Illustration: Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration: Soham Sen | ThePrint
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The thing about Nanda is that she has been part of our collective cinema-watching, music-loving life even if we didn’t know it was her. If you hum Yeh Sama, Sama Hai Yeh Pyaar Ka, for example, you can picture her draped in creamy satin even if you don’t  know the name of the movie (it’s 1965’s Jab Jab Phool Khile) and that she was the lady in white.

Today, many might remember the movie’s leading man, Shashi Kapoor, more than the heroine. But truth be told, Nanda was the real star when these movies were made, and the men in question were rank newcomers whom she graciously agreed to work with. Shashi Kapoor, in fact, maintained that of all his co-stars, Nanda was his favourite. “Nanda, till date, remains my most favourite heroine. Do you know that the likes of (actor) Sridevi have blatantly imitated her Yeh Shama song sequence from Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) in their films? She was like a fairy in an awesome film industry that has no respect for genuine talent. Very few could match Nanda in her transparency and emotional abilities.”

On her sixth death anniversary, a look at the life and times of Nanda.

From Baby Nanda to bankable star

Nandini Karnataki was born into a show-business family at Maharashtra’s Kolhapur on 8 January in 1939. She was the eldest of seven children of actor and filmmaker Vinayak Damodar Karnataki, who died at the age of 41. Nanda was just eight years old. In a bid to support her family financially, she started acting in movies.

She began her career in Marathi cinema, where she became rather popular and was fondly called ‘Baby Nanda’. However, her first big break came in 1956, when renowned film producer-director V. Shantaram, who was also her uncle, cast her opposite Rajendra Kumar in his film Toofan Aur Diya, a 1956 film about a brother and sister who struggle to survive after the death of their parents.

Through the 50s, she played memorable supporting roles in movies by some of the biggest names, from Dev Anand’s Kala Bazar to Yash Chopra’s debut, Dhool Ka Phool. It was with Chhoti Bahen (1959) that she got her big break as a lead actor, after which she acted in many successful films, including Bhabhi (1957), Dulhan (1958), Kanoon (1960), Hum Dono (1962), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Teen Devian (1965), Ittefaq (1969) and The Train (1969). During this time, she became one of the highest-paid female actors in Hindi cinema, along with Nutan and Waheeda Rehman.

Close bond with Waheeda Rehman and death

To the world, they were rivals, but Waheeda Rehman and Nanda shared a close friendship that lasted for 55 years until the latter’s death. Rehman even referred to Nanda as her “soul sister” and described her as a thoughtful, caring and loyal friend.

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Waheeda once said that Nanda had planned a double wedding with her. In 1992, at the age of 53, Nanda, who had rejected suitors all her life, got engaged to filmmaker Manmohan Desai. However, the director died in 1994 before the wedding could take place and Nanda remained unmarried till her death in 2014. She died at the age of 75, following a heart attack at her home in Mumbai, leaving behind a heartbroken Waheeda Rehman and many other friends and colleagues, as well as her fans. Even today, if Gulaabi Aankhen starts playing on the radio, you can’t not think of that top-heavy bouffant, that tight purple churidar-kurta with white lace edging and those frenetic moves.

Also read: Shashi Kapoor in Junoon is a masterclass in how to humanise an unlikeable man


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2 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Nandini “Karnataki” aka Nanda. From the surname, it seems that her ancentry is traceable to Karnataka., perhaps northern part of Karnataka.


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