The popular singing star Kundan Lal Saighal had begun his career in the year 1932 and was a household name in the next four years with several hits under his belt. A handsome young man with good voice was considered to be star material in competition with Saighal. His name was Surendra Nath who hailed from Punjab. He was a learned person and actually wanted to pursue the law as a profession. With assets like great looks and singing abilities, he chose to enter the film world to become the next singing superstar.
Surendra found some success in his early part of the career with films like Village Girl, Jagirdaar, Aasuon ki Duniya etc. Maestro Anil Biswas recognized his talent and gave him singing assignments for films like Gramophone Singer, Jeewan Saathi, Alibaba, Aurat, Ghareeb, Jawani etc. Still Surendra could not rise to the numero uno spot as was expected from him.
The year was 1946 (the same year when young Geeta Roy made her singing debut) and Surendra got the golden opportunity to work in the film “Anmol Ghadi” . This film was made by the great Mehboob Khan and was starring Surendra with two other sensational singing stars, namely Noor Jehan and Suraiyya. His songs like “Awaaz de kahaan hai”, “Kyon yaad aa rahe hain” and “Ab kaun hain mera” (under the baton of maestro Naushad) became superhit. The success of Anmol Ghadi (and possibly ill health of K L Saighal in indirect ways) gave some boost to Surendra’s career.
As a result of the success of “Anmol Ghadi”, Surendra got plum roles in films like Anokhi Ada, Elaan, Majdhaar, Mere Bhagwaan etc. He also acted in a film titled “Chittor Vijay” (1947) which starred very young Madhubala. This film’s music is composed by S D Burman and is reported to have at least two solo songs sung by Geeta Roy. We do not have any record if Geeta and Surendra sang any duets for this film. The same year eccentric yet extremely talented composer Sajjad Hussain composed music for the film “Mere Bhagwan” (another Surendra starrer) for which Geeta Roy sang a memorable song “Mujhe banwari banwari log kahen, main geet piya ke gaati hoon..”. Again no information is available if Geeta and Surendra did sing a song together for this film or not.
The next year saw the release of the film Meri Kahani starring Surendra and Munawar Sultana. The film had music composed by veteran composer K Dutta (“Diya jalakar aap bujhaaya” fame) and this film had two melodious and romantic duets of Geeta Roy and Surendra Nath. The song “Wada karke kisise na aana..” starts with soft romantic notes and then picks up the tempo with the lines “Dil ki duniya mein, haa chupke chupke, dekho dekho sajan tum naa aanaa..”. The freshness and sweetness in Geeta’s voice is evident in such romantic duets.
The other song from the same film is a breezy one, lifting the spirits of the listeners. Veteran lyricist Zia Sarhaddi has penned imaginative lines like “Ithalaate hue koi chala aata hain mann mein, karta hain koi chaand ki khidaki se ishaara..” The song is “Bulbul ko milaa phool toh nadi ka kinaara, har dilko hain duniya mein kisi dilka saharaa”. This is probably the best song sung by Surendra Nath and Geeta Roy.
The next year saw the release of the film Kamal (1949) starring Surendra, Nayan Tara, Jeevan, Mohna etc. S D Burman composed the music for this film. Geeta Roy had sung dozens of songs for S D Burman by now and was one of his most favorite singers at that time. Geeta and Surendra sang another melodious and blue-mood romantic song “Kehne ko hain taiyyar magar kaise kahein hum, karte hain tumhein pyaar magar kaise kahen hum”. The lyricist for this film is Gopal Singh (G S) Nepali, yet another name forgotten in the passage of time.
A couple of years later, a Tamil film titled Maya Machindra starring M. G. Ramachandran in the lead role was released. Most likely the same film was made in Hindi by the name “Maya Machhindra” (or “Gorakh Naath” as the alternative title) starring Trilok Kapoor, Usha Kiran and Nirupa Roy. Surendra Nath probably switched his career around this time and started giving playback for films. He sang a couple of duets with Geeta Roy for this film under the baton of composer Prem Naath (not the actor). “Chupke chupke jabse hua hain pyaar” is yet another soft romantic number sung by Surendra and Geeta Roy. The other song “Toot gayi hai jeevan beena” seems to be a sentimental sad song.
Very soon Surendra switched to full-time acting with roles in films like Baiju Bawra, Gawaiyya (he sang his one of his last songs “Teri Yaad Ka Deepak Jalta Hai Din Raat” for this film for composer Ram Ganguly), Dil Deke Dekho, Mughal-e-Aazam, Baaghi, Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne, Waqt etc.
In a nutshell, young Geeta Roy sang just a handful of songs with the singing star Surendra, most of them being romantic duets. Discerning music lovers will cherish these melodious and soft romantic songs from the vintage era for years to come.