Shabana; a name that is etched in golden ink in the hearts of the Bangladeshis. She was a very successful actor and has acted as the leading heroine in almost three hundred Bangladeshi films. In the film 'Dosshurani' she first appeared with hero Alamgir, she had already starred in many other movies, but this was their first appearance together. Later they appeared in 130 movies altogether out of the 299 movies in which Shabana had acted in total.
Recently, actor Alamgir and his world famous wife Runa Laila hosted a very peaceful dinner at their home titled 'Dream' and enabled me to live and experience some hours of the same. Actress Shabana and her husband film maker Mr. Wahid Sadik were visiting from USA where they are currently based. Their daughters live and work there. One of her daughters is studying in Harvard University, working for a PhD in English literature. The other daughter is married and settled there and their son lives with them. Shabana wore attire akin to abaya and made jokes of her life as an actress, when several women-in waiting brought her saris, blouses, matching accessorize and shoes and how she misses them in USA. In such a situation, says she, her abaya and head gear is the best escape, she laughed, she does not have to bother about her dress.
My imagination took me back to the early sixties when I was a little girl and lived in Purana Paltan, Dhaka along with my famous aunt Ferdausi Rahman. That is when I had first seen Shabana as the heroine of an Urdu film titled 'Chokori'. Those were busy days for the musical genius Ferdausi Rahman, I remember the West Pakistani young man Nazir Baig frequenting our house, learning songs from Uncle Mustafa Zaman Abbasi and aunt Ferdausi and wanting to be a singer. When I was studying in my room upstairs, I could hear him imitate my Chacha “nodir kul nai…” Then came the news that Producer Ehtesham had chosen him (Nazir Baig) to star opposite his niece Shabana and he was to be named Nadeem for his films. My aunt was singing the famous songs 'kaha to tum kodhundhrahe hey yehbahareiyehsama'. Nadeem was singing the male version of the same song as well as duets with my aunt. I went to the first opening debut of the film and remember the long hair of Shabana, following her like a trail, the sandy beaches where she ran and where the song was picturized.
I mentioned this to her, she laughed. She, meaning Afroza Sultana Ratna is related to Ehtesham who had taken her in a film as a child. Later, when she was in gradenine, she was asked to act in Chokori and she knew no Urdu. Her tutor came every morning and she rolled into laughter, 'Ghur ghur ke phir keya dekhte ho?' She had to learn. So many times she told her father she could neither learn Urdu nor take part in this film. However, she did and the film was made.
She had also acted opposite Rajesh Khanna in a Hindi film titled 'Shatru' and a total of 299 films earning her the national awards ten times. Her acting span covers over thirty years 1962 to 1998.
Shabana alias Ratna is very sweet, affectionate humble and down to earth.She loves her home making role in USA, her children,her siblings all live there. She misses Bangladesh and comes to Dhaka every year. She will be receiving the lifetime achievement this year from the Prime Minister herself on 11 July 2017. We, Bangladeshis, miss you Shabana.
The author is an academic, Nazrul exponent and translator