Our Beacon Forum

Tribute to Suraiya
By:Muhammad Rafi UK
Date: Monday, 17 July 2017, 11:17 pm

Sent by Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed. I know him since 2008

A tribute to Singer-Actress Suraiya (1929-2004),
Dear All, to get away from the discussions and controversies we are all so much used to I suggest we listen to this historic radio talk of Suraiya.
She was the last of the Singer-Heroines besides Nor Jahan. Thereafter playback singers were one group and heroines another..
She had a very attractive, sensual voice. Her Urdu diction was flawless although she was a Punjabi.
Born in Gujranwala she spent the early years of her life in Lahore and then her mother and that section of the family moved to Bombay. Her father had some furniture business in Gujranwala and later Lahore but when the family moved to Bombay what happened to him is not known.
In Bombay, Suraiya was launched by her mother and Mama (maternal uncle) as a child radio singer and actress and the great Naushad made her into a film singer-actress. She later became one of the most well-paid and wealthy actresses of Bombay.
Yet, her life was anything but happiness. She fell in love with Dev Anand and both wanted to marry but her Naani (maternal grandmother) put her foot down. Ostensibly because both belonged to different religions but my guess is that it would have meant that the hen which lay the golden egg getting out of the custody of her family.
Anyhow, Suraiya surrendered to the pressure, which included some famous film directors although they have not been named, on grounds that a cross-religion marriage would be too drastic. Suraiya never married and after she stopped working in films she became a recluse.
My native Mozang, Lahore, had a special relationship with Suraiya. I grew up listening to the story of a tailor from Mozang who was so completely infatuated with Suraiya that his story became household gossip . Some people exploited that and convinced him that Suraiya had agreed to marry him. The poor man made the preparations but his dreams were dashed when he came to Bombay.
Many years later in 2001 I knocked at her doorbell at Krishna Apartments, Marine Drive Bombay. I sent in my card saying that I was from Lahore, an academic writing about people of Lahore and Punjab who made their name in the Bombay film industry. Suraiya refused to grant me an interview. I suppose she thought I will talk about Dev Anand, which was not my intention.
Incidentally, many years later in 2013 Kalpana Kartik (real name Mona Singha) Dev Anand's wife, also from Lahore (belonging to the prominent Christian family of Dewan S. P. Singha, the Speaker of the last Punjab Legislative Assembly of undivided Punjab) also refused to give me an interview and I suspect also for the same reason, Dev Anand. Both lived in the same house but in separate quarters and were estranged.
Anyhow, here is Suraiya:
Best Regards,

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed

Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. Latest publications, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed, *(Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012), won the Best Non-Fiction Book Prize at the 2013 Karachi Literature Festival and the 2013 UBL-Jang Groups Best Non-Fiction Book Prize at Lahore and the Best Book on Punjab Award from Punjabi Parchar at the Vaisakhi Mela in Lahore, 2016. And , Pakistan: The Garrison State, Origins, Evolution, Consequences (1947-2011), Oxford, 2013.