Shagufta Ali And The Tragedy Of Being A Once-Loved, Now-Forgotten Artiste

Shagufta Ali
A popular face on Hindi television, actor Shagufta Ali has revealed she is unwell and does not have the financial means to support herself. She needs work “to survive,” she said in a recent interview with an entertainment publication. After disposing off her assets, she is left with nothing more to sell to afford treatments for herself and her ailing mother.

“I don’t know why but from last four years, less work has come to me… I was really confused, honestly if I should come out and ask for help,” the Sasural Simar Ka actor, also a cancer survivor, said. The Cine And TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA) has reportedly offered to help her financially and raise funds.

54-year-old Ali has been gracing the small screen since the 1980s. Her current plight is tragic, and sadly, not uncommon.

Artists exponentially more celebrated than Ali have been at the mercy of crowdfunding and sympathetic donations after poverty struck them following years of success. The most prominent recent example that comes to mind is veteran actor AK Hangal, whose four-decade film career and Padma Bhushan recognition did not prevent him from facing financial difficulty in old age.

Yesteryear stars who suffered similar fates included Parveen Babi and Meena Kumari, iconic figures who succumbed to poor health amid flailing finances. For Babi, mental health issues added to the burden while the death of Bollywood’s ‘Tragedy Queen’ Kumari came as if in ironic self-fulfillment of the title that was lifelong her crowning jewel.

Are Public Figures Like Shagufta Ali Paid Their Dues?

When revered personalities like these fall on to hard times, who takes responsibility? Their wretched conditions after full lives of enrapturing audiences is heart-rending, but how much can a common fan do? Industry bigwigs and cine bodies often rally together resources for lost stars – how many will they fend for and will they always continue to? Then again, when life, as is its transient nature, takes unfortunate courses, who is to blame?

This is not a tragedy limited to film and entertainment industry circles. In fact, this is one field that has perhaps always been, and will always be, a cut above in privilege than others. Successes and potentials have died far more painful, quick deaths in less glamourous trades like sports or armed forces due to lack of opportunity.

National para-shooting champ Dilraj Kaur recently came forward to reveal she was having to sell chips and other snacks to scrape out a living for herself. Pro kabaddi player Shanti Devi over the last decade was reported to have become a vegetable vendor in Jharkhand. Hockey legend and army veteran Major Dhyan Chand, it is said, died neglected, poverty-ridden and alone in 1979.

Success came as a momentary flash for these icons after which it flatlined, only to be relegated to commemorative tributes or nostalgic memories. There’s no wrong to pinpoint here but the tragedy of inevitable ageing adversities that can be eased, if not eliminated, for those who have made us laugh, cry, cheer, and proud.

Views expressed are the author’s own.