many flaws and he is known as a lier par excellance. Suraiyya sang all types of songs with consummate ease and no female singer could sing ghalib like she sang in Mirza Ghalib. She put lots of deep emotions in each song based on her experience of acting. A very high percentage of her songs were hits in her period and have survived the test of time and become classics.

21 AK July 2, 2014 at 6:28 pm

You are absolutely right on Suraiya’s main composers being Ghulam Mohammad, Naushad and Husnlal Bhagatram. In my post on her songs by Anil Biswas, written on her death anniversary, 31 January 2014, I wrote:

For many years after getting deeply attached to the vintage songs, I regarded Anil Biswas as peripheral to the music career of Suraiya. When I thought of Suraiya, the composers who came to mind most prominently were Naushad, Husnlal Bhagatram and Ghulam Mohammad.

You are right this was a continuing tribute in the series on SDB with different singers. But you can be sure, Suraiya with those three composers would figure at some point in time.

As for her self-confessed limitations about her singing ability, Raju Bharatan is not the only ‘culprit’. I have seen her statements in quotes at many places. But obviously it is modesty of the highest order – she did not have to say it at all considering that people were crazy not only about her, but also about her singing. She is my big favourite. In my tribute to her on her death anniversary, 31 January 2012, The Last Singing Star, this is what I wrote:

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.

22 Hans July 5, 2014 at 1:07 am


Thanks for links to your earlier articles on Suraiyya. I have come to know some things which I was not aware of. I would like to add something of my own there.

The reserved lifestyle which Suraiyya adopted should mean that she had not given many interviews. My view is that Raju is a prolific and confident lier, so until he was found out as lier many people might have used his quotes, which might have appeared as separate evidence to you. Anyhow, I cannot comment on your sources until I can see them myself.

My father told me a lot of pressure was put on Suraiyya by the film world to segregate her two roles of actress and singer, but she stubbornly refused. And that was the main reason her career stopped abruptly. And I firmly believe in his version because he lived in that era.

You would agree that she would have got so many songs if only she had decided to sing playback for others, but she did not. There was such a flurry of films and songs in the second half of the decade from 1941 to 1950. As per HFGK from 1941 to 1945, 438 films were released, while from 1946 to 1950, 753 films were released. So there were plenty of songs for every female singer. Traditionally female songs were much larger in number as compared to males until the big heroes started demanding more songs and the balance somewhat changed in the 60s.

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