Pakistani Heroines in Bollywood Eclipsed Stars

She is the latest—Veena Malik—earlier seen in a television show Bigg Boss, and an item number shot in Pune in her debut movie Daal Mein Kuch Kala Hai produced by Deepak Bali under the banner D Bali films. Choreographed by Lollypop the number also includes others like Bobby Darling, Raja Chaudhry, Shakti Kapoor, Sunaina Singh and Jennifer. Directed by Anand Balraj, who failed to make the grade as an actor despite working in two dozen films, including some made by Subhash Ghai it has Jackie Shroff and Vijay Raaj in the main lead. Veena has reportedly signed another couple, but none really can even remotely be called consequential.

The first of these in which Veena will now appear in a full-fledged role is Sanjay Ruia’s Zindagi 50:50 in which she essays the role of Madhuri—a sex worker moonlighting for years to support her family. Coming from a conservative background, this will be a Pakistani actor’s bold beginning. If reports are to be believed she has been making the rounds of Mumbai’s infamous flesh street to add realism to her portrayal. Talking about the role to a newsman she reportedly said: “In the daytime, she’s a normal middle-class girl. In the night, she puts on her burqa and goes to work in the red-light area, just like any normal working girl. I loved the dignity that Madhuri brings to her life and her work. I hope I am able to convey the same dignity in my performance.”

It is interesting to observe that Veena at 27, who has grown up in a predominantly female household—four sisters and a brother—demonstrates a mature outlook towards the plight of women. “I understand what it feels like to be a woman in a male-dominated society. I’ve always supported myself, been on my own since adulthood.” Not unlike many others in the past who get compassionate about a role, Malik said: “We’ve rules, laws, organisations and activists fighting for animal welfare. But who cares about the sex workers? I am appalled by the way they live in the red-light areas, not just in India but across Asia. These women deserve a much better life. I have done this film for a reason. It is a women-centric film and addresses issues that women face these days.” She has also supposedly signed three more films about which she is tight-lipped for the moment. “It’s still early days to talk about these projects,” she said.

It is interesting to note that almost all who got a break in Bollywood had been either married or divorcees, or became so subsequently and have generally lived an unsettled life.

Zeba Bakhtiar (Shaheen—born of a Hungarian mother and Pathan father in Queta) disappeared from the scene after Henna and Jai Vikranta. She married singer Adnan Sami with whom she was involved in an unpleasant battle for the possession of their son, Azaan, and now lives in Karachi where she acts and directs television serials. Anita Ayub worked in two miserable Dev Anand flops: Pyar ka Tarana and Gangster before facing deportation at the end of her three-year visa because of suspected links with 1993 Bombay blast people. She is now settled in New York and occasionally appears in television shows. Salma Agha now shuttling between Islamabad and London and occasionally cutting discs was born of an old-time actress Nasreen and a wealthy Karachi businessman. She married thrice, the last time to squash coach Rehmat Khan. She was cast opposite Raj Babbar in BR Chopra’s Nikah and Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki with Smita Patil and Mithun Chakravorty. She got involved with a London-based businessman Mahmud Sipra who even produced a couple of films to keep her by his side exclusively.

Somy Ali (now better remembered for her affair with Salman Khan, born to a Baghdadi mother and Karachi-based Pakistani father) lasted the longest working, doing modelling and working in as many as ten films including Aao Pyar Karen. Interestingly, back in Pakistan or wherever else they are located, almost all of them (except Salma) have been involved in social work, human rights and women’s issues. Somy runs an organisation called ‘No More Tears’ which has rescued more than a hundred victims of domestic violence and their families since its inception in 2007.

Meera (nee Irtiza Rubab) drew media attention for a bold performance in Nazar which she later described as a ‘mistake’ is, probably, paying the price for blaming mentor Mahesh Bhatt as she has failed to find other takers to explore her ‘hidden talent’. Making her debut in 1995 Pakistani film Kanta, she has worked in more than 50 Urdu and Punjabi films before and after Nazar. She was also rumoured to have had a short-term marriage to the already married Pakistani businessman, Atiq-Ur-Rehman, and has faced controversies but she, no wonder, flatly denied it. Her other insignificant Hindi starrers have been Kasak, Simran, Panch Ghantey mein Panch Crore, and the recently announced Om Allah in which she is working opposite the much-defamed sports promoter, non-starter actor Aushim Kheterpal—to be directed by Faisal Saif.

Following the example of Meera, Nirma (born Ayesha) a beautiful woman with a supposedly luminous smile and flawless skin, who had worked in a number of films and television serials back home, unsuccessfully tried entering Indian film industry. As also Mona Lisa (or Lizaa), whom Pooja Bhatt (emulating the action of her father) cast her in the flop Kajrare with Himesh Reshamiyya for which she caught considerable flak back in Pakistan. She had, however, also tried her luck earlier in the Sunny Deol-starrer Musafir (2005) together with compatriot, Sana. Nothing has been heard of her since then. Yet another who tried hard was Sara Khan who made her debut opposite the forgotten phenomenon, Rajesh Khanna in a film called Wafaa, directed by Rakesh Sawant, brother of television performer Rakhi Sawant. Both disappeared without a trace, despite a bold love-making scene that many described as vulgar. There must be, or must have been many others who sought fame and fortune in the big, glossier world of mainstream Hindi cinema. The latest entrant whose career seems stone walled for the moment is the highly successful Rockstar heroine, Nargis Fakhri.

They had all been conventionally beautiful and talented, but somehow failed to make the grade in Hindi films. One wonders why? Could it be because many of them tried the short cut, venturing out boldly—something that not only backfired back home but also with the Indian audiences?

By Suresh Kohli

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