Nanda, best remembered for her performances in scores of films — Ittefaq, Joroo Ka Ghulam, Neend Hamare Khwab Tumhare, Kanoon and Gumnaam, to name a few, passed away after a massive heart attack on March 25, at the age of 75. The actress who lived in Mumbai’s suburb, Versova with her family led a low key life after her retirement from the industry in 1982. That year, she had worked in three films —Ahista Ahista, Mazdoor and Prem Rog. Mala Sinha, who worked with the actress in B. R Chopra’s Dhool Ka Phool, calls her a very emotional person who was always ready to help those in need. Close friend Asha Parekh refers to her as a person without a mean bone in her body, very content, with no grudges in life and no bitterness.
The actress who was at the peak of her career in the ’60s was known to encourage newcomers. Manoj Kumar was one such newcomer whom she worked with in Bedaag, when she was a name to reckon with in the industry. He recalls how nervous he was during Bedaag, but she made him feel at home and her encouragement helped make his journey easier! They also worked together in Gumnaam and she later did a cameo in his home production Shor. Shashi Kapoor was another actor with whom she signed several films when he was yet to become successful in Hindi cinema. Jab Jab Phool Khile, starring both of them, was one of the biggest hits of its time.
Nanda’s journey in the world of cinema began when she started working as a child artiste in Mandir as Baby Nanda. Daughter of Vinayak Damodar Karnataki, a Maharashtrian actor-producer-director (Master Vinayak), she lost her father when she was very young. Nanda’s paternal uncle, renowned film-maker V. Shantaram gave her a big break, when he cast her in the brother-sister saga Toofan Aur Diya (1956). Films like Bhabhi, Kala Bazar, Dhool Ka Phool and Chhoti Bahen that became huge commercial successes, jettisoned her into the league of big stars.
The actress who had a long inning in the industry, continued working in the’70s, doing films with Rajesh Khanna, like the songless suspense thriller Ittefaq,The Train and Joroo Ka Ghulam. She also worked with Jeetendra in Parivar and Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke and with Sanjay Khan in Beti and Abhilasha. The late film-maker B.R. Chopra had called her a very spontaneous actress when he spoke about the making of Dhool Ka Phool in an interview some years back.
Yesteryear actress Mala Sinha who had worked with Nanda in Dhool Ka Phool remembers the late actress
I learnt about Nanda’s demise at about 1.30 pm in the afternoon and I was shocked. I am a bit upset because I could not make it in time to pay my last respects. When I reached her house, her body had already been taken away for cremation. I consoled myself that she had a peaceful death. The last time I had met Nanda was a few years back when she had come over to my place for a new year party, where we had invited Ghulam Ali to sing and we had a great time together. But after her fiance Manmohan Desai passed away, Nanda became a recluse and we spoke mostly over the phone.
Prior to the tragedy, we would meet regularly. She, Waheeda Rehman, Shakeela, Zabeen and Jaleen I were a close group and would often go for picnics, meet at each others place and chat and have fun over lunches and parties. We all loved the delicious kebabs Waheeda would make. I remember going to Nanda’s place when she celebrated her birthday and clubbed it with her housewarming party many years ago. During our time, heroines became good friends. The competition was healthy and we would appreciate each others work. If I remember correctly, Waheeda and Nanda did not work in any films together, but were very good friends.
Nanda was like my choti behen, a younger sister. We had done two films together, Dhool Ka Phool and another unreleased film that had Parikshit Sahani as the male lead. Nanda was a natural actress and would easily get under the skin of her character. She did not need glycerine to do an emotional scene as her tears would flow naturally.
What still rings in my ears is Nanda’s infectious laughter, that was like the soothing tinkle of a wind chime. She would burst into laughter at the minutest of things and was very good at mimicry. There were times when all of us would meet and have a great time watching Nanda imitate her co-stars. She was also very philanthropic and would be the first one to come forward and help any one going through a rough patch. – As told to Geety Sehgal