Suraiya was born as Suraiya Jamaal Sheikh on June 15 ,1929 in Lahore, British India (now Pakistan) and was the only child of her parents. Some sources say she was born in Gujranwala.
Suraiya’s father owned a small furniture shop in Gujranwala. Later he moved to Lahore and Suraiya was taken to Bombay on the request of her mom, maternal grandmother and uncle. No one heard of Suraiya’s father again after that time.
According to an article published in Shama Magazine, there is a possibility that Suraiya’s Grand mother was actually her mom.
Suraiya sang more than 340 songs in her career spanning > 20 years.
Among male singers Suraiya sang maximum duets with Rafi (24 Duets) and among female singers she sang maximum duets with Lata and Shamshad Begum (5 Duets each).
One of her films Amar Kahani (1949) was re-released as Kanchan in 1955.
She sang maximum number of songs for Husnlal Bhagatram and Naushad.
According to many sources Suraiya and Nargis were arch rivals and never used to get along with each other.
Suraiya worked with all top stars of her era with the exception of Dilip Kumar. The details of why she never worked with Dilip are provided here
As an actress, she worked the most with director D.D. Kashyap in 5 films – Aaj Ki Raat, Badi Behan, Kamal ke Phool, Do Sitare and Shama Parwana; with A.R. Kardar in 4 films – Dard, Dillagi, Dastaan and Deewana and with M. Sadiq in 4 films – Jagbiti, Dak Bangla, Kajal and Char din. She shared great chemistry with director A.R. Kardar and 3 out of the 4 films they worked together were hits (Dard, Dillagi and Dastaan).
Suraiya has the rare honor to work with many other singing-stars of her time including Noor Jehan (Anmol Ghadi), C.H. Atma (Bilwamangal), Talat Mahmood (Maalik and Waris), Mukesh (Mashuqa), K.L Saigal (Tadbeer, Omar Khaiyyam and Parwana) and Surendra (1857 and Anmol Ghadi)
Although a singing star, Suraiya started her career as a playback singer for actress Mehtaab. She sang for Mehtaab in Sharda (1942), Kanoon (1943) and Sanjog (1943). Many years later, she also sang for Nimmi in Shama (1961) besides singing for herself, because the other singer Suman Kalyanpur failed to dub her portion of the song. Also two of her songs – Hawa uda kar layi, O bewafa karke jafa — (music: Dhani Ram) recorded for an incomplete movie of her’s, were later included in another film Taqdeer (1958) and picturized on its leading lady Shyama.