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Actress Shakila passes away at 82

The actress, who was best known for her roles in Aar Paar (1954), Hatimtai (1956) and C.I.D. (1956), died of a massive heart attack in Mumbai on Wednesday, 20 September.

Sonal Pandya

Yesteryear actress of the 1950s and 1960s, Shakila passed away at age 82 of a massive heart attack yesterday afternoon in Mumbai. According to a report in the Mumbai Mirror newspaper, she was taken to a Bandra hospital but they could not admit her immediately and was taken instead to Arogya Nidhi hospital in Juhu.

As a teenager, Shakila first appeared onscreen in Duniya (1949) and Dastaan (1950) starring Suraiya. She acted in smaller parts in Gumashta (1951), Raj Rani Damayanti (1952), Shahenshah (1953) and Rajmahal (1953) but it wasn’t until Aar Paar (1954) opposite Guru Dutt that Shakila got on to the audience’s radar. The popular songs ‘Hoon Abhi Main Jawan’ and ‘Babuji Dheere Chalna’ sung by Geeta Dutt were picturised on her; she played a cabaret dancer in the film.

In 1956, she worked with Guru Dutt again in his home production, C.I.D., directed by Raj Khosla. She acted opposite Dev Anand and a newcomer named Waheeda Rehman, who was making her Hindi film debut. Another great evergreen song ‘Ankhon Hi Ankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya’, sung by Mohammed Rafi and Geeta Dutt, was filmed on her and Anand.

As the main lead, her film Hatimtai (1956) from Homi Wadia’s Basant Pictures, remained a favourite with audiences for years. She played the part of a fairy, Gulnar Pari, opposite P Jairaj who enacted Hatimtai, a character from Arabian Nights.

In an old interview, Shakila had revealed that her movie Begunah (1957) with Kishore Kumar was banned 10 days after its release because Hollywood actor Danny Kaye objected to it. “We worked together in a film called Begunah. It was based on a Danny Kaye film called ‘Knock On The Wood’. It was a very good comedy. Unfortunately, a week after the film was released, Danny Kaye came to Bombay and heard the film was based on his film and had the film banned,” she had said at the time. All negatives of Begunah were said to be destroyed.

Shakila also acted in Post Box 999 (1958) with Sunil Dutt which had memorable music by Kalyanji. Another hit film was Shakti Samanta’s China Town (1962), where she acted Shammi Kapoor and Helen.

Her sisters Nasreen and Noor also briefly acted in Hindi films. Noor married popular comedian Johnny Walker and appeared in Aar Paar (1954) along with Shakila.

In 1963, she left India for London after she got married. Ustadon Ke Ustad (1963) with Ashok Kumar and Pradeep Kumar was one of her last films. Shakila did act in Hum Intezaar Karenge (1989) and Rajdrohi (1993) when she came back to India after the end of her marriage. Her daughter Meenaz died in 1991.

In the same older interview, she had talked about why she didn’t return full time to acting, stating “I keep getting film, as well as television serial offers. But I don’t like any of them. Moreover, the industry has changed so much. I don’t know whether people will even recognize me! And after being at the top and seeing all the glory, suddenly to be in a place where the same respect and dignity may not be accorded can be scary. But at the same time, we’ve seen the best of times and today if the limelight is on somebody else, why feel bad about it?”