Born On: June 15, 1929
Born In: Gujranwala, British India
Died On: January 31, 2004
Career: Singer, Actress
No formal training in singing. No certified acting classes. Yet she ruled the silver screen for over two decades. One of the most sensational actresses during the golden eras, Suraiya is remembered for her drop-dead beautiful looks and melodious voice. A career that began from hosting a children's program on All India Radio rose dramatically as she conquered the world of Indian cinema for both singing and acting. Such was the impact of this classic almond-eyed beauty that caught hold of the attention of every onlooker that crossed her. Interestingly, there were times when the Mumbai roads were jammed up not due to a long line of cars, but because people were trying to catch a glimpse of the charismatic actress named Suraiya. Though she chose to keep a low profile following her retirement from singing and acting, her effervescent charm has kept the flame alive until present.
Suraiya was born as Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh in Gujranwala, Punjab (now in Pakistan) as the only child of her parents. Her father had a small furniture shop in Gujranwala and later shifted to Lahore. This is why she is assumed to be of Lahore origin by most. She was later taken to Bombay (present day Mumbai) by her mother, maternal uncle, and maternal grandmother much against her father's will. This transfer made her entry to Bollywood possible. While in Bombay, she received her formal education from J.B. Petit High School for Girls, in Fort. She was taught religious teachings in Persian back at home. Suraiya did not receive any training in singing or acting, yet she managed to make it big in the Indian film industry and carved a niche for herself and the generation of that era.
With the help of her maternal uncle, Zahoor (a popular villain of that epoch), Suraiya grabbed a role of a child artist in "Usne Kya Socha" in 1937. While accompanying her uncle to Mohan Studios one day in 1941 to watch the shooting of film "Taj Mahal" directed by Nanubhai Vakil, she was offered the role of young Mumtaz Mahal in the same movie. This proved to be another leap towards hitting the chartbusters. She used to sing for a children's program on All India Radio where she was once heard over by legendary music director Naushad. He instantly offered her to sing for Kardar's film "Sharda" in 1942, showcased on an elderly heroine, Mehtaab. Since she was barely in her teens, she had to stand on a stool to reach the mike and sing the song "Panchi ja". Suraiya was later launched in the 1943 "Hamari Baat" as a singing star. In the years following, she delivered some smash-away hits, but the four solo songs of "Parwana" film made her a star overnight. The composer of these songs Khawaja Khurshid Anwar was her favorite music director, but she went on to sing only 13 songs for him from 1943 through 1949.
After portraying a number of child artist roles, Suraiya was offered secondary roles as an adult. She starred in K. Asif's "Phool", Mehboob Khan's "Anmol Ghadi" (written by Aghajani Kashmeri), and "Dard". But it was "Tadbir" in 1945 that gave her a major break as the leading protagonist, at the recommendation of K.L. Saigal. Later, she starred in "Omar Khayyam" and "Parwana" with K.L. Saigal. But with the migration of ruling actresses Noor Jehan and Khursheed Bano to Pakistan post independence, Suraiya got an opportunity to flaunt her talent and rule the silver screen. With three hits in hand, "Pyar Ki Jeet", "Badi Behen", and "Dillagi", Suraiya became the highest paid actress of that time. Further, she even had an edge over Kamini Kaushal and Nargis simply because she could sing her own songs. However, the success was short-lived as after a while, her movies starting bombing on the box office in the 1950s. With "Waaris" and "Mirza Ghalib", she made her comeback in 1954. The 1963 realeased "Rustom Sohrab" was Suraiya's last film as an actor.
Suraiya has been renowned for being romantically involved with the heartthrob of yesteryears, Dev Anand. The couple starred in six films over a period of three years from 1948 to 1951, "Vidya", "Jeet", "Shayar", "Afsar", "Nili", and "Do Sitare". It so happened on the shoot of one such film that the boat carrying Suraiya capsized. Dev Anand rescued her. Bowled over by his brave act, Suraiya fell in love with him instantly. But due to religious controversies, her grandmother opposed their relationship. As a result, the affair and relationship broke off, and Suraiya chose not to marry. She remained unmarried throughout her life.
Suraiya resided in an apartment in Marine Drive in Mumbai. She died on January 31, in Harkishandas Hospital after a brief illness. She was 74 years old then. Suraiya was buried at Badakabarastan in Marine Lines.
Usne Kya Socha, 1937
Taj Mahal, 1941
Station Master, 1942
Anmol Ghadi, 1946
Omar Khayyam, 1946
Do Dil, 1947
Pyar Ki Jeet, 1948
Rang Mahal, 1948
Badi Behen, 1949
Do Sitare, 1951
Mirza Ghalib, 1954
Mr. Lambu, 1956
Rustom Sohrab, 1963
1929: Was born in Gujranwala, Punjab (now in Pakistan)
1937: Essayed the role of a child artist in "Usne Kya Socha"
1941: Worked as a young Mumtaz Mahal in "Taj Mahal"
1942: Sang her first song for "Sharda"
1943: Became a singing star with "Hamari Baat"
1945: Began her lead actor role with "Tadbir"
1947: Delivered the runaway hit "Parwana" demonstrating both her acting and singing skills
1954: Made a comeback with "Waaris" and "Mirza Ghalib"
1963: Her last film "Rustom Sohrab" was released
2004: Died on 31st January in Mumbai, aged 74.