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REMEMBERING NARGIS
Vinod Anand | 10 Aug 2013

REMEMBERING NARGIS (Vinod Anand) The film industry has undergone massive changes during the last few decades. We have been watching with dismay how technique has overtaken talent. The stress now is on action, colorful scenes with kissing and hugging being a normal part of a film. The form has become really very, very beautiful, attractive and colorful. But what about the content? We have beauties. But do we have actresses too? Through the darkness of color and technique, a bright, talented face — seems to peep out as if to say that all is not lost yet- if you wake up. Can you recall that face singing Jago Mohan pyaare, navyug choome nain tihare, jago. . . That was Nargis. Why does her image linger on and on in the minds of those who saw her movies in the fast century and were carried away by the grandeur of her simplicity? You will get an answer when you see her movies. On May 3 fell her death anniversary and the electronic media flashed her songs, reviving those golden memories of an actress who has had very few parallels to match her grace, charm and talent. The vacuum left behind by her or by Meena Kumari, Nutan and others cannot easily be filled up. ‘Jogan’ and ‘Mother India’, among other films, are like the jewels in the crown of her histrionic marvels. Those unforgettable romantic scenes with Raj Kapoor, the tense encounters with tragedy king Dilip Kumar and of course the carefree acting with others including Asbok Kumar, Motilal, Devanand, Pradeep Kumar and Balraj Sahni leave no room for doubt about her ability to glide through every movie like a queen of hearts. And Sunil Dutt? Well, she chose him as her life partner. Could there be greater proof of her appropriate choice? Born of a Mohyal Brahmin father, Mohan Babu, she went into another Mohyal family of Dutts. No family wedding could have been better arranged than this. You couldn’t be knowing how dedicated Nargis was as a star. She would like to thoroughly study the character that she was to enact on the screen. On her death anniversary (May 3), while remembering her with a sense of deep gratitude for all the grand work that she did both on and off the screen, I cannot help recalling an incident that she narrated herself. Nargis recalled in a Radio interview that K.A. Abbas was making an unusual film titled, ‘Anhonee’ in which she was to play a double role –of a good girl and of a bad girl. The bad girl was a harlot who sang on the Kothas to entertain her clients. And the good girl was a nice family lass--decent, tradition-bound to the core. When K.A.Abbas was asked about this film he said that in Awara’ he had shown that it is not birth but environment that shapes the destiny of a man. And he had shown how Raju, son of a judge, was enticed by Jagga Daku who turns him into a criminal too, Abbas said in ‘Anhonee’, which he was producing himself, he reversed the roles. Anhonee, he said, was a tale of two sisters, born to the same man through two different women, one his legitimate wife and the other a prostitute. But they look alike. However, the prostitute, in a fit of anger, exchanges her baby with the baby born to the legitimate wife. Abbas wished to show that here again environment played a key role, the child brought up by the prostitute turning into a slut and the baby of the harlot brought up in the healthy, happy, affluent environment of the father, turning into a decent, homely and highly cultured girl. Nargis was playing double role. But she wanted to observe keenly how a singing girl behaves. So she persuaded her brother Anwar Hussain to take her to a Kotha. Nargis disguised herself as a boy and reached the ‘Kotha’ with her brother. She minutely observed how the dancing girl was reacting to the Wah Wahs of her admirers who were showering notes on her. She specially observed their style of speaking and also the way they ate ‘paan’ and offered them to others. Nargis said, ‘In order to fit into the role I had to do so. I may say that Nargis acted very well in both the roles. The way she smoked was also something startling. But she had seen the harlots do so too. The film had some enchanting songs. Raj Kapoor was the hero and the Talat number he sang, Main dil hoon ik arman bhara, tu aa ke mujhe pehchan zara’ was beautifully tuned by Roshan. But Kwaja Abbas, whose old recording was replayed recently, said that the music was by Anil Biswas. Even producers forget whom they had engaged. In ‘Anhonee’ Nargis acted (in one of the roles) as a real slut. But in ‘Adalat’ she did the same role of a dancing girl forced on the ‘Kotha’ by villain Pran,.. But here she was a reluctant singing girl. In Adalat her hero was Pradeep Kumar. Madan Mohan tuned some ravishingly havnting songs for Nargis in the voice of Lata. These included, Yun hasraton ke daagh rnuhabbat mein dho diye’, ‘Jaana thha hum-se dür bