Sheela Kashmiri started her career as a child artist as Baby Sheela in films like Parineeta (1953), where she was cast as a talkative sister of starlet Manju. Later, she played supporting roles in many B-Grade costume and jungle films. Notable films to her credit include Baghdad Ka Jadoo (1956), Circus Queen (1959), and Pedro (1960). She married producer A. A. Nadiadwala of Pushpa Pictures and appeared in some of the films produced by him including Pehli Raat(1959) and Nai Maa (1960).
Pert, pretty and precocious, fourteen-year old Baby Sheela is featured in this roll-call of acting honour for her performance as Johnny Walker’s marwari child-bride in Railway Platform (1955). In a comparatively small part, Sheela held her own among other outstanding performers like Nalini Jaywant, Sunil Dutt and Johnny Walker, and her portrayal of this difficult role was endearing indeed.
Born of a Kashmiri father and an Arab mother, Baby Sheela/Sheela Kashmiri (whose real name is Munira Khanum) started acting when she was only four years old. Her father, who made the costumes for a film called Rehnuma (1948), took Sheela to the sets one day, and the pretty little moppet was immediately cast in an important role. Since then she worked in many films including Parineeta, Hamlet (1954) and Railway Platform. Sheela considers her role in Parineeta to be her best and says she would like to work under Bimal Roy more often.
Petulantly, she declares: “My role in Railway Platform was cut by the censors. I did a Marwari dance with Johnny Walker which did not get on the screen”. Passionately fond of acting, Sheela says she just cannot sleep the night before she is due on the sets. She has studied Indian classical dancing and looks forward to the day when she will be old enough to play mature, romantic roles. Her favourites in Indian filmdom are Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar. While she has had the opportunity to work with Meena in Parineeta, it is one of her greatest ambitions to play a role in a Dilip Kumar film.
Cinemaazi thanks Sudarshan Talwar and Cineplot for contributing this interview which was conducted in 1956.