River City Sacking Did Me a Big Favour; Shabana Was Axed from the Scots Showwhen Her TV Family Was Written out, but Now Her Acting Dreams Are Being Realised in a New BBC Drama

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Byline: By Frances Traynor, TV Editor

SIX months ago, Sh a ban a Bakhsh was thrown on the acting scrap heap, dumped from her River City contract six months early. Today she's having the last laugh on the BBC Scotland big wigs who axed her, as she's bagged the starring role in the BBC drama Glasgow Dreams.

Later this month, she'll fly out to Berlin for the world premiere of Ken Loach's new film, Ae Fond Kiss, in which she has a lead role.

Two recent auditions hold the promise of bigger and better parts and she's just written her own script, determined to put right the wrongs she sees in home-grown writers' portrayals of British-Asians.

Understandably bitter at the time about her River City axing, 22-year-old Sh a ban a reckons that things have worked out perfectly for her.

She said: ''I'm fortunate as I fell into Glasgow Dreams quickly and I did Ken Loach's film while I was in River City.

''I had two auditions last week and the feedback I got was very positive.

''Both of the jobs are in Birmingham and the contracts for each would probably be at least six months.

''So even if the people at River City changed their minds and wanted me back, I don't know if I'd want to.''

In Glasgow Dreams, part of BBC1's series of Afternoon Plays, Sh a ban a takes on the role of Yasmeela, who lives on a rough Glasgow council estate with her father. They be friend Dino, one of a gang of localneds whose racist behaviour is terrorising the scheme, and encourage him to follow his dreams of getting away from it all and starting afresh.

Sh a ban a laughs that she's probably getting typecast as a teenager River City's Zara was one, as is Yasmeela and she's playing a schoolgirl in Ae Fond Kiss.

But she says there's no chance of her parents dad Abdul was born in the UK while mum Sham in a is from Pakistan arranging her marriage, as Yasmeela's dad tries to do in Glasgow Dreams.

She said: ''I'm lucky that my mum is not into forcing any of us to get married.

''There are six of us, aged from 30 down to 17, and only one is married. That's very unusual in Pakistani families.

''There are some similarities in Yasmeela's life and mine. Like her, I was allowed to go to college and have a career. I do have some ground rules about acting, especially not doing bedroom scenes I have to strike a balance between my family and my job. I'd love to be a Bond girl so I don't know how that would work.'' As Zara Malik, Sh a ban a was one of the original stars of River City when it was launched by BBC Scotland in 2002.

But the Malik family was written out of the soap with Zara sent to university in Aberdeen and Sh a ban a told her contract would end six months early. FANS of the show haven't seen her on screen for months, but other characters, such as her old boyfriend Shell suit Bob, still talk about her.

They're not the only ones fans keep stopping Sh a ban a in the street to ask when she's coming back.

She laughed: ''It's funny because they believe I am her. The other day I heard two girls talking about me in town and one of them said 'she's in River City, but she's away in Aberdeen just now'.

''My sister works at Brae head and she's constantly being asked when Zara's coming back. …