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Suraiya-the unparalleled singing star of free India

After partition two singing stars, Noor Jehan and Khurshid migrated to Pakistan. Suraiya,(1929-2004) the only other reputed singing actress, had thus an open field. She was undoubtedly the topmost singing star of the country as all other heroines sang in borrowed voices. Suraiya’s death anniversary on January 31 was observed better by Radio Ceylon(which devoted an hour and a half to her songs) than Vividh Bharati which noticed her in ‘Aj ke fankar’ but hardly did justice to her in ‘Bhoole bisre geet’ and ‘Tere sur aur mere geet’.   She was perhaps the only singing star who, after Uma Sashi, Kanan and Khurshid, had sung a duet with Saigal in film ‘Tadbir.  She sang with Mukesh (with whom she acted as heroine in ‘Mashooqa’), Rafi, Talat, G.M.Durani, Shankar Dasgupta, and several others.

 Suraiya’s songs from DilLagi, specially ‘Murli wale murli baja’ and’Tera khyaal dil se bhulaya na jaaae ga’ were on every one’s lips to say nothing of her duets with Shyam Kumar, ‘Tu mera chand main teri chandni’ and ‘Zalim zamana mujh ko tum se chura raha hai’. She sang for S.D.Burman (Vidya, Afsar), Ghulam Haider (Jag Biti),Naushad (Sharda, Dil Lagi , Sanjog, ‘Kanoon’ Dastaan, Diwana etc), Anil Biswas (Waris, Gajre), Roshan (Mashooqa), Husanlal Bhagatram (Pyar Ki Jeet, Bari Behen, Shama Parwana, Balam,Naach), Pt Govindram(Do Dil), Ghulam Mohammad (Mirza Ghalib), O.P.Nayyar (Mr Lambu) Khurshid Anwar (Parwana, Ishara) C.Ramchandra (Duniya), S.Mohinder (Nili), Bulo C Rani(Bilwa Mangal)and so on. With Mukesh it was, ‘Lai khushi ki duniya hasti hui jawanai (Vidya), with Rafi, ‘Taron bhari raat hai’ (Kajal) and ‘Ai ishq hamen barbaad na kar’ (Naach), with Talat it was, ‘Dil-e-nadan tujhe hua kya hai (Mirza Ghalib), with G.M.Durani, it was, ‘Mere ansuo meri hasrato meri zindagi ko ye kya hua’ (Aj ki Raat). She rendered a duet with Surendra in ‘1857’

NEHRU’S COMPLIMENTS:Isn’t it surprising that some of her most popular songs are the ones she sang for Husanalal Bhagat Ram ?’O dur jaane wale wada na bhool jana’, ‘likhne wale ne likh di meri taqdeer mein barbadi’, ‘Tum mujh ko bhool jao’ and ‘Bigari banana wale bigari banaa de’. But her most prestigious film was ‘Mirza Ghalib’, the first to win a President’s award. She acted and sang beautifully in that film. Her solos, ‘Nuktachi hai ghame dil’, ‘Ye na thi hamario qismat’, ‘Rahiye ab aisi jegah chal kar jahan koi na ho’ were so captivating that even Pandit Nehru, after watching the President Award-winning  film, couldn’t help paying her a warm compliment.

Suaraiya had a special style of her own – simple, melodious and charming.  The generation that grew with her songs, before the advent of Lata and after the departure of Khurshid and Noor Jehan to Pakistan may be remembering her with a deep sense of nostalgia because during those few years after 1947 and till the arrival of Lata there was no parallel, no competition for her. Would one believe it that she acted opposite Prithviraj when she was just 13 and he was nearly 45 years older ? The film was ‘Ishara’ in which Suraiya was the ‘other’ girl, the heroine being Swarnlata. But  what a contrast between the voices of the two singers – Suiraiya and Gohar Sultana of Lucknow who played back for Swarnlata. While Suraiya sang that enticing song, ‘Panghat pe muraliya baaje’  Gohar Sultana  rendered that sad mournful number: ‘Shabnam kyon neer bahaae’. Subsequently Suraiya acted as a heroine with Prithivi’s two sons – Raj Kapoor (Dastan) and Shammi Kapoor (Shama Parwana). Both films were musically very rich with Suraiya ‘s songs playing a dominating role in the success of these films.

