Movies

Remembering Shyama’s eternal legacy

Veteran Bollywood actor Shyama, who is best known for her roles in Aar Paar (1954) and Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) died in the early hours of Tuesday, November 14. While the cause of her death remains unknown, the octogenarian had been under medical supervision at Mumbai's Breach Candy hospital for the last one month.

Rauf Ahmed, a veteran journalist, author and former editor of the magazine Filmfare, had met with the actor only twice but vividly remembers the conversations between them. He pauses for a brief moment in a phone conversation to revive his memory of the yesteryear star, “I didn’t really know her in the beginning and by the time I came on the scene she had already wound up. I got to know Shyama because of the book I had written on Shammi Kapoor titled Shammi Kapoor: The game changer.”

It was during this period that Ahmed chanced upon a meeting with the veteran star, “Shammi actually told me that his film Thokar (1953), starring Shyama was his first film that actually did well. He described her as a vivacious person. So I got in touch with her, but she, on the other hand, was terrified of Shammi Kapoor.” The revelation was as innocuous as it was humorous, he says, “She narrated an incident [about] a romantic scene Shammi grabbed her and squeezed her. He was so aggressive, she literally went breathless. Two days later she was offered another film opposite Shammi, but turned that down.”

Sounding amused Ahmed continued the story with a chuckle, “Shammi got to know of it through his producer and turned up at her house the following day. But Shyama sheepishly excused herself, blaming her health and breathlessness as the reason. She did specify that his intentions were good and that he was great fun to work with. She joked about how terrified she was with his physical onslaught, but did end up signing the next one after that.”

Shyama joined films when she was around 14 and rose to fame in Bollywood swiftly, winning accolades and critical acclaim. Her career spanned 40 years with over 175 Bollywood films to her credit. She was at the peak of her career in the 1950s and 60s, her claim to fame being the Guru Dutt classic Aar Paar (1954). The list of her films also includes Milan(1967), Sawan Bhadon (1970) and Sharada (1957) (also starring Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari) for which she won the Filmfare award for the best supporting actress.

Ahmed reveals, “One of her earliest films was when she was all of 14 or 15. It was a film called Zeenat (1945) where Noor Jahan was the heroine and it had a famous qawwali which got her immediately noticed. Her marriage to Fali Mistry also helped her move around Bollywood circles.”

Despite being so prolific, Shyama didn’t quite attain the status of other actors in her time. Ahmed says, “She was a popular person in the industry mid-50s onward. She was stylish in that sense, had a great figure and danced very well. Histrionically she was very good, but at the same time, she didn’t have the heroine qualities like her contemporaries Waheeda Rehman and Madhubala. It was all a matter of luck she told me.”

The actor was buried on Tuesday evening at Bada Kabrastan in Marine Lines. She is survived by two sons and a daughter.


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Printable version | Nov 25, 2021 12:48:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/remembering-shyamas-eternal-legacy/article20460944.ece

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