Renowned singer of the subcontinent Runa Laila has been singing for over five decades now. She has sung over 10,000 songs in 19 languages -- Bangla, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Sindhi, Guajarati, Baluch, Pashtu, Farsi, Arabic, Spanish, French, English and more. This living legend was born on 17 November 1952. Today is her 70th birthday. She will appear in the afternoon on a special programme of Channel i. She spoke to Prothom Alo on the eve of her birthday
Happy birthday! So you are 70!
Thank you. Who said I am 70! I'll be 17 on 17 November (laughing).
So how do you feel on your birthday?
I feel as good as a teenager!
Any plans for the day?
The usual. Friends and family come over so there is lots of food and fun. I am not having a big celebration, just the usual. Maybe next time when I turn 18 (laughs).
What plans does singer Runa Laila have for the future?
I will continue to sing. I will try to sing good songs. And I want to compose some good music too. I have already composed a few songs. This time I want to compose the music for songs to be sung by artistes of the new generation. I will compose for the legends of our country too.
What about sponsors? Has anyone come forward to produce these songs?
I received tremendous response from sponsors for the songs of my music composition earlier. I am negotiating with a few sponsor companies now, though nothing is final as yet. Once the negotiations are settled, I begin work on the songs.
Some people see a birthday as a step closer to death. How do you feel about that?
A birthday means another year of living. I have lived another year in good health and that is what it is all about. Today let me share something interesting with everyone.
I called Asha ji (Asha Bhosle) over the phone on her birthday this year. I said, "Asha ji, happy birthday." She laughed and said, "Happy? It's time to go 'upstairs' now. How is it happy!" We both laughed a lot. But as for myself, I don't think of going 'upstairs'. I pray to Allah to let me live longer and in good health so I can do much more. That is what I want. At this age I am still singing, composing, performing... all of this is Allah's mercy.
It's been a long journey in music. You have won renown at home and abroad. Do you feel unsatisfied in any way?
I have received so much in life! I wonder if I really deserve all that I have received. What I have received is beyond by expectations. When I look back I think, have I really achieved all this? How many people have won so much love, blessings, respect and prayers from millions of people at home and abroad? I am amazed by the love and respect I received from the music world at home and abroad. This is all a blessing from Allah. I am among the people, they pray for me, express their love -- there is no room for any dissatisfaction.
Are there any dreams in your heart that you want to fulfill?
I have for long dreamed of establishing a good standard cancer hospital. I haven't been able to give this time due to innumerable preoccupations. My elder sister Dina Laila died of cancer. I have set up a ward at the Shishu Hospital in her name. That gives me a sense of peace.
Setting up a cancer hospital is a huge project. It will take a lot to set up a cancer hospital of a good standard. Let's see if I can fulfill this dream in my lifetime. I just want the opportunity to do something permanent for the people.
Four young artistes have sung a new song on your birthday
I had no idea about this song made by Channel i. I just heard it today (Wednesday). It has been sung by Konal, Jhilik, Mesbah Bappi and Tariq Mridha. It was totally unexpected. I got rather emotional when I heard about it. As a singer, how wonderful is it to be given a song as a birthday gift! Those who sang the song are like children to me. When these children sang for me, it is something that makes me so happy and emotional too.