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Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh (15 June 1929 – 31 January 2004), popularly known as Suraiya, was a popular Indian Hindi/Hindustani film actress and playback singer in Bollywood. She was active from 1936 to 1963. [1]

Suraiya in 1946 film Gajre.jpg
Suraiya in the film Gajre (1948)
Pronunciation Su-rai-yaa
Born Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh
(1929-06-15)15 June 1929
Lahore, Punjab, British India
(now in Punjab, Pakistan)
Died 31 January 2004(2004-01-31) (aged 74)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Cause of death Various ailments including insulinoma, hypoglycemia and ischaemia
Burial place Badakabarastan, Marine Lines, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Residence Krishna Mahal, Marine Drive, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Nationality Indian
Other names Baby Suraiya (as child artist)
Citizenship Indian
Education High School
Alma mater J.B. Petit High School for Girls, Fort district, Mumbai
Occupation Actress and playback singer in her own films (in Bollywood)
Years active 1936–1963
Era pre-Golden era and Golden era of Bollywood music and films
Known for Bollywood films and songs
Notable work Films like Dillagi (1949 film), Tadbir, Pyar Ki Jeet, Afsar (film), Bari Behen, Phool (1945 film), Anmol Ghadi, Parwana (1947 film), Omar Khaiyyam, Dastan (1950 film), Mirza Ghalib (film), Waris and multiple songs like "Tara Ri Aara Ri Aara Ri Yeh", "Tu Mera Chand Main Teri Chandni", "Tero Nainon Ne Chori Kiya", "Yeh Mausam Aur Yeh Tanhai Zara", "Mann Leta Hai Angdai Jeevan", which were hits in their times
Style Acting - Romantic, tragic, heroine oriented films; Dancing - Indian classical, Western, Mughal style; Singing - ghazal, light romantic, sad with pathos.
Home town Mumbai
  • Aziz Jamal Sheikh (father)
  • Mumtaz Begum (mother)
Awards (1) Gold Medal for film Kajal (1948) (2) President's Gold Medal for film Mirza Ghalib (1955) (3) Screen Lifetime Achievement Award (1996) (4) Urdu Academy (Delhi) and Sahitya Academy Award (1998) for perpetuating Mirza Ghalib's memory (5) Bimal Roy Memorial Trophy (1999) (6) Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Award (2003) (7) Voted as the Best on screen beauty with the most ethnic look in 100 years sponsored by the Indian Film Academy (2013) (posthumously) (8) 'Suraiya' stamp of Rs. 5/- issued by India Post in her name (2013) (posthumously)
Suraiya signature.svg

She was known for her North Indian Muslim feudal style acting or adakari in many of her films[2][page needed] A Muslim, her romance with the Hindu actor Dev Anand attracted much attention.

She won many awards including the Sahitya Academy Award, Dadasahab Phalke Academy Award and Bimal Roy Memorial Trophy.


Early life

Suraiya was born Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh on 15 June 1929. Some sources give her birthplace as Gujranwala, in Punjab Province, British India, but Suraiya herself said it was Lahore. Her father owned a furniture shop in Gujranwala and left the family soon after her birth. By the age of one, she was living with her orthodox Muslim mother and maternal grandmother in a newly-built rented apartment on Marine Drive in Bombay. Her maternal uncle, M. Zahoor, joined them there and became a well-known villain in films. She attended New High School, now known as J.B. Petit High School for Girls, in the Fort district of Bombay. Suraiya's childhood friends included Raj Kapoor and Madan Mohan, both of whom were around twice her age and with whom she used to sing in children's radio programmes.[citation needed]


As an actress

Suraiya as a child artist in 1936.

Suraiya made her debut as a child actor in Madame Fashion in 1936 as Miss Suraiya, along with Nargis as Baby Rani. The film was directed by Jaddan Bai, mother of Nargis, with Jaddan Bai herself as heroine, and the music and songs were also written and sung by her.[3][page needed] Later, she got a prominent role with the help of her uncle, M. Zahoor. During a holiday from school in 1941, she accompanied him to Bombay's Mohan Studios to see the shooting of the film Taj Mahal, which was being directed by Nanubhai Vakil. Vakil noticed the charm and innocence of young Suraiya and selected her to play the role of Mumtaz Mahal. [1][page needed][4][clarification needed]

While she was singing for children's programs for All India Radio (AIR) in Bombay, as a six-year old, Raj Kapoor and Madan Mohan were her co-artists. In fact, they first introduced her to AIR. Both were associated with her later as an adult, as her hero and as her music director respectively in films. At AIR, Zulfiqar Ali Bukhari was at that time the station director at the Bombay radio station. As soon as music director Naushad Ali heard Suraiya's voice, he chose her to sing (at age 13) for Mehtab in Abdul Rashid Kardar's film Sharda (1942). He became Suraiya's mentor and she sang some of the best songs of her career under his baton. Later, he gave hit after hit when Suraiya became a full-fledged singing star in Anmol Ghadi (1946), Dard (1947), Dillagi (1949) and Dastaan (1950). Naushad Ali composed approximately 51 songs for Suraiya, coming in at second place after Husnlal Bhagatram for composing the highest number of songs for Suraiya (58 excluding 6 repeat songs for the film Kanchan (1955) from Amar Kahani (1949)).[citation needed]

As a child artist, she acted and also sang in Tamanna (1942), Station Master (1942), and Hamari Baat (1943). Devika Rani, who headed the Bombay Talkies production company, seeing her blooming brilliance as an actress and as a singer signed her on a five-year contract at Rs. 500 per month with her role in 'Hamari Baat' (1943). In the film she had a duet dance and her song with Arun Kumar, " Bistar bicha diya hai tere ghar ke samne' became very popular.[5]

This five-year contract was revoked by Devika Rani on Suraiya's request, when K. Asif offered Suraiya Rs. 40,000 for his film 'Phool'.[6] As an adult, Suraiya initially played as Prithviraj's sister in K. Asif's Phool as Shama, with Prithviraj Kapoor as hero.[7] Suraiya was catapulted to stardom overnight with J.K. Nanda's directed debut film 'Ishara' in 1943.[citation needed]