 It was Naushad who gave her the first hit song of her career, ‘Panchchija peeche raha hai bachpan mera’ though earlier she had sung for him in Station Master and Nai Duniya . But the first song she recorded was for a film ‘Taj Majal.’
Suraiya acted against several singing stars, the foremost being K.L.Saigal with whom she acted in ‘Tadbir’, ‘Omar Khayam’ and ‘Parwana’. Only in Tadbir did she sing a duet with the legendary singer: ‘Rani chhorr de ab nidiya,Milne ka din a gaya, laj ki mari main na bolun’. She acted opposite Surendra in 1857 and  ‘Anmol Ghadi’.  She also acted with C.H.Atma in ‘Bilwa Mangal’.  She was heroine of Mukesh in ‘Mashooqa’ in which the two sang a Holiand a Lori(lullaby)  together. She was Talat Mahmood’s heroine in ‘Waris’ and the two sang that famous song, ‘Rahi matwale’ They were together in Malik too singing ‘Man dheere dhere gaye ja’

After ‘Sharda’ (in which she played back for Mehtab – and continued to do so in films like Sanjog and Kanoon of A.R.Kardar), Suraiya’s first hit song was a duet with Arun Kumar  in film ‘Hamari Baat’ sung by her and   Raj Kapoor   on the screen. The music director was Anil Biswas. The song was a super-hit: ‘Bistar bicha liya hai tere dar ke samne ghar hum ne le liya hai tere ghar ke samne’

Naushad tuned memorable songs for her in her own acted films like ‘Dard’, ‘Natak’’Diwana’, ‘Dastan’. But her biggest Naushad hit  was ‘Dil Lagi’ whose songs were heard in every nook and corner of northern India, specially the song, ‘Murli wale murli baja’ though the duet from that film, ‘Tu mera chand main teri chandni’ was a super hit. It continues to mesmerize listeners even today.

Husanlal Bhagat Ram zoomed her to the dizzy heights of fame, success and glory in just two films –‘Pyar Ki Jeet’ and ‘Bari Behen’, though they composed songs for her for several other films too like ‘Naach’ (Ai ishq hamen barbaad na kar),’Balam’. In the  film ‘Pyar ki jeet’ the song, ‘O dur jaane wale wada na Bhool jana’ was a bumper hit. And in Bari Behen all the four songs sung by her were super hits including ‘Woh paas rahen ya dur rahen’, ‘Bigarri banaane wale’, ‘Tum mujh ko Bhool hjao’ and ‘Likhne wale ne likh di meri taqdeer mein barbaadi’  Suraiya’s songs in films like ‘Shaan’(Tarap ai dil tarapne se zara araam aata hai), Lekh,‘Dak Bunglow’, ‘Do Dil’, Sanam’, Khiladi (her only film with Ashok Kumar), Duniya, Gajre, Naach, Kamal Ke Phool, Shakti, Jeet and Shair etc were also a treat to the ears.
 It was reported once that when Suraiya was to record songs for film ‘Duniya’ under music direction of C.Ramchandra, Lata had already reached the top position. So  Suraiya  asked C.Ramchandra if he would like to use Lata’s voice to playback for her. CR was stunned by the request and he turned it down. Some of Suraiya’s songs in Duniya did become hits. She had a unique quality in her voice which had fascinated the people. How could she ever think of such a thing ?

But reports indicate that Suraiya realized, while singing duets with Lata, that she was far superior. Incidentally, Husanlal Bhagatram used both Lata and Suraiya to sing together twice, once in the song,’O pardesi musafir kise karta ishare’ in film ‘Balam’ and another song ‘Bedard shikari sun baat hamari’ Naushad used the two in film ‘Diwana’ too, ‘Mere chand mere ladle re’. But these songs were not much of a hit. It was only Jamal Sen who in ‘Shokhian’ could make them sing a hit number.

