Talented Songstress Runa Laila

Runa Laila may have started her singing career quite by chance, but once her immense talent was recognized, she went on to develop a successful career as a playback singer for the film industry in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India during the period of the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. She is also known for her talent in performing Ghazals – a poetic form of expression based on universally shared themes such as love and separation – as well as performing as a duet with Pakistani singer Ahmed Rushdi.

Runa Laila was born on November 17, 1952, in Sylhet, into a family with an intense interest in the arts. Runa’s older sister Dina Laila was the one in the family who was interested in singing, while Runa’s interest lay in dancing. However, Runa’s talent for music was evident in that she easily picked up the classical music her sister was learning. Runa was thrust into the limelight when she stood in for her sister who had developed a sore throat and could not perform at an event. Although Runa was so small at the time that she could not even hold her tanpura properly, she was a huge hit and this opened up opportunities for her in the music world. Following her unexpected public debut at the age of six, Runa went on to record her first disc for a Pakistani film when she was only twelve years old.

Some of the highlights of Runa’s career included appearing on the Karachi TV stage production, the Zia Mohyddin Show from 1972 to 1974, as well as recording songs for a number of films, with all but one of the songs in the 1972 film Umra Jan Ada being sung by Runa. Bangladeshi awards received by Runa include the Independence Day Award, National Film Award (which she won four times), Shelteck Award and Lux Channel Performance Award. Runa has also won a number of awards in India and Pakistan.

Sadly, Runa’s sister Dina died of cancer. Runa honored Dina’s memory by holding six concerts in Bangladesh, using the proceeds to build a cancer ward at a children’s hospital in Dhaka, naming it after her sister. Runa Laila continues to entertain her fans with her distinctive voice and emotive manner of singing which became the hallmark of many popular movies, both in Bangladesh and beyond her home country’s borders.