Aunty Shammi, was the first actor to be paid Rs. 1 lakh

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Veteran Bollywood actor Shammi passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89 after prolonged illness. Amitabh Bachchan shared the news on his Twitter handle on Tuesday morning and was deeply saddened as he wrote, “slowly slowly they all go away..” The late actor entertained movie buffs and the television audience alike. Her perfect comic timing in TV shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh, Zabaan Sambhal Ke, Shriman Shrimati and others brought smiles to many faces.

Shammi, fondly addressed as ‘Shammi aunty’ by Bollywood celebrities, acted in movies like Jab Jab Phool Khile, Preet Na Jane Reet, Aamne – Saamne, Upkar, Ittefaq and many others. For any 90s kid, Shammi was Karisma Kapoor’s grandma in Sooraj Barjatya’s Hum Saath Saath Hain.

She had been ailing for some time. She breathed her last at her Juhu Circle home. Her funeral shall be performed at the Oshiwara cemetery later in the day, Shekhar told IANS. Shammi, whose real name was Nargis Rabadi, was a Parsi and the former wife of legendary Bollywood filmmaker, the late Sultan Ahmed.

The early life’s struggle:

Rabadi was born in 1931 in Bombay, India. Her father was a priest in an agyari (Parsi fire temple) and died when she was around three years old. After her father’s death, her mother used to cook the food at all the religious functions organized by the Parsi community to earn money. Rabadi had an elder sister Mani Rabadi, who was a fashion designer and worked extensively with many actresses as their dress designer in Hindi films between 1967 and 1994. Her mother’s younger sister lived with her. They stayed in Tata Blocks in Parel, South Mumbai in 1930-47 period. Her sister joined Johnson and Johnson as a secretary after completing her secondary school education.

In 1942, Johnson and Johnson manufactured tablets and Rabadi was employed in the packing department. Her job was to collect the tablets that were not sealed in the tablet case, and had fallen off from the machine. She had to put them into big bottles which would go to hospitals for free distribution to patients. She was paid Rs 1,00,000 per month for doing this job

Getting into films was by chance

She was just 18 when she signed her first film, Ustad Pedro, in January 1949.Ustad Pedro had Sheikh Mukhtar opposite Begum Para and Mukri as the comedian and it was directed by Tara Harish and this Begum Para-Sheikh Mukhtar starrer was a hit film at the box office in 1949.

She had to attend the studio every day and practice acting even when she had no shoot. Shammi had to read dialogues of other films and Harish, the film’s director taught her a lot of things since he was an actor himself. Harish was directing another film with Mukesh in the lead as hero, called Malhar. Shammi was given the main lead in that film. Since the director was the same, Shammi was allowed to work outside the Sheikh Mukthar banner. She got good reviews for Malhar. Malhar’s music was a super-hit and Malhar made Shammi a famous star. Shammi was financially stable now, so they shifted to Bandra. During the shooting of Malhar, she met Nargis Dutt through Jaddan bai, who was the mother of Nargis Dutt. They became good friends. After that meeting, Dutt would frequently call Shammi to her house in Marine Drive. Dutt was her best friend and later, because of their friendship she got a supporting role in the film Miss India. She quoted in an interview “Nargis was the first actor to be paid Rs 1 lakh; even Dilip Kumar did not get that kind of money then. It was the talk of the industry. Actors like me who did supporting roles would get anything around Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000.”

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