"A song is more lasting than the riches of the world", said Padraic Colum. The singing idol of the Hindi screen, Suraiya subscribes in full to this philosophy. Born in Lahore (now a part of Pakistan) on June 15, 1929, she started her singing career in the year 1942. Her first song was ‘Boot Karoon Main Polish Babu’ for the movie ‘Nai Duniya’ under Naushad Ali’s baton. In Kardar Productions' ‘Sharda’ (1943), Suraiyya sang her first hit 'Panchhi Ja' lip-synced on actress Mehtaab. This marked the beginning of an illustrious, almost two decade long career. She appeared (as actress) and sang in movies like ‘Hamari Baat’ (1943), ‘Ishara’ (1943), ‘Phool’ (1945) and ‘Anmol Ghadi’ (1946) and earned the respect of fellow actors/singers. By the end of 40’s, Suraiya was already a brand.
After the migration of Noor Jahan and Khursheed to Pakistan in the wake of partition, Suraiya was the only film-heroine in India who sang her songs in the films. She was blessed with a sonorous, mellow voice that rang with melody and left a lasting impression on the listener’s mind.
No doubt, her voice was her biggest asset and facilitated her entry into films, but her flair for acting coupled with her dancing talent played a great role in earning her the success she did.
Rare indeed it was; the three-in-one combination of an amazing talent for singing, supreme dancing skills and a knack for acting set her apart from the rest. Roles came one after the other and Suraiya became synonymous with success. She was often referred to as the ‘Chocolate Charmer’ of the silver screen. While her career saw new highs, there was another seductive charmer coming up on the film horizon – young playback singer Geeta Roy.
Soon, finding both the singers in the same studio was no longer unusual. For the first time, they sang for the same movie under Husnlal-Bhagatram in the year 1949. The movie, ‘Naach’ which starred Suraiya in the lead had five beautiful solos by her. Geeta Roy, by then a well-known voice also had two songs, a duet ‘Chhak Chhak Chhak Chale Humari Rail’ with Mohd. Rafi, and another trio with the upcoming singer, Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd. Rafi, 'Kyon Maan Karta Jawani Ka.' Similarly, ‘Jeet’ released the same year had both of them as part of the same soundtrack.
Suraiya (with Shyam Kumar) sang one of the most popular songs of her career for the film “Dillagi” (1949). The song was “Tu mera chand main teri chandni”. Incidentally, young Geeta Roy also sang the same song (a shorter version) in this film with Shyam Kumar. This was Geeta’s first song for the composer Naushad.
The only instance when they sang a song together came in the year 1950, for the movie ‘Afsar’. The movie starred Dev Anand and Suraiyya in the lead, and music was scored by SD Burman. 'Preet Ka Naata jodne waale preet ka naata kahin tod na jaana, tum jo mile mujhe mil gaya jeene ka ek madhur bahaana' were the lyrics of that beautiful songs. The two singers’ honey sweet vocals complemented each other beautifully. Suraiya and Geeta did full justice to Burmanda’s simple, lilting tune and conveyed the emotions of a young girl who had found her lover but was afraid he might leave her, wonderfully.
The above song remains the only song that they ever sang together, though they continued to sing for the same movies. In the latter half of her career, Suraiya restricted her singing to movies which had her as the only lead actress, thereby trammelling the prospects of another Geeta-Suraiyya duet further.
Their association, although merely one song old, saw two mesmerizingly splendiferous voices come together and grace the silver screen with their honey sweetness and singing prowess, expected only of singers of their apparent stature and talent.