THE acting career of one of the most famous stars of Still Game is about to take off – just as the sitcom finishes for good.

The identity of Shamshad Akhtar, who plays Meena, was finally revealed in the final episode aired last night.

Meena has been the long-suffering wife of Navid throughout nine series – but her face has never been shown on screen.

After years of only being recognised by her voice, the 70-year-old is now preparing to become an overnight star.

Shamshad, a proud mother and grandmother, said taking part in the show gave her a new lease of life after escaping an abusive marriage.

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Having moved to Glasgow from Pakistan at the age of 14 as a new bride, Shamshad was subjected to a life of isolation and violence. It wasn’t until she believed her life was in danger that she fled her husband – 15 years her senior – in 1997.

Shamshad taught herself English by watching children’s television programmes and looking words up in the dictionary. After leaving her husband, she became an active member of the community through volunteering and raising money for several charities.

The pensioner says she has donated all of her earnings from the show to charity and hopes to use her newfound fame to raise money for Down Syndrome organisations.

A chance to star in the TV series Overnight Express helped the devoted mum rediscover the love of acting she had enjoyed as a child and eventually led to the part in Still Game.

In the years since, Shamshad has become an invaluable member of the cast by looking after her co-stars’ kids during filming and bringing in enough food to feed an army.

“I love to see everyone,” she explains. “I’ve already asked permission to get everyone’s phone numbers so I can visit them and bring them food.

“I’ll visit Jack one week and Victor the next.

“I have a great relationship with Sanjeev, he’s a wonderful boy. A very jolly boy and respectable.”

The idea of keeping Meena faceless was said to be inspired by American comedy series, Cheers.

Shamshad was told of the unusual request on her first day of filming but says it didn’t change her attitude towards being involved.

“They said on day one, we will show your face in the end of the series.

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“It never frustrated me because I enjoy delivering the lines and behind the camera, we’re a family.

“The crew are marvellous friends, better than your own family. It is meditation to me. I took a wee mini-stroke because of the six year gap. It’s all Jack and Victor’s fault.”

Speaking of her early experiences of coming to Glasgow, Shamshad says she suffered a nervous breakdown after been confined to a single room by her husband.

“I would be able to use the bathroom and kitchen when he came home from work on a break”, she explains.

“No radio, no TV, nothing. From the day I was born I heard the radio all the time. When I came here, nothing.

“It makes you crazy.”

Throughout the years of unhappiness, Shamshad gave birth to five children who she credits for keeping her spirits up. Sadly two died at a very young age but the experiences proved to be a driving force behind her career.

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She adds: “I feel like a brand new woman – it’s Meena in the game now. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be telling everyone everything. Why shouldn’t I?

“I want to give women a voice.

“People call me Meena now, no one will call me my name. In the first couple of series a few ladies were asking if I was ashamed to use the swear words, but I said, everyone is using these words – I’m just using them properly.

“They know that I’m always myself. I couldn’t be jolly in front of my ex-husband because he didn’t like it and now his bum is burning.

“I am much stronger. Why should I lie? I’m giving life to other women who should be out like me.”