She acted as a heroine in the film Tadbir (1945) on the recommendation of K. L. Saigal, who liked her voice during a rehearsal of a song for Jayant Desai's film Samrat Chandragupt (1945) in which she was acting. He recommended her to Desai, opposite himself in Tadbir (1945).[8] She went on to co-star with K. L. Saigal in Omar Khayyam (1946) and Parwana. Although by then she had a few hit songs, the four solo songs which she sang in Parwana for music director Khwaja Khurshid Anwar made her a genuine singer-film star. She had high regards for Khwaja Khurshid Anwar, for whom she sang thirteen songs during the period 1943 to 1949.[citation needed]

She acted as a co-star in Mehboob Khan's Anmol Ghadi (1946) with Noor Jehan as the lead actress and in Dard (1947) with Munawwar Sultana as the lead actress.[citation needed] When Pyar Ki Jeet was released, it caused large crowds outside Suraiya's house that had to be controlled by posting an inspector and four constables. During the premiere of Bari Behen, there was a very large crowd outside the cinema hall and the police had to baton-charge when Suraiya was walking into the hall. People even pulled at her clothes, so that after that, Suraiya stopped going to the premieres of her films.[9]

In the late 1940s, she worked with Dev Anand. While shooting the film Vidya (1948), she became romantically involved with him. The two of them were paired in seven films together; Vidya (1948), Jeet (1949), Shair (1949), Afsar (1950), Nili (1950), Do Sitare (1951) and Sanam (1951), all of which were successful at the box office.[citation needed]

During the shooting of the film Afsar (1950), Dev Anand formally proposed to her and gave her a diamond ring worth rupees 3000, a huge sum in those days. Suraiya was glad to be proposed to, but soon her grandmother found out about her engagement and threw her ring into the sea. Her maternal grandmother opposed the relationship, mainly because they were Muslims and Dev Anand was a Hindu. Suraiya and Dev Anand were stopped from acting together after their last film in 1951 by her grandmother. Thereafter, Suraiya remained unmarried by her own choice for the rest of her life.[10][11]

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Suraiya was the highest-paid and most popular star of the Indian cinema.[12][dubious ]

After Mirza Ghalib, she acted in movies such as Bilwamangal (1954), Waris (1954), Shama Parwana (1954), Kanchan (1955) (which was released in 1949 as Amar Kahani and re-released as Kanchan), Inam (1955), Mr. Lambu (1956), Trolly Driver (1958), Miss 1958 (1958), Maalik (1958) and Shama (1961). In the mid-fifties, Suraiya told Lata Mangeshkar once that she would soon be cutting down on her films. Lata told her not to do so. Mirza Ghalib was her last film. Suraiya in an interview said that during the shooting of the film, she suffered from low blood pressure, which was the reason for her giving up her acting career.[citation needed]

Her film Jaanwar in the early 1950s with Dilip Kumar as hero (and K. Asif as director), was left incomplete by her, as she refused to act in the film, because of rough behaviour by Dilip Kumar during the shooting of the film, when he tore her blouse and bruised her back so badly that it took a month to heal. Later, director-producer K. Asif wanted a kissing scene. Suraiya knew that censors would not pass it. When she asked Asif how he would get it through the censors, he could not satisfy her and she withdrew from the film. There was another story also, that Dilip Kumar and K.Asif were hand in glove to exploit and humiliate Suraiya, because Suraiya had earlier ignored Dilip Kumar's plea to act with her. So they did some torrid scene and kept on repeating it for four days. Fed up with this ghastly behaviour of the two, Suraiya refused to act for them and withdrew from the film.[13] In 1953, she refused the film Anarkali (1953 film) as heroine, a role which went to Bina Rai.[14]

As a singer

Suraiya's first song as a child-singer was "Boot karun main polish babu" (as a playback singer) in the film Nai Duniya (1942), composed by Naushad. She went on to sing playback for actress Mehtab for Sharda (1942), Kanoon (1943) and Sanjog (1942–43) for Naushad and A.R. Kardar (director-producer), when her principal, Miss P.F. Puttack, took a strong view of her truancy from school, and her 'adventure' came to an abrupt halt. When Mehtab first saw baby Suraiya, she was hesitant to have her as her playback singer, but on hearing her, she wanted Suraiya to sing all her songs in her films.

Even in later years, in 1946, Mehtab was so attached to Suraiya's singing, that she requested Suraiya to record disc versions of her songs in her film Shama (1946), produced by Sohrab Modi, when Suraiya had become a busy heroine and had left singing playback in films for Mehtab. Suraiya then sang for Mehtab, in her own disc versions which were recorded by Shamshad Begum in the film.[citation needed]

Suraiya debuted with Manna Dey in his first Hindi film song, and their only duet 'Jago ayee usha' in Tamanna in 1942, was directed by his uncle, the famous K. C. Dey. Again in 1942, Suraiya paired with Rajkumari in Station Master ( w. music director Naushad) for the song 'Sajan ghar aye'. Suraiya acted in both these films.[citation needed]

The song "Bistar bicha liya hai tere dar ke samne ghar hum ne le liya hai tere ghar ke samne", which Suraiya sang in duet with Arun Kumar for the film Hamari Baat (1943) was a major success.[15]

A few years later, the singer-actor, K.L. Saigal was so impressed by the singing of the 16-year-old Suraiya, that he agreed to have her opposite him in the film Tadbir as a heroine and a singer in 1945. The music was directed by Lal Mohammad in the film. 'Rani khol de dawar milne ka din aa gaya' is a memorable song from the film, she sang it with Saigal. Saigal again opted for Suraiya as his heroine and a singer in the films Omar Khayyam (1946) (w music director Lal Mohammad) and Parwana (1947) (w music director Khurshid Anwar). Parwana was Saigal's last film and was released after his death.[1][page needed]

