A Woman with Seven Lives
The Marilyn Monroe of the East, the queen of seduction, famous for her hourglass figure, and sexy soft voice. She is the timeless symbol of glamour and elegance out of the golden era of Egyptian cinema,who transcended into the footsteps of famous Hollywood stars like Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, and most famously Marilyn Monroe. Fully embodying beauty and sex appeal and effortlessly embracing everything about being a woman, Hind Rostom is still the icon most women envy and most men desire. As we celebrate the 7th Year Anniversary of What Women Want…Magazine, we dug deep to unravel the 7 lives of Hind Rostom, hoping to bring back the nostalgia to a golden era we all truly miss.
On the Road to Stardom
As one of the first blonde Egyptian actresses, she made her debut on the big screen with the help of legendary director Hassan Imam in 1955 with the film “Banat El Leil”.To our surprise Hind Rostom was casted in 18 films in supporting roles saying at most a sentence or few words before she got her big breakthrough after a hint of luck, lots of beauty, and endlesslytiring hard work. After working with director Hassan Reda in several movies as a supporting actress, they decided to get married and slowly he granted her a secondary role in his film “El Akl Zina”.
However, it was not until Hassan Imam was looking for a dancing actress to be casted for a seductive scene in his film of 1954 “Al Zalem” with Faten Hamama, Kamal El Shinawy, and Zahrat El Olaa. It was Hind Rostom with her strong personality, amazing body, and talent, who caught Imam’s eye, and later became “Hassan Imam’s breakthrough actress” when Imam granted Rostom her first leading role in “Banat El Leil” exactly the following year. “Hassan Imam is the one who discovered Hind Rostom, took me in, and when we worked together we delivered our strongest work”, Rostom stated in an interview with Maw’ed Magazine published in July 1974.
With roaring success of the first film in a leading role under her belt, Hassan Imam provided her with additional two leading roles in two films “Al Gassad” and “E’trafaat Zog,” and that’s how Hind Rostom’s greatest roles started pouring in along with the biggest names of Egyptian Cinema. With Fateen Abdel Wahab in “Nasa’ Fi Hayati”, Youssef Shaheen in “Bab El Hadid”, Ezz Eldin Zu Elfakar in “Rod Qalbi”, Ahmed Badrakhan in “Sayed Darwish” and many more for a total of 125 films in her life!
One of her most important roles she played in an internationally recognized Egyptian film was Hanoma in “Bab El Hadid” by Youssef Shaheen in 1958. The film entered the 8th Berlin International Film Festival and is still recognized until today as one of the greatest Egyptian films of all times including the Hollywood Reporter review that raved about Hind Rostom’s role in an article in August of 1990.
Rostom was attached to her work to the point that she sometimes gave up some of her wage in order to help the producer give more to production. In one of the earliest interviews we found in Kawaqeb Magazine of February 1962, Hind Rostom said, “I think I am one of the less paid actresses out there. My salary is known to all producers 2500 EGP, and in most times I don’t take all of it if the producer is a dear friend of mine or if the role I am playing requires for me to sacrifice some of my wage”. In “Bab El Hadid” Hind Rostom was offered 1200 EGP, but “I took only 500 EGP because I really liked the role”, she revealed in the same interview.
Hind Rostom was priceless, the professionalism and dedication she put into her work is something rarely people do in Egyptian Cinema today, but it was because she treated her work as art and not as a career to live off. In most cases she ended up spending more money on dresses and clothes for her most famous roles than what she received for the work itself. “I always left the box office to determine my success, and it rarely failed my expectations”, she later expressed in the same Kawaqeb February 1962 article.
