Runa Laila: Legendary Singer of Bangladesh
Runa Laila (Bengali: রুনা লায়লা (born 17 November 1952) is a singer of the Indian subcontinent who is from Bangladesh. She started her career from Pakistan film industry and is effective in Ghazals also. She made a hit pair with famous singer Ahmed Rushdi after replacing Mala. She also has done numerous playbacks for movies in Bangladesh, India and Pakistani film industries during late 60s,70s and early 80’s. Her best known number is Dama Dam Mast Qalandar.
Runa Laila was born in a middle class family on November 17, 1952, in Sylhet, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Her father was from Rajshahi. A music ustadwould visit the family home, to teach classical music to Runa’s elder sister Dina Laila. As younger siblings are wont to do, Runa too would sit down and pick it up effortlessly. But the energetic youngster’s heart was in dance, and she was enrolled in a school where she learnt Kathak, Bharatanatyam, andKathakali. Her early music training was done when her family lived in Karachi’s Federal B area in 1960. Ustad Qader, later known as Piya Rang, was her teacher.
Runa Laila was a bright youngster brought up in the typical Bengali mould, where the arts, like other fine things of life, were nurtured with just as much enthusiasm as to keep them buzzing happily within the family circle. Besides her classical training, she recalls gratefully the influence of Manzur Hussain on her career, since, instead of pampering her as a child, he told her that while her voice was good, it had certain flaws he needed her to work on. In those days, recording a song meant meeting a crowd of people in the studio, singing along with the orchestra and, should anyone make a mistake, starting over again from the beginning.
She started learning classical music at a very early age and received vigorous training from Ustad Habibiddin Khan.She made her first public debut as a singer at the age of six and cut her first disc for a Pakistani film called “Jugnu” at the age of twelve. She had a great inspiration from famous playback singerAhmed Rushdi as she followed his way of expressing emotions during singing and also made a hit pair with him later on.
Runa’s career as a singer came about by accident. It was her elder sister Dina who first got the break, but on the day of her performance, she developed a sore throat and Runa was asked to stand in. She was so little that she could not hold the ‘Tanpura’. She held it horizontally and sang a ‘kheyal’. She started appearing on the ‘Zia Mohyuddin Show’, a Karachi TV stage show (1972–74)and later did songs for numerous Pakistani films in the 70s. “Umra Jan Ada” (1972) was one such super hit film in which all but one song were sung by Runa Laila.
Sister Dina (once married to Pakistani politician from Sindh, Makhdoom Amin Fahim) would have followed in her footsteps but had to give up singing when she married. She later died of cancer. In memory of her sister, Runa held six concerts in Bangladesh and donated the entire proceeds to a children’s hospital in Dhakato build a cancer ward which has been named after her sister.
She sang playback for many movies in Bangladesh and India and, before the independence of Bangladesh, in Pakistan. She is known for her songs “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” which have been sung by other artists and “Mera Babu Chhail Chhabeela Main to Nachoongigi“, .
She made a sensational entry into the Hindi filmdom with Ek Se Badkar Ek in 1974. Music lovers all over India were swinging to the rhythmic beat of Dama Dam Mast Qalander.
Her songs in “Gharonda”, which was released later, also did well with the audience. After that she withdrew from Mumbai but is still popular in India. Some of the music directors she has worked with are Jaidev, Kalyanji Anandji,Laxmikantaa-Pyaralal and Bappi Lahiri.
She is equally popular in the Bengali pop music space with songs like “Sadher Lau Banailo Morey“, “Shilpi ami, tomaderi gan shonabo” and “Bondhu Tin Din Tor Barite Gelam“.
Runa Laila has an older sister named Dina Laila and a younger brother named Syed Ali Murad. She has been married four times and has a daughter named Tani Laila. Runa Laila first married Khawaza Javed Kaiser, secondly Maidul Islam, thirdly a Swiss citizen named Ron Danieland and lastly the famous Bangladeshi actor Alamgir.