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    Wednesday, 9 May 2012

    Shabnam in town: ‘Revival of cinema requires govt help’

    Legendary actress Shabnam has called on the government to reduce taxes and develop infrastructure for the film industry if it want to revive Pakistani cinema.

    The actress, who has starred in more than 300 movies and was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award by the government of Pakistan, is visiting the country for the first time in 13 years since moving to Bangladesh.

    “Lahore Lahore aye ji,” she said about the warm reception she had received in the city. A 200-strong audience at the FC College auditorium gave her a standing ovation when she walked on stage to give a talk organised by the Griswold History Society.

    Shabnam said she had not planned a career in movies. “From my early childhood, I loved to dance, but I entered films purely by luck.”

    It was a struggle at first. “When I first came here [to West Pakistan from then East Pakistan] I did not know how to speak Urdu,” she said.

    She learnt the language, but mastering the accent was another challenge. “I won’t take names but there were a lot of famous people back then who said I would not make it because of my accent,” she said.

    Shabnam said that she had not been tempted to leave Pakistan in 1971 after the creation of Bangladesh. “People here gave me lots of love. How could I have left them?”

    She said that she had personally never faced any “ill feeling” in Pakistan because of her Bengali ethnic origin.

    She said she had moved to Bangladesh in 1999 to be close to extended family. She called for cultural exchanges between Bangladesh and Pakistan. “Cinema can bridge the gaps between countries,” she said.

    Shabnam said she was glad to have received the lifetime achievement award while she was still alive. “What is the point of acknowledging artists only once they are dead?”
    She said the movies she had starred in that had been successful had done well not just because they dealt with social issues, but because all the people – producers, directors, actors, scriptwriters, etc – involved in the making of the movie had worked hard together as a team.

    She said the Pakistani film industry was currently in such a bad state because so many talented actors and producers had left the country. She said it would take time for new talent to develop. She said that the government could help the industry by cutting taxes and providing infrastructure.

    Asked if the film industry would be in better shape had she stayed in Pakistan, Shabnam said, “Please don’t blame me for the bad shape in which the industry is currently in!”

    Asked by audience members about her famous onscreen pairing with actor Nadeem, Shabnam said that their families had ties to each other and she had always enjoyed working with him. She said he was highly professional, hard working and supportive of his colleagues.

    Asked if she would ever do theatre, the actress said it would be very difficult for her. “In theatre you have just one shot at getting it right while in movies you can always do a retake,” she said.

    She said her marriage with music director Robin Ghosh, who was seated next to her, had been successful because both of them respected each other’s professional commitments and gave each other space. However, she complained about his lack of excitement at her visits to his music studio, much to the amusement of the audience. 

    “He would not even look at me when I visited during his recordings,” she said. But she attributed her success to Ghosh “because of his unfaltering support”.

    One young student asked Shabnam about the secret behind her beautiful hair. “It runs in the family,” she said, but added that she ate plenty of rice and fish.

    Asked to name her favourite songs from her movies, she mentioned ‘Kuch log rooth ker bhee’ and ‘Roothay ho tum’.

    The talk was moderated by Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash of the FC College history department.

    Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2012.

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