Bengal’s cabaret queen Miss Shefali dead

Kolkata, Feb 6

Widely regarded as Bengal’s cabaret queen, Arati Das — more famous as Miss Shefali, who also acted in two of Satyajit Ray’s cult films — died at her home in 24 Parganas (North) district’s Sodepur on Thursday following a cardiac arrest, family and film fraternity sources said.

Shefali, 76, was suffering from kidney ailments for long, and returned home after a hospital stay sometime back.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condoled her death.

Her lissom dance steps and provocative gyrations had made Ms. Shefali an integral part of Kolkata’s nightlife in the 1960s and 1970s when she performed to packed audiences in the city’s leading five star hotels and night clubs.

Her dance skills were captured in two films of Ray — ‘Pratidwandi’ (1970) and ‘Seemabaddha’ (1971) — where she acted. She was also seen on screen in ‘Bahniskha’ (1976) and ‘Pennam Kolkata’ (1992).

Shefali had a long association with the city’s professional stage, where too her cabaret was chief attraction.

She was also proficient in dance forms like twist, can can and charlestone. In New Year parties, Shefali’s belly dancing was a prime public attraction.

From Bengali matinee idols Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen to countless youths of those times, Shefali had a huge fan base that remained intact for decades.

Born in then East Bengal, Shefali’s parents crossed over to India after Partition, and her childhood was a story of poverty and sufferings.

She had to work as a maid in an Anglo-Indian family at the age of 11, where she got attracted to dancing by observing the foot tappings and gyrations in the daily evening parties.

Helped by an invitee in one of those parties, Shefali got a chance to perform at the then famous Firpo’s restaurant, and never had to look back since.

However, Shefali’s financial problems returned in the last stages of her life, after she quit the dance floor and the stage due to advancing age.

Last year, Konkona Sen Sharma had announced her plans to make a web series based on Shefali’s life. The series will chronicle her life, as well as the political environment of West Bengal in the sixties and seventies through her life’s journey.

“Saddened at the passing away of actress Arati Das, famous under her screen name, Miss Shefali. Condolences to her family and her admirers,” Banerjee tweeted.

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