Meena Shorey was the silver screen temptress of the 40’s and the 50’s. Once the hippest girl in the Indian movie industry, she was born in Raiwind in a small rural household. Her father lived a wayward life and used to beat his wife brutally. One of Meena’s sisters married and moved to Bombay, and she and her mother followed. Sohrab Modi at the time was looking for a young girl who could play the lead in Sikandar (1941), Nasim, the most beautiful woman of her time, having walked out. Therefore, Sikander marked her debut, the memorable Sohrab Modi production starring Prithvi Raj as the world conqueror. Meena starred as the sister of Ambhi, the rajah of Taxila.The movie was an all-India hit and there was no looking back for Meena.
Eik Thi Ladki, made by her husband Roop K. Shorey in 1949 in Bombay, dubbed her as the sensational Lara Lappa Girl (after one of the popular songs from that film). Just when the glamour of this achievement was beginning to decline the couple was called to Lahore by J.C. Anand. He had used an Indian soundtrack (Hemant Kumar’s number Na Yeh chand ho ga) in his successful movie Sassi last year and now he wanted to improve the status of his plagiarism by imitating the concept of an entire film: Guru Dutt-Madhubala hit Mr. & Mrs. 55. What came out was Miss 56.
Although the film did good business, it proved to be the swan song of the Shoreys. Meena, the Lara Lappa Girl of the forties was pampered by all, in contrast with the treatment meted out to declining artistes by film-goers in Bombay. For her it was like rediscovering the adulation of her youth. So when the time came to return to India, she decided to stay back, leaving heart-broken Roop to take yet another trip from Lahore empty-handed, within a span of ten years, first losing his means of livelihood and then his sweetheart. That was the separation of the Shoreys. As time was to reveal, it did no good to any of them. Apart from a few side roles in major films like Sarfarosh (1956), Bedari (1957), and Mauseeqar (1962) she was soon reduced to obscure films with titles that sounded like Jagga (1958), Bacha Jhamoura (1959), Behrupiya (1960) and Jamalo (1962) before her ultimate descent into negative old-age role of a ‘Madam’ running a network of bonded prostitution in Khamosh Raho (1964).
The final part of her life story is almost too painful to be real. While Roop K. Shorey died in 1973 in India, from a broken heart over the separation from his sweetheart; Meena – the former wife of the studio owner and once a bright star in the galaxy of Bollywood was reduced to extremely destitute living by the end of her life before her death in 1989. None of her marriages, except the one with Roop K Shorey, brought her any happiness. One of her Pakistani husbands, the B-grade actor Asad Bokhari, used to beat her as if it were part of his husbandly duties. Once she mentioned that she felt like a dried up tree in a grove of green saplings that everyone is out to chop down and burn. She was last seen in the television program Silver Jubilee in 1983 and then mentioned in one news item as having had stood up in a function begging for charity money to marry off her sister’s daughters. Muhammad Ali, who had played a younger (and his first great) role against her in Khamosh Raho was reported to have given her moral support on that occasion. It is said that her burial was arranged with charity money – By Khurram Ali Shafique, Khalid Hassan and Ummer Siddique