Nanda Karnataki known mononymously as Nanda was the good little
girl of Hindi films - she was the Snow White who blushed rose
red at the slightest hint of any flirtation by the hero, writes
Blessed with a face
innocent of any malice or calculation, Nanda is remembered even
today, as much for being Baby Nanda or the chhoti bahen (younger
sister) of her earlier films as for her successful career as the
soft-spoken heroine of some 40 films thereafter.
Not that Nanda
didn’t try to shatter her image. In Aashiq, she played a
manipulative wife while in Yash Chopra’s Ittefaq, she was the
In The Train she
effectively donned the glamour doll mantle, too.
But Nanda’s appeal
is predominantly that of a winsome, if rather teary-eyed,
Nanda has lived a life marked by tragedy.
Her father, Master
Vinayak, passed away when she was only eight years old.
He was a successful
actor-director in the 1930s and 1940s. After his death, the
family fortunes took a dip.
contributed to the family by working as a child artiste in early
fifties’ films like Jaggu and Angaarey.
Her popularity as a
child actress made her transition to major roles easier, and she
literally grew up on film sets.
Late veteran actress Nanda Karnataki known mononymously
as Nanda at a party in Kenya, 1970.
But it was paternal
uncle-filmmaker V Shantaram who gave Baby Nanda a big break by
casting her in his successful brother-sister saga, the 1956 hit,
Toofan Aur Diya.
But success did not
come Nanda’s way immediately.
She bravely refused
to give in to the temptation of a regular income which would
come with being shackled by a long-term contract to a big
Instead, she played
sister to stars like Raaj Kumar (Dulhan) or Dev Anand (Kaala
Bazaar) and doing small roles in big films like Dhool Ka Phool.
Nanda’s ability to
arouse the audience’s protective instincts was pronounced even
then - most noticeably in two weepies: Bhabhi (1957) and Chhoti
The title role of L
V Prasad’s Chhoti Bahen and its super hit rakhsha bandhan song
Bhaiya mere rakhee ke bandhan ko nibhana made Nanda a true blue
Nanda with Waheeda Rehman, Helen, and Sadhana in 2010.
The audiences wept
copiously along with Nanda, as they followed the tear-soaked arc
of her many travails (rejection from a beloved brother, a
tart-tongued sister-in-law, blindness et al), in the film.
Nanda made the
quantum leap from playing Dev Anand’s sister in Kaala Bazaar
(1960) to playing his heroine in Hum Dono (1961).
From playing the
second lead in B R Chopra’s production Dhool Ka Phool (1959),
she was the heroine of his next release, Kanoon (1960).
Hum Dono was a
triumph for Nanda. She eloquently brought to life the dilemma of
a wife confused by her husband’s (Dev Anand) remoteness, unaware
that she is living with his double.
Even while she was
playing opposite A-listers like Dev Anand in Hum Dono and Raj
Kapoor in Aashiq, Nanda sportingly agreed to star in films
opposite newcomers like Dharmendra (Mera Kasoor Kya Hai) and
Manoj Kumar (Bedaag).
Nanda adopted this
strategy throughout her career.
Nanda with Shashi Kapoor in the 1965 hit, Jab Jab Phool
Her willingness to
sign on a string of films with one unproven newcomer - Shashi
Kapoor - proved especially fortuitous.
Their first film
together Chaar Deewari (1961) didn’t do well, but the star pair
continued signing films till they hit the jackpot with Jab Jab
Phool Khile (1965).
Jab Jab Phool Khile added a glamorous dimension to Nanda’s
image, which had hitherto been that of a lachrymose girl in the
junior Meena Kumari mould.
Think of Nanda’s
role as the morose, wheelchair-bound heroine of Aaj Aur Kal
Or even the Dev
Anand starrer Teen Deviyan, where Nanda seemed the obvious
choice as the most diffident and home-loving of the three
heroines (the other two being Kalpana and Simi).
