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Spotlight: Roohi Bano

Over a period of time, a lot has appeared in the newspapers and on television about Roohi Bano leading a glum life at her Gulberg residence in Lahore. The good news is that the accomplished film and TV artist was admitted to a rehabilitation centre, Fountain House, where her well-being was entrusted into the care of the staff for much-needed medical attention. Recently, Roohi shifted back home but she is not out of the woods yet. Occasional fits of rage, anguish and a feeling of loneliness still overwhelm her, especially after the tragic loss of her only son, Ali.

Although she has been issued a discharge certificate, declaring her fully recovered both mentally and physically, the painful memory of her son’s untimely death coupled with the callousness of the entertainment industry towards her plight still lurks deep within her soul, tormenting her.

One of the finest acting talents in the country, Roohi Bano was admitted to the medical facility in 2005 for the treatment of schizophrenia. She has now recovered and says that the task of bringing to justice the culprits responsible for her son’s death is central to her.

Her psychologist, Waheeda Noor, said that Roohi’s sister, Rubina Yasmin, brought her to the facility in November 2005, soon after which Ali was found murdered.

Roohi Bano is known for possessing the rare quality of conveying feelings and expressions through her eyes. As an actress, she exercised full command over her emotions and knew how best to translate them into action and convert them into pieces of unforgettable drama. She says she desperately misses her co-stars of yesteryear such as Shafi Mohammad, Talat Hussain, Uzma Gillani and the late Tahira Naqvi

After she was admitted, no one was allowed to see Roohi except Rubina for a whole year. She was in the worst kind of mental condition imaginable and would suffer from severe hallucinations. However, she made some recovery after a couple of months, but even then she would occasionally complain of ‘jealous’ relatives and co-workers.

Roohi Bano had revealed her ‘bleeding heart and soul’ to me in a somewhat recent conversation. Her first sentence was that she should have been treated at a private hospital where people would not gather around her. She said that people cared less about her well-being and were “more interested in seeing Roohi Bano, the actress of yore, undergoing treatment.” She spent time watching television, calling the TV set a “friend of her loneliness.”

Her verdict on the new wave of change that has swept over the TV circuit? “Like autumn replaces the fragrant spring, television, too, has changed. Very few plays now depicted reality. Glamour has drama in its vice-like grip.”

Recounting her days as a television actress, she said, “I put my soul into acting but I was pushed back,” she says, accusing some of her co-actors of jealousy and also condemning the politics and bribe culture that has crept into the system. “Every type of bribe was given and taken to bring down those with talent,” she said, adding, “but PTV gave me what I could never have imagined.”

Roohi’s first television appearance was in a quiz show while she was still a student. Then, Farooq Zameer offered her a chance to act in plays which she accepted while continuing her studies for a Master’s degree in psychology from Government College, Lahore. She married twice and also acted in a few films but television was where she belonged, and it remained her first love.

Now, Roohi says she wants to act in long plays, provided she is offered a role, and also produce dramas if she has the funds. “But who will accept me as an actor now,” is the very real anguish she faces and confronts.

Given the condition she was in before treatment, her recovery has been likened to her character in one of her famous long plays, Darwaza. In the play produced by Muhammad Nisar Hussian in the 1980s, she plays a TB patient who recovers miraculously. She says she remembers the play, adding that she believes in miracles.

Roohi also believes in love which according to her “is hard to find in this materialistic world.” Among those she has loved, she remembers her mother and her son, Ali, with great fondness. With a smile she reminisces about her mother who brought the then four-year-old Roohi to Lahore from her birthplace, Bombay, in India. Being a fan of Munir Niazi, Roohi says she also has a fondness for poetry but confesses her poor memory for verse.

As an actress, she is known for possessing the rare quality of conveying feelings and expressions through her eyes. She exercised full command over her emotions and knew how best to translate them into action and convert them into pieces of unforgettable drama. She says she desperately misses her co-stars of yesteryear such as Shafi Mohammad, Talat Hussain, Uzma Gillani and the late Tahira Naqvi.

Some time ago, during a ceremony at the Fountain House, Roohi Bano was offered the job of an NGO coordinator in the Punjab government’s Social Welfare Department. The offer was extended to her by the advisor to the chief minister of Punjab. But during our last meeting at her residence, Roohi said that no official from the concerned department has contacted her with the job offer.

Television had found a great actress in Roohi Bano and her repeatedly outstanding performances in Qila Kahani, Zard Gulab, Hairatkada, Darwaza, Kiran Kahani, along with several other serials and long plays, set her head and shoulders above her contemporaries. The sensitivity with which she played her roles made her popular across the country to the effect that many of Roohi’s fans still remember her as a charming actress par excellence, who ruled the small screen for nearly two decades.

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