Later, Suraiya continued to work with music director Naushad in a few films, and in 1946, she appeared with actress Noor Jehan in Anmol Ghadi as a co-star, with Naushad as the music director. She sang three songs in the film which became popular, of which 'Man leta hai angdai' went viral throughout the country. The musical film Dillagi (1949), under Kardar's direction, with Naushad's music, became a silver jubilee hit, with Suraiya becoming a national rage with her songs and acting.[16] In a span of 22 years, she gave a number of hits. In her honey-rich voice, songs like 'Woh paas rahein, ya door rahein', 'Tere naino ne chori kiya', 'Tu mera chaand, main teri chandni', "Yaad karun tori batiya" and the rare classical number 'Man mor hua matwala' created hysteria in the country.[citation needed]

Khurshid Anwar was the music director in three films of Suraiya, viz. Ishara (1943), Parwana (1947) and Singaar (1949). Suraiya sang 13 songs in these films.[citation needed]

With the music director duo, Husnlal Bhagatram, Suraiya sang in 10 films and recorded the most songs (58, excuding 6 repeat songs for the film Kanchan) for any music director from 1948 to 1958. The films were Pyar Ji Jeet (1948), Aaj Ki Raat (1948), Naach (1949), Balam (1949), Bari Behen(1949), Amar Kahani(1949), Sanam (1951), Shama Parwana(1954), Kanchan (1955) and Trolley Driver (1955).[17] Her song 'O, door janewale, wada na bhul jana' in Pyar Ki Jeet in 1948 became a hit all over India.[citation needed]

Suraiya did only three films with music composer Sachin Dev Burman, viz. Vidya(1948) (with Dev Anand), Afsar (1949) (with Dev Anand) and Lal Kunwar (1952)), as she was associated with other composers, and SD Burman came late into the scene in Bombay. Yet, most of their songs are memorable. 'Man mor hua Matwala'[citation needed] (in Afsar), 'Nain Deewane' 'Layi khushi ki dunia' (with Mukesh in 'Vidya') and 'Preet sataye teri yaad na' in Lal Kunwar being some of them.[18]

Personal life and love affair with Dev Anand

Suraiya with Gregory Peck at her home in 1954.

In the late 1940s, Dev Anand used to enact Gregory Peck's mannerisms to please Suraiya, as he knew she was a fan of Peck. Their love-affair continued for four years from 1948 to 1951. Dev Anand nicknamed Suraiya "Nosey", while to Suraiya, Dev Anand was "Steve", a name chosen from a book Dev Anand had given her.[19][20] Suraiya also called Anand "Devina" and he called her "Suraiyana", while faking an Italian accent. Suraiya was so much in love with Dev Anand that she let Lata sing some of the songs picturized on her in her films, in order to get more time to be with Dev Anand. Her love for Dev Anand was so intense that she was ready to forgo her singing star career for Dev, who was even more passionate about her. "All I could then think of was my love for Dev - Suraiya as a singing star and her career be damned!"(in 'A Journey Down Memory Lane' by Raju Bharatan).[21] During the shooting of director Rana Pratap's film Jeet (1949), both Dev Anand and Suraiya, with the help of the film cast and crew, namely Durga Khote (actress), Dwarka Divecha (cinematographer) and others, had made plans for marriage in a temple, and elopement, but at the last minute, an assistant director, jealous of their marriage, informed Suraiya's grandmother, who dragged her home from the scene.[22][23]

Suraiya and Dev Anand in 1950.

In the 'Star and Style' interview, Suraiya said that she gave in only when both her grandmother and her maternal uncle threatened to get Dev Anand killed. Suraiya told during this interview, that during the shooting of the film Neeli (1950), Dev Anand asked her final decision about their marriage, after their failed eloping incident. When Suraiya told Dev Anand that she did not want her to be the cause of his death, as both her grandmother and her maternal uncle opposed their marriage, he slapped her across the face and called her a "coward". She did not mind Dev Anand slapping her, because she knew how much he loved her. Dev Anand later kept on apologising for days about his behaviour.[24]

Dev Anand was not the one to be daunted easily. During the shooting of the film Afsar (1950), Dev Anand again formally proposed to her and gave her an engagement diamond ring worth rupees 3000. Suraiya was very happy and kept the ring with her. One day when she wore the ring, her grandmother questioned her and Suraiya could not hide the fact that Dev Anand had given it to her. Her grandmother was furious and threw her ring into the sea. Her maternal grandmother opposed the relationship, mainly because they were Muslims and Dev Anand was a Hindu. Suraiya and Dev Anand were stopped from acting together after their last film in 1951 by her grandmother. Thereafter, Suraiya remained unmarried by her own choice for the rest of her life.[10][11]

Speaking to journalist Sheila Vesuna, Suraiya 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."[25] Suraiya's grandmother, Badshah Begum, who controlled the family, was fiercely opposed to Suraiya marrying Dev Anand. She was also supported by Suraiya's maternal uncle Zahoor and some film persons, viz. composer Naushad, director-producer A.R. Kardar, lyricist Naqshab (Nadira's first husband) and director M. Sadiq. During the shooting of Dev Anand's own production Afsar (1950), under the banner of 'Navketan', Suraiya's grandmother started to oppose their romance openly and started interfering even in the shooting of their love scenes.[26]

Earlier, at the height of their romance in the late forties, Suraiya created a furore in film-world, when she and Dev Anand walked hand in hand at the dashing hero Shyam's marriage.[27]

Kamini Kaushal, who worked with Suraiya and Dev Anand in Shair (1949), said in an interview to Filmfare in January 2014, that Suraiya would pass on her letters to her to be delivered to Dev Anand, when her grandmother started keeping an eye on their love-affair. She said that Dev Anand was non-aggressive, not someone to put his foot down and say, "I'll marry her".[28] Actually, Kamini Kaushal said in 2007 to that in the early days "Dev was very shy and introverted. We acted together in Ziddi, which was his second film and my fourth. He is still a shy person, but puts on an act of flambuoyance. And let me tell you, it's a perfect act. I know him very well." [29]

Dev Anand in a TV interview with Simi; "Rendezvous with Simi Garewal", after Suraiya's death in January 2004, revealed that Suraiya, who had gladly accepted his ring at first, never told him the reason for her later refusal of the marriage proposal, and that she was coerced to say "no" to him by her grandmother.

