Suraiya was born as Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh on June 15, 1929
in Gujranwala, Punjab and was the only child of her parents.
She was a dark plain looking girl and was not trained in music,
however she went on to become a successful actress and singer.
She had been educated in New Girls' High School in Bombay.
Simultaneously she was given religious teachings in Persian
at home. Her study of Persian literature and Qur'an at home,
helped her build up her personality. She made her debut as
a child artist in Usne Kya Socha (1937). Her films as a child
artist ran between 1937 and 1941. She got a break in films
with the help of her uncle Zahoor, who was a popular villain
of his time. In 1941 during a holiday from school, she accompanied
her uncle to Mohan Studios to see the shooting of the film
Taj Mahal (1941), a film by Nanubhai Vakil. Vakil noticed
the 12-year old girl and chose her to play the role of a young
Mumtaz Mahal as they had nobody else to play the role. Naushad
had heard her voice on the All India Radio where she sang
for a children's programme at the insistence of friend Raj
Kapoor and neighbour Madan Mohan. Naushad chose her to sing
as a 13 year old for Mehtaab in Kardar's Sharda (1942).
initially started by playing secondary roles in films like
K. Asif's Phool (1944), Mehboob's Anmol Ghadi (1946) and Dard
(1947). She got the break as a heroine for the movie Tadbir
(1945) at the recommendation of K. L. Saigal who liked her
voice during a rehearsal. She went on to co-star with Saigal
for two more films Omar Khayyam (1946) and Parwana (1947).
More opportunities appeared for Suraiya after reigning actresses
Noor Jehan and Khursheed migrated to Pakistan during the 1947
had an edge over her contemporaries Kamini Kaushal and Nargis
because she could sing her own songs. The years 1948-49 were
the best of her career. After three hits Pyar Ki Jeet (1948),
Badi Bahen and Dillagi (1949), she became the highest paid
female star. Her reign at the top was brief and her films
started flopping in the 1950s. She made a comeback with Waaris
and Mirza Ghalib (1954). Her last film was Rustom Sohrab (1963)
following which she kept away from films. She stayed at "Krishna
Mahal", her Marine Drive residence in Mumbai and died
in 2004 of old age at 75. She was interred at Badakabarastan
in Marine Lines, Mumbai.
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