Bangladeshi crooner who started her career from Pakistan film industry – Runa Laila, famous for gems like ‘Dama Dam Mast Kalandar’, and ‘Mera Babu Chail Chabila’ was in Montreal recently. Syncmag met her and came away regaled.
Staid and sedate, Runa Laila’s mesmeric voice stole the hearts of crowd at concert, it is a voice that has voyaged continuously over the last four-and-a-half decades, between genres and through the Subcontinent.
Born in Sylhet, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), in 1952, Runa’s parents wanted her to be a dancer and made her learn Kathak and Bharat Natyam. Singing, she says, she learned by chance. “My elder sister Dina (who passed away in 1976) was learning classical music. I picked up whatever she was taught quite easily and her teacher decided to teach me too.”
It was chance again which led her to stardom.
“My father, Syed Mohammed Imdad Ali was a civil servant posted in Karachi. My sister and I went to school there and she was selected to represent the school at an inter-school competition. On the day of the competition, Dina developed a sore throat so my parents made me participate instead. I won the competition and even three years later people remembered my voice and I got a chance to sing two songs in the Pakistani film Jugnu.”
Her first song, Gudiya si munni meri bhaiya ki pyari was picturised on a male child artiste and her next, Marna bhi nahin aasan was about unrequited love.
“My parents weren’t sure if I could pull off a romantic song as I was just 12. The director told me to simulate crying and I really started crying.”
Runa holds the world record for doing the maximum number of recordings in a day. The crooner confirms that it’s indeed the case.
“Concorde Records wanted me to rerecord the album Ghazal Aur Geet, which was originally recorded in Karachi. We recorded 30 songs in three days at Western Outdoors. I remember Daman Sood was the recordist. These weren’t live recordings in the true sense. We could take breaks but yes, it was with live musicians. The music wasn’t punched later on, as it is nowadays.”
Runa has also sung versions of Mehdi Hassan’s ghazals, which became quite famous. She attributes this to chance as well.
“I learnt music from Pandit Ghulam Qadir, who was Mehdi saab’s elder brother. He gave music to some of his best ghazals and taught me most of them. Hence, the finesse that you see in my rendering of Ranjish hi sahi is because of his blessings.”
In her music career, Runa has won many prestigious awards like the Independence Day Award in 1977 and two national film awards. She has also won more than one hundred awards from various countries. Prominent among them are the Saigal Award in India and two Nigar Awards in Pakistan.
• Runa Laila-Kala Sha Kala 23 March 2010
• Runa Laila – Moods & Emotions 1 December 2008
• The Loves of Runa Laila
• Ganga Amar Ma Padma Amar Ma-Runa Laila
• Superuna 1 December 1982
• Runa Goes Disco 1 September 1982
• Runa Sings Shahbaz Qalandar 1 September 1982
• Geet / Ghazals 1 September 1976
• Runa in Pakistan (Geet) 1 December 1980
• Runa in Pakistan (Ghazals) 1 December 1980
• Sincerely Yours Runa Laila
• I Love to Sing for You