“I’ve Not Wept So Much For Anyone Since My Parents Passed Away,” Says Asha  Parekh

I’ve Not Wept So Much For Anyone Since My Parents Passed Away,” Says Asha  Parekh On  The Passing Of Her BFF Shammi

Shammi Aunty, as she was universally known in the  film industry, passed away quietly on Tuesday morning at the age of 89.

She had no relatives except an adopted son Iqbal Rizvi who stayed closeby but not  in the same apartment as  his foster-mother. The end came alone.

Shammi Aunty, born Nargis Rabadi  who lost her  only sister the famous designer Mani Rabadi a few years ago , had become rapidly immovable and forgetful.Her best friend for more than 50 years Asha Parekh is barely able to contain her sobs.

“I haven’t wept so much since I lost my parents. I called  her Shammi Aunty .She was much older than me. But we were best friends for years. She shared everything with me. It was a natural-born trait in her to win people’e confidence.She was close to many actresses who poured their heart  out to her. With me it was special. We had  spent decades  together. She was my closest friend confidante and after my parents’ death , a guardian angel. Now she’s gone,” Ashaji breaks down while she tries to remember the good memories with the ever-jovial Shammi who made so many  people laugh on and off screen

 Rakhee Gulzar who was also very close  to Shammi Aunty (and had in fact played the lead in Pighalta Aasman , the film thatShammi Aunty produced in 1985 with Raakhee and Shashi Kapoor in the lead) said to me, “Shammi Aunty taught me  how to laugh out out. To not hold back my laughter . You see as girls we were always taught not to laugh loudly.Shammi Aunty made me realize there was nothing unwomanly  about loud laughter.She  made my happiness come out of my throat.”

In 1970  Shammi Aunty married filmmaker Sultan Ahmed. She  described  it as the biggest mistake  of her life. The two parted acrimoniously.

Recalls Asha Parekh. “I did  Sultan Ahmed Saab’s Heera only because  of Shammi Aunty.The  laughter stopped when she was about 80. The last 8-9 years of Shammi Aunty’s life were  miserable. Her health was failing.And she often she had no domestic help. She would come and stay with me. We couldn’t share as  much laughter as we did earlier since  her hearing faculties were affected.”

Born in 1929 into a family of Parsi priests , Shammi whose real name was Nargis  began her career  in  films in 1949 with a film called Ustad Pedro with Sheikh Mukhtar who  was  then quite a name. It was a hit. And there was  no looking back.Shammi went on to do all kinds of roles.

When her role on K Asif’s Masafirkhana as a comedienne clicked she  got typecast in ‘funnygirl’ roles.

Mujhe comedy  mein bada maza aata hai. Main hoon hi waisi,” she once told me over dinner at Asha Parekh’s place where I’d often find her every time I visited. “I want to continue acting. It’s the only thing I know how to do. But movie offers had stopped coming for a while. I was doing television. But that too dwindled lately. So I was sitting idle. At my age to be workless is to be worthless.Lekin main aaj tak kabhi kissi se kaam maange nahin gayi (I never went to anyone to ask for work). Why should I do so now? I am happy getting what comes to me. And grateful to God I still get work.  He has been very kind to me .Otherwise why would I still be getting work? It is unimaginable for me to be not working. Boman Irani once asked me how many films I had done. I had no clue! Recently someone googled on me and found out I had done nearly 200 films. I was amazed. When did I do all these films? Time just flew by!”

Her last film was Bela Segal(Sanjay Bhansali’s sister)’s Shirin Farhad  Ki Toh Nikal Padi.

 I will always remember Shammi Aunty as  the  irresistibly friendly soul who always  came to meet me at Asha Parekh’s place, and who never forgot to call and sing Happy Birthday to me every year until she grew too old to remember my birthdays.

 I did try calling her after her sister passed away. She couldn’t identify me.

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