In an interview with 'Stardust', June 1972, Suraiya revealed that she lacked the courage to resist her family and that Dev Anand truly loved her. Dev Anand wanted her to be bold and get married to him in a civil court. But Suraiya refused. "When I refused to marry Dev Anand, he called me a coward. Maybe I was one. I admit I didn't have the courage to take a step I was not absolutely sure of. Perhaps, it was a folly, perhaps a mistake, or perhaps destiny".[30]

The principal reason for the opposition from her grandmother and her advisers was that Dev Anand was of a different religion, and the covert one was that Suraiya was the only earning member of the family. Naqshab even brought a copy of the Koran to make her swear that she would not marry Dev Anand (February 1987, 'Star and Style' interview of both Dev Anand and Suraiya by Sheila Vesuna). The film people had also their own professional and personal interests in opposing an early marriage of their popular singing star.[31][32][33] Also, director M. Sadiq, who was a married man, himself wanted to marry her. Suraiya's parents wanted her to marry Dev Anand, but being a mellow couple, their voice was ignored by the grandmother.

The painful experience with Dev Anand left her bruised emotionally, a phase from which many said she never recovered.[34] She deliberately cut down her assignments after 1952. A retreat from the public atmosphere was followed by a return in films such as Mirza Ghalib (1954), for which she received praise even from the Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, but she never attained the dizzy public popularity she had attained earlier on. Suraiya refused to marry anyone in future, in spite of efforts by her family to persuade her to marry certain film directors and businessmen of their community. M. Sadiq, film director and actor Rehman were some of the film persons who were interested in marrying Suraiya.[35] Dev Anand, who was very depressed on her reluctant refusal to marry him, was counselled by his brother Chetan Anand to recover and stand up from the break up, and he went on to marry Kalpana Kartik four years later in 1954 in a hurried simple marriage, but as he said in his auto-biography, Suraiya was his first true love. Elsewhere, he has said to Shekhar Hattangadi that in spite of his marriage to Kalpana Kartik after his failed love affair that "Suraiya was the love and passion of his life and that I will always cherish her memory".[36] While Suraiya was alive in October 2003, Dev Anand accepted the fact that "Suraiya was my first and only real love. I wanted to marry her and she was willing. But her Muslim family objected to me, being a Hindu, and created a big row over the communal issue. Remember, she was already a big singing star when we first met, and I was a nobody. Fans mobbed her, her songs were on the air, and her star image added to the attraction."[37]

A limerick ('latka'), “chhayi bahar hai, jiya beqarar hai, aaja mere Dev Anand, Suraiya bemar hai” was often heard in the 1950s, to cajole Dev Anand to woo Suraiya once again.[38]

Later life and last days

Suraiya's maternal grandmother, Badshah Begum, who played a major part in her career and even her personal life, later went to Pakistan to live with her brother and his son, and she was left alone with her mother, Mumtaz Begum. The time with her mother were her happy years, when her mother took care of her daily needs and she would occasionally go to her film world friends. She had a few friends like old-timers Jairaj, Nimmi, Nirupa Roy and Tabassum, with whom she met occasionally.[39] She briefly came into the limelight again in 1979 following publication of an interview with her by Raju Bhartan in The Illustrated Weekly of India, which she said caused several of her former colleagues in Bollywood to get in contact with her.[40]

After her mother's death in 1987, Suraiya became lonely in the apartment she rented from Aswin Shah[41] in Krishna Mahal, Marine Drive in Mumbai, where she had lived from the early 1940s. She possessed several apartments in Worli, Mumbai and property in Lonavala, near Pune. She had lived alone for most of the time in her life. [42]

In December 1998, Suraiya then over 68 years old, while in New Delhi to receive the Sahitya Academy Award during Mirza Ghalib's bi-centenanry celebrations, talked in a low voice and declined to sing, saying she had left “mosiqui (music) years ago”. When a reporter mentioned Dev Anand, she avoided the comment, and chose to change the subject by saying that it was getting late and she had to go back.[43]

Tabassum, who worked with Suraiya in Bari Behen and Moti Mahal as he younger sister, met her often at her home, or rang Suraiya from home. During Suraiya's last few months, Tabassum said "It's sad that she had shut her doors to the world in her last days. Sometimes when I visited her, I’d find papers and milk collected at her door. She never opened the door. But she’d talk comfortably with me on the phone. I remember our last conversation. I asked her: "Aapa kaisi hain?" (Elder sister, how are you?") She replied in verse: "Kaisi guzar rahi hai sabhi poochte hai mujhse, kaise guzaarti hoon koi nahin poochta."( "Everbody asks me 'how are you', but nobody asks me how I spend my days and nights.") (As told to Farhana Farook in 2012).[44]

She died at Mumbai's Harkishandas Hospital on 31 January 2004 aged 75, after being admitted there a week previously suffering from various ailments, including hypoglycemia, ischaemia and insulinoma. She had not long since been discharged after a previous hospitalisation. Among her visitors were Sunil Dutt, Naushad and Pratap A. Rana.[45][46] Actor Dharmendra, who was an ardent fan, attended her funeral.[47] She was buried at Badakabarastan in Marine Lines, Mumbai.[48]

After her death, Suraiya's property at Worli and her house at Marine Drive went into legal dispute, as she did not leave behind an explicit will.[49][50][51] While the house at Marine Drive was claimed by Thakkar, her lawyer since 1975, and her Pakistani cousin, Mehfooz Ahmed (maternal uncle M. Zahoor's son) in Dubai, her property was claimed by the adopted family of her lawyer (based on his daughter being a nominee in Suraiya's papers and gift to her as 'hiba'), and her cousin.[52] No relatives from her father's side claimed anything from her property. In 2006, Mumbai High Court granted Mehfooz Ahmed the right to administer the estate. In 2008, her maternal cousin brother (Mehfooz Ahmed), who never met her for over 40 years before her death, got the right to the rented house at Krishna Mahal, valued at 7.5 crores rupees, as a tenant by the High Court judgement (according to Mumbai's old rent control laws) over her family lawyer. The house owner Ashwin Shah did not contest the case. The cousin had no objection to the house being sold.[53]

