Born Khurshid Akthar in Lahore, Punjab state (now part of Pakistan) on June 7, 1935 (some sources list June 12), Shyama got her start as a member of the chorus in a qawwali scene in the 1945 film Zeenat. Her entry into films was unbeknownst to her father who had been away on business, and he was not pleased with his young daughter’s career choice; however the girl’s mother and sister convinced dad to let her give it a try.
Billed as Baby Khurshid she began appearing in small roles in films like Beete Din (1947), Parwana (1947), and Jalsa (1948), eventually changing her name to Shyama.
At the suggestion of actress Begum Para, I.S. Johar took a chance and cast Shyama as the heroine of his film Shrimatiji (1952) which set her on course for important roles, in films big and small. She starred in several highly-regarded pictures including Aar-Paar (1954), Do Behnen (1959), Baap Bete (1959), and Barsaat Ki Raat, but she was seen more often in B-grade pictures like Tartar Ka Chor (1955), Haha Hihi Hoo Hoo (1955), Hill Station (1957), Bus Conductor (1959), Trunk Call (1960), and Police Detective (1960) opposite leading men like Mahipal, Prem Nath, Kishore Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, and Sudesh Kumar. She also played lead opposite comedian Johnny Walker in several of his pictures including Johnny Walker (1957), Duniya Rang Rangili (1957), Mr. Qartoon M.A. (1958), Khota Paisa (1958) and Mr. John (1959). In the Arabian Nights film Gul Sanobar she was top billed with future super-star Shammi Kapoor, and she made appearances in other fantasy films including Sheikh Chilli (1956), Chhoo Mantar (1956), Lal-e-Yaman (1956), and Suraj Aur Chanda (1973) as well as thrillers like Lal Bangla (1966) and Milan (1967)
Shyama with Abhi Bhattacharya in the noir thriller TRUNK CALL (1960)
Shyama married cinematographer Fali Mistry in 1953 and they had three children, two sons and a daughter. She considered Rehman to be her favorite co-star and counted actresses Nanda, Shashikala, Waheeda Rehman, Nadira, Shakila, and Nirupa Roy among those she was closest to in the industry. Her husband passed away in 1979 and Shyama, after taking some time off, returned to acting in the 1980s permanently retiring from the screen after 1989’s Hathyar. She passed away on November 14, 2017 due to a lung infection.
Shyama with one of her favorite co-stars, Rehman.