Kolkata’s “Queen of Cabaret” Miss Shefali dead at 76
She was Kolkata’s first cabaret sensation, frequently referred to as the “Queen of Cabaret” during the 1960s and the 1970s. Arati Das, better known as Miss Shefali, died at her home at Sodpur in the northern suburbs of Kolkata on Thursday, marking the end of an era. She was 76.
She was suffering from kidney ailments, her family members said. She did not marry.
“My life has been filmier than a blockbuster film,” she had said a year ago during a TV channel interview while referring to her rise as a dancing star from a child grown up in a dingy north Kolkata neighbourhood. “I traversed a long, long distance… crossed many rivers, to see five-star hotels and to feel on top of the Himalayas,” she had said.
Das alias Shefali also acted in films and theatre but lived her final years amidst constant financial difficulties similar to the early years of her life. It was poverty that forced her into the profession during her teen years and it was penury in her twilight years again, that forced her to turn into a recluse.
“Saddened at the passing away of actress Arati Das, famous under her screen name, Miss Shefali. She appeared in two of Satyajit Ray’s films, Pratidwandi and Seemabaddha. Condolences to her family and her admirers,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Das first learned how to dance in her early teens by secretly watching the members of an Anglo-Indian family, whom she served as a maid. Gradually, she became synonymous with the nightlife of Park Street, Kolkata’s signature posh neighbourhood “that never sleeps”.
In 2015, her autobiography, titled ‘Sondhya-Rater Sephali’ (Shefali of the evenings and nights) was published in Bengali. A few months ago, actor-filmmaker Konkona Sen Sharma embarked on a project to film Miss Shefali’s life for a web series.
On Thursday, Bengal’s prominent intellectuals and celebrities fondly remembered her on various television channels.
“She was the one and only of her kind in those days,” actor Barun Chanda said.
“Fifty years ago, she had made a big name for herself. While acting in Satyajit Ray’s films, she looked completely devoted to her role,” said actor Dhritiman Chatterjee.