"Who says I'm 70!"

Renowned singer of the subcontinent Runa Laila caught in the lens of Prothom Alo's camera at a five-star hotel in DhakaAshraful Alam

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

Q :

Happy birthday! So you are 70!

Thank you. Who said I am 70! I'll be 17 on 17 November (laughing).

Q :

So how do you feel on your birthday?

I feel as good as a teenager!

Runa Laila says she will continue to sing and to sing good songs. She also wants to compose music and also has done so for a few songs. She plans to have singers of the younger generation sing her compositions as well.

Q :

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).

Q :

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.

Star couple Runa Laila and Alamgir

Q :

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.

Runa Laila with Asha Bhosle in Kolkata
Courtesy: Runa Laila

Q :

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.    

At the House of Lords, UK

Q :

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.

Runa Laila says she will continue to sing and to sing good songs. She also wants to compose music and also has done so for a few songs. She plans to have singers of the younger generation sing her compositions as well

Q :

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.

Channel i has come up with a new song on Runa Laila's birthday. Composed by Monowar Hossain Tutul (third from left), the song has been sung by Tariq Mridha, Jhilik, Konal and Mesbah Bappi

Q :

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.