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Veteran actor Shashikala dies at 88

Veteran actor Shashikala, best known for her supporting roles in 1960s-70s films like Aarti, Gumrah and Chhote Sarkar, passed away on Sunday at the age of 88.

Ashoke Pandit, filmmaker and president of the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association, and B.N. Tiwari, president of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees, confirmed the news. “Shashikalaji has passed away. She was 88. We don’t know the exact details of her demise,” Mr. Tiwari said.

Born in Solapur, Shashikala Jawalkar started acting on stage at the age of five. After her father went bankrupt, she moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) with her family and started to look for work in movies. In her early 20s, she married Om Prakash Saigal, who belonged to the K.L. Saigal family, and had two daughters, one of whom later passed away due to cancer.

She made her first big screen appearance in the 1945 movie Zeenat, directed by Syed Shaukat Hussain Rizvi, the husband of legendary actor Noor Jehan. Better known by her first name, Shashikala starred in over 100 films in her career spanning around six decades. She went on to play small parts in various films for almost a decade and later got an opportunity to feature in V. Shantaram’s Teen Batti Char Raasta (1953) and Daku, the 1955 film starring Shammi Kapoor.

Breakthrough movie

Her career breakthrough came in 1959 when she appeared in Bimal Roy’s Sujata, one of the early movies in Hindi cinema to explore the issue of casteism. Based on the eponymous Bengali short story by Subodh Ghosh, the film saw Shashikala play the daughter of a Brahmin family that adopts Nutan’s character, an orphan from a low caste.

Shashikala then appeared in Tarachand Barjatya’s Aarti (1962), starring Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar, and Pradeep Kumar in the lead. The film proved to be a stepping stone for Shashikala as she went on to become one of the go-to actors for filmmakers to portray negative parts.

She later appeared in supporting roles in classics like Gumrah (1963), Waqt (1965), Anupama (1966) and Phool Aur Patthar (1966) and returned to playing a vamp in the Shammi Kapoor-Sadhana-starrer Chhote Sarkar (1974).

In the 1980s, she played character roles, appearing in Khubsoorat, fronted by Rekha, the Sunny Deol-led Arjun (1985), Khamosh Nigahen (1986), Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani (1988), Sach (1989), Govinda’s Pardesi Babu (1998), Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Baadshah (1999), Karan Johar’s directorial Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, musical hit Jhankaar Beats (2003) and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004) and Padmashree Laloo Prasad Yadav in 2005.

Switch to TV

Shashikala switched to television in 2000s and went on to play pivotal parts in serials Apnaapan, Dil Deke Dekho and Son Pari. She received the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian award, in 2007 for her contribution to Indian cinema.

Personalities like legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar, actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, producer Naved Jafri, Union minister Jitendra Singh and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar paid rich tributes to the late star.

Ms. Mangeshkar called Shashikala a gifted artiste who did full justice to every character she played. “I am saddened after learning about the demise of the talented actor Shashikala. She played every kind of role with equal elan. May she rest in peace. My condolences to her family,” she said.

‘Irreplaceable loss’

“RIP Shashikala-ji. Condolences to the family,” Akhtar wrote on Twitter. Mr. Jafri remembered Shashikala as “a great artist”. “May the almighty give the family strength and patience to bear this irreplaceable loss. Deepest condolences #ShashiKala #RIPShashikala,” he tweeted.

Mr. Singh shared a line from the song ‘Kyun Mujhe Itni Khushi’, which featured Shashikala and Deven Verma, from the film Anupama. “#Shashikala no more. She was among the last from that Golden Age genre of Bollywood. RIP,” the minister said.

Mr. Pawar said he was “saddened” to hear about the demise of the veteran actor. “She made a significant mark on Indian film industry with her hardearned and well-deserved career. Condolences to her family and friends. RIP,” the NCP chief said in a tweet.

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