Honours and recognition

In 1946, Suraiya's film Anmol Ghadi with Noor Jehan and Surendra celebrated 'Silver Jubilee' (25 weeks continuous run in one or more cinema halls) in Bombay (now 'Mumbai') and other cities of India.[54]

In 1951, the inaugural issue of the film news-weekly Screen featured a photograph of Suraiya on its cover.[55]

In 1954, her film Mirza Ghalib was awarded the President's Gold Medal for the Best Feature Film of 1954 during the 2nd National Film Awards, with the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, remarking at the ceremony that she had brought the character to life. Suraiya thought his praise more worthy than an Oscar.[56]

In 1996, Suraiya was awarded the Screen Lifetime Achievement Award.[46]

In December 1998, she was specially honoured for perpetuating Mirza Ghalib's memory by her acting and songs by the then Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee during the Mirza Ghalib bi-centenary celebrations in New Delhi.[57]

On 3 May 2013, a postage stamp, bearing her image in various roles, was released by the India Post owned by the Government of India to honour her on the occasion of the '100 Years of Indian Cinema'.[58]


O. P. Dutta, director-writer, the only living director (when she died) to have worked with her (in Pyar Ki Jeet) remembered her: "Suraiya, Bano to me, was a bundle of unforgettable qualities. A sublime voice, the ring in the voice, the perfect diction, the effortless rendering. But she always insisted that she was no singer... There were congratulations all around (on her success in his film). But Suraiya insisted she was no great shakes as an actress. The argument was over when she gave a sterling performance in Bari Behen. The success made Suraiya smile that unforgettable smile that could send a thousand hearts aflutter. She was right at the top and I was very happy for her."[59]

Dilip Kumar said on her death that "She was a caring girl, very affectionate, particularly with junior artistes... Suraiya will be sorely missed, even though she had been a recluse for decades."[60]

Dev Anand said "I did not go to her funeral because I would have been reminded of her past. I cried from a distance."[61]

Outlook (magazine) wrote after her death: "She evoked the kind of hysteria [in the late 1940s] that can be compared only with Rajesh Khanna in his heyday from 1969 to 1972. Ask any old-timer and they would confirm that people bunked offices, schools and colleges, even shops closed on the opening day of her films, to see her films first day, first show."[62]

The Hindu newspaper wrote about Suraiya: "What can you say about a lady, who was courted by Dev Anand, respected by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, but feared by Lata Mangeshkar! That she was beautiful, talented, adored by millions, but died a lonely single woman? Or, that she was the best ever superstar singer-actress of Indian films, yet walked away to a self-imposed exile at the height of her glory? Yes, Suraiya was all this, plus 'a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma' who resolutely shunned screen and media once she departed from the arc lights."[63]

Suraiya's songs, as a tribute to her, are played every year on her birth anniversary, 15 June and her death anniversary on 31 January by Radio Sri Lanka (formerly Radio Ceylon).


Suraiya acted in the following films, along with singing her own songs in most of them.[citation needed] Three of Suraiya's films were left incomplete. Jaanwar with Dilip Kumar (early 50s) was abandoned by Suraiya, owing to misbehaviour with her by the lead actor, Dilip Kumar and producer director, K. Asif.[64][65] Pagalkhana (also, in early 50s), with Bharat Bhushan as lead actor, was abandoned by the producer director P.L. Santoshi after eight reels, because of financial constraints.[66] An English version of Wajid Ali Shah, starring Suraiya and Ashok Kumar in 1953, being filmed by British film director Herbert Marshall, was shelved after being made for some time.[67] A number of her films were announced with advertisements in film magazines, but were partially made or did not take off. These were Palken with Shekhar, to be produced and directed by Devendra Goel, for Goel Cine Corporation; Gumrah with Rehman (hero) by Globe Pictures, Bombay; Nigah with Naseer Khan (hero) by CB Films; Sanwri by Kundi Art Productions, produced and directed by Niranjan and Ching Chow with Ajit (hero) to be produced by Nigaristan (producers of Moti Mahal)[68]

Year Film Director Producer Role Cast Music Director Other notes (singing, others)
1936 Madam Fashion Jaddan Bai Sangam Films (Jaddan Bai) -- Jaddan Bai (Heroine), Baby Suraiya, Baby Rani (later Nargis), Nazmi Begum, Ansari (Hero), Aashiq Hussain, P. Bose, Misra, Yusuf, M.P. Sinha Jaddan Bai Child Artist
1937 Usne Kya Socha I. A. Hafesjee Imperial Film Ghaznavi, Jamshedji, Ratan Bai, W. M. Khan, Anant Kumar Marathe, Asuji, Mukhtar, Rustam Poonawala & Suraiya Child artist
1941 Taj Mahal Nanubhai Vakil Mohan Pictures Baby Mumtaz Kumar, Sarojini, S. Nazir (Hero), Suraiya, Indurani, Khalil, Ram Marathe, Mubarak Madhavlal Damodar Major break as a child artist
1942 Boot Polish (only sang a solo song, no acting) A.R.Kardar Circo Production no role (only playback singer) Jairaj, Shobhana Samarth Naushad Suraiya's first song 'Boot karon mai polish, babu'
1942 Station Master C.M. Luhar Prakash Usha Pratima Devi, Jagdish Sethi, Prem Adib (Hero), Jeevan, Umakant, Kaushalya, Shakir, Amirbai, Suraiya, Gulab, Ratnamala Naushad Supporting role—2 duets with Rajkumari Dubey---

Silver Jubilee film

Tamanna Phani Majumdar Laxmi Production Jagdish Sethi, Shanta Kumari, Jairaj, Leela Desai, K. C. Dey, Karan Dewan, Suraiya, Rani K.C. Dey Supporting role—Suraiya's first duet with Manna Dey 'Jago, jago aye usha' (Also Manna Dey's first film song in Hindi).
1942 Sharda A.R.Kardar Kardar Productions only as a playback singer for Mehtab Amir Banu, Shyam Kumar

Mehtab (Heroine)

