indian cinema heritage foundation

"Lehraye Jiya Bal Khaye Jiya" - Shyama

30 Mar, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Shyama. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

As soon as 1950’s decade’s heroine Shyama’s name is uttered, image of a very beautiful, bubbly and good actress flashes through the minds of the enthusiasts of that era’s Hindi cinema. But on the whole people are not aware that before she became a heroine, Shyama had played many small roles in almost 50 films.  

Shyama was born on 12th June 1935 in Lahore. Her father was a fruit trader. She was just 2 years old when her father, due to his business, moved the entire family from Lahore to Mumbai. She was the youngest of 9 siblings. During one of our meetings Shyama had revealed that although films held an attraction for her, she couldn’t even think about working in movies as the social norms of those times didn’t allow for such thinking. Despite this it was a coincidence that she ventured in this field which did cause some resistance at home especially from her father’s side. But the resistance couldn’t last for very long.
 

Zeenat. Image Courtesy: ​Beete Hue Din
 
Actually, one day Shyama had gone to see a film shooting with her friends. This film was Zeenat which was made under the banner of Eastern Pictures and its producer-director was Noorjehan’s husband Sayyad Shauqat Hussain Rizvi. According to Shyama, Shauqat Hussain asked the girls present on the set if they would like to work in the film and Shyama and her friends readily agreed.

Actually, one day Shyama had gone to see a film shooting with her friends. This film was Zeenat which was made under the banner of Eastern Pictures and its producer-director was Noorjehan’s husband Sayyad Shauqat Hussain Rizvi. According to Shyama, Shauqat Hussain asked the girls present on the set if they would like to work in the film and Shyama and her friends readily agreed. Released in the year 1945, Shyama was just 9 years old when she was first seen on screen in the film Zeenat’s qawwali Aahein naa bhareen shiqwe naa kiye. Written by songwriter Nakhshab, composed by Hafeez Khan and sung by Noorjehan, Zohra Bai Ambalewali and Kalyani Bai, this qawwali had become quite popular during its time. On screen Shashikala and Shalini have accompanied Shyama in this qawwali.

Shyama, whose real name is Khursheed Akhtar, had worked in some of her earlier films like the 1946 release Ghoonghat, Nai Maa and Nishana under the alias Khursheed (Junior) and Baby Khursheed. But she had to change her name to Baby Shyama because during that era there was already a big movie star with the name Khursheed. For the next 6 years Shyama played various small parts in almost 50 films like Beete Din (1947), Meera Bai (1947), Mehndi (1947), Parwana (1947), Rambaan (1948), Anmol Moti (1949), Begunaah (1949), Chaar Din (1949), Jagriti (1949), Jal Tarang (1949), Jeet (1949), Naach (1949), Namoona (1949), Patanga (1949), Sawan Bhadon (1949), Shabnam (1949), Shair (1949), Aahuti (1950), Neeli (1950), Sabak (1950),  Sartaaj (1950), Wafa (1950), Nazrana (1950), Saza (1951), Tarana (1951).  And then, in 1952, for the first time she was seen as the heroine in the movie Shrimatiji (1952)
 
Shyama. Image Courtesy: ​Beete Hue Din
 
Shyama’s career had a golden run during the 1950s decade. One can guess how busy she would be during this period by the fact that from 1952 to 1960 she was seen in important roles in a total of 82 films. 14 of her films released in the year 1954 and 13 films released in 1955 which is a record.
Made under the banner of Filmistan, directed by I.S.Johar and released in 1952, Shyama’s hero in the film Shrimatiji was Nasir Khan. In 1952 another one of her films, also with Nasir Khan, Aasmaan was released which was directed by Dalsukh Pancholi and was O.P. Nayyar’s first film as an independent music composer. Before this O.P. Nayyar had given the background score for the film Kaneez (1949) and Shyama had acted in a small role in this film as well. Shyama’s career had a golden run during the 1950s decade. One can guess how busy she would be during this period by the fact that from 1952 to 1960 she was seen in important roles in a total of 82 films. 14 of her films released in the year 1954 and 13 films released in 1955 which is a record.
 
