Saeeda Shaikh: Amjad bhai wanted to create fund system for women
As mid-day traces a day in the life of a daily wager, 70-year-old junior artiste Saeeda Shaikh, who has worked with Rajesh Khanna, Sanjay Dutt to Shah Rukh Khan, rues the plight of elderly women in the industry.
Minutes into the conversation, Saeeda Shakil Shaikh regales us with stories about the good old days of Bollywood. "Shashi Kapoor would join us [junior artistes] during meals on set, joking, 'You all forgot to invite a poor man like me,'" she laughs. Her situation today is at odds with the days of yore, but the junior artiste's grace remains intact.
Shaikh, 70, was shooting for Bunty Aur Babli 2 when the industry shutdown was announced. The three weeks since have been hard on her family of five. "Pappu Lekhraj [talent co-ordinator] usually finds us work. I make Rs 1,000 in an eight-hour shift. My son is a cab driver, and we managed to make ends meet. But now, things have become difficult. In the mornings, I go to the local grocery store for the essentials. Since we don't have money at this point, I told [the grocer], 'Bhai, de do. Once we resume work, we will pay you back.' We have been buying items from him for the past 30 years, so he trusts us," says the Saki Naka resident. When she is not busy with household chores, she spends time with her grandson. "We all watch TV together. Before going to sleep, I offer my prayers; jo bhi ho, upar wala bhooka toh nahin sulata hai."
Having joined the film industry in 1972, Shaikh has been a member of the Mahila Kalakar Sangh, which falls under the purview of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees. "We haven't got a call from [any association]. I know about 10 to 12 junior artistes who live in the Marol to Saki Naka stretch, and nobody has got any aid from the cine bodies."
Citing an instance from the shoot of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham when Shah Rukh Khan had funded the cancer treatment of a junior artiste's mother, Shaikh is hopeful that Bollywood stars will rise to the occasion, this time too. "When Sanjay Dutt had heard about my illness, he had invited me home and borne
my medical expenses. I am a breast cancer survivor and heart patient; Salman [Khan] bhai has been funding my treatment for over five years. There should be an association or a provident fund for the elderly women who no longer get work in the industry. Amjad [Khan] bhai wanted to create a fund system for us, but he passed away soon after."
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