Naushad Only as a playback singer-2 solos, 1 duet with Nirmala Devi
1943 Kanoon A. R. Kardar Kardar Productions only as a playback singer for Mehtab Shahu Modak, Mehtab (Heroine), Gajanan Jagirdar, Nirmala Devi, Ulhas and Badri Prasad, A. Shah, Jetha, Amirali, Amir Bano, Padma. Naushad Only as a playback singer—2 solos, 3 duets with Shyam Kumar
1943 Sanjog A.R. Kardar Kardar Productions only as a playback singer for Mehtab Noor Mohammad 'Charlie', Mehtab (Heroine), Anwar Hussain, Ulhas, Wasti, Raj Kumari, Shukal Chanda Bai Ghulam Mohammad, Naushad Only as singer—3 solos, 2 duets with Noor Mohammad Charlie
1943 Ishara J. K. Nanda D. R. D. Production Suraiya, Jagdish Sethi, Pratima Devi, K. N. Singh, Prithviraj Kapoor (Hero), Swarnalata, Suraiya (Heroine), Satish, Vatsala Kumtekar, Masood Khurshid Anwar Heroine---2 solos
Humari Baat M. I. Dharamsey Bombay Talkies Arun Kumar, Kamta Prasad, Dulari, Suraiya, Devika Rani (Heroine), David Abraham, Shah Nawaz, Raj Kapoor, Prabha, Mumtaz Ali, Jairaj (Hero) Anil Biswas Supporting role—4 duets with Arun Kumar Mukherjee
1945 Yateem Zia Sarhady Gautam Chitra E. Billimoria, Chandraprabha (Heroine), Yakub, Suraiya, Uday Kumar (Hero), Bhudo Advani, David Abraham, Lalita Pawar, Charlie Khurshid Anwar Supporting role
Tadbir Jayant Desai Jayant Desai Production Sugana Rehana, Jilloo Maa, K. L. Saigal (Hero), Mubarak, Suraiya (Heroine), Salvi, Rewa Shankar, Shashi Chand Kapoor (Sr.), Shalini Lal Mohammed Heroine—3 solos, 2 duets with K.L. Saigal
Samrat Chandragupta Jayant Desai Jayant Desai Production Ishwarlal (Hero), Mubarak, Nayampally, Renuka Devi (Heroine), Suraiya, Sulochana Chatterji C. Ramchandra Supporting role---3 solos
Phool K. Asif Famous Pictures Shama Wasti, Veena (Heroine), Suraiya (Prithviraj's sister), Prithviraj (Hero), Yakub, Dixit, Ashraf Khan, Agha, Mazhar Khan, M. Esmail, Jilloo Maa, Sitara Devi, Durga Khote Ghulam Haider supporting role—3 solos
1945 Main Kya Karoon Sudhir Sen Flora Pictures Shah Nawaz, Suraiya, Pahari Sanyal, Hansa Wadkar, Bikram Kapoor, E. Billimoria Ninu Majumdar co-star---3 solos and 2 duets with Hamida Banu
1946 Shama (only recorded disc versions for actress Mehtab at her request. Did not act in the film) Sibtain Fazli Minerva Movietone (Producer: Sohrab Modi) Mehtab, Ulhas, Wasti, Anwari, Prakash, Jafri Begum, Amir Bano, Sadat Ali, Chanda Ghulam Haider 3 solos (record versions for Mehtab)
1946 Jag Biti M. Sadiq Din Pictures Suraiya, Shakir, Sulochana Chatterji (Heroine), Abbas, Himalayawala, Bibi, Sadiq Ali Ghulam Haider co-star—3 solos
1857 Mohan Sinha Muarai Pictures Wasti, Surendra (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Nigar, Madan Puri, Leela, Menaka, Ganju, Munshi Khanjar, Laxmi, Suraiya, Shakir, Sulochana Chatterji, Abbas, Himalayawala, Bibi, Sadiq Ali Sajjad Hussain Heroine—4 solos and 1 duet with Surendra
Anmol Ghadi Mehboob Khan Mehboob Production Basanti Surendra (Hero), Noorjahan (Heroine), Suraiya (Co-Heroine), Zahur Raja, Leela Mishra, Anwari, Bhudo Advani, Murad, Amir Banu Naushad co-star with Noor Jehan--- 3 solos ---Diamond Jubilee film
Omar Khaiyyam Mohan Sinha Muarai Pictures Suraiya (Heroine), K.L. Saigal (Hero), Wasti, Benjamin, Shakir, Leela, Madan Puri, Muzammil Lal Mohammed Heroine---4 solos
1947 Parwana J.K. Nanda Jeet Productions Gopi K. N. Singh, K. L. Saigal (Hero), Suraiya (heroine), S. Nazir, Azurie, Najam Khurshid Anwar Heroine---4 solos
Natak S.U. Sunny Kardar Productions Pratima Devi, Amar (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sofia, Kanwar, Shyam Kumar, Amir Ali, Nazir Vedi, Nawab, Suleman Naushad Heroine---5 solos, one duet with Amar