The Queen of Seduction
No one who ever attempted to become the next Hind Rostom made it, but rather failed completely. Whether it is the era we are living in or the influence of the West determining “what is sexy” or not, it is clear that our perception of seduction and sex appeal has changed throughout the decades. A unique fingerprint of Hind Rostom is her own way of subtle and sophisticated seduction like no other Egyptian screen legend was ever able to reveal. Hind Rostom became an icon, not because of the daring roles that she played, but because she was an amazing actress playing versatile roles from being a nun in “Al Raheba” to an armed Upper Egyptian woman in “Dema’ El Nile”. In various interviews with Hind Rostom commenting on her given title as “The Queen of Seduction”, she always refuted it by saying that it is a name the tabloids have given her, “what I presented was not seduction, I presented a woman in touch with her feminine side, and there is a huge difference between both, and in a way I was conservative in presenting it going as far away as I can from being overtly sexy”, Rostom said in an interview to Nos El Donia Magazine in August 2000. Whether it is the noticeable resemblance to Marilyn Monroe or the fact she indeed was the equivalent to Marilyn Monroe to all Arabs, Hind Rostom was very modest and simple as a person.
Reading over five decades of interviews with Hind Rostom, it is apparent that the older she got the more conservative she became, especially with her only daughter Passent growing up at the peek of her mother’s fame of being a ‘seductive’ actress; Rostom became more cautious with the type of roles she took on in cinema until she quit acting altogether.
In one of the oldest interviews we found in Kawakeb Magazine of May 1966, Hind Rostom stated, “seduction roles are the hardest for me to perform, my understanding of seduction is not nudity, showing bare skin, legs, breasts, or wearing tight clothes, it is in the actress’ personality in conveying seduction with acting and dialogue, but mainly it falls on the actress’ personality only.” She went on saying that until then there are no actresses who can play her roles in the way she does, “after I quit playing seductive roles in film, there is not one actress who could fulfill that void until now, and this is not arrogance, but it is the truth believed by all people in the Egyptian film industry”, Rostom said.
Her Daughter Passant, Her Toughest Critic!
In 1949 Hind Rostom married director Hassan Reda and gave birth to her first and only daughter Passant while still dreaming of a breakthrough in a leading role, which Hassan Reda didn’t provide her with. After several problems between them, they decided to separate after the failing film “Al Akl Zeena,” where Hassan Reda granted her secondary role to leading actress Camilia. Hind Rostom didn’t get married again until 1961 to renowned gynecologist Dr. Mohamed Fayad with whom she be wedded for 50 years until his death.
In several interviews over decades she talked about how she raised her daughter Passant away from the glitz and glamour of Egyptian cinema, she wanted to give her a “normal life” as much as possible by always being cautious of the roles she chose, and spending every hour with her even in between shooting scenes. In one of the interviews with Nora Magazine in 1983 Rostom revealed that her toughest critic is her daughter, “when she was young, she used to get so angry with me when I performed seductive roles, but when she attended college, Passant started seeing these roles as high acting skills and talent, but the secret that no one knew was that Passant was the first consultant to my cinematic roles. I used to read to her all the scripts I received and she would criticize it and say her opinion telling me if I should take the role or not, and if she didn’t approve, I didn’t take the role”, Rostom revealed. It is uncommonly known that Hind Rostom had refused to play Mervat Amin’s role in “Abi Fouk El Shagara” because of her daughter Passant, who did not approve of the excessive scenes of French kissing Abdel Halim Hafez and the exotic belly-dancing scene.
Hind Rostom was a loving and caring mother of the first degree, she always gave priority to her daughter and family then acting, which is one of the reasons why she quit acting altogether before turning 40, when she was on top of her legendary acting career. In almost all of the late interviews after she had quit acting, Rostom pointed out to the importance of her family and in being Dr. Fayad’s wife and surprisingly not being the legendary actress that she has become.
As for Hind Rostom the grandmother, she believed in raising kids the traditional way, the Upper Egyptian way, just like she raised her daughter. She was always close to her daughter growing up giving her advice on friendship and love, almost being overprotective not allowing her daughter to go out alone, so it was no surprise that she treated her only grandson, Mido (Mohamed), the same way. In one of the interviews with Akhbar El Negom Magazine in May of 1998 Rostom said, “most of my time I give to Mido, who is a 20 year old a student at the American University in Cairo, but I treat him in a very strict way because I believe that raising a boy is much harder than raising a girl, especially in these times we are living in, the boy usually has more freedom, so I decided to treat Mido the Upper Egyptian way”.
