"A song is more lasting than the riches of the world", said Padraic Colum. The singing idol of the Hindi screen, Suraiyya subscribes in full to this philosophy. But in her every day life, the song has meant something more - her songs have won her recognition, paved paved the way to her entry into the films and thus to the riches of the film-world.
In Kardar Productions' Sharda Suraiyya sang the popular tune 'Panchhi Ja..' for the heroine Mehtaab. The song proved a sensational hit and became a hot favourite with the film-goers. Even since then, Suraiyya reigned supreme over the hearts of the film-goers as the singing sweetheart of the silver screen. Perharps, she has to her credit more songs than any other singing star (Female) of the Indian screen.
After the migration of Noor Jahan and Khursheed to Pakistan in the wake of partition, Suraiyya was the only film-heroine in India who sang her songs in the films. She had a mellow voice that rings with melody and echoes in one's memory for a long time. All this, however, does not mean Suraiyya owed her success in filmdom to her voice only. Had it been so, she would have still remained only a popular play back singer. No doubt, her voice was her biggest asset and it did facilitate her entry into films. But her flair for acting coupled with her dancing talent played a great part in making her the success she had been because rare, indeed, is a film star who could claim the three-in-one distinction of being a singer, a dancer and an actress.
Born at Lahore on June 15, 1929, Suraiyya had been educated in New High School for girls at Bombay. Simultaneously, she was given religious teachings in Persian at home. Her study of Persion litreature and Quaran has helped her a lot in building up her personality. The eloquent testimony to this was her grand performance in Mirza Ghalib. Suraiyya, in fact, strikes one as more Oriental in outlook than some of her sister stars in the film-firmament.
Like many of our leading artists of today, Suraiyya's entry into the world of movies was more accidental than otherwise. In 1941 during a holiday from school she accompanied her uncle Zahur (then a popular character actor) to Mohan Studios to see the shooting of the film Taj Mahal. A child was needed for a scene and she was asked whether she would like to face the camera. Out of sheer fun, Suraiyya said "Yes". The shot proved a success and everyone around including director Nanubhai Vakil congratulated her. But at that time none has imagined that she would some day become one of filmdom's top most singing stars. She continued her studies and occasionally took part in the children's programmes of All India Radio with Shammi and Raj Kapoor who were also unknown to film world in those days.
Her sweet voice was her biggest asset and the attraction for others. And literally, she sang her way to success because it was actually her voice that gave her the first major break into the dream world of the movies. Her fame as a melodious singer spread at once with the popularity of her playback songs in Sharda, Station Master, Sanjog and Kanoon. Soon she started getting roles in pictures. She first caught the eye of the film goers by her popular dancing and singing performance in Bombay Talkies' Hamari Baat. Her song 'Ghar Humne Le Liya Hai..' proved a big hit.
Then came D.R.D. Productions' Ishaara and Suraiyya leapt into the headlines by acting opposite veteran Prithviraj. Roles came one after the other and the name Suraiyya became ynonymous with successful musical pictures she had thus became a full fledged star and won for her the endearing title "Chocolate Charmer" of the Indian screen. Among the outstanding film she acted into are Phool, Samrat Chandragupt, Anmol Ghadi, Umar Khaiyyam, 1857, Aaj Ki Raat, Dard, Dillagi, Naatak, Afsar, Kaajal, Vidya, Jeet, Tadbir, Daastan, Sanam, Char Din, etc. Among her major hits are Pyar Ki Jeet, Badi Bahan. In Tadbir, Omar Khaiyam and Parwana she had the real privelage of acting feminine lead against the singing idol of millions the late K. L. Saigal. Indeed, they made a unique singing pair.
During her off moments Suraiyya likes to browse over books and magazines. She was a discriminating reader and her favourites authors are Sommerset Maughem, Marie Corelli and Khalil Gibran. Suraiyya's amibition was to play rocking comedy role another of her more well-known ambition was to meet Gregory Peck, her hot favourite among the celluloid idols of Hollywood. And she realised it in 1954 when Peck broke journey at Bombay on his way to Ceylon for location shooting of Purple Plain.