In the 1940s and 1950s, Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh was a famous Playback Singer and an Actor in Bollywood industry. She was extremely famous for her work during her active years. Although Suraiya was not a professional in music, yet she, by her singing carved an identity for herself in the industry. In 1937, she sang for All India Radio for a children's program. She was an ardent follower of the very famous radio broadcaster Baba-e-Nasharayat. Early life Sheikh was born in the time of British era in Gujranwala, Punjab. Her father was the owner of a small furniture shop. During partition, her father decided to move to Lahore while Suraiya migrated to Bombay to her maternal grandmother and uncle. She did her schooling at a girl's school called J.B Petit High School for Girls. Islamic teachings in Persian was also given to her at home. Career Suraiya started her career as a child actor in the movie Usne Kya Socha (1937). Her maternal uncle Zahoor Ahmad helped her fetch roles in films as he used to play the role of villain in many movies. In 1941, Suraiya, along with Ahmad, her uncle, went to see a shooting in Bombay where she came in the notice of a great director Nanubhai Vakil. He did not have a choice of an actress to play the role of Mumtaz Mahal in the movie Taj Mahal, so he decided to give that part to Suraiya. She emerged as an actor while she was working for the children's program on AIR. At the age of 13, Suraiya Sheikh sang in the movie Sharda (1942). The legendary music director, Naushad Ali was the reason behind her successful singing career. He also became his mentor and gave her songs which proved hit. She performed brilliantly in her singing career and sang in various hit movies like Anmol Ghadi (1946), Dard (1947), Dillagi (1949) amongst other known movies. Ali composed around 51 songs for Sheikh and was at the second number for making the maximum number of songs for Suraiya. After working in the blockbuster, Taj Mahal, she rendered the project Tamanna in the year 1942. In this movie, she also sang with then-budding singer Manna Dey. It was a K.C Dey composition, a famous Actor, Music Director and Manna Dey's uncle. Suraiya began playing adult roles from the film Ishara (1943).
She sang two songs in this feature, Panghat pe Murli Baje and Baaghon Mein Koyal Boli. In the starting of her career as an adult star, she played supporting roles rather than playing lead roles. Her break for playing the lead role was in the movie Tadbir (1945). She considered Khwaja Khurshid Anwar as her favorite Music Director. After Pakistan had got the independence, Suraiya was loaded with opportunities as
and Khursheed Bano migrated to Pakistan. Sheikh was always one step ahead of her female contemporaries, Nargis, and
because she used to sing her songs. By doing movies like Bari Behen (1949), Dillagi (1949) and Pyaar Ki Jeet (1948) she became the highest paid female actor in the industry. After a short while her movies started flopping and her established career started deteriorating. In 1954, she did a movie
, which was her comeback. In 1963, she did her last movie Rustom Sohrab. In her entire career, she sang in about five to six films and acted in about sixty-five films. Personal life Suraiya was born in the British era but migrated to Bombay at a very young age. While working in the industry, she got romantically involved with
. They did several movies together like Vidya, Jeet, Nili, Sitare, Sanam amongst others. She fell in love with the great Anand during the shooting of Vidya. While shooting the film Jeet, Dev Anand proposed Suraiya by presenting her a diamond ring worth 3000 rupees at that time. However, Sheikh's grandmother did not permit this relation because they belonged to a different caste. For the rest of her life, Suraiya decided to remain unmarried. After the big release of Mirza Ghalib, India's then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru praised her by complimenting her performance. She was a huge fan of
, who was a very famous Hollywood actor. Death Until her death, Suraiya Sheikh lived in her apartment Krishna Mahal in Mumbai. Sheikh died in 2004 at the age of seventy-four. After her death, she was hurried in Marine Lines, Mumbai.