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Home > Movies > Bollywood News

A Ganesh Nadar in Mumbai | February 12, 2004 15:11 IST

While she did not have any financial worries, withoutany relatives to take care of her, Bollywood legend Suraiya seemed to have been dependent on her lawyerin the last days of her life.

So much so that she nominated his daughters as the beneficiaries of some of her investments after her death.

Special: Suraiya, The Last Movie Star

Butthere is still the matter of the real estate she owned, which includes a building in Worli, south central Mumbai, and a bungalow inLonavla, near Mumbai. The building in Worli has six flats, garages and outhouses. The value of the Worli and Lonavla properties has not yet been determined, but is believed to be substantial.

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Despite all the property she owned, the 75-year-old actress-singerlivedin a rented flaton Marine Drive in south Mumbai,her home for 71 years.

Since she did not drawup a will, the Maharashtra government sealed all her properties last week and invited claims.

Immediately after her death,Ashwin Shah and Ajit Zaveri --owners of the south Mumbai flatvalued at Rs 1.7 crores (Rs 17 million), sought to get back the property and pasted a legal notice on the apartment's door to that effect.

They were followed by Suraiya's solicitor Dimanth Thakkar and her cousin Mehfooz Ahmed,a citizen of Pakistan, who also staked a claim to the property.

Suraiya's mother Mumtaz Sheikh and Ahmed's father Zahoor were siblings. It was through Zahoor, an actor, that Suraiya met her idol Gregory Peck, when the Hollywood star visitedMumbai on his way to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).

Though she retired in March 1963, Suraiya appearedwell-off.

According to Thakkar,when hercashran out, she sold her jewels to sustain herself. In 1988, she sold some land in Lonavla and invested the proceeds in fixed deposits, the Unit Trust of India and other mutual funds. Shelivedcomfortably off the returns from these investments, Thakkar told on Wednesday.

The lawyer -- who haslooked after Suraiya's interests since 1975 --denies reports that there was a cupboard full of jewels in her Marine Drive flat. Towards the end, he added, she had few jewels left.

Among the six flats in the Worli building, four have been rented out to the army for a princely sum of Rs 1,064per month (for the four flats).

The nameplates on the other two flats bearthe name of Thakkar's younger daughter Cami and his wife, according to Mumbai's Mid-Day newspaper.

The flats, according to Thakkar, are in a state of disrepair and Suraiyaexpresseddisinterest in carrying out any repairs. Instead, sheagreed to rent them out to Thakkar and his daughter for Rs 1,000 per month, provided they carried out the repairs.

This agreement was signedon January 1, 2004.By the time she died 30 days later, Suraiyahad not collected a single month's rent from her new tenants.

Suraiyaalso named Thakkar's elder daughter Ami as the nominee in some papers related to her investments. Thakkar showed one such document to in which the investor's name was given as S Sheikh and the nominee's as Ami Dimanth Thakkar.

"After 1975 I guided her at every stage," Thakkar earlier told, "Even her servants and her electricity bills were paid through my office. She would only pay the dhobhi and newspaper man. She would call me her confidante."

Photograph: Jewella C Miranda

Image: Dominic Xavier

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