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Jharna Basak

(1942-08-17) 17 August 1942 (age 79)
NationalityBritish Indian (1942-1947)
Pakistani (1947-1997)
Bangladeshi (1998-)
Years active1961–1999
(m. 1964; his death 2016)
Awards13 Nigar Awards[1]
Lux Style Lifetime Achievement Award[1] (2019)
Lifetime Achievement Award from Government of Pakistan[1] (2012)

Jharna Basak (born 17 August 1942),[2] better known by the stage name Shabnam (Bengali: শবনম, Urdu: شبنم), is a Bangladeshi–Pakistani stage and film actress.[3] Actor Waheed Murad introduced her to the Pakistani film industry by offering her a lead role in his film Samundar in 1968. Jharna remained active in Lollywood in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. She has been nominated for Nigar awards several times, winning it 13 times (the most for an actress). She has appeared in over 149[4] films. She was a leading actress in the Pakistani film industry for 28 years.[5]

Jharna migrated from East to West Pakistan in 1968,[6] and lived in the country until the late 1990s, later she returned to her native Bangladesh.[3]

Early life[edit]

Jharna was born on 17 August in Dhaka, in the erstwhile British India in a Bengali Hindu family.[6] Her father was Nani Basak, a football referee from Dhaka. As a young girl, she was more adventurous and tomboyish in nature in comparison to her sister, who was into singing.[7] She would still practice dance moves. Jharna was offered a role in a movie as a supporting dancer, thus beginning her career in arts.[5]


Jharna on the film poster of Chanda (1962), directed by Ehtesham

Jharna began her career when her father got her admitted into the Bulbul Lalitakala Academy. A close friend of her father got her a role in a dance sequence in the movie "Ei Desh Tomar Amar". Her next role was as a dancer in the movie "Rajdhanir Bukey". When the song became a hit, the audience requested that Jharna be cast as a lead actress. That was when she starred in her Bengali debut film as a heroine, Harano Din.[5]

Jharna moved to West Pakistan after the director Ehtesham cast her in his Urdu movie Chanda in the erstwhile West Pakistan. Since Jharna's Urdu wasn't that proficient at that point in time, the rehearsals were scripted in Bengali. The music of this film was composed by her husband Robin Ghosh. The film turned out to be a hit, starting her career in the top ranks of the Pakistan film industry.

After starring in dozens of super-hit films, Jharna became the number one reigning actress in Pakistan by the early 1970s. She retained that position until the mid-1980s, when she slowly started to retire. She is considered to probably be the only film actress in the world to have continuously and successfully played the romantic lead in films for almost three decades, from the early 1960s to the late 1980s.[8]

After the Bangladesh Liberation War had ended, Jharna wanted to visit her native homeland. It took her two years to get the "No Objection Certificate" which was required for her to get a Bangladeshi visa. It was later revealed that Lollywood had requested the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan to not give her a visa, as they feared she would not return from Bangladesh. Nevertheless, Jharna reassured her fans and colleagues that she would not abandon Pakistan, and would be back after visiting her parents. Only then did the Foreign Ministry let her leave Pakistan, making sure their most popular actress would not leave.[5] Around 1988, she switched on to character acting and was again doing films in her native Dhaka and Lahore. Since 1987 she made London her place of residence.[9] Shabnam left Pakistan and its film industry in the late 1990s.[3] She gracefully retired and moved to Bangladesh in 1997. According to her, she retired because of her age, and her duty to look after her parents, as they were entering their last years. Jharna planned on retiring after her super-hit blockbuster film Aaina. But because of the overwhelming number of fans and offers she had in Pakistan, it took her 20 years to finish her last films, and then enter retirement.[5]

After returning to Dhaka and taking a break for 2 years, Jharna lastly performed in movie 'Ammajan,’ directed by Kazi Hayat. She performed in that movie in the central role and it was released in 1999. The film went on to be a super-hit and one of the most successful movies in Bangladeshi film history.

In 2012, Jharna visited Pakistan along with her husband after 13 years, where they were awarded lifetime achievement award by the Pakistani government.[1] The award ceremony was organized by PTV. The function was hosted by prominent actress and television presenter Bushra Ansari. The function included live interviews of Jharna and her husband, along with famous singers and co-artists of the duo. Many of Jharna's and Robin Ghosh's songs were performed on stage by young Pakistani artists. The show was attended by top members of the Pakistani community, most notably the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani.[10]

23 of her Urdu movies celebrated diamond jubilees in Lollywood. Shabnam was the heroine among 12 of those movies. Shabnam won 13 Nigar Awards for best actress, which is a record to date.

In 2017, Jharna announced that she would be returning to the Pakistani entertainment industry with television series Mohini Mansion Ki Cinderellayain, which is directed by Ali Tahir, and its music is composed by Sahir Ali Bagga.[11][12] She is also committed to star in Aina 2, a sequel to her 1977 film Aina, which will be directed by Syed Noor.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Jharna married music composer Robin Ghosh in 1966. Together they had one son; Ronnie Ghosh. Robin Ghosh died on 13 February 2016 in Dhaka, due to respiratory failures.[14] In an interview, she described him as a loving, caring and very understanding person who never interfered in her film life and never asked questions when she came home late from work.[3] After retirement from the film industry, she used to take care of her parents and her husband, until their deaths. She now leads a retired life as a housewife, in Dhaka.[5]

1978 assault[edit]

