A recent picture of Nimmi, With husband and writer S Ali Raza (on top) and with Kishore Kumar in Bhai Bhai (bottom)
She later did Mehboob Khan’s Amar (1954) where she played a milkmaid raped by a lawyer (Dilip Kumar). Narrating an incident regarding Meena Kumari who was initially to be part of Amar. She says,“One day at Central Studio, I found Meena Kumari sitting on a bench crying. ‘I wanted to do this film’,” she said. “Meenaji was slated to play Madhubala’s role in Amar but her dates were clashing with Kamal Amrohi saab’s film.” Years later, Nimmi did Char Dil Char Rahen (1959) with the actress. Though she says, “Sabse zyada dosti Nargis se thi,” Nimmi shared a warm equation with others too. “There was a rule that no one could sit on Madhubala’s chair. But one day, during the shoot of Amar, I happened to sit on it. My maid nudged me saying, “She’s come, get up!” On seeing me, Madhubala said, ‘Sit’. We grew friendly. Her skin was velvety. She had a long Iranian nose. She was tall and had beautiful hands and feet. Her eyes were ordinary but her smile was extraordinary. Lipstick suited her,” she says of the actress.
The Dilip Kumar saga
Like others, Nimmi too was awed by thespian Dilip Kumar’s acting skills. “He internalised a scene. That’s why his shot looked natural. He had scholarly knowledge on all subjects. He could express things beautifully. He’s a miracle of nature.” The duo did five films together in the ’50s, Aan, Amar, Deedar, Daag and Uran Khatola. While their ill-fated love on screen wowed audiences, off-screen too there were rumours linking them up. She explains the ‘attractiveness of his personality’, “God has blessed Dilip saab with a maqnatis (magnet). Everyone got pulled towards him. In fact, one maharani was willing to leave her all to be with him. I will not deny that I was also pulled towards him. Mujhe bhi woh bahut pasand the. Unke aashiq hum bhi the. I was his fan too,” she gushes. “Beautiful women – like Madhubala and others were in love with him. How could I ever be at par with them? I’d have been left heartbroken had I desired something unattainable. I stayed away from any such thought.”
She elaborates, “Once we were shooting a scene for Aan where I, seated on a horse, had to throw a sword to Dilip saab. The tip of the sword hurt him. I was apologetic. But in his poetic style he said, ‘Hum sochenge zindagi mein ek chot aur khayee (I’ll consider it as yet another wound in life)’. On hearing this any girl would have been floored. That night I too kept thinking about it. I’m not an angel, I’m human after all. But I collected myself thinking ‘how can he ever like me. I’m so ordinary’.” Her realistic stance, she insists, is the reason that she enjoys a ‘beautiful friendship with Saira Banu and him’ today.
Career wise, an ambitious Nimmi produced the film Danka (1954). Kundan (1955) with Sunil Dutt, gave her a double role as a mother and daughter. But in the ’60s, a few wrong choices harmed her career. She rejected films like BR Chopra’s Sadhna and Raj Khosla’s Woh Kaun Thi? both of which did wonders for Vyjayanthimala and Sadhana respectively. “Mujh pe shaadi ka bhoot sawaar tha. I refused films in the hope of getting married. I even refused Saraswati Chandra though my costumes were ready,” confides the actor who was in love with writer S Ali Raza who had written the dialogue for her Barsaat, Aan and Amar. “Raza saab wanted to become a filmmaker. He wanted to prove himself before marrying me.” She was also offered the lead in Mere Mehboob but she opted for the sister’s role believing it to be more important. With actors like Sadhana, Nanda, Asha Parekh, Saira Banu and Mala Sinha making headway, Nimmi opted for offbeat roles such as that of the blind girl in Pooja Ke Phool (1964) and Ashok Kumar’s mute wife in Akashdeep (1965), which was technically her last film.
One film that remains significant in her career, albeit for other reasons, is K Asif’s Love And God (1986). It took 26 years to complete. “Love And God was first shot in black and white with Bharat Bhushan. But later, Mughal-E-Azam took precedence. It was then restarted with Guru Dutt. For seven years it remained in the cans. Then Guru Dutt passed away. So Asif saab took Sanjeev Kumar. But then Asif saab passed away. Later it was edited heavily. The final print seemed a cut paste job,” she laments.
MARRIAGE and more
She gives a realistic perspective on her marriage. “No husband performs aarti of his wife – whether you are Queen Elizabeth or a star. You have to nibhao. Khushi and ranjh is part of life. It’s not that I never felt sad. I missed work. Reza saab used to write during the day and in the evening he’d enjoy his drinks with his friends. Main bewakoof ne kaam chodh diya tha. But I enjoyed looking after my bungalow in Worli.” She never stopped dreaming though. “I wanted to launch my production house.
I wanted Raza saab to be a director like Kamal saab.
I was ambitious, he was the opposite. But with time I resigned. I didn’t want trouble in my marriage.” Later, the couple shifted to an apartment in Juhu. “Here, he was diagnosed with blocked arteries. Raza saab passed away in 2007.” The couple didn’t have children. But she’s been mother to her sister’s son. “My younger sister passed away young. Her last wish was that I bring up her son. So I brought Parvez here from Pakistan,” shares Nimmi whose Barsaat was to release then. “He lives in the UK with his family now,” says Nimmi revealing the most laudable role of her life.