My friend Vijay Ratan presented me a book by Raju Bharatan , a well-known film critic, who was reportedly Suraiya’s class mate in school. He has gone on record to state that originally Suraiya had been selected to play the lead in film ‘Anarkali’ (the role played by Bina Rai) and act as  Chandramukhi (the role enacted by Vyjantimala) in film ‘Devdas’ . But her granny demanded a very high price so the alternatives were selected. Had she done ‘Anarkali’, would she have done justice to the songs rendered by Lata ? Maybe then the tunes composed by C.Ramchandra would have been different.  She could have done Chandramukhi’s role after having successfully done the courtesan’s role in award-winning film ‘Mirza Ghalib’.

Professor K.K.Mishra, who is a great admirer of Suraiya once raised an interesting query. What was the age of Suraiya when she acted opposite Prithiviraj  and Saigal in ‘Ishara’ and ‘Parwana’ respectively. Suraiya was a child star when she acted in ‘Ishara’. She was 13 and  Prithviraj was said to have been 45 then.  The difference was of 32 years.  Saigal was 43 when he passed away in 1947. If  Suraiya was 16 when she acted in Parwana in 1946 then the gap between them could be over 25 years. 

Suraiya and Devanand were romantically linked and their love affair was greatly highlighted  in the press. They were deeply in love and their marriage dates too were announced. But the wedding could not materialize. However, Suraiya was true to her beloved. She never married nor was her name again linked with any hero.  One can say that Suraiya was true to him till the last breath of her life. But Devanand  did sob on the day she died. After her death Dev recalled:. When her granny prevented her from marrying him, she had told him, ‘Tum mujh ko bhool jao’ May God bless her. She was a talented woman, a chaste woman who confined herself to virtuous living, spending her last days in loneliness. I would like to remember her through the Naushad-tuned song from Natak which she might as well have sung remembering Dev in her lonely hours: ‘Jab se chale gae hain woh, zindagi zindagi nahin, Saaz hai aur sada nahin, Shama hai roshni nahin…Jeene ko jee rahi hun main un ke bagair bhi magar, zindagi keh sakun jise, aisi to zindagi nahin ’.

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O.P.Nayyar’s tunes retain their magical spell

Like old wine,. O.P.Nayyar’s music sounds sweeter today than ever before.The Lahore-born genius((Jan 16,1926) died in Mumbai on January 28, 2007. Last week his death anniversary was observed on different radio stations to remind us of the genius that he was in the field of music compositions. He did give fast numbers but we cannot forget some of the haunting melodies  he gave,  most of  which were sung by Asha and several by Geeta.Not many may be knowing that  Nayyar’s non-film songs in the voice of C.H.Atma had become hits too. And some of these were written by his wife Saroj Mohini Nayyar. Preetam aan milo was one of these. Atma’s voice resembled that of Saigal.One could notice it in the song  , ‘More balam basey pardes sakhi saari raat na nidiya aye’. Now Saigal; had a special style of singing ‘Balam’ which he had immortalized in the song, ‘Balam aye baso morey man mein’. Nayyar went to Pankaj Mullick, who had directed several songs of Saigal, and sought his guidance. Pankaj Mullick blessed Nayyar who then  recorded the song. The label mentions that the music was by Nayyar but it was under supervision of Pankaj Mullick. On the other side was another private Nayyar –tuned  gem from C.H.Atma, supervised by Pankaj Mulluick. The  song was, ‘Aae sakhi naa balama beeti bahar’ (‘Balam’ word appears in this song too). Later, Nayyar tuned some songs for Atma in Pancholi’s ‘Aasman’. One of my favourite Nayyar-tuned non-film songs written by his wife was rendered by N.L.Puri in the Saigal style: ‘Punarjanam mein milun gi balm, akhiyan neer na aaye’.  

