Manaksha Memon on a prodigiously talented singer Exceptional Runa Laila
Exceptional Runa Laila was the product of Pakistan and the only product that excelled in the entire subcontinent. She was the sensational new voice in Pakistan that broke the hold of traditional female singers and brought freshness to popular film music. Her tender age belied the virtuosity of her talent but she was properly trained by classical masters. Her breakthrough proved durable and she became a permanent part of Pakistan’s film industry and her songs gained widespread public approbation.
Born in Sylhet in the then East Pakistan and now Bangladesh in 1952, Runa Laila was trained by her parents to be a dancer. She along with her elder sister Dina Laila learnt the difficult Kathak and Bharat Natyem versions of dance. Dina later married late Makhdoom Amin Faheem the prominent leader of Pakistan People’s party and head of a religious family in Sindh.
The father of the girls, Syed Muhammd Imdad Ali, was a civil servant posted in Karachi and it was here that her singing talent was spotted and utilised. Her mother Amina Laila also happened to be a good singer though she did not make singing her profession. Runa’s elder sister, Dina, was on her way to adopt singing as her profession. Runa often narrated that she was asked to perform accidentally as her sister who was scheduled to perform at an inter-school competition suddenly developed sore-throat that provided Runa the opportunity to sing instead.
She emerged on the horizon with exquisite rendition of the ghazal Unki nazroan se mohabbat ka jo paigham mila that was scored by Shaukat Ali Nashad for film Hum Dono in 1966. Nashad also composed the immortal Mehdi Hasan number zindagi mein tau sabhi pyar kiya karte hain. The ghazal became a rage and its success opened doors of film music to her.
Runa created a musical sensation in the subcontinent with her rendition of Mera babu chail chabeela mein tau nachungi that was composed by composer M. Ashraf in 1972. This typical Punjabi tappa was so expertly designed that it gave Runa the chance to bring to fore the depth of her singing ability. This song has been remixed widely and still evokes feeling of gay abandon.
After 1966 Runa was an accomplished singer and her talent was used by almost all leading music directors in Pakistan. Nisar Bazmi gave her incomparable compositions to sing. Runa sang his compositions with verve and they are exquisite in nature. Aap dil ki Anjuman mein husn bun kar aa gaye is full of semi-classical touches that has a specific tilt in it. The matchless accompaniment of guitar in Dil dharkay, mein tum say ye kaisay kahun kehti hai meri nazar shukriya made the song widely popular and it is still rated as an exceptional composition. The deep notes of Kaatay na katay ratyaan are extremely mellifluous. Nisar Bazmi also prepared a scintillating tune for her that she sang effortlessly Kaisa jadugar dil barmast na hai, which is full of melodic surprises.
Runa was given beautiful tunes and she rendered them as was expected and they became hugely popular. One such composition was Bhari duniya ko veeraan paaogey jab hum nahi hoange which was a number full of forlorn sadness and she sang it very well. Another masterpiece she sang was very poignant composition Naina taraskar reh gaye, piya aaye na saari raat that still retains its deep impact.
The composer-duo Lal Mohammad-Iqbal gave her a very compact composition to sing and she did justice to it and Mili gul ko khushbu, mujhay mil gaya tu, pasand apni apni, naseeb apna apna that hit the popularity charts high and remained on them for long time. Her song Tujh jaisa dagha baaz mein nay deikha nahi ray was full of young emotions and became very popular.
Her song Pyar hota nahi zindigi say juda was competently sung and it tested her capacity to end the
composition on high notes. She also rendered another composition nicely, Waday karkay sanam kyun na aaye. Her rendition of Master Abdullah’s matchless composition Janemun itna bata do mohabbat mohabbat mohabbat hai kiya is a yardstick with which lilting compositions are measured. This song broke many records and is still rated high in Pakistani film music annals.
Runa Laila was prodigious in every respect as she developed the facility to sing in many languages: Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, Persian, Malay, Nepalese, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French and English. Also, she could sing in Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujrati, Pushto and Baluchi. She is a very prolific artist as she is credited with recording maximum number of songs in one day and her album contained forty songs. She won two prized Nigar Awards for her outstanding performance along with Pakistan Critics Award, two Graduate Awards and Gold medals from the National Council of Music as the best singer of the year in Pakistan.
Runa Laila and her repertoire of songs was greatly in demand and she was invited to perform in many countries and travelled to Kuwait, U.A.E., Bahrain, Nepal, Malaysia, Holland, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sweden, Oman and Doha. Her concerts at Kennedy Center in Washington, Lincoln Center, Madison Square Gardens, NY, Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Arena and Wembley Conference Center, London were attended by large audiences. The Weekender