Runa Laila is Still The Super Star
Ras H. Siddiqui San
27th July 2003 - The premier Bengali or
“Bangla” monthly magazine on the West Coast of
celebrated the second anniversary of its publication by holding a
formidable night of entertainment which included the now legendary
Runa Laila. Uniquely named “Porshi” (www.porshi.com
) the magazine organized this event for its growing nationwide
Bangladeshi or Bangla speaking readership, but the rest of the South
Asian community was also heartily welcomed by it on Friday, July 18
2003 at the Spangenberg Theatre of Gunn High School in the San
Francisco Bay Area City of Palo Alto (known the world over for its
elite Stanford University).
Walking into the theatre at this show was like visiting the past for
this writer whose affection and appreciation of the Bengali language
is the same as it was before 1971 but whose abilities of understanding
it have diminished considerably over the years. But none the less it
felt like visiting amongst old friends, as the program got off to a
start with a short speech by Mr. Sabri Majumder Porshi’s Managing
Editor who elaborated on how the magazine was trying to create a
bonding amongst the speakers of Bangla and the representatives of the
Bengali culture in this country by opening many avenues of
communication amongst them
Next the competent emcees who alternated between Bengali and English
and started things off the music segment by introducing the opening
act Jo Jo. This young talent from Calcutta moved the audience in
Bengali and Urdu plus Hindi songs. Her routine songs and dazzling
“Sharara” finale were quite good and well received by over audience.
Jolly Mukerjee a show biz veteran of sorts from Mumbai was also
applauded but performing after Jo Jo was indeed a tough act to follow
in the energy department. Jolly appeared to be a bit serious in
comparison. But now let us move on to the reason why most of the
audience came from miles to attend this show.
Whether you are from Bangladesh or Pakistan (or even India), which one
of us is not familiar with Runa Laila? Who does not remember that
cherubic young girl in bell bottoms and the jacket with “Oh No”
printed on the back lighting up the Zia Mohyeddin Show in the 1970’s?
Runa with that melodious voice who brought female Bengali and Urdu Pop
to Pakistan and could sing a difficult Ghazal in almost the same
breath to the delight of the classical oriented. And now the Runa that
has recorded well over 5000 songs in three South Asian countries and
far beyond and in more languages (17 Plus at last count?) then one can
remember. One never knows what Runa Laila will perform next because it
somehow appears that she has done it all. But now back to the show.
In a dark grey/black sari walking through the hall and audience
appeared this graceful middle aged lady to whom the years have been
very kind (no offense, but we are at that stage in life too). And once
on the stage she greeted everyone with the same radiant smile that has
been her signature on stage and the TV screen for years. She started
off with a Bengali number and next with “Kab Ayain Ge Sanwaria” in
Urdu. But it was with “Dayyara Dayyara Kaanta Chubha” the memories of
an era gone bye were revised for many a Pakistani fan.
Throughout the first half of the show the Runa’s stage finesse coupled
with some rare showing of that old naughtiness appeared, talents that
once enabled her to compete and hold her own in an era when Noor Jehan
reigned as queen of Pakistani female vocalists. Young Runa once gave
every female singer in Pakistan some serious competition. Today she is
a veteran of South Asian show business and as entertaining as ever.
Bengali songs dominated the evening but her Urdu-Hindi-Punjabi numbers
were much appreciated too. Her songs from her “Super Runa” Album are
always extremely well received as was the one just at intermission but
just a few parts sung of “Allah Meg Day Pani Day” broke many memory
barriers for me.
Thanks to Porshi Magazine for their hospitality and to Runa Laila for
still being “Super”. My regrets for having to leave at intermission
(the three hour drive back to Sacramento always cuts into this
reporter’s entertainment). But that drive back is also a time to
reflect and think on ones life. Runa spoke briefly about the need for
international harmony on stage. We all wish that sometimes that the
world could somehow oblige us better in that department. I removed
some of my old cobwebs from those little used memory cells relating to
1971 Pakistan that night. That crimson time may be over for most, but
artistes like Runa continue to remind some of us of who we once were
and of the treasures of old friendships, culture and the arts that we
once lost in Bangladesh.
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