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Last Updated 24.08.2019 | 8:13 PM IST
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25 Facts that made Nanda unique

The legendary actress Nanda, who passed away on March 25 2014 of a heart attack at the age of 75, was low-profile but no less iconic in stature for that. All the big heroes who started out in the ’60s swear by her, for she willingly gave them breaks when she was already a top star who had worked with Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar.

Here are 25 facts that not many know about the actress.

  • Nanda was born to the famous Marathi and Hindi actor-filmmaker Master Vinayak, real name Vinayak Damodar Karnataki (the maternal cousin of the legendary V. Shantaram) and his wife, actress Meenakshi, grandmother to Shilpa and Namrata Shirodkar through an earlier marriage.


  • Master Vinayak died in 1947, just four days after Independence, and Nanda took to professional acting as child artiste Baby Nanda with Jaggu (1952) to support her family. However, before that, she had acted as Lata Mangeshkar’s younger brother in the Marathi film Mandir (1948), the last movie directed by her father. She educated herself with a private coach at home.


  • Lata Mangeshkar was introduced as both child actor and singer by Master Vinayak in Pahili Mangalagaur, the 1942 Marathi film. Later, Lata was to be the adult Nanda’s most frequent playback voice, including in her cult songs like ‘Allah Tero Naam‘ (Hum Dono), ‘Yeh Samaa (Jab Jab Phool Khile) and ‘Ek Pyar Ka Naghma Hai‘ (Shor). She was also her main singer in Joru Ka Gulam and Naya Nasha, both produced by Nanda’s relative C.V.K. Sastry, and in that sense Nanda’s home productions.


  • Nanda never married, but managed to educate and settle six siblings. This included well-known director Jaiprakash Karnataki, whose wife is Jayshree Talpade, known as Jayshree T. However, brother and sister never did a film together. Jayshree T. did feature in two films of Nanda – Rootha Na Karo and Joru Ka Gulam.


  • Nanda’s co-star Shashi Kapoor remembered a Maharashtrian army officer proposing to her when they were shooting in Kashmir for Jab Jab Phool Khile. But he too was gently turned down along with all other proposals, including those brought by relatives.


  • Shashi Kapoor was her co-star in eight films, including his debut movie Char Diwari (1961). Their major hit together was Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) and they were known as one of the cutest on-screen pairs of the ’60s. Nanda also said that he was her favourite co-star.


  • When Nanda began shooting (in the against-her-image role of a mistress) for Ahista Ahista (1981), Shashi’s wife Jennifer told her son, Kunal Kapoor, whose first film it was, to touch her feet. “She is the lady who launched your father’s career!” Jennifer told him.


  • It was Shashi Kapoor, when shooting for their last film together, Rootha Na Karo, who introduced her to whizkid filmmaker Manmohan Desai, who was shooting Saccha Jhutha on a neighboring set. Shashi knew that the filmmaker was her crazy fan, but was too shy to approach her for a film!


  • When they again met decades later, the filmmaker confessed that he had gone back to his sets then and danced away “like a madman!’ The two fell in love and, encouraged by Waheeda Rehman, announced their engagement, as by that time Desai had lost his wife Jeevanprabha. However, a few months later, he tragically passed away.


  • Had they married, Nanda would have later even become related by marriage to Shammi Kapoor, as Manmohan’s son Ketan married Shammi Kapoor’s daughter Kanchan! Shammi was the only top star Nanda never worked with in her prime, as she was scared of his wild ways.


  • However, they did come together as character artistes in Prem Rog and also co-starred in Ahista Ahista. Nanda recalls admitting to him then the reason for turning down some of his films, and Shammi wryly asked her, “Why were you scared of me? Would I have gobbled you up?”


  • Prem Rog was Nanda’s comeback after several years of hibernation. Raj Kapoor approached her at Nanda’s friend Waheeda Rehman’s party and Nanda told him that she would do the role only if she liked it. Raj Kapoor was flabbergasted that anyone could dare ask him for the story and said so. However, the next day, he sent his writer Jainendra Jain to her for a narration!


  • Nanda had co-starred with Raj Kapoor in Aashiq (1960), with Dev Anand in Hum Dono (1961) and Teen Devian (1965) after being his sister in Kala Bazaar. But she could not complete starring with the original Big Three of Hindi cinema till her last film Mazdoor (1983), in which she finally got to be Dilip Kumar’s leading lady. In their prime, Dilip felt that she would look like “Baby Nanda” (her famous name as a child star) in front of him!