Farooq Bandial (a politician from Punjab's Khushab district) along with other four men committed armed dacoity at the house of Shabnam in Gulberg area of Lahore on 13 May 1978.[15] A Special Military Court handed Bandial and four other men death sentences for committing armed dacoity. The accused were later commuted by General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq after Robin Ghosh and Jharna granted them a pardon, and it was later changed to a life sentence.[16] Bhandial joined Imran Khan's PTI in 2018, but was expelled the same day after news of his involvement in the dacoity re-surfaced. Dr. S.M. Zafar served as the legal counsel for Robin Ghosh and Shabnam in their case. The details of the case were recounted in detail in his book Mere Mashhoor Muqaddamay (My Popular Cases).[17]


Jharna worked in total of 170 films, including 152 Urdu films, 14 Bengali and 4 Punjabi films. Her unreleased films include: Gharonda, Bunjarun and Itna Pyar Kon Karay. Her debut film was a Bengali film. Her first Urdu film, Chanda was filmed in Bangladesh.[18]

Year Title Role Director Notes Ref(s)
1961 Rajdhanir Bukey Ehtesham [19]
Harano Din Mustafiz [19]
Kakhono Ashni Zahir Raihan [19]
1962 Azaan Fazal Haq [20]
Chanda Ehtesham [19]
1963 Talash Mustafiz [20]
Naach Char Abdul Jabbar Khan [21]
Preet Na Jane Reet M. Chaudhury [21]
1964 Karwan S. M. Parvez [22]
Paisay Mustafiz [22]
1965 Aakhri Station Suroor Barabankvi [23]
Kaise Kahun S. Khan [23]
Kajal Nazar-ul-Islam [24]
Saagar Ehtesham [24]
1966 Begana S. M. Parvez [25]
Raja Sanyasi Khan Ataur Rahman [26]
1967 Darshan Rehman [27]
1968 Jahan Tum Wahan Hum Pervez Malik [28]
Main Zinda Hoon M. Salim [29]
Samandar Rafiq Rizvi [30]
Shareek-e-Hayat S. M. Yusuf [29]
Tum Mere Ho Suroor Barabankvi [30]
1969 Aasra Raza Mir [31]
Anari Mustafiz [32]
Andaleeb Farid Ahmed [32]
Daagh Ehtesham [31]
Joar Bhata Attaur Rahman [33]
Ladla A. H. Siddiqui [32]
Naz Sharif Nayyar [32]
Nazneen Khalid Khurshid [32]
Qasam Uss Waqt Ki A. J. Kardar [33]
1970 Chalo Maan Gayai Rahman [34]
Jale Na Kyun Parwana Shaukat Hashmi [34]
Naseeb Apna Apna Qamar Zaidi [35]
Naya Savera Jamil Akhter [35]
Shama Aur Parwana Hassan Tariq [35]
1971 Afshan Javed Hashmi [36]
Chiragh Kahan Roshni Kahan K. Kurshid [37]
Dosti Sharif Nayyar [36]
Rootha Na Karo Munawar Rasheed [37]
1972 Bandagi
Mann Ki Jeet
Mere Hamsafar
1973 Anmol
Badal Aur Bijli
Nya Raasta
Naam Ke Nawab
1974 Aina Aur Soorat
Bano Rani
Do Badan
Do Tasviren
Main Bani Dulhan
Miss Hippy
Sawan Aya Tum Nahin Aye
1975 Anari
Badal Gaya Insaan
Bikhrey Moti
Dil Nasheen
Do Saathi
Farz Aur Mamta
Pehchan Sara Pervaiz Malik
1976 Anokhi
Daman Ki Aag
Do Aansoo
Mom Ki Guria
Raja Jani
Sayyan Anari
Aaj Aur Kall
1977 Aina Nazar-ul-Islam
Mere Huzoor
Naya Sooraj
Uff Yeh Bivian
1978 Abhi To Mein Jawan Hun
Achhey Mian
Ankhon Ankhon Mein
Anmol Mohabbat
1979 Chalte chalte
Naya Andaaz
1980 Azmaish
Badaltey Mousam
Bandish Nazar-ul-Islam
Hum Dono
Nahin Abhi Nahin
1981 Faaslay
Kiran Aur Kali
Tange Wali
1982 Biwi Ho To Aisi
I Love You
Zara Si Baat
1983 Deewangi
Kabhi Alwida Na Kehna
Maang Meri Bhar Do
Aaj Ki Raat
1984 Aisa Bhi Hota Hai
Andhi Aur Toofan
Naseebon Wali
Naam Mera Badnam
Shadi Magar Adhi
Tere Ghar Ke Samne
1985 Benazir Qurbani
1986 Faisla
Jhoomar Chor
Shadi Mere Shohar Ki
1987 Bazi
Love in Nepal
Masti Khan
Saas Meri Saheli
Teri Banhon Mein
1988 Sheesh Nagin
1989 Lady Commando
1993 Ranjish
1994 Rani Beti Raj Karegi
1995 Awargi
1996 Saza
1997 Aulad Ki Qasam
1999 Ammajan


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  15. ^ "'Bakwas' must stop". The Express Tribune. 16 June 2018. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
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  34. ^ a b Gazdar, Mushtaq (1997). Pakistan Cinema, 1947-1997. Oxford University Press. p. 267. ISBN 0-19-577817-0.
  35. ^ a b c Gazdar, Mushtaq (1997). Pakistan Cinema, 1947-1997. Oxford University Press. p. 266. ISBN 0-19-577817-0.
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