Though she was part of a handful of movies in the early 90s, Somy Ali remains etched in our collective memories for being Salman Khan’s beloved whom he had almost married, had Aishwarya Rai not entered his life. It has been decades since we have heard about her or from her.
Bollywood is not for everyone.
Some realise it sooner and tread different paths to make different achievements in life, while others keep trying till the industry throws them off.
In this giant rigmarole of realisations and refusals, we have seen many of our beloved celebs fading out into oblivion, leaving us wondering, “where are they, how are they...?”
This “Missing Report” series digs deep into the untold stories of such missing stars, and today we are covering Somy Ali.
Somy Ali was born in Karachi to an Iraqi mother and a Pakistani father. She received initial education at Convent of Jesus and Mary, in Karachi, and then migrated to the US at the age of 12, with her mother and brother.
Though a fan of Bollywood, Somy wouldn’t have aspired to be a part of it if not inspired by a teenage crush in the industry. Like many other girls of her age in the subcontinent, 15-year-old Somy had lost her heart to Salman Khan after watching Maine Pyar Kiya. Led by matters of the heart, she convinced her mother and flew to India to work in the movies, but her true intention was to get in touch with Salman Khan.
Her charm was magnetic and it smoothened her way into the industry. She started off with modelling assignments, and Bollywood offers followed eventually. Dharmendra wanted to launch her alongside his younger son, Bobby Deol. But Somy skipped it as the script demanded her to don a “two-piece” swimsuit.
She was all prepared to debut in 1992 with Buland, but the film remained shelved for life. Finally, in 1994, Anth: A Dream for a Better Tomorrow became her first film to hit the theaters. She was cast opposite Sunil Shetty in the action film, and Paresh Rawal, Alok Nath, and Deepak Shirke made the supporting star cast. Anth debuted well at the box-office, but its success was accredited to the thrilling action sequences, while the debutante actress went unnoticed.
Somy worked in about 10 movies, including Teesra Kaun?, Yaar Gaddar, Andolan, Mafia, and Aao Pyaar Karen through the 90s, but was never considered a bankable actress. Her acting was just as weak as the reason behind pursuing it: marrying Salman Khan.
But her landing in Mumbai was not a total flop either. She did met Salman, endeared herself with him, and eventually, replaced his then-girlfriend, Sangeeta Bijlani. The two were one of the most gossiped-about couples in the industry, till Salman Khan hit the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and caught a glimpse of Aishwarya Rai.
Heartbroken Somy resigned from her Bollywood commitments – not that a lot was happening there, anyway – and flew back to the US.
These were difficult times for Somy. In her mid-20s, she was a school dropout who had only studied till 9th grade. But determined to pull her life together, she returned to school and shared the classroom with kids much younger than her. She then attended Nova Southeastern University to get an undergrad degree in Psychology and earned a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Miami. After developing an interest in journalism and experimenting with documentary films, in 2003, she graduated from the New York Film Academy with a degree in film making, direction, screenwriting, and editing. Most of her projects addressed social evils like domestic violence, abuse, or suicide.
She was deeply affected by the massive trauma and abuse women of South Asian origin had to put up with in the US when a Bangladeshi neighbour knocked on her door for help, after being raped by her father-in-law and being beaten by the husband through 10 years of marriage.
Somy realised that numerous South Asian women brought in the US were living a torturous life and was desperate to help them. In an interview with TV Asia USA, Somy revealed that she had suffered sexual abuse as a child in Pakistan, as a teenager in the US, and that she was recuperating from a draining romance with a Bollywood star, and it motivated her more towards helping women trapped in abusive relationships in that country.
The former Bollywood actress is now the founder and president of a US-based non-profit organisation for women and children called ‘No More Tears’. Established to empower victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking, Somy Ali’s organisation prides itself on having rescued over 30,000 women, children, men, and members of the LGBTQ community, with all the proceeds going toward funding and enabling them to find financial independence. The actress has turned her broken self into a social crusader and certainly deserves to be applauded for all that she’s giving back to the society.