She teased the thespian Dilip Kumar on sets when everybody maintained a dignified silence. Bollywood’s first superstar Rajesh Khanna introduced her to television and we got the famous choti nani – DEKH BHAI DEKH. The gentlemen actor Shashi Kapoor didn,t ask his remuneration when he agreed to star in her first production PIGHALTA AASMAN (melodies like Teri Meri Prem Kahani and Hum Se Na Sahi). Veteran actress Asha Parekh, the co –star of the Shammi (Kapoor) that everybody knows in movies like TEESRI MANZIL, DIL DE KE DEKHO wept continuously for her best friend. Megastar Amitabh Bachchan remembered her as a ‘dear family friend’ when she passed away yesterday at the age of 89.
What makes Bollywood’s most lovable aunty – Shammi aunty a darling and a true friend?
Born in a traditional Parsi household in Mumbai, Nargis Rabadi aka Shammi urf Shammi aunty to Bollywood appeared in over two hundred Hindi films. Whenever there was a demand for a crazy but lovably comic character Shammi was the top choice. She came into Bollywood by chance through a common family friend Chinuu Mama who was working with filmmaker Mehboob Khan. Shammi did get the chance to play the lead in movie like MALHAR (remembered for Roshan’s classic song ‘Bade Armano Se Rakha Hai Balam Teri Kasam’) with Moti Sagar but she found recognition and got accepted with open arms in supporting roles, playing second lead, supporting roles, mother even vamp.
Who can forget her role in DIL APNA AUR PREET PARAI, the evergreen comedy HALF TICKET starring Kishore Kumar and Madhubala (more about it in the end), caring mother in the classic EESHWAR starring Anil Kapoor, where Anil has probably given his best till date as an actor. The wicked Tara Bai in the iconic AGNEEPATH starring Amitabh Bachchan, which destroys the pride of ‘masterji’ Aloknath and sows the first seed of rage and rebelliousness in the heart and mind of the young Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, the actress mom in Aamir Khan’s RANGEELA, or Boman Irani’s grandmother in SHIRIN FARHAD KI TOH NIKAL PADI that also starred Farah Khan in lead.
Shammi played all the characters bringing a smile to the audience and making the character happy by her portrayal on screen. She even played the vamp with a foxy smile. Her friendship with legends like Dilip Kumar is remembered by veterans who say that at times when the unit use to observe silence when Dilip Kumar was around, Shammi use to tease him by making faces from behind and the thespian would reciprocate with the same when Shammi was required to give her shot. Nargis Dutt mother of Sanjay Dutt was the first to shake the hands of friendship with Shammi during the shooting of MALHAR. When her marriage with filmaker Sultan Ahmed didn,t work out and she left the house empty handed, Nargis scolded her for doing such a stupid thing. However, within a week or so, Nargis got work and in due course she developed a special bond with Asha Parekh who was much younger than her. The yesteryears diva Asha Parekh, Waheeda Rehman and Helen along with Shammi formed a gang of girls that where pretty close and often seen together in some private screenings organized by famous writer and husband of Helen Salim Khan.
Anyways, Shammi’s bond with Asha Parekh was something special as Asha was unmarried and Shammi had left her husband. Shammi’s decision to turn filmmaker was a disaster but even in this unfortunate failure there is a silver lining. Shammi decided to make PIGHALTA AASMAN. Rajesh Khanna was suppose to act in this film and suggested the name of Esmayeel Shroff as the director but reportedly an altercation between Esmayeel Shroff and Rajesh Khanna brought bad luck to the project and Rajesh Khanna walked out. Shammi approached Shashi Kapoor who reportedly agreed without having a word on his remuneration. It was the good human nature of Shammi, her goodwill that made Shashi Kapoor say yes. The movie bombed at the box office and thanks to superstar Rajesh Khanna who was producing television series then, helped Shammi and she bagged roles in popular serials like DEKH BHAI DEKH, ZABAN SAMBHAL KE and more.
Shammi had that rarest of rare quality to win people heart instantly as quoted by Asha Parekh her best friend who said at the funeral, Shammi aunty had the natural-born trait in her to win people's confidence,". It was the confidence that made her smile even in troubled times.
Shammi reportedly died in her sleep, it’s the death that most of the people desire, to go without troubling others. Maybe, the Gods have decided not to disturb her smile and take her away when she is asleep. She always smiled and as we pray for eternal peace for the departed soul, we decide to remember her with a smile by going into nostalgia with this clip from the classical comedy HALF TICKET starring Kishore Kumar and Madhu Bala.
Here Shammi is playing the side kick of the villain Pran and this funny scene you will see Shammi displaying all emotions, matching steps with the awesome Kishore Kumar and tying the whole act with her unique comic strip.
RIP Shammi Aunty, we will miss your smile
Shammi Aunty with Waheeda Rehman, Asha parekh and Helen