Aar Paar. Image Courtesy: ​Beete Hue Din

Shyama got the opportunity to work with almost all well-known heroes of that time. Shyama says, “Aar Paar with Guru Dutt, Ghamand with Raj KumarGul Sanovar and Thokar with Shammi Kapoor, Musafirkhana and Laadla with Karan Dewan, Bhai Bhai and Baap Bete with Ashok Kumar, Lehrein and Chandan with Kishore Kumar, Dhoop Chhaon and Teen Bhai with Bharat Bhooshan, Khushboo and Saavdhaan with Motilal, Tatar Ka Chor and Zabak with Mahipal, Lala Rookh with Talat Mahmood, Maa with Suresh and Jaggu with Kamal Kapoor are some of my favorite films. My other films like Chhoomantar, Duniya Rang Rangili, Johnny Walker, Khota Paisa and Mr. Cartoon M.A. with Johnny Walker were appreciated as well. All these were musical comedy films. Other than Khota Paisa, all the films were composed by the top music composer O.P. Nayyar. It was very easy for us to dance to the tunes made by him.”
 
Gul Sanobar. Image Courtesy:​Beete Hue Din

According to Shyama, she never planned how her career would shape up. She faithfully essayed whichever good roles she got. Out of her 11 films released in the year 1957, she was the main lead in 7 of them and in the other 4 she was either the parallel lead or a character artist. She didn’t even hesitate to play mother to her coeval Meena Kumari in the film Sharada. For her portrayal of this role Shyama received a Filmfare Award for the best supporting actress in the year 1957.
 
Filmfare Awards. Image Courtesy: ​Beete Hue Din
 
She didn’t even hesitate to play mother to her coeval Meena Kumari in the film Sharada. For her portrayal of this role Shyama received a Filmfare Award for the best supporting actress in the year 1957.

Made in the year 1951, during the shooting of the film Saza Shyama and the films cameraman-director Fali Mistry became close and they got married in the year 1954. She had to hide this fact for almost 10 years because even then married heroines weren’t easily accepted by the masses. Shyama says, ‘I revealed this fact only when, after 10 years of marriage, I gave birth to my son Faroukh. Anyways during the start of the 1960’s I had completely become a character artist.’

For the next three decades from 1961, Shyama worked in almost 60 films like Duniya Jhukti Hai (1960), Bahurani (1963), Gumrah (1963), Jee Chahta Hai (1964), Janwar (1965), Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966), Aag (1967), Milan (1967), Balak (1969), Mastana (1970), Sawan Bhadon (1970), Gomti Ke Kinare (1972), Prabhat (1973), Naya Din Nai Raat (1974), Chaitali (1975), Khel Khel Mein (1975), Ginny Aur Johnny (1976), Khel Khiladi Ka (1977), Haqdaar (1981), Mohabbat (1985), Mera Karam Mera Dharam (1987) and Pyase Nain (1989). She says, ‘My stamina was reducing with my increasing age. I would get tired very easily. Before people had a chance to say, Shyama can’t work anymore, I thought it better to retire. J.P.Dutta’s film Hathiyar released in 1989 proved to be my last film.’
 
Hathyar. Image Courtesy: ​Beete Hue Din

Shyama stayed at South Mumbai’s famous Nepean Sea Road. Her eldest son Faroukh Mistry is a well-known camera man in the ad world and her younger son stays in England. Her daughter is married. She was very close with Nadira, Nirupa Roy, Sitara Devi, Nimmi, Shakila and Shashikala and they all used to meet regularly. But Sitara Devi, Nadira and Nirupa Ray who used to stay very close to her house, are no more. and Nimmi also left South Mumbai and shifted to Juhu. Shakila and Shashikala have always stayed in Bandra and Andheri, but with increasing age their relationship with Shyama had become limited to just telephonic conversations. Shyama says, “It’s been decades since Fali passed away, the kids are engrossed in their domestic lives and my friends have gone far away. Today I am all alone. But it’s been my habit to adjust with changing times that’s why I enjoy even my loneliness.”
 
Shayma. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din


Shyama ji passed away at the age of 82 on 14 November 2017 in Mumbai. She was bedridden for last couple of months.


Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series. 
 

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