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Runa Laila was born on November 17, 1952, in Sylhet, East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Her father was from Rajshahi. She enrolled in a dance school where she learnt Kathak, Bharatanatyam, and Kathakali. Her early music training was done under Piya Rang and Ustad Habibiddin Khan when her family lived in Karachi's Federal B area in 1960. According to Laila, Manzur Hussain also influenced her career on her career by teaching her flaws in her voice work on. She made her public debut as a singer at the age of six. She recorded her first disc for a Pakistani film called "Jugnu". She was influenced by playback singer Ahmed Rushdi as she followed his way of singing and also made a pair with him later on.
She sang playback for movies in Bangladesh and India and Pakistan. She is known for her songs like Dama dum mast qalandar which has been sung by other artists and Mera babu chhail chhabeela main to nachoon gi.
She entered into the Hindi film playback with Ek se badhkar ek in 1974. She also sang in Gharonda. After that she withdrew from Mumbai. Some of the music directors she has worked with are Jaidev, Kalyanji Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Bappi Lahiri. She has also sung Bangladeshi songs like Sadher lau banailo morey, ,Jokhon thambe kolahol, Shilpi ami tomaderi gan shonabo and Bondhu tin din tor barite gelam.