Tun Tun spent her final days in a chawl, could barely afford food or medicine: Shashi Ranjan remembers Bollywood’s foremost comedienne


On yesteryear comedienne Tun Tun’s 100th birth anniversary, actor and producer Shashi Ranjan reflected on how the film industry seemingly ignored her in her twilight years. But, he said in a new interview, she processed all of it with a positive attitude. Tun Tun, born Uma Devi Khatri in 1923, began her career in showbiz as a singer, but later switched to acting. She appeared mostly as comic relief in several Dilip Kumar and Guru Dutt films, and continued to work till the ’80s, including her appearance in the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Namak Halaal.

In an interview with The Times of India, Shashi Ranjan recalled visiting Tun Tun well past her glory years, living in a chawl in Mumbai. “She was very sick,” he said, remembering the ‘bad conditions’ she was living in. The situation was so dire that she couldn’t even get herself food. He had gone to arrange for an interview with her, for which he paid her Rs 25,000. During their interaction, Tun Tun told him that she was barely scraping together money to pay for medicines.

During the interview, Shashi Ranjan said, she spoke about being left behind by the industry that she had given so much to, and she ‘laughed at her poverty, and laughed at the way she was being treated by the world.’

In an interview conducted by the late actor Tom Alter just five years before Tun Tun’s death, she walked onto the stage with a stick, and spoke about her time in the industry being up. She said in Hindi, “I am 75 years old. I am a young lady. But I can still sing if I want to. Manna Dey can still sing, but our time is up. New artists are coming in. If you look at the comedians in films and on TV now, it’s their time to shine, we had our time too, and it was great. Time doesn’t wait for anybody. Today you’re a star, tomorrow it’s someone else.”

Tun Tun died at the age of 80 in 2003.

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