Suraiya Jamal Sheikh was an Indian playback singer and actress. The height of her career was in 1950. She portrayed a dual role in the Indian Cinema and in playback singing in the late 1940s. She took her last breath in the year 2004 because of some health issues.
Suraiya was born on Saturday, 15 June 1929 (age 75 years; at the time of death) in Lahore.
She died on 31 January 2004 because of various health ailments, including hypoglycemia, ischemia, and insulinoma. She had done her schooling at J.B. Petit High School for Girls in the Fort district of Mumbai. Suraiya was proudly known for her Muslim feudal style of acting. Her major works include working on the film Taj Mahal in which she played the young Mumtaz Mahal. She was among the highest-paid actresses from the late 1940s to the early 1950s. Her first appearance was in the film Madame Fashion (1936) whose director was Jaddan Bai.
Family & Caste
Suraiya belongs to a Muslim Feudal family. She was one-year-old when her family moved to Mumbai to live at Krishna Mahal at Marine Drive. M Zahoor, Suraiya’s maternal uncle, was a well-known villain in the 1930s Bombay Film Industry. Her childhood friends were Raj Kapoor and Madan Mohan, with whom she used to sing in the Children’s Radio Program at All India Radio.
Suraiya was a beautiful daughter of Aziz Jamal Sheikh (father) and Mumtaz Sheikh (mother).
Husband & Children
Suraiya Jamal Sheikh had remained unmarried during her lifetime because of some personal reasons.
A normal incident that occurred during a film shooting had marked the start of her love life with Dev Anand. Dev Anand was a famous Indian actor, director, and producer in the Bollywood Industry. Suraiya and Dev Anand fell in love with each other during the shooting of a film.
It was a minor incident when a boat turned over in the water and Dev Anand saved her from drowning. This incident played a major role in Suraiya’s life and her romance with Dev Anand began there. Life can take any turn anytime and the same happened with Suraiya. She wanted to marry Dev Anand because of her divine love for him but remained unmarried during her whole lifespan. Her maternal grandmother didn’t want her to marry him because of religious issues, as she belonged to a Muslim family and Dev Anand belonged to a Hindu family. It was also said that she was the only earning member in her entire family and that’s why her grandmother didn’t wish for her marriage to Dev Anand. The situation was heartbreaking for both sides and then Dev Anand moved on in his life and got married in the year 1954. Suraiya’s relationship got highlighted with Dev Anand, but she liked Gregory Peck, a Hollywood actor.
Suraiya was born into a Muslim feudal family. Her family was an orthodox family and follow the old and traditional belief system.
Suraiya played a dual role in her professional life as a famous actress and a sweet playback singer in the Indian Film Industry. She made her Bollywood debut in the Hindi film Madame Fashion in which she played the role of Miss Suraiya. This film was directed by Jaddanbai and it was released on 30 July 1936. One day, she went on a holiday with her maternal uncle M. Zahoor and that day turned out to be a life-changing day for her. Nanubhai Vakil, a famous Indian filmmaker, was impressed by the innocent and beautiful Suraiya and had given her the role of young Mumtaz Mahal in the film Taj Mahal. Reportedly, she landed this role when she visited on the sets of Taj Mahal along with her father, where filmmaker Nanubhai Vakil noticed the talent of 12-year-old Suraiya. She acted in various films as a child artist namely Tamanna(1942), Station Master(1942), and Hamari Baat(1943). She started working with Dev Anand in the late 1940s and then also got involved in a love relationship. They both worked in seven films together which were Vidya (1948), Jeet (1949), Shair (1949), Afsar (1950), Nili (1950), Do Sitare (1951), and Sanam (1951). She was among the highest-paid actresses in the Indian Bollywood Industry in the late 1940s. Suraiya had given a remarkable performance in the movie Mirza Ghalib and this very movie won the National Award for the best feature film in India. Our late Prime Minister also praised Suraiya for her great performance.
Suraiya started singing in her childhood days. She first sang as a playback singer in the film Nai Duniya (1942). The name of her first song was “Boot karun main polish babu” and it was composed by Naushad. Suraiya continued her playback singing for different films namely Sharda (1942), Kanoon (1943), and Sanjog (1942-43). An actor K.L. Saigal also got impressed by the talent of 16-year-old Suraiya so strongly that he gave her a dual role of a heroine and of the singer in the film Tadbir. Suraiya sang a series of thirteen songs in the films Ishara (1943), Parwana (1947), and Singaar (1949). Suraiya was so dedicated to her singing skills that she even played her part after the partition also in India while her co-star lefts for Pakistan after the partition.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Suraiya’s famous film Mirza Ghalib won the President’s Gold Medal by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for the best feature film in the year 1954.
- Suraiya was also awarded the Screen Lifetime Achievement Award in the year 1996.
- Suraiya was awarded by the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy and Screen World Publications on the 134th birth anniversary of Dadasaheb Phalke.
- On the occasion of the completion of 100 years of Indian Cinema, Suraiya has been voted the ‘Best On-Screen Beauty with the Most Ethnic Look’ because of her charming beauty and essence.
Suraiya’s father, Aziz Jamal Sheikh died in the year 1963, and then she left her acting career. She was now left with her mother in her house, Krishna Mahal, Marine Drive in Mumbai. After her mother’s demise in the year 1987, Suraiya was all alone in her life. Suraiya was disheartened very because her grandmother didn’t allow her marital alliance with Dev Anand. After that, she took a leap from her acting and singing career. Suraiya also refrained from coming into the limelight and in the public eyes. She was suffering from various health ailments due to which she got hospitalized at Mumbai’s Harkishindas Hospital. She took her last breath on 31 January 2004 at 75.
- Suraiya didn’t have the attributes of a contemporary actress, neither she received formal training in music. Still, she reigned in the entertainment industry during the 40s and 50s.
- Suraiya and Dev Anand’s affair was one of the most controversial love affairs in the Indian Film Industry.
- Nadira, who was a co-star with Suraiya in the film Waris said that her father repeatedly visited the theatre to watch the song sung by her ”Socha tha kya”.
- Suraiya’s three songs got hit ”Pyar ki jeet”, “Badi behen”, and “Dillagi”. these were the songs that made Suraiya the highest paid female star.
- In her last film “Rustom Sohrab”, Suraiya sang the song “Ye kaisi ajab dastan ho gayi hai”.
- It was noticed that even after Suraiya’s death, a red rose was always found on her grave in the Mumbai kabristan. It shows that her lover loved her truly even in her absence.
- Although Suraiya was untrained in music or singing songs, she sang for two films namely Station Master and Sharda.
- Once The Hindu described the diverse attributes of Suraiya and wrote,
What can you say about a lady who was courted by Dev Anand, respected by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, but feared by Lata Mangeshkar.”