For women, fame in the show business comes with a heavy price — and some pay with their lives. When Sangam Rana was found hanging from a ceiling fan earlier this month, few believed the model and dancer had committed suicide.
At the age of 24, Sangam was in the prime of her career. She had gained popularity after a string of successful performances at alFalah Theatre in Lahore over the past three years. On December 6, the night before she was found dead, Sangam reportedly had a clash with her sister, Shama Rana, who is also a renowned theatre performer.
After the argument, both of them left the stage. Sources said Sangam also had an argument with the play’s producer the same night. The next day, her lifeless body was found hanging from the ceiling fan. Her sister termed it suicide but the police later registered an FIR against unknown assailants, indicating homicide.
“My daughter, Shama, called me on December 7, saying Sangam was not well and had been brought to Jinnah hospital. Later, she told me Sangam had died,” Sangam’s mother Sughra Bibi told The Express Tribune, adding she suspects Shama of foul play. The police are, however, are still investigating the matter.
Sangam joined a long list of actresses and models found dead under mysterious circumstances over the years. Several Lollywood stars and dancers, including Nagina Khanum, Nadra, Niggo, Karishma Shah, Anjuman Shehzadi, Saniya, Yasmeen Khan, Marvi, Sundas, Naina and Abeera, met an untimely demise. Yet, most cases remain unsolved and shrouded in mystery to this day. Others, such as Nargis, Saima Khan and Andaleeb, have survived attempts on their lives. The harrowing tales of violence point towards recurring themes of property disputes, sour friendships and love gone awry.
Family and friends are never too far from the scope of suspicion in these deaths. They often fear losing sway over the actresses when fame and fortune come knocking. Jealousy, too, features prominently. “People still remember the murder of dancer Niggo, who was killed in the red-light district of Lahore. The reason was said to be her so-called husband and friend who was not allowing her to expand her business. Niggo’s uncle and two musicians were also murdered in the incident,” said Altaf Bajwa, acclaimed poet and senior vice president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s cultural wing.
“Actress Nadra was also killed by her husband over a property tussle, but the police never managed to solve the case. Similarly, Nagina was murdered along with six other members of her family in Iqbal Town. This case, too, remains unsolved. These incidents raise some serious questions about the rights and liberties of actresses.”
Senior investigation official of Punjab police, Muhammad Siddique, blames the company some actresses keep. “Lollywood actresses have members of the mafia and gangs as their friends. In some cases, they also manage the financial affairs of these heroines, who land in trouble when they try to outsmart or cheat these people,” he noted. “Another reason is that these women are often the only breadwinners of their families and earn the ire of relatives if they stop listening to them or decide to move out. Most times, family members do not pursue a criminal case against the murderers and opt for a settlement out of court.”
Veteran film director Jarrar Rizvi agrees. “Some people financially support actresses and become their patrons. And the women get killed if they try to double-cross them. In a lot of cases, the women themselves are responsible. These stories should serve as a lesson for others.”
Misogyny is, however, often the overarching reason for violence against female celebrities. “Men with wives and families have illicit relationships with actresses and then get rid of them when things go south. Decent men often stay away from girls in show business, so it is men of dubious character who gravitate towards them,” says actress Dr Tabassum, who has featured in Urdu and Pashtu films, including Dastaan and Iqrar.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2015.