At a filmi function, the evergreen Dev Anand politely greeted a lady and then went right back to socializing with others. The lady approached him, smiled warmly and this time introduced herself as Shakila, his leading lady in his famous film, CID. Dev Anand, of course, couldn’t believe his eyes. “You have changed so much!” he said, happy at meeting her after so long, “And where have you been all this while? I thought you must have married a rich Arab and disappeared from India! I am really very happy to see you.” Shakila, of course, was equally happy and touched with the meeting. “Very few of us are as lucky as Dev saab, who is not affected by time at all. All of us have grown old and are ageing accordingly. There’s nothing to feel bad about it! Dev saab didn’t recognize me as we haven’t been in touch. But as we parted, we promised to meet up again soon,” she said.
This was the same Shakila who made her debut as a child artiste in Suraiya’s starrers Duniya (1949) and Dastaan (1950). After working in some nondescript films in secondary roles including Gumasta (1951), Sindbad the Sailor (1952), Rajrani Damyanti (1952), Aagosh (1953), Shahenshah (1953), Raj Mahal (1953), Armaan (1953) etc, people finally noticed her in Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar (1954). In Aar Paar, she played the other woman in Guru Dutt’s life, the cabaret dancer, who is disdained by society and is a complex and embittered person. Aar Paar was a superhit film and its best songs including Hoon abhi main jawan and Babu ji dheere chalna were picturized on Shakila.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Guru Dutt’s C.I.D. (1956) [even there she was eclipsed by Waheeda Rehman who made her debut in that film], Shakila was reduced to B-grade mythological and fantasy films because of her rudimentary acting skills. Some of these films include Alibaba and Forty Thieves (1954), Lalpari (1954), Veer Rajputani (1955), Roop Kumari (1956), Agra Road (1957), Al-Hilal (1958) etc. She created some stir in 1957, when her film opposite Kishore Kumar – Begunah was banned after 10 days of its release. The film was a carbon copy of Hollywood’s Knock on Wood (1954) starring Danny Kaye and the producers of that film went to court and won the case to stop the further screening of this film. As a consequence, all the negatives of this film were destroyed.
In 1958, she starred opposite Sunil Dutt in suspense/thriller Post Box. 999 where the evergreen duet by Lata and Hemant Kumar Neend na mujhko aaye was picturized on them. In the latter part of her career, China Town (1962) opposite Shammi Kapoor is a film worth mentioning because of its songs which were a rage back then.
Her last film Rishte Naate was released in 1965. After that, she quit the industry and got married. “My priorities changed after I tied the knot and my career assumed secondary importance,” Shakila said in an interview.
One wonders why she never thought of a comeback? “I keep getting film as well as television serial offers. But I don’t like any of them. Moreover, the industry has changed so much. I don’t know whether people will even recognize me!” she smiled. “And after being at the top and seeing all the glory, suddenly to be in a place where the same respect and dignity may not be accorded can be scary. But at the same time, we’ve seen the best of times and today if the limelight is on somebody else, why feel bad about it?” Shakila said. Youth and beauty may have faded, but Shakila is thankful for the wonderful friends who’ve been there for her all these years. “Waheeda, Nanda, Mala Sinha and Sairaji and Dilip saab, Nimmi…. the list is endless. We meet very often. Zindagi ke kuchh hi toh pal hain abhi, sab apni apni raftaar main chale gaye, saath reh gaye toh bas dost,” she said serenely – Ummer Siddique
Shakila’s sister Noor also acted in Aar Paar (1954), Noor later married famous comedian Johnny Walker.