Bollywood Legend Shammi Dies at 89

Bollywood legend Shammi, who appeared in nearly 200 films and played dozens of sisters, mothers and grandmothers on the big and small screens, died on Tuesday at the age of 89.

Pandhari Nath Chavhan, an employee at a crematorium were Shammi was taken, confirmed her death to the New York Times on Thursday. He said she died after a "long illness."

Shammi's career began in 1949. The actress, whose real name was Nargis Rabadi, was introduced to actor and producer Sheikh Mukhtar by a friend who worked in the Indian film industry. They discussed a role in a film called Ustad Pedro, and he wanted to know how well her Hindi was. She told him she was speaking to him in Hindi, so he could already tell. Although she thought it was "stupid" to speak to him that way, she got the job.

From then on, she never stopped working, with a career that stretched more than 60 years. She became known for impeccable comedic timing, and one of her most beloved roles was as the grandmother in the sitcom, Dekh Bhai Dekh.

“For everybody in the industry, she is Shammi Aunty,” Farah Khan, a producer and friend, told the New York Times. “She was so full of life. I don’t know of a single person who met her and didn’t love her.”

In a 2012 interview with the Times of India, Shammi said she could not see a life without acting.

"It's God's work," Shammi said of her career. "He has been very kind to me. Otherwise why would I still be getting work? It is unimaginable for me to be not working. Boman [Irani] asked me how many films I had done. I had no clue! Recently someone Googled on me and found out I had done nearly 200 films. I was amazed. When did I do all these films?! Time just flew by!"

Shammi is survived by her son, Iqbal Rizvi.


The Bollywood film community, including Aamir Khan of the Academy Award nominated Lagaan, took to Twitter to pay tribute to Shammi's long career.

Photo credit: Twitter/ Abhishek Bachchan