The Woman and the Wife
Hind Rostom’s first marriage to Hassan Reda for eleven years was rarely talked about in tabloids, but it brought her one of the best things in her life, her daughter Passant. After dedicating her life to cinema and her daughter, she met Dr. Mohamed Fayad through friends at a house gathering and got married in a very traditional way after only one month of that first meeting in 1961. In several interviews with the actress about her relationship with Dr. Fayad, she always described him as “a man with highest manners treating her like a princess and one from whom she learned to be wise, calm, patient and a well-rounded person”, Rostom said in an interview to Nos El Donia Magazine in November 2000.
It was several years after she got married to Dr. Fayad that she quit acting in 1979, which made many ask, at the time, if it was her independent decision or because of being married to someone away from the film industry. Hind Rostom always gave a straight answer to such a question by saying, “Not at all, the decision was not a surprise to my family since I promised myself that 40 was my retirement age away from my acting career since this is the time when actresses stop getting leading roles, but get side roles of being the older sister or mother in a film, and I respect my history and my art too much to waste it in mediocre roles that don’t fulfill my talent, so I decided to respect myself byquitting and not damage what I gave for so many years”, she said to Akhbar El Negoom in May 1998.
There was another side of the story that she also revealed in other interviews saying that she didn’t want cinema to steal her away from building a family with theunderstandingthat fame is not eternal, and at the end of the day it is her family that will last, so she decided without compromising her principles to give more time to her family, she quit acting in 1979 and lived a quiet happy life ever after.
Hind Rostom found the joy of being Dr. Mohamed Fayad’s wife more rewarding than being the queen of cinema. In an article away from the usual talk about films and seduction, Hind Rostom opened up about the role of women in society in Al Yaqza Magazine issue dated 25 January 1990 titled, “I am very weak, and I respect Si El Sayed”. It may come as a surprise especially to the current generations, who have taken Hind Rostom as a symbol of feminism, pushing boundaries, and being unconventional, to find out that she held very different views in regards to women’s place in society and in her private life. “I believe that a woman should be a wife, mother, sister and a friend to her husband, I am at my happiest moments when people call me Dr. Fayaid’s wife. I am supposed to be the one behind my husband making our home comfortable for him, and be his secretary if he wanted”, this is how Rostom described her own role with her husband.
Surprisingly enough, when it came to the overall outlook on women’s role in society, Rostom believed that “given the current circumstances (1990s) when the youth are exposed to drugs and AIDS, it is very important for the woman to return to her home even though she proved herself in all industries and careers, but I believe that it is a national responsibility and duty to raise a new generation that is healthy and can be useful, which should be the highest priority for women.”
In another interview with Sayadaty Sadaty Magazine in July 1997, Hind Rostom also reiterated more of the same melody believing that “a man is a woman’s security”, but her long life partner, Dr. Fayad always said, “Behind every great man is a greater woman” and indeed Hind Rostom was a great lover, mother and friend to her family.
A Big Heart for Dogs
Hind Rostom was the pet lover of all pet lovers in Egyptian Cinema, may be even of all times in Egypt, she had at times more than 21 dogs at once! She inherited this love for dogs since childhood when her father and grandfather used to raise dogs for security and protection. Rostom followed in their footsteps caring for all kinds of animals including horses and birds, but most importantly dogs.
In many archived articles of the 1960s and 1970s, pictures of Hind Rostom walking three dogs in each arm colored the pages with her love and kindness to the friendly creatures. She believed that dogs were truly her best friends, the most loyal of all; they listened to her cry and were sad when she would get sick. Her favorites wereGerman Shepherds.
