At 83 Shammi Aunty, as she is universally known, loves people and acting. Unfailingly she is the first to call on my birthday every year. Failing health and difficulty in hearing have not taken away this Bollywood survivor’s spirit. After a long time we got to see Shammy Aunty as Boman Irani’s doting grandmother in Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi.
The attention she’s getting after a longish gap is certainly welcome.
Basking in the attention the veteran actress says, “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 maangne 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. It isn’t a major role in Shirin Farhad, but it was great fun shooting the film.”
The offer from Bela Bhansali Sehgal was god-sent.
Recalls Shammi Aunty, “One day I got a call from Bela. She said she was doing a film about the Parsi community with Parsi actors, and would I play Boman Irani’s grandmother. She said, ‘Please don’t say no.’ Why would I say no to such an offer? I greedily grabbed it. I never knew it would be so much fun.”
Shammi Aunty says she didn’t know Boman would be so entertaining. “He is relatively new in movies, so I had never worked with him. He was so wonderful. He kept saying he was happy to work with me. Most of my scenes in the film were with Boman. We had great fun shooting together. I didn’t have too many scenes with Farah Khan. But I’ve known her from her childhood. As for Daisy Irani who plays my daughter-in-law I was in her first film Bandish in 1955 when she played Meena Kumari’s little son. I remember she would come running into Meena’s lap after every shot at RK Studios. And to be working with her after so many years!”
Shammi Aunty has also finished working in another film directed by Pavan Kaul. “I went to Bangkok to shoot for Pavan’s film. Bela’s and Pavan’s films happened one after another. So maybe more work will come my way soon.”
Sighs the veteran actress. “It’s God’s 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 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!”
Nowadays Shammi Aunty stays with her best friend Asha Parekh as the older actress has no domestic help in her own house. “But no complaints. I am happy to be still healthy and doing what I love.”