By Subhash K Jha
BOLLYWOOD: “That’s no way to go,” sobs Asha Parekh, reacting to the death of yesteryears’ screen queen Nanda who passed away on Tuesday after a massive heart attack at the age of 75.
Known to be an incurable recluse Nanda spent the last two decades completely away from the limelight.
“The only time I’d see her was when she would show up at Salim Khan’s private screenings with her gal pals Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Helen and Sadhana. She was so beautiful,and so serene till the end,” says Mrs Punam (Shatrughan) Sinha on hearing of her demise.
Born in 1939 she was the daughter of the popular Maharashtrian actor Master Vinayak. She has one brother Jaiprakash Karnataki who is married to the actress-dancer Jayshree T.
Nanda began acting when she was a child.
As Baby Nanda she was a natural-born scene stealer. She graduated to adult roles with V Shantaram’s Toofan Aur Diya in 1956. But it was L V Prasad’s Choti Bahen in 1959 where she played the title role, that turned her into an overnight star. Tragically it also typecast her as the eternally weepy home-maker , the all-sacrificing daughter,wife and mother.
Nanda tried hard to shake off the image with ultra-glamorous roles in Jab Jab Phool Khile,Ittefaq and Naya Nasha. But the image of the grieving diva who was cruelly labeled the Poor Man’s Meena Kumari, remained with Nanda till the end.
Nanda’s friends were a few. No one knows how she lived or what she did with her free time. Her last screen appearance was opposite Dilip Kumar as his wife in B R Chopra’s Mazdoor in 1982 and as Padmini Kolhapure’s mother in Prem Rog in 1983.
In 1992 Nanda discovered belated love when she fell in love with filmmaker Manmohan Desai. However her joy was short-lived. Desai died a sudden and shocking death when he plunged to his death from the terrace of his home. No one knew what happened. Not even Nanda.
Close friends say she was shattered and stricken by a guilt that perhaps the pressure of commitment was too much to bear for Desai. After his death she became double reclusive.
With Nanda’s death, the aura of tragic grace that she wore like a sophisticated perfume would linger on.