A Good Samaritan in Time of Need
The many lives of Hind Rostom deepened her empathy for people’s lives at time of need, and being an overall good personmeant doing a good deed and paying it forward to her nation. During the many disasters Egypt has faced throughout the decades, Rostom was always there to be the Good Samaritan. In efforts to endorse the Egyptian army during the war with Israel, Rostom together with Taheya Karioka used to make rounds to cinemas and theaters carrying a wooden box inviting people to donate what they can for relief efforts. Following in the footsteps of Om Kalthom, who used to hold free concerts outside Egypt fundraising for the war efforts, Hind Rostom donated money and gave her fame in the relief efforts during the 1993 devastating Earthquake that left many Egyptians homeless. She also was an outspoken figure against the use of drugs and its danger to society in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Political Influence of Abdel Nasser
Hind Rostom was born in 1929 and died in 2011, she has definitely been through all of the major political changes Egypt has witnessed in its modern history. Her favorite president was Gamal Abdel Nasser for many reasons, but mostly because in her opinion, he was keen on giving more rights and care to the development of cinema and art in general, and the fact that he was the one who inspired her to “care for the nation no mater how big of a sacrifice it may take”, she once said in an interview with Kol El Nas Magazine.
In another series of Hind Rostom’s brief memoires with Kawakeb Magazine in 1996, she described the three different times she met Gamal Abdel Nasser. “The first time I met President Nasser was when he came to visit the set of the movie ‘Rod Qalbi’, which was the first film about the July revolution. When he entered the studio, I felt nervous because he was of a big personality and strong presence that you would feel weak in front of him”, she described. The second time she met him was at the screening of the same film, which Nasser was very pleased with and considered it as one of the nationalist works Egypt has produced.
Rostom recalled in the same interview moments in political history of Egypt she never forgot including the defeat of 1967 and victory of 1973. “I can still taste the bitterness of the ‘Naksa’ in my throat, I will never forget Abdel Nasser’s face delivering his stepping down speech, or the shock and sadness painted on people’s faces those days”, Rostom described.
Did you know these facts about Hind Rostom?
- Hind Rostom’s favorite actress was Rita Hayworth, and her dream before retirement was to act in an Egyptian musical showing the life of Hayworth given that they were similar in many ways, the project sadly never came to life.
- The role of “Shafika El Qebeteya” was up for grabs between her and Taheya Karioka, but the talented Hind Rostom snatched it from her as competition got heated.
- The exotic actress used to spend long hours in makeup before shooting to cover up a scar in her face between her eyebrows with wax. She got the scar when she was young and fell on her face. Later she attempted to get it fixed with plastic surgery, but doctors advised her that it would change her facial expressions, so she didn’t.
- Did you know that Hind Rostom had a leg injury that made her walk, accidently, her sexy trademark walk? The sexy walk was unintentional; Ever since a troubling injury to one of her legs when she was young, it made her always walk putting more weight on one of the legs over the other, which gave an illusion of the hip swaying movement, which was also known as unique move to Marilyn Monroe.
- Hind Rostom refused 2nd place awards when she felt that she deserved the first place.
- Hind Rostom sang too! When she performed a co-leading role in “Khoroog Men El Ganah,” with Farid Al Atrash, she sang with him “Enta Wa Bas Eli Habibi”.
- As a hot headed Zamalkaweya, she watched soccer games at her home in a divided house with Dr. Fayad and Passant both being rivaling Ahly fans.
- Her favorite dish was Sharkasia. She didn’t really love cooking in the begging of her married life, but always gave attention to food presentation, which she excelled at by making a piece of art out of a simple cheese platter.
- She collected antiques and really enjoyed home decor.
- She never sold her dresses and kept them all in her closet, she even rarely allowed her daughter to borrow them.
- Director Hassan Imam, who discovered Hind Rostom asked her to marry him, but she refused out of concerns for his first wife and children, and they remained friends on professional level.