Runa laila: Magic of Bengal
Written by Anis Shakur   

Millions adore Runa Laila and there has never been anyone quite like her. The immense pathos and longing in Runa's voice was ideal for the tragic Pakistani movies of the 1960s.

Here is an inside look at Runa and her many songs, out of approximately 5000 songs, which she has so far recorded.
The Arabic word 'Laila' or 'Lail' means night or negritude. Contrary to her last name, 'Laila', Runa Laila is all enlightenment and replete with positive thoughts in her real life.  Runa Laila was born Sultana Chaudhry to a middle class family on November 17, 1952, in the north Eastern city of Sylhet, Bangladesh, Runa was destined to be a singer.

Her mother happened to be a good singer, though she did not made singing her profession. Runa's elder sister, Dina, was on her way to adopt singing as her profession. Hence, music probably was in Runa's genes.

She received music lessons from Ustad Habib Uddin Khan. During those days, Runa's father, Imdad Husain, worked with the Pakistani sea customs.

The year 1958 proved to be a turning point in six-year-old Runa's life. From that time on, she was a singer, appearing in a string of hugely popular songs. The story goes that Dina was booked for a musical function. The concert staff knocked on her door to pick her up for the show. Dina's mother informed them that due to ill health, Dina would not be able to make it that evening. To compensate for the possible loss, she offered to take with them baby Runa instead, to which they agreed. Amazingly enough, little Runa's first ever-unexpected performance brought laurels to her. She came home with lot of gifts, good wishes and encouragement. Her first public appearance proved to be a steppingstone in her singing career. Runa made her music debut in 1964 by recording songs for the Pakistani movie, 'Jugnu' at the age of twelve.

Recording song after hilarious song, she became one of the stalwarts of the Pakistani music scene within the next five years.

Her next song catapulted Runa into instant fame and she became one of the Pakistani show business's most cherished artists: 'Unki nazroan say mohabbat ka jo paigham mila, dil ye samjha keh chalakta hua ik jaam mila' (The film 'Hum Dono', 1966, director, Al-Hamid, composer, Shaukat Ali Nashad, cast: Deeba, Kamal, Kumar, Nirala, Kamal Irani). Highly skilled at tragic scores, she captivated the golden-era audiences, becoming a favorite in the film 'Ghironda': 'Kaisa  ghironda tuta, pyar nay hum ko luta, bairi hain duniya walay jaaon kahan'.
The film 'Ghironda' established her national reputation and her popularity skyrocketed as one of the most competent singers of all time. Runa's incredibly rich tenor which was discovered in 1958, brought fresh laurels to her later, when she recorded this duet: 'Dayya ray dayya kaanta chubha' (The film 'Phir subha hogi', director, Rafiq Rizvi, producer, Chaudhry Rafiq, duet: Runa Laila-Chaudhry Rafiq).

Her powerful voice and good looks made her one of the most conspicuous singers that have ever graced the pages of Pakistani entertainment magazines.

She added to her success in the 1967 film 'Rishta hai pyar ka': 'Masoom sa chehra hai, hum jis kay hain diwanay, nazroan say mileen nazrain, kya hoga khuda janay'. (Runa Laila-Ahmed Rushdi, pictured on Zeba-Waheed Murad). Her shining personality created one of Pakistani societies most enduring and beloved people, soon after Ubaid Ullah Aleem's perennial ghazal was recorded in her voice: 'Aziz itna he rakho keh jee behel jaye, ab is qadar bhi na chaho, keh dum nikal jaye'.
Let us have a look back at the following musical masterpieces recorded in her mellifluous voice:
'Ishq say tabiyat nay zeest ka maza paya, dard ki dawa paye, dard-e- la dawa paya'.
'Ghar kay chiragh roshan hain Aaj, ahele mohabbat kay naam'.
'Naghma o sheir say hai pyar mujhay, kab hai is dil pay ikhtiar mujhay'
'Khayal - O - khwab hueen hain mohabbatain kaisi.'

Her beautiful singing voice quickly attracted the attention of talent scouts. After being discovered by Nisar Bazmi, Runa achieved enormous success as a singer:
'Aap dil ki Anjuman mein husn bun kar Aa gaye, ik nasha sa cha gaya hum bin piye lehra gaye'. (The film 'Anjuman', pictured on Rani, director, Hasan Tariq)
'Dil dharkay, mein tum say ye kaisay kahun kehti hai meri nazar shukriya, tum meri umango ki shab kay liye Aaye ho bun kay sahar shukriya' (The film 'Anjuman')
'Aap farmayein kiya kharidain gey' (The film 'Umrao Jaan Ada', director, Hasan Tariq, pictured on Rani)
'Hataun mein kangna'.                       (The film 'Umrao Jaan Ada')
'Kaatay na katay ratyaan'                  (The film 'Umrao Jaan Ada')

The following three songs from the film 'Tehzeeb':
'Hey jamalo'
'Kaisa jadugar dilbar'
'Tunay kiya shay mujhay pila dee hai'

