Veteran actor Roohi Bano, who reigned over the golden era of PTV, recently celebrated her 55th birthday at the rehabilitation centre Fountain House. Having lived a tumultuous few years, Roohi tells a heart-wrenching tale of a life ridden with challenges. “I can’t exactly remember but I think I’m celebrating my 55th birthday. My birthdays have always been special as my friends used to visit my house every year this day. I was waiting for my family members and friends to come today, but unfortunately, no one came,” she lamented. Despite that, she brims with optimism. “I’m still thankful to God.”
Roohi shared that she particularly missed the presence of her contemporaries and friends Firdous Jamal and Abid Ali on the day and especially, her late son. The evidently lonely Roohi said she wants to live and enjoy life on her terms. “People are celebrating Independence Day but I’m stuck in a single room, for which I hold my family members responsible. I’m tired and want to live my life now,” she stated.
Roohi was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was admitted to the mental health institute after she sustained minor injuries in an alleged knife attack over property disputes. “I admit that nobody attacked me. I mistakenly broke the car’s window glass and was injured, but a few of my family members pressurised me and falsely accused people in the case,” she revealed. “I don’t know why they’re doing this but I’m in this situation because of them,” she said.
She said she feels better now and hopes to leave Fountain House soon as her life has become shackled there. “I don’t even have access to reading the newspaper,” she claimed, adding that although the administration has been taking good care of her, she wants to step outside and explore what life has to offer. “Now, I’m even in a position to work in dramas. I watch plays these days and feel they’re different from those back in the day,” she added. “There are no good stories and it seems there’s a dearth of good writers nowadays. We need writers and producers with a constructive approach to making drama serials.”
The acting veteran said that actors are an asset of a country and the onus is on the government to provide them with safety and a good life, but she feels she was sidelined. “But how can I complain about anyone else when my own sister dropped me at the institute and didn’t visit me after three months of my admission? I’ve realised the reality of life and feel strong now.”
Roohi appeals to the Government of Pakistan and particularly Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif to visit Fountain House and help her get discharged from the institute. “Everyone knows that loneliness disrupts health and a life of freedom is more important for me than relying on medication,” she said. She also hopes to join politics after she returns home. “I’ll reunite with my friends to play a part in strengthening our country.”
An artist in her own right, Roohi claimed to have worked in nearly 150 TV serials. Reminiscing about when she set foot in the industry, she said she wanted to become a part of it since she was a child. Known for earning her acting spurs during the 1970s and 80s, she has to her credit dramas, such as Qila Kahani, Zard Gulab, Hairat Qadah, Darwaza and Kiran Kahani. She also performed in a few films, but TV is where her heart is. Roohi, who was married twice, still seems to carry the weight of her only son’s untimely demise nearly a decade ago.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2015.