Veteran Hindi film actor Nimmi passes away

Published : March 26, 2020 18:13 IST

Nimmi with Rajendra Kumar in producer-director H.S. Rawail’s Mere Mehboob. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

The veteran actor Nimmi is no more. Nimmi, who bewitched the cinegoers with the popular song “Jiya beqaraar hai” in Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat, passed away after a prolonged illness at a private nursing home in Mumbai on March 25. She was 87.

Born in Agra in 1933, like other actors of the era, Nimmi entered the film industry as a teenager. Born to small-time actor Wahidan and a military contractor father, Nimmi lost her mother before she turned 11. Soon she was packed off to her grandparents’ place in Abbotabad. Her family belonged to the landed gentry. She was thus named Nawab Bano. A few years later she was sent to her aunt’s place in Bombay (now Mumbai). Both her mother and aunt had done small roles in films of the ace director Mehboob Khan. One day, her aunt took her to the sets of Mehboob Khan’s Andaaz where Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Nargis were shooting. The maverick Kapoor’s eyes fell on Nimmi, who, however, was too tongue tied to even introduce herself. He had already announced his next film Barsaat with Nargis. Nimmi was roped in as the second lead opposite Prem Nath. It was Nimmi, however, who got to dance to the epochal “Jiya beqaraar hai” number as also the equally popular “Barsaat mein tumse mile hum”. Amazingly, she got the song “Hawa mein udta jaye mera lal dupatta malmal ka” too. That she was dancing about a red stole in the era of black and white movies did not dim her charm a wee bit.

Nimmi became a top actor of the decade of the 1950s and much of the 1960s. At a time when the triumvirate of Raj Kapoor-Dilip Kumar-Dev Anand was ruling the roost, she got to work with each one of them, going to form a particularly well-received pair with Dilip Kumar with films like Aan, Deedar, Daag and Uran Khatola. Incidentally, Aan had the distinction of being the first Hindi film to have a global release. At the film’s international premier in London, the best of Hollywood directors could not have enough of Nimmi. Offers poured in for her, but Nimmi declined, refusing to do any skin show or intimate scenes deemed necessary for Hollywood cinema. She was dubbed the No-Kiss girl of India. Incidentally, Raj Kapoor had to ask her to tie a rakhi on his wrist for her to be comfortable with him on film sets. He was the one who rechristened Nawab Bano as Nimmi. As for Nimmi herself, she acted with Dilip Kumar in Mehboob Khan’s next film, Amar, which was a film ahead of its times as it dealt with the subject of rape. She was appreciated for her powerful performance.

Nimmi worked with top directors such as Sohrab Modi, Vijay Bhatt, K.A. Abbas and Chetan Anand. She also produced a film, Danka.

With her pleasant face that lent itself to the role of a village belle and that of a city slicker too, she carved a niche for herself, going on to work with Ashok Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Dharmendra and Sanjeev Kumar, the last one being in the 1980s in Love and God, a film that director K. Asif had announced during the making of Mughal-e-Azam. He, however, died before the film could be completed. Guru Dutt was the hero and on his death Sanjeev Kumar replaced him. Asif’s wife released the patched-up film in 1986, more than 26 years after Asif announced it, and 23 years after production started in 1963.

Nimmi married the noted film writer Ali Raza in 1965 and retreated from cinema. Raza passed away in 2007.

On her death, the noted actor Saira Banu, wife of Dilip Kumar, tweeted on her husband’s behalf, “Nimmi ji was my elder. She had always maintained close contacts with Sahab (Dilip Kumar) and I through her beautiful, loving hand-written letters in Urdu.” Rishi Kapoor called her a “part of the RK family”.