Silver Jubliee hit

Do Dil Jagdish Sethi Jamana Production Badri Prasad, Motilal, Suraiya (Heroine), Karan Dewan (Hero), Gulab Gobind Ram Heroine---4 solos, 2 duets with Mukesh
Dard A.R. Kardar Kardar Productions Pratima Devi, Badri Prasad, Husn Banu, Munawwar Sultana (Heroine), Nusrat (Hero), Suraiya (Co-Heroine), Shyam Kumar (Villain) Naushad Co-star with Munnawar Sultana---4 solos, one duet with Uma Devi---Silver Jubilee film
Dak Bangla M. Sadiq Indian National M. Esmail, Suraiya (Heroine), Gope, Kamal Kapoor (Hero), Wasti Naresh Bhattacharya Heroine---4 solos, 1 duet with Mukesh, 1 duet with Indrabadan Bhatt
1948 Aaj ki Raat D.D Kashyap Famous Pictures Motilal (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Yakub, Leela Misra, Raj Mehra, Anita Sharma, Sangeeta, Shah Nawaz Husnlal Bhagatram Heroine---5 solos, 2 duets with G M Durrani
Vidya G. Tripathi Jeet Pictures Vidya Suraiya (Heroine), Maya Banerji, Gulam Mohamed, Madan Puri, Amibai Karnataki, Cuckoo, Munshi Khanjar, Dev Anand (Hero) S.D. Burman Heroine---4 solos, 1 duet with Mukesh
Shakti S.I. Hasan Greater Bombay Pictures Kailash, Karan Dewan (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sofia, Maya Devi, Seeta Bose, Cuckoo, Mumtaz Ali, Murad Ram Prasad Heroine---4 solos
Rang Mahal Pandit Anand Kumar Eastern Pictures Suresh (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Anant Marathe, Lalita Pawar, Shah Nawaz K. Datta Heroine---2 solos, 1 duet with Suresh
Pyar Ki Jeet O.P. Dutta Famous Pictures Gyani, Rehman (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Gope, Raj Mehra, Manorama, Leela Misra, Yashodhara Katju, Niranjan Sharma Husnlal Bhagatram Heroine---3 solos, 2 duets with Meena Kapoor and Surinder Kaur---Hit film
Kajal M.Sadiq Ratan Pictures

(Malika Pukhraj)

