Saturday 6 August 2016

Shamim Ara – the go-getter

09:20 By Lollywood Online 1 comment

KARACHI/LAHORE: The past six years might have had a lot of promise for Pakistani cinema at large, however, for one of its biggest icons they were a constant battle of life and death. On Friday, Shamim Ara lost that battle and in her shape we lost our most prolific woman film-maker.
In 1956, director Najam Naqvi was on the lookout for a heroine whom he could cast in his film Kunwari Bewa. Shamim Ara was visiting relatives in Karachi and it was here that the two met and her acting debut materialised. The film bombed on the box office but trumpeted the arrival of a diva who 30 years later, gave Pakistan its most commercially successful film of its time.
The Aligarh-born actor then chose Lahore as her permanent abode and hence began her prolonged association with film. By the time she was done with roughly 90 films, acting no longer excited Shamim Ara as it once did.
With the 1976 Waheed Murad-starrer Jeo Aur Jeenay Do, she made her directorial debut and continued belting out hits after hits – Haathi Mere Saathi, Lady Smuggler, Playboy, to name a few – until 2004.
The innovator
Her Miss franchise, in screenwriter Vasay Chaudhry’s words, was perhaps Shamim Ara’s most important contribution to Pakistani cinema. Between 1979 and 1996, the late film-maker’s Miss Hong Kong, MissColombo, Miss Singapore and Miss Istanbul saw the combination of an unconventional female protagonist and exotic locations work wonders.
“How many such films can you name from that time? Even today, India does not have an example like that,” Chaudhry said, adding that Shamim Ara knew exactly what the box office craved for and over the years, she mastered the commercial film formulae. “For one of these films, Pakistani cinema’s first helicopter shot was taken. Today it might seem ordinary but back in the day it was quite a big deal.”
The Jawani Phir Nahi Ani writer said it takes a lot of courage for a woman to produce such work consistently for so many years.
Referring to the “fashionable” shape of the women’s empowerment discourse that commercial industries of today bank upon, Chaudhry said, “We were making women-centric films back in the 1980s. Tarantino made Kill Bill and everyone went gaga over it. People like Shamim Ara were doing this long ago.”
Money in the bank
With the 1995 film Munda Bigra Jaye, Shamim Ara struck gold. The Rambo-Sahiba movie, according to Nigar Golden Jubilee Number, smashed Pakistan’s film business records and remained our highest grossing film until Syed Noor’s Choorian hit screens.
Its title song that went by the same name became an anthem of sorts; many might not have seen the film but there’s hardly anyone who has not heard the song, which is said to have been made by pop star Hasan Jahangir first.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Lollywood doyenne had assumed the role of a godmother of sorts to many of the industry’s top talents. Film veteran Nisho and her daughter Sahiba collaborated with Shamim Ara on a number of projects. “She was very supportive of us,” Nisho told The Express Tribune. Shamim Ara was a very non-confrontational and easygoing woman in everyday life but when it came to work, she was a different person altogether. “I know this is a very clichéd thing to say but honestly I feel her presence formed Lollywood’s golden period.”
Films such as Anarkali, Naila and Devdas are remembered as some of Shamim Ara’s most memorable acting performances. Pashto and Punjabi screen siren of the past Durdana Rahman said she started her career seeing people like Shamim Ara do so well. “She was the idol of every actor. We all wanted to be like her,” she added.