She could not have asked for a better launch of course – in Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat (1949) and with such a song as Jia Beqaraar Hai, sung by the then fresh-voiced Lata. And then for the rest of a not-so-very-long career, Nimmi had some big ticket heroes, some super hits and stardom.
But she was not a great actress like Meena Kumari, lacked oomph that was naturally Madhubala’s or screen presence like Nargis. She did not awe like Suraiya did. She was not a natural dancer unlike Sitara Devi who was then still in films. She was relatively plain looking and diminutive as well. I have always wondered as to how she managed climbing on and off the horse in the Aaj Mere Man Mein Sakhi song in Aan given her short stature. And yet Nimmi was a star – no doubt about it.
Her problem was that she was always typecast – she was blind (Buzdil – 1951 and the ghastly Pooja Ke Phool -1964 come to mind), or dumb (Akashdeep -1965) or she was the nice girl who loved silently and lost (Uran Khatola -1955, Aan- 1952) or even if she did win the hero, almost lost him due to plain stupidity and then finally after much struggle and boring the audience to death, gets him back in a manner that makes him plainly uncomfortable (Amar – 1954 – she literally flings herself at Dilip Kumar, gets raped by him, puts his fiancé Madhubala to enormous trouble and marries him in the end (at least I think so, because I fell asleep)). In fact if she starred in a movie you knew that there would be loads of silent suffering and probably death. In this she was usually paired against Dilip Kumar who later branched off cannily into comedies, beginning with Azad. Nimmi on the other hand remained wringing her hands and weeping.
But you got to be fond of her – there was something very vulnerable about Nimmi and a brooding miasma of impending doom – even if she was smiling you knew she would soon cry. Take Basant Bahaar (1956), where everything is going swimmingly well but you know that some mass kickings of bucket are around the corner. Sure enough, there it comes in the end, with old Leela Chitnis the blind mother of the hero Bharath Bhushan walking in calling his name even as he is croaking. Unlike Meena Kumari however, Nimmi suffered silently. Meena Kumari made tragedy a fine art, Nimmi kept it a level where you sympathised but wanted her to get on with it.
And she had some outstanding songs to act in. I am giving a select list below, there are loads more.
For the record, Nimmi died this morning at the age of 88. She deserves a star in Bollywood’s Walk of Fame, if there is one.
I always liked Nimmi, except in Aan, where she looks positively manic. In Uran Khatola she looked most beautiful. They should have let her have Dilip Kumar once in a while, it was very unfair, all that devotion unrewarded.
Felt good reading about Nimmi. She was always nice as the “nice-girl”. I cannot agree with you about Meena Kumari, though. Nimmi stands head and shoulders above Meena Kumari, anytime! 🙂
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