Suraiya (Heroine), Jayant (Hero), Gope, Sharda, Ram Kamlani, Cuckoo, Wasti, Amir Banu Ghulam Mohammed 4 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Gajre R.D.Mathur Ailled Art Production Motilal (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), AghaMP, Nihal, Sangeeta, Geeta Nizami, Sankatha Prasad, Murad Anil Biswas Heroine---4 solos
1949 Singaar J.K. Nanda Haldia Nanda Production Jairaj (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Madhubala, Madan Puri, Randhir, K. N. Singh, Durga Khote Khurshid Anwar Heroine---4 solos, 1 duet with Surinder Kaur
Shair Chawla Jagat Pictures Vidya Cuckoo, Dev Anand (Hero), Kamini Kaushal, Murad, Suraiya (Heroine), Agha, Sulochana, Shyama, Dulari Ghulam Mohammed Heroine—5 solos
Naach Ravindra Dave Kuldip Pictures Shyam (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Kuldip, Raj Mehra, Gulab, Yashodhara Katju, Sofia, Shyama, Wasti, Om Prakash Husnlal Bhagatram 5 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Lekh G. Rakesh Liberty Art Production Anand Pal, Cuckoo, Motilal (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Ishu, Jagirdar, Sitara Devi Krishan Dayal 4 solos, 1 duet with Mukesh
Jeet Mohan Sinha Raj Kriti Chitra Jeet Shree Bhagwan, Durga Khote, Dev Anand (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Kanhaiyalal, Madan Puri, Suraiya Choudhary, Habib Anil Biswas 5 solos, 1 duet with Shankar Dasgupta, 1 duet with Geeta Dutt, Vinod
Duniya S.F Hussain Fazli Bros Anwari, Karan Dewan (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Yakub, Bhudo Advani, Shakila, Zubeida, Jankidas C. Ramchandra 7 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Dillagi A.R. Kardar Kardar Production Chandabai, Amir Banu, Shyam (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sharda, Amar Naushad 6 solos, 1 duet with Shyam Kumar (singer, co- actor, not hero Shyam (this film)---Silver Jubilee film
Char Din M. Sadiq Ratan Pictures Badri Prasad, Om Prakash, Shyam (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Jayant, Randhir, Mohana, Shyama, Cuckoo Shyam Sunder 5 solos
Balam Homi Wadia Wadia Movietone Wasti (Hero), Nigar Sultana, Suraiya (Heroine), Masood, Jayant, Agha Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos, 1 duet with Lata, 1 duet with Rafi
Badi Behen D.D. Kashyap Famous Pictures Suraiya (Heroine), Ulhas, Gulab, Roop Kamal, Tabassum, Shanti Madhok, Niranjan Sharma, Ram Avtaar, Geeta Bali, Pappu, Rehman (Hero), Pran Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos---Hit film
Amar Kahani Baij Sharma Kamal Kunj Chitra Jairaj (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Mehta, Ranjana Husnlal Bhagatram 6 solos
1950 Shaan Jayant Desai Kuldip Pictures Pratima Devi, Cuckoo, Suraiya (Heroine), Sapru, Manorama, David Abraham, Rehman (Hero) Hansraj Behl 4 solos, 2 duets with Rafi
Nilli Ratibhai Punatkar Ranjit Film Company Vidya Suraiya (Heroine), Agha, Shyama, Dulari, Cuckoo, Dev Anand (Hero) S. Mohinder 6 solos, 1 duet with G.M. Durrani
Khiladi Talwar Talwar Films Ashok Kumar (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Kumar, Indu, E. Tarapore, Anoop Kumar, Narbada Shanker, Sunder, Cuckoo Hansraj Behl 4 solos, 2 duets with Rafi
Kamal Ke Phool D.D. Kashyap Famous Pictures Badri Prasad, Suraiya (Heroine), Jeevan, Raj Mehra, Leela Misra, Niranjan Sharma, Shakuntala, Amarnath (Hero) Shyam Sunder 5 solos
Dastan A.R. Kardar Musical Pictures Pratima Devi, Raj Kapoor (Hero), Al Nasir, Murad, Suraiya (Heroine), Veena, Suresh, Shakila Naushad 6 solos, 3 duets with Rafi—Silver Jubilee film
Afsar Chetan Anand Nav Ketan Rashid Khan, Suraiya (Heroine), Manmohan Krishna, Kanhaiyalal, Krishna Dhawan, Zohra Sehgal, Anand Pal, Dev Anand (Hero) S.D. Burman 5 solos, 1 duet with Geeta Dutt
1951 Shokiyan Kidar Sharma Ambitious Pictures Nazira, Shanta Kanwar, Premnath (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Jeevan, Kamlesh, Achla Sachdev, Rajendra Vyas, Ramesh Sinha Jamal Sen 3 solos, 1 duet with Lata
Sanam Nandlal Jaswantlal United Technicians Vidya Jilloo Maa, Pratima Devi, Suraiya (Heroine), Gope, Meena Kumari, Dev Anand (Hero), K. N. Singh Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos, 2 duets with Rafi, 1 duet with SD Batish, 1 trio with Shamshad and SD Batish, 1 duet with Lata
Rajput Lekhraj Bhakri Jubilee Pictures Shakuntala, Jairaj (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sapru, Kuldip Kaur, Mumtaz, Maruti, Randhir Hansraj Behl 4 solos
Do Sitare D.D. Kashyap Famous Pictures Suraiya (Heroine), Kuldip Kaur, Mumtaz, Baij Sharma, Prem Nath, Dev Anand (Hero), Shakuntala Anil Biswas 4 solos
1952 Resham Lekhraj Bhakri Jubilee Pictures Sunder, Jairaj (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sapru, Naaz, Achla Sachdev, Khurshid, Ramesh Thakur, Jagdish Hansraj Behl 4 solos
Moti Mahal Ravindra Dave Nigaristan Films Vidya Ajit (Hero), Veera, Suraiya (Heroine), Jeevan, Tabassum, Satish Hansraj Behl 3 solos, 1 duet with Shamshad begum
Lal Kunwar Ravindra Dave Nigaristan Films Nasir Khan (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Jairaj, Usha Kiran, Agha, Durga Khote S.D. Burman 4 solos
Khubsoorat S.F. Hussain Fazli Bros. Nasir Khan (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Yakub, Bhudo Advani, Zubeida, Jankidas Madan Mohan 4 solos
Goonj Phani Majumdar Kwarta Art Production Bhagwan, Suresh (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sapru, Majnu, Madan Puri, Randhir, Ravikant Sardul Sharma 5 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
Diwana A.R. Kardar Kardar Production Suresh (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Sumitra Devi, Shyam Kumar, Ramesh, Madan Puri, Banerjee, Amirbai Karnataki, Amir Ali Naushad 4 solos, 1 duet with Lata—Silver Jubilee film
1953 Mashuqa Shanti Kumar Chitrakar Suraiya (Heroine), Agha, Kuldip Kaur, Durga Khote, Amirbai Karnataki, Mukesh (Hero) Roshan 4 solos, 2 duets with Lata
1954 Mirza Ghalib Sohrab Modi Minerva Movietone Bharat Bhushan (Hero), Murad, Durga Khote, Jagdish Sethi, Suraiya (Heroine), Nigar Sultana, Mukri, Baij Sharma, Kumkum, Sadat Ali, Iftekhar, Roshan Ghulam Mohammed 5 solos, 1 duet with Talat
Bilwamangal D.N. Madhok Minar Movies Vidya C.H. Atma (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Nirupa Roy, Ulhas, Asha Mathur Bulo C Rani 5 solos, 2 duets with C.H.Atma
Waris Nitin Bose Minerva Movietone Shobha Jagdish Sethi, Suraiya (Heroine), Talat Mehmood (Hero), Nadira, Sadat Ali, Meheli Modi, Yakub, Achla Sachdev, Roopmala Anil Biswas 3 solos, 4 duets with Talat
Shama Parwana D.D. Kashyap Kashyap Production Shammi Kapoor (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Roop Mala, Ulhas, Sunder, Mubarak Husnlal Bhagatram 4 solos, 3 duets with Rafi, 1 duet with Asha
1955 Kanchan Baij Sharma Kamal Kunj Chitra Jairaj (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Mehta, Ranjana Husnlal Bhagatram 6 solos
Inam M.I. Dharamsey Zodiac Pictures Pratima Devi, Nasir Khan (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Yakub, Bimla Kumari, Mukri S. N. Tripathi 3 solos, 1 duet with Mohantara Ajinkya
1956 Mr. Lambu N.A.Ansari Sheikh Mukhtar Bhagwan, Helen, Sheikh Mukhtar (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Kamaljeet, Vijayalaxmi, N. A. Ansari, Minoo Mumtaz O.P.Nayyar 2 solos, 1 duet with Rafi
1958 Trolly Driver Gajanan Jagirdar Divya Jyot Production Rehman (Hero), Cuckoo, Pratima Devi, Bhagwan, Suraiya (Heroine), Jagirdar, Usha Kiran, Madan Puri Husnlal Bhagatram 2 solos, 1 duet with Rafi, 3 unavailable
Miss 1958 Kuldip Kahar A.K. Movies Om Prakash, Suraiya (Heroine), Karan Dewan (Hero), Madan Puri, Naaz, Krishna Kumari N. Dutta 1 solo
Malik S.M. Yusuf Sunny Art Productions Jagdeep, Lalita Pawar, Roopmala, Suraiya (Heroine), Talat Mehmood (Hero), Jeevan, Mukri, Radhakrishen, Kumar Ghulam Mohammed 1 solo, 2 duets with Talat
1958 Taqdeer (not her film)-- 2 songs sung by her for her earlier incomplete film. These were used by the music director and picturised on Shyama. A S Arora Neela Productions Karan Dewan (Hero), Shyama (Heroine), Asha Mathur, Madan Puri, Helen, S.K. Prem Dhani Ram

(Lyrics by Verma Malik)

2 songs; Hawa uda kar layi; and Bewafa kar ke jafa, sung by her for an incomplete film- used by MD in Taqdeer
1961 Shama Lekhraj Bhakri Tasveeristan Kumud Tripathi, Nimmi, Vijay Dutt (Hero)(Guru Dutt's brother), Suraiya (Heroine), Kumar, Kammo, Tarun Bose, Mumtaz Begum, Tuntun, Leela Misra, Renu Maker Ghulam Mohammed 3 solos
1963 Rustam Sohrab[69] Vishram Bedekar Ramsay Productions Murad, Prithviraj Kapoor (Hero), Suraiya (Heroine), Premnath (Co-Hero), Mumtaz, Azad, Merlyn, Hiralal, P. Kailash, Sajjan Sajjad Hussain 1 solo, her last song ('Yeh kaisee ajab dastan ho gayi hai')


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External links