Obituary: Shamim Ara — end of a long-drawn agony

Obituary: Shamim Ara — end of a long-drawn agony

She shared the marquee with two generations of actors, from Santosh Kumar and Sudhir to Waheed Murad and Nadeem
Updated 06 Aug, 2016

POPULAR star-turned-producer and later director, Shamim Ara, died in a hospital in the United Kingdom on Friday after a long-drawn illness. She had suffered a brain hemorrhage in Lahore and was in coma since January 2010.

Since there was no one to look after her, Shamim Ara’s only child Salman Kareem, who is an IT specialist in London, got her shifted to a hospital in the UK which specialised in neuro-related surgery, but her condition deteriorated.

Those who were close to Shamim Ara say that she lost her savings and property when someone she trusted duped her. She went into litigation that dragged on and on.

Things took a turn for the worse when she had her first stroke in 2001. That hindered her film-making. She tried to soldier on but all in vain. Disappointed, she moved to London in 2004 and lived with her son. Missing her home country, she visited Pakistan twice a year but in early 2011, when she was in Lahore, she suffered a brain hemorrhage. A neurosurgeon operated on her in Lahore in October that year, but she remained unconscious.

It was in this state that she was taken to the UK three months after the surgery.

Shamim Ara was born in Aligarh to a woman who was a professional dancer. But her guardian was her maternal grandmother who took major decisions in her early life.

The family migrated to Karachi in the fifties, where she was discovered by film-maker Najam Naqvi, who gave her the name Shamim Ara, and cast her as the heroine of his movie Kunwari Bewa (1956). Unluckily, the film flopped.

But the same year her second movie, Miss 56, featuring the lara lappa girl Meena Shorey as the heroine, proved to be a success and Shamim Ara, even though cast as what they call in the film industry the ‘side heroine’, was appreciated more by movie-goers.

However the following year she was unable to build on this success.

The year 1958 saw her playing second fiddle to Noor Jehan in the moderately successful Anarkali. Yet her second film of the year, Wah Re Zamane, where she starred as the leading lady opposite Ejaz, clicked at the box office.

In 1959 she acted in her first Punjabi film Jaidad, but quite obviously the actress, whose prime quality was underplaying roles, was not cut out for loud (often noisy) movies.

The years between 1960 and 1970 were highly rewarding for Shamim Ara. In movies such as Saheli (for which she got the President’s Award), Aag Ka Darya, Naila, Farangi, Aanchal, Haveli, Chingari, Doraha, Salgirah, Lakhon Mein Eik, Dil Mera Dharkan Teri and her maiden production Saiqa, she emerged as a sensitive performer and occupied the topmost rung of the ladder of stardom.

She shared the marquee with two generations of actors, from Santosh Kumar and Sudhir to Waheed Murad and Nadeem. In 1970 Shamim Ara also starred in a Bengali movie, Misher Kumari.

The next decade established her as a producer and director. In the beginning she got other directors to wield the megaphone for her, but in the mid-seventies she directed her first film, Jio Aur Jeene Do (1976). It was an impressive debut both technically and commercially. In all she directed about 20 films, most of which fared well at the box office.

Towards the turn of the century it seemed that she had still a long way to go, but the twin tragedy — health-wise and on the financial front — shattered Shamim Ara. The woman who portrayed tragic characters with finesse did not realise that her own life was to end in greater tragic circumstances.

Shamim Ara is survived by a son, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

Originally published in Dawn, August 6th, 2016