A charismatic personality

A competent actress who didn’t get her due, Shakila will be remembered for her scorching screen presence and comic timing

Published - September 29, 2017 01:00 am IST

A LIVELY ARTIST Shakila in “Tower House”

A LIVELY ARTIST Shakila in “Tower House”

Death is a great leveller, it spares none. Yet death is quite unfair at times for providing different life spans and dissimilar farewells to people. Last week when it took away veteran film star Shakila, it poignantly exhibited its injustice too by denying Shakila the grand salute that she richly deserved after years of stardom! Once again the indifference of the filmdom came to the fore as it did not pay a token of gratitude to a veteran whose talent had helped strengthen its foundations in its formative years.

One of the most hauntingly beautiful faces of the filmdom, Shakila seems a divine creature when you rewind some of the memorable songs picturised on her. Watch just two of the all time great compositions “Sau Baar Janam Lenge” (“Ustadon Ke Ustad”) and “Ae Mere Dil-e-Nadaan” (“Tower House”) to have an extra-sensory experience. If her dark almond shaped eyes are Cupid’s mystical weapons, her regal yet sublime presence is alike a fairy gracing the screen in tandem with Rafi and Lata’s magnificent vocals… thank technology for preserving such picture perfect moments to revere and remember forever.

However, that does not mean that her arresting face was her only recommendation. A competent actress, equally adept at dramatic explorations and dancing moves, she won fans and admirers with decent interpretations of her largely stereotyped characters. But even within the limited scope of a perennial ‘babe in the woods’, she exhibited her flair for comedy, romance and tragedy with remarkable ease. Check sequences of “Main Hun Papa Kahan” from “Post Box 999” or “Ik Baat Kahun Wallah” from “Shriman Satyawadi” with Raj Kapoor and Mehmood to realise how good her comic timing is especially as she matches the two maestros of comedy step for step. Surprisingly, she had also made her debut as a child artiste with Raj Kapoor in A. R. Kardar’s “Dastaan”; recommended by none other than the legendary Mehboob Khan who met her at an Id festival!

Star quality is a difficult word to define but primarily means an arresting presence that inspires instant awe and admiration from a viewer. Despite several low grade films, it was her charismatic personality that made Guru Dutt select her for a brief role in “Aar Paar” and when the ‘polishing’ by the master director brought forth breathtaking results, he had no qualms in giving her the lead role against Dev Anand in “C.I.D”. The much celebrated performance brought her into the limelight, leading to films like “Hatim Tai”, “Mulzim”, “Agra Road”, “Kali Topi Lal Rumaal”, “China Town”, “Ustadon Ke Ustad” wherein she exhibited her prowess with much aplomb.

If Nanda once described her “a breathtakingly pretty woman” and “a great friend”, co-star Manoj Kumar found her “a dignified woman who was too shy to speak but very confident of her lines.” Unfortunately, her growth was obstructed by her poor selection of films out of her financial insecurity; quite understandable as she and her two sisters were raised in penury by a paternal aunt after the early death of her parents. Fortunately, she married and gracefully retired to domesticity with a caring husband. A widow for past several years, Shakila, who had lost her only child too in 1991, was at present being looked after by her nephew and nieces (children of Johny Walker and her sister Noor). Though it may not have been her destiny to get a warm send off, nevertheless, audiences will always remember her adoringly with the lilting Shammi Kapoor – Rafi classic “Baar Baar Dekho Hazaar Baar Dekho Ki Dekhne Ki Cheez Hai Hamara Dilruba” that befits her stature… no doubt, she was indeed amongst God’s prettiest creations!

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