Today being Friday, when I try to post something on either movies or Carnatic Music, in keeping with my Friday Review upbringing, I was wondering what I ought to write about. And then Suraiya gently swam into my ken, as the expression is, with something from Mirza Ghalib (Nuktachin hai gam e dil is my favourite from that movie).


I have seen a few films of Suraiya’s – Mirza Ghalib, Shama Parwana (ayyo! Mera dildaar na milaya – what a song!), Anmol Ghadi and then that dreadful Sohrab Rustam – and I must say her singing is what makes her great. It is a matter of wonder that her’s was a completely untrained voice. Truly, the Lord places some talent in each one of us. There are umpteen favourites of mine from Suraiya’s stable – tere nainon ne chori kiya, yeh savan rut yum aur hum (with Rafi), dil e nadaan (with Talat), tu mera chand main teri chandni (with Shyam), yeh kaisi ajab dastan and so on. But among my top all time favourites are two – Nain Divane (from Afsar) and Rahi Matvale sung and acted with Talat in Waris.

It transpires both are tunes inspired by Tagore. I am pretty certain that like Tyagaraja, Tagore must be the man behind many songs. Anyway here they are.

Nain Diwane in Afsar (music by SD Burman) is lifted as a tune from Tagore’s shey din dujone, a song which if I recollect Lady Ranu Mukherjee claimed Tagore sang for her. Who knows? Years ago, my colleague in Lintas, Radharani Mitra used to sing this beautifully.


And we have Rahi Matwale lifted from Orey Grihobashi.


Waris had the supremely-talented Anil Biswas as Music Director and I salute him – it requires a great man to know where there is a good tune. He converted that racy one of Tagore, into a railway song, the gait matching that of a running train. And that reminds me, do you know Gulzar once presented a Jaymala programme on Vividh Bharthi entirely based on songs centred on trains? What a programme it was! I wonder if AIR has recordings of these. And he began it with a salutation to Meena Kumari. The song?  Chalte Chalte from Pakeezah of course.


Suraiya had a mystique about her -it was said all the jewels she wore were for real, her wealth was legendary, she was fiercely guarded by two Tartars – her mother and grandmother and for years people used to wait outside her Marine Drive flat for a darshan, not that she ever obliged. In many ways she was like Greta Garbo – wanting people to leave her alone. But somewhere, it changed and she became like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard – watching her own movies on TV and communicating with the outside world only through a maid or close friends like Naushad. And then one day, found herself truly alone and died a lonely death.

The other option would have been to marry Dev Anand, but that in my view would have been a fate worse than death. Imagine waking up each morning to see that ham by your side and waiting for him to lunge forward to the bathroom, one shoulder ahead of the other. And hear him mutter “Suraiyyaa zaraa paaste denaaa.” Oh no no no. Not done madam! You were better off the way you were.


This article is part of a series I write on old film songs, chiefly Hindi and Tamil, with some Telugu and Bengali thrown in. You can read the earlier parts here