Nanda in Jab Jab Phool Khile, 1965
I had primed myself to write this morning about quantum gravity and quantized gravity mainly to illustrate my near total incomprehension. But gravity has been upended by the passing of Nanda, a beloved actor-star of Hindi cinema. Nanda passed away in Mumbai at the age 75 of a heart attack.
Since the prime of Nanda’s movie career coincided with my early and late teenage, quite like many other Hindi cinema actresses, my recollection of her brings a spontaneous smile. That is perhaps the best way to remember anyone, particularly a woman.
Born to virtual cinema royalty (Her father was the Marathi actor and director Master Vinayak and uncle, the filmmaker V. Shantaram) Nanda began her career as a child star but it was in Shantaram’s 1956 film ‘Toofan aur Diya” that she emerged as an adult actor . In a career spanning over 25 years Nanda was paired with the biggest male actors of her time. She worked with Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna among others.
Having grown up on the movie sets, Nanda had a natural ease with the camera. Her career came in the midst of the success of other huge names of Hindi cinema such as Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Mala Sinha, and Sadhna. She made quite a niche for herself within that starscape. My personal memory of Nanda is dominated by her 1965 film ‘Jab Jab Phool Khile’. Although I was 4 then, as it frequently happened in those days of poor access to entertainment, I saw the film much later in my early teens. Her song ‘Yeh sama’ (Click the link to the photo above because for some inexplicable reason I am unable to embed YouTube video on this damn blog any more) remains one of my all time favorites. Apart from the lovely composition by Kalyanji Anandji, I am pretty sure the sight of Nanda swaying in her satin white dress had something to do with why a teenager would remember this.
Notwithstanding the histrionic requirements of the era, which often meant overwrought and shrieky emotionalism, Nanda managed to hold her own. She was eminently watchable in ‘Hum Dono’, he 1961 film with Dev Anand. Check out this clip. Cue at 5.02 onward as Anand, playing a flamboyant army major who comes home and wants to spend a few moments of intimacy with her before he gets deployed.
She clearly had a lot to offer when she decided to withdraw in 1994 after the death of the well-known filmmaker Manmohan Desai, with whom she was engaged. It is only in death that the self-absorbed fraternity of movie stars discover body of work of others. That is happening now. Here is to Nanda.