  • A unique and unparalleled achievement of the actress (who showed her range from de-glam suffering woman to rich and glamorous brat in her roles) was that apart from these big three, she worked with every other Dadasaheb Phalke laureate relevant to her times, like her ‘voices’ Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, and filmmakers V. Shantaram, B.R. Chopra, Yash Chopra, L.V. Prasad, Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Aashiq) and Nitin Bose (Nartaki and Umeed). She also enacted songs written by Majrooh Sultanpuri in many films. This record is unmatched by any actor.


  • Nanda’s early films as a child star included V. Shantaram’s famous Toofan Aur Diya and the cult Satyen Bose classic Jagriti. She was 18 when she did the hit L.V. Prasad film Bhabhi as the young sister of the hero.


  • Her passport to fame, besides the title-role in Chhoti Behen, was Yash Chopra’s debut film Dhool Ka Phool (both 1959 releases) followed by the hit Kanoon (1960) and Hum Dono (1961). Rajendra Kumar was her leading man in Dhool… and Kanoon and they proved mutually lucky for each other.


  • It is interesting to not that the daring B.R. Chopra directed India’s first hit ‘song-less’ film Kanoon in 1960 and the second one at the end of the same decade in Ittefaq (1969) that was directed by Yash Chopra. Both these suspense thrillers-cum-courtroom dramas, besides background music director Salil Chowdhury, had only Nanda in common among the main credits.


  • In the latter film, rehashed messily by Ram Gopal Varma as Kaun? in 1999, Nanda essayed her only bold and negative role.


  • Rajendra Kumar later turned (unofficial) producer with The Train (1970) and signed Nanda opposite Rajesh Khanna. Nanda then recommended the young actor for Ittefaq, a quickie shot within 30 days and released within three months.


  • The Train‘s first and last schedules (a few months apart) were held at the same location near Nanda’s famous bungalow in Bandra (in which she lived till some years back when she shifted to an apartment in Versova). At the time of the first schedule, people had wanted to know who her co-star was. But later, the road was packed with a public wanting to get a glimpse of the new superstar, as Aradhana, Do Raaste and Ittefaq had released by then! Later, he was also cast in Joru Ka Gulam.


  • Nanda willingly signed films with other new heroes too and gave them many a hit, helping to catapult them to star status. Besides Shashi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna, the comprehensive list, with the hits mentioned in brackets, includes Manoj Kumar (Gumnaam), Dharmendra (Akash Deep, Mera Qusoor Kya Hai), Biswajeet, Joy Mukerji, Sanjeev Kumar, Jeetendra (Parivar, Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke, Badi Didi), Sanjay Khan (Abhilasha, Beti) and early ’70s aspirants that included Navin Nischol, Vinod Mehra. Deb Mukerji and Parikshat Sahni.


  • Nanda was also lucky for several filmmakers, like Yash Chopra and Harmesh Malhotra (Beti), who started out with her, and she was a part of the first truly successful film of director Suraj Prakash, lyricist Anand Bakshi and composers Kalyanji-Anandji (Jab Jab Phool Khile) and with filmmaker Ramesh Behl and composer R.D. Burman in their breakthrough film, The Train.


  • Till the end, Nanda led an active life, catching up with latest films and music. She admired Kajol, Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, and would be often seen with intimate showbiz friends like Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Helen, Shammi, Sadhana and others at screenings of new films, like those held by Salman Khan‘s father Salim Khan at a Mumbai preview theatre. This is where Dev Anand organized a screening of the colorized Hum Dono for her.


  • Though she admitted that it was destiny that prevented her from getting her due as an actress (“Many of my best performances were in films that did not do too well”), she also referred to her father’s dictum. “He would never believe that your destiny was written on your forehead. He would say, ‘When people say this, they can’t look above that!'” she said.


  • Ek Pyar Ka Naghma Hai‘ was the immortal song filmed on her in her only special appearance, as Manoj’s wife in his own film Shor (1972), a cameo turned down by Sharmila Tagore. Manoj was reluctant to accept his wife Shashi’s suggestion of casting Nanda, but his wife called her up. Nanda heard the role and agreed only on one condition: that she would not be paid a paisa for it. Says Manoj, “To date, I regret not repaying this debt to her, though she stole the show!” A picture from one of her past unreleased films was used as her framed photograph in the film, as her character has passed away and was shown only in flashback!

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