   Nayyar selected Talat Mahmood to sing for Guru Dutt in Baaz, one of his earliest films. The   song  was fantastic: ‘Mujhe dekho hasrat ki tasveer hoon main’. After that he  waited for several years and then tuned two duets for Talat, both sung with Asha.  Talat  was the singing star in that film. One of the two duets by Talat and Asha has become a classic. The film was ‘Sone ki chidiya’ and the song was ‘Pyar par bas to nahin hai mera lekin phir bhi, tu bata de ke tujhe pyaar karoon ya na karoon’. Just listen to it. The tunes take such melodious turns that it became one of those classics which can be placed among the best created by the best of music directors. The other duet was of course in his usual style ‘;Sach bata tu mujh se khafa’
KISHORE: Kishore sang several hit songs for Nayyar in films like Ragni, Baap Re Baap. Film ‘Kabhi andhera kabhi ujala’ was known only for the Kishore song, ‘Surma mera nirala’. But when it came to the singing of the classical-based song, ‘Man mora bawra’ Nayyar chose Rafi to sing this song for Kishore though one of the finest serious songs by Kishore was tuned by Nayyar in ‘Ek bar muskurado’ – ‘Savere ka sooraj tumhare liye hai’.

MUKESH MOVED:Mukesh was another rare singer whom he booked only thrice.  The first  was in a duet with Asha Bhosle in film ‘Miss Coca Cola’ Geeta Bali and Shammi Kapoor were in the romantic lead. They fell in love and got married thereafter. The song Mukesh and Asha sang was an instant hit: ‘Jhujka jhuka ke nigahen milaye jaate hain’. Geeta Roy sang the remaining songs in that film like ‘Teri kafir nigah kar gai dil ko tabah’.In ‘Ek baar muskurado’ he took Mukesh for two songs – duets – one being the title song and another a jazzy dance number, ‘Yeh roop tera mastana, maange dil ka nazrana’ But the most famous song by Mukesh for him was in the film ‘Sambandh’ The film had other songs by different artistes. But none could touch the glorious heights of popularity that this Mukesh number reached: ‘Chal akela, chal akela, tera mela peeche chhoota rahi chal akela’. Mukesh recorded it in just one take. Nayyar says Mukesh was  startled on learning that there was to be no second take. ‘Why should I take the second take when you have sung it beautifully in the first take?’ Nayyar says that Mukesh was literally in tears as he said, ‘Never before have I recorded a song in the very first take’.
  Nayyar’s musical ties with Asha wee deepand intense.But when they parted, they parted forever. Nayyar says that the last film they did together was, ‘Pran jae par vachan na jae’ She had recorded  the song’ Chain se hum ko kabhi aap ne jeene na diya’  After the dispute she tried her level best to  get the song erased. But the producer would have nothing of it. The song remained and it is indeed very well sung. I think the shock of parting with Asha was too big for him to bear. Nayyar could  never regain his old form  and gradually departed from the scene, though  without fading away. He did try singers like Dilraj Kaur but never got back his old form again.

