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Blast from the past: When Gregory Peck met Suraiya

Suraiya Jamal Sheikh popularly known as Suraiya was a famous singer and actor and could be said to be a singing superstar of modern India. She made her acting debut with the film Taj Mahal (1941) in which she played the role of Mumtaz Mahal.

Suraiya, Gregory Peck

Her most famous pairing happened to be with Dev Anand. When she was doing the film Vidya (1948) opposite Dev Anand, she became romantically involved with him. The two of them were paired in seven films together; Vidya (1948), Jeet (1949), Shair (1949), Afsar (1950), Nili (1950), Do Sitare (1951) and Sanam (1951). She was one of the highest-paid stars back then and he was a relative newcomer.

Suraiya, Gregory Peck

Dev Anand may have been in love with Suraiya but she was enamoured with Hollywood heartthrob Gregory Peck. It was reported that the actress was offered roles opposite the handsome star. Gregory Peck had tea with her when he came to India and that made headlines. It is said that Dev Anand styled himself after Gregory Peck in order to please Suraiya.

It’s said that When she met the Hollywood director Frank Capra at the first International Film Festival of India in 1952, she reportedly gave him an autographed photograph of herself to give to Peck. Peck later is said to have said that he did receive the photograph.

Suraiya, Gregory Peck

Peck had been shooting for The Purple Rain (1954) in Sri Lanka. It was said he was invited to be part of the Filmfare event but couldn’t make it as his flight got delayed. He reportedly came to the after-party and mingled with the stars. Here, the reports get blurry. Some say Suraiya missed meeting him then as she didn’t stay for the party.

Suraiya, Gregory Peck

A close acquaintance of hers then is said to have taken Peck to her Marine Drive apartment, where they reportedly talked for an hour. In a later interview, Suraiya reminisced that after Peck left she was so excited by his visit that she couldn’t sleep that night.

Suraiya, Gregory Peck

Filmfare reported about Peck’s visit to Suraiya’s home: There was a knock on the door at a little past eleven of Tuesday night, January 5, and there, when it opened, was Mr. Peck himself asking Suraiya’s very astonished mother with a bow: “Where is Suraiya, Madam?” Just like that. While she still hesitated, along came Suraiya from her bed, wide-eyed with wonder, to welcome her favourite star. who stepped in and stayed chatting informally till well past midnight, when he left to catch the Colombo plane which had stopped here on account of an unexpected turn of the weather in Ceylon.

Suraiya, Gregory Peck

Besides meeting him in Mumbai, Dev Anand himself is said to have met Peck once on the sets of Roman Holiday and later on the sets of Moby Dick.

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