After recording in a succession of super hit songs, she increasingly found opportunities to show her dramatic abilities, notably in the film 'Andaleeb' in 1969:
'Teray jhutay wadoan pay'. For Runa, a seasoned performer, music has always been her lifelong love. Her devotion to music is all the more evident in these tragic numbers:
'Bhari duniya ko veeraan paao gey jab hum nahi hoan gey, hamay kho kar bohut pushtaao gey jab hum nahi hoan gey' (The film 'Ehsaas', director, Dada Nazrul, pictured on Shabnam)
'Naina taras kar reh gaye, piya Aaye na saari raat, Armaan jhulas kar reh gaye, piya Aaye na saari raat'. (The film 'Aasra, director, Raza Mir)

Further, it was her distinctive singing style that made her a household name in the Pakistani community. Runa's lilting voice in director S.Sulaiman's film, 'Society': 'Ik meri jaan tara rampa' is especially worth remembering.The following three songs in her melodious voice in director Shabab Kiranvi's film 'Mun ki jeet'were meant for the ages:
'Dinva, dinva mein ginu kab Aayein gey sanverya'
'Sayyan ji kay naino say pyar chalkay, mein ka karoon hai mera dil dharkay'
'Mera babu chail chabila mein to naachoon gee'

She went on to work with composers like Lal Mohammad Iqbal, for the film 'Naseeb apna apna', in 1970, scoring hits on the charts:
'Mili gul ko khushbu, mujhay mil gaya tu, pasand apni apni, naseeb apna apna' (lyrics: Masroor Anwer)
'Meray jaan-e-chaman Aa' (Iranian actor cum director, Raza Fazli, The film 'James Bond in Karachi', composer, Lal Mohammad Iqbal)

She recorded with distinction in director Pervez Malik's film 'Humsafar':
'Tujh jaisa dagha baaz mein nay deikha nahi ray'.
Director Pervez Malik's film 'Anmol':
'Mujhay naachnay do keh shayad ye ghungru'
'Mila kaisa Anari sajna'
'Aik paheli bujho na'

Proficient in jolly songs, Runa is equally adept at featuring exceptionally tragic musical scores:
'Pyar hota nahi zindigi say juda, hai azal say mohabbat ka ye silsila'
'Waday karkay sanam kyon na Aaye, pyar kay khoob waday nibha ye'
'Mein to chali sakhio bidiswa, apni saheli yoan say dooor, babul ki galyoan say dooor'
'Hai meri ye dua tum salamat raho,tum jahan bhi raho bun kay rahat raho' (The film 'Meray Humsafar')
'Chup chaap rehna, har gham ko sehna'
'Piya taras gaye moray nain ray, Aa jaao ray'
'Sawan Aaye, sawan jaa ye (The film 'Chahat')

Runa won the prestigious Nigar Award for best singer in 1968 for the film 'Commander'. She won her second Nigar Award for best singer in 1970, for the film 'Anjuman'.


Runa attained legendary stature as a singer, when the following songs were recorded in her voice:

'Takalluf bartaraf hum to sar-e-bazaar nachein gey, hamaray saath is ghar kay dar-o deewar nachein gey' (The film 'Bazaar')
'Mein to chali hawa kay sung, jaisay koi urti patang' (The film 'Bahu Rani')
'Taiz hoti dil ki dharkan' (The film 'Jaal')

Precocious as she was, Runa could record songs in the following twelve languages:
Bengali (Her mother tongue), Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Malay, Nepalese, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French and English. Also, she could sing in the following five languages, as well:
Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujrati, Pushto and Baluchi.

Alternating between stages and recording studio, she was the host of her own television show in Pakistan, namely, 'Bazm-e-Laila'.

In addition, she made her presence in the Pakistani talk show, 'Yes Sir, No Sir' and was interviewed by Moin Akhtar. Chances are that she will be listed in the 'Guinness Book of World Records'. She recorded the maximum number of songs in one day. The event took place in Bombay, India, where she came up with four music albums, containing forty songs. She recorded thirty of those songs in three days. More recently, she recorded 'Loves of Runa Laila' with renowned Pakistani composer, Nayyar, which has attained two platinum.
On several occasions in the past, she traveled to U.S.A. and Canada to entertain the music buffs. Her concerts at Kennedy Center in Washington, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Gardens, NY, Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena, Wembley conference Center, London, are worth mentioning. Most importantly, she achieved tremendous success at the musical shows held in Kuwait, U.A.E., Bahrain, Nepal, Malaysia, Holland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sweden, Oman, Doha, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

During her illustrious thirty-nine year music career, she has bagged more than one hundred awards from various countries.

Prominent among them are the Saigal Award, India, two Nigar Awards, Pakistan, Critics Award, two Graduate Awards, Gold medals from the National Council of Music as the best singer of the year in Pakistan, the Independence Day Award and two National film Awards in Bangladesh.
Most of all, she made her mark as a judge in music program, 'Saray gama, telecast from Ztv. Runa, now 51 years of age, is still at the pinnacle of her singing career. She has apparently left behind an enormous and varied legacy of great performances. Perhaps, the most appropriate way to conclude this write up, is to rewrite her most famous song, which best reflects the sentiments of her admirers and the singer, as well:

'The lively world will appear deserted to you, when I am no longer in this world.
You will repent a lot when I am no longer in this world.
I feel sad for you and not for myself.
For whom are you going to inflict pain, when I am no longer in this world?
The road to faithfulness seems to be very easy.

How far could you go alone, when I am no longer in this world'.