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'Queen of cabaret' Miss Shefali dies aged 77

Miss Shefali appeared in many films, including Satyajit Ray's Pratidwandi (1970) and Seemabaddha (1971) as well as Manoj Kumar's Shor (1972).

Photo credit: Ananda Publishers

Our Correspondent

Miss Shefali, Kolkata’s one-time 'queen of cabaret', died at her house in Sodepur at 6 am on Thursday, 6 February. Born Arati Das, the sensuous heartthrob of Calcutta's nightlife in the 1960s and 1970s was undergoing treatment for kidney failure for a long time. She was 77.

Miss Shefali also appeared in many films and charmed audiences with her performances. Stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Uttam Kumar would find it difficult to ignore her glamorous presence. She was also adored by Satyajit Ray and appeared in the great filmmaker's Pratidwandi (1970) and Seemabaddha (1971), besides other popular films like Chowringhee (1968) and Shor (1972). 

Miss Shefali had migrated from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) during Partition and was the youngest of three daughters in her family. She began earning for the family from the age of 12, performing cabaret.

She was also a theatre performer and acted in plays Saheb Bibi Golam, Samrat o Sundari and Ashlil. However, the star attraction of Calcutta’s nightlife lived out her latter days in penury, with no immediate relative to help her with money or assistance. Before she was given a monthly allowance of Rs5,000 from 2018, actress Rituparna Sengupta bore the expense of her treatment.

Miss Shefali also wrote an autobiography titled ‘Sandhya Rater Shefali’ (Shefali of the Evenings and Nights).

In 2019, actress-director Konkona Sensharma announced a web-series based on Miss Shefali’s life. Along with depicting the journey of the queen of cabaret, the web-series will also document the political scenario of Bengal in the 1960s and 1970s.