The leading lady that ruled the Pakistani film industry for almost three decades recently graced the Karachi Literature Festival with her presence and her fans of different age groups and social classes came from all over the country just to show their love. In an interview with GEO, Shabnam revealed, “I don’t have words to describe the love I received when I came here. I had tears in my eyes.” She said she was spellbound by the love and respect she experienced at the event, especially from the young generation. She was touched by the response of her fans so much that she expressed her desire to start working again only for her fans.
Like many artistes of her time, this megastar also took up a screen name which became her identity but she still prefers her real name, as it is closer to her, “Because Jharna is my real name, I like it more. When i went to Dhaka, everyone called me Jharna – it feels like home and Shabnum is my professional name – it has an element of adda,” explains the legendry actress.
Being from Dhaka and having worked in more than 160 films in different languages, the prima donna of Pakistani cinema faced a lot of difficulties with Urdu language and intonation during the initial days of her career, “It was a problem in the beginning. When I came to Pakistan, it was really difficult for me because (Muhammad) Ali Sahab was so great at his work that he would just look at the script and perform. I used to cry and ask for time because it was difficult for me, as Urdu wasn’t my language,” reminisces the glorious lady.
The superstar who played leading roles in classics like Aina, Naseeb Apna Apna and Andleep believes that success makes an artist more responsible towards their work. “After Chanda (her first super hit Urdu movie), I got one after another hit. It gave me a sense of responsibility to work harder, do more films and maintain my standard. I got more devoted towards my work. Work was my life. My responsibility as a performer kept increasing,” affirms the woman who has always taken her work seriously.
Talking about her great hits, Shabnam reminisces about that one film she never thought would be liked by the audience, “I had no expectations for Dil Lagi, Baig Sb and I would shoot scenes and think ‘this movie will not do good,’ we weren’t happy. We were planning
to runaway on the release of the movie so that people don’t criticise us, but when it came out, it was a super hit.”
With her career reigning over the span of 30 years, the notable actress never got in a dispute with any competitors, “There was no competition (in a negative way) in our time. I had no feuds with any of the leading ladies of the time. We would meet like friends whenever and wherever we met. Be it Zeb, Sangeeta or Nisho – we were very friendly with each other,” says the undisputable diva of her time.
Commenting on her equation with her male co-stars Shabnam gave us an insight on her relationship with legendry actors like Muhammad Ali and Nadeem Baig. “When you work with an artist, there is a level of comfort you share with them. I could never say anything to Ali bhai because I had a lot of respect for him and with Nadeem, I was very friendly because I had family terms with him. If it was a bad shot, I would tell him right away and he would do the same,” she shares with a smile.
Spilling the beans about her graceful characters on the screen, the beautiful lady revealed, “I used to listen to the story and I wanted to live the character. I never wanted to be Shabnam on screen; I always wanted to be the character. I used to forget myself and completely immerse in the character.”
The cinema grandee who has also worked for Bengali film industry never worked with Bollywood. “I used to get a lot of offers from Bollywood, that too with stars like Amitabh, Rekha, Shashi Kapoor and I even said yes to one of the offers but then I thought I don’t know those people. I didn’t want to work with people I don’t know,” shares Shabnam without any regrets. Her movies were massively copied in Bollywood but it only made her happy “because it shows that we had that kind of potential that a well-established industry was copying our content,” she claims. The decline of Pakistani cinema came as a shock for Shabnam. When she visited Pakistan in 2012 with her husband, she was very disappointed.
When asked about her husband, Robin Gosh, she revealed with a heavy that it is difficult for her to talk about him and “Life without him is very difficult. I try to keep myself busy.”
The actress who is famous for her sultry charm and romantic characters believes art and acting is like a sea, there is no end to it. You can never learn and work enough. “For younger generation, I would suggest they work hard and take their work seriously. Don’t waste time. The days that we have right now are never going to come back so make most of what you have today,” advices the actress whose talent and skill is unmatchable.
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