Surraiya Jamal Sheikh – a dark plain looking girl whose voice tickles the memories and an actress who left her indelible imprints on our mental screens. She was the most graceful and best dressed lady of yester years’ silver screen.
SURRAIYA – A name that needs no introduction, a voice that tickles the memories, an actress that left her indelible imprints on the mental screen and a graceful deity.
Imagine a soft transparent evening, sitting alone in a pensive mood in the abstract silence of your apartment, watching the yonder sunset; a twittering bird hopping aimlessly on the branches of gold showering Amaltas and suddenly she is disturbed. She pulls herself together and sits silently outside your window. Down below, the bhaiya (brother) who was ironing the school dress puts on the radio and it plays: ‘socha tha kya, kya ho gaya….’ You know – Malika Surraiya is there, behind this magic, with her restrained emotive best from the filmAnmol Ghari. You become nostalgic; you yearn for something; you long for something; you miss something and you remember something.
Surraiya Jamal Sheikh – a dark plain looking girl, the only child of her parents from Gujranwala, Punjab (now in Pakistan). She was born on June 15, 1929.
Very few know that she was not a trained singer from any gharana. Mehboob Khan spotted her talents and presented her as heroine in his classical films: Anmol Ghari (1945) and Dard (1946).KL Saigal took her fancy and recommended her for Tadbeer in 1945. He worked with her in Omar Khayyam in 1946.Surraiya had her most critical learning time with Sajjad Hussain, the elusive and eccentric music maestro who had given the polish to Noor Jehan’s singing style and Lata Manegeshkar had always referred him as her loving masterji who had taught Lata how to breathe during singing. He taught her how to make the correct pronunciations of Urdu words.Man mor hua matwala… the unforgettable song of Afsar still retains its freshness as it were the first day it was sung.
1947 to 52, was the golden period of her life. Noor Jehan and Khursheed Banu had left for Pakistan, Lata was still coming out of the tunes of Noor Jehan and Surriaya was reining supreme as highest paid actress and singer of Bollywood.
She was an empress who did never allowed her subjects to touch her feet or come closer. Dev Anand was the only lucky man upon earth who had the access and as the story goes, offered her the ring. That ring was thrown into the sea of Marine Drive at the instruction of her grand-mother. Surraiya never allowed anyone to talk upon her personal life. She rarely attended the film parties and never gave interviews. She never married.
She was the most graceful and best dressed lady of the silver screen. According to the film critics of yester years, no one had a best taste and connoisseur of jewellery than her. She was a very lonely, aloof and private character – just out of the Dicken’s novel.
She maintained a safer distance as she died a lonely death in her palatial apartment at Marine Line on January 31, 2004, defining silently the rigid space even in her death.