  Initially Nayyar  utilized the voice of Geeta Dutt.  And he also tried to copy the style of S.D.Burman, specially the maestro’s unparalleled style in ‘Baazi’  . Just recall those songs filmed on Geeta Bali: ‘Tadber se bigarri hui taqdeer banale’ and ‘Sona na khona na’ and then listen to ‘Majhi albele’ and ‘Zara samne to aa’ by Geeta in ‘Baaz’—or ‘Jata kahan hai deewane, sab kuch yahan hai sanam’, One would feel that Burman was the composer. Asha  came with Nayyar in ‘Mangu’ after ‘Taxi Driver’ which had Shiela Ramani singing that jazzy Asha number, ‘Jeene do, charhti jawani ke din hain’. In Mangu too Shiela Ramani was the star. This film was produced by Sheikh Mukhtar.  I have a feeling that he booked Asha after listening to her successful jazzy number in Taxi Driver. The song, ‘Man more ga jhoom ke’ has the typical Burman flavour. When she sings, ‘Barkha ho…Barkha ho badal hon aur vo sitam, koyal; na kooke to hae sitam’. Barkha ho was in the style of Jeene do
SHAMSHAD TOO:He was a great admirer of Shamshad Begum and recorded several gems in her voice in ‘Aar Paar’, ‘CID’, ‘Naya Andaz’
ASHA SILENT, LATA SPEAKS:The irony is that when he passed away, Lata Mangeshkar, who had never sung for him, came on the TV screen immediately to pay warm tributes to him but Asha Bhosle, whose career got a big boost because of him , never said a word for him—not initially. If she has stated  something subsequently then I am not aware of that. Incidentally, in the initial states Nayyar patronized Geeta Dutt more than Asha Bhosle. This was not so just in Guru Dutt’s films but also in movies made by other production houses. In film ‘Johny Walker’ Geeta and Asha sang that hit song ‘Thandi thandi hawa pooche un ka pata’. In ‘Musafir Khana’ there was a popular Rafi-Geeta duet, ‘Achchaji maaf kar do,thora hisab kar do’.The song that hit the top position in the popularity chart was from film ‘Choo Mantra’ -, ‘Garib jaan ke hum ko na tum bhula dena’ . Aar Par and CID were full of Geeta songs. In 12 0’ Clock the Geeta solo was superb: ‘Kaisa jadoo balam tum ne daala, kho gaya nanha sa dil hamara’ In this very film was that hit Geeta=Rafi duet, ‘Dekh idhar ai haseena, June ka hai maheena’. Another Geeta solo that invaded the popularity chart was from ‘Ustad’ – Chor lutere daku’. ‘Howrah Bridge’ did have Asha’s ‘Aiye meharbaan’. But the most popular number was by Geeta: ‘Mera naam chin chin choo’

SECRET REVEALED: Nayyar revealed  a secret in the programme ‘Ujale un ki yadon ke’ that once, during her last days, Geeta Dutt rang him up and asked him, ‘Nayyar Sa’ab, why don’t you give me any contract to sing for you’. Nayyar says, ‘I told her I wish I could, but Asha Bhosle does not permit me to do so’. This was very revealing. And it shows that Asha acted mean in denying  posterity some more melodic gems which Nayyar could have recorded in the voice of Geeta Dutt. Had Geeta lived on then after Asha left him, she would certainly have filled the vacuum

ASHA’S MELODIES:This is not to minimize Asha’s own contributions to Nayyar’s success. One cannot find place for all the melodies she recorded for him, the sad numbers, the solos, the duets in films like ‘Phagun’, ‘Mere Sanam’, ‘Kalpana’ (Bekhudi had se jab guzar jae), Raagini, ‘Ek Musafir Ek Hasina’, ‘Tum Sa Nahin Dekha’ (Sar pe topi lal), Kashmir Ki Kali, Howrah Bridge,, Humsaya, Kismet, Phir wohi dil laya hoon’, ‘Ye Raat Phir Na Aye Gi’, ‘Baharen phir bhi ayen gee’. How can you forget those soulful Asha numbers, ‘Raton ko chori chori boley mora kangana’,’Jaaiye aap kahan jaaiyega’Voh has ke mile aise, hum pyar samajh baithe’, ‘Yehi voh jegah hai, yehi voh fiza hai’, ‘Avo huzoor tum ko sitaron mein le chaloon’ Nayyar has certainly gone to Sitaron ki duniya – but all alone, leaving behind his wife, his one-time beloved and of course millions and millions of admirers who will always remain grateful to him for creating the melodic wonders of the 20th century. One of the saddest compositions by him with lyrics by wife Sarojini Mohini Nayyar was, ‘Diya to jala sab raat re balam par tum laut naa aye’, sung originally as non-film song by Manmohan Krishna and later by C.H.Atma in ‘Dhake ki Malmal’. It was eternal wait for Saroj Mohini Nayyar. They parted. He never went back and passed away. It was a sad, lonely death.

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