In Jab Jab Phool
Khile, Nanda was equally convincing, whether as the Westernised
memsaab who sways in a gown to Yeh sama sama hai yeh pyar ka or
the distraught girlfriend who finds it difficult to sympathise
with her shikarawala lover’s culture shock.
Nanda and Balraj Sahni in Chhoti Bahen.
The film, which
inspired Raja Hindustani 30 years later, was an unqualified
between Nanda’s earlier homely image and the demands of a more
glamorous era in the late sixties saw her career being caught in
Roles in hit films
like Gumnaam (1965) didn’t really make much demand on Nanda’s
indubitable histrionic prowess.
She had often been
compared to her senior, the legendary Meena Kumari.
The two finally came
together in Abhilasha (1968) but the film didn’t prove
In 1969, Nanda gave
an enigmatic, finely-nuanced performance in Yash Chopra’s
songless whodunit, Ittefaq.
image played its part in making the film a success - Nanda was
probably the last person the audience thought would turn out the
Films with new
superstar Rajesh Khanna (The Train, Joru Ka Ghulam) followed but
the actress couldn’t adjust to the new working atmosphere of the
After a touching
cameo in Manoj Kumar’s Shor (1972), Nanda gradually retreated
from the film industry.
She surprised many
people, including herself, when she returned in the early
eighties to do precisely three films - coincidentally all three
Padmini Kolhapure starrers.
maturity was clearly evident as the aging Devdasi in Ahista
Ahista, as Dilip Kumar’s wife in Mazdoor and as the hapless
mother in Raj Kapoor’s Prem Rog.
Sadly, she chose to
retreat into the shadows thereafter.
Nanda was nominated
for Filmfare Award five times for her performance in Bhabhi
(1957), Aanchal (1960), Ittefaq (1969), Ahista Ahista (1981) and
Prem Rog (1982).
She won Filmfare
Best Supporting Actress Award for Aanchal.
Waheeda Rehman, who
had been friends with her ever since they co-starred in Kaala
Bazaar, pestered her to get married.
In 1992, Nanda
finally said yes to noted director Manmohan Desai.
subsequent death made Nanda retreat further into her shell.
She passed away on
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 following a massive heart attack. She
Waheeda Rehman remembers Nanda, her friend of 55 years...
We had been friends
for 55 years, ever since we worked together in Vijay Anand’s
Girl friends tend to
drift away after marriage due to certain responsibilities but
Nanda and I remained close friends even after I got married.
We were part of a
close-knit group that included Asha Parekh, Helen, Sadhna and
Jabeen and Shakila who settled abroad after they got married.
Nanda and I were
very different individuals, quite the study in contrasts.
But we were very
Or maybe we were
close friends because we were so different. I’ve remained
somewhat active in the public sphere with various things,
including the occasional film.
She gave it all up a
long time ago. She never looked back at that life again. It
hurts to talk about her in the past tense.
She was an extremely
sensitive person, very thoughtful and caring. And she was a very
She rarely stepped
out of the house but she’d regularly visit me and my husband in
Although very shy in
male company except her brothers, she was very comfortable with
my husband. We went on picnics together in and around Bangalore.
Both Nanda and I were fond of cooking.
Whenever she visited
me she’d be in the kitchen cooking up a fun meal and asking me
to cook up something. She was like my soul-sister.
People wonder how
two heroines could be so friendly. But there was not an iota of
professional insecurity between us.
Both of us believed
in destiny and that whatever work was meant to come our way
We were both very
secure about our careers. And we were both firm believers in God
There were many
instances in the past when producers who first came to me with
roles went to Nanda eventually because we couldn’t agree on
Nanda and I never
discussed work. Our work never came in the way of our
friendship. We were both down-to-earth and very Indian.
Both of us attempted
glamorous roles but soon realised that it’s better to play
characters that were close to our personalities.
Nanda was as sweet
and innocent in person as she was on the screen. She was very
introverted and a loner.
She was nervous of
crowds. I am a little more outgoing. But, like I said, we were
like-minded people. We shared the same values. She went away so
STORY COURTESY OF: