Hindi Cinema’s Other Shammi

Veteran actress Shammi, who returns to the big screen in Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi with yet another comic role, believes in having fun off-screen as well

Buddhi ab aur bhi buddhi ho gayi hai," says Shammi with a laugh, when talking of her role in Bela Sehgal-directed film Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi. The 83-year-old has just come back after the trial show of her comeback film, in which she plays grandmother to Boman Irani and mother to Daisy Irani. Dressed in a red sleeveless blouse and a printed sari, Shammi has combed back her hair and touched up her face with some blusher and lipstick. "My friends often tell me that I don't take care of myself. So today, I decided to dress up," she says with a wink.

The actress, however, doesn't look too happy with the way she appears on the screen now. "While watching Shirin Farhad, for the first time I saw my hands shivering on the screen. I am wondering if I should stop acting now or if anyone would want to cast me again," she says. Meanwhile, she has completed another untitled film, where she plays a black magic practitioner.

Known for her characteristic humour and quick wit, Shammi remained a favourite with filmmakers when it came to goofy and comic roles. She says, "This is probably because behaving in a fun manner came naturally to me. Even off-screen, I am always teasing co-actors and laughing out loud with them." Her character in Shirin Farhad, too, allows her to be in this space. "Boman and Daisy are such amazing actors. An actor can act well only when the other actor reacts well," she says.

She then recalls how her entry into films was completely by chance. During her growing-up years, both Shammi and her elder sister Mani Rabadi, a well-known fashion designer, worked in toy factories after schooltime to fund their tuition fees. They also did several odd jobs. It was when she was working at a pharmaceutical company that one of their family friends approached her with an acting assignment. "It was in January 1949 that I signed my first film, Ustad Pedro, with Sheikh Mukhtar, Begum Para and Mukri. The film was directed by Tara Harish," says Shammi, adding, "I remember giving my first shot and being very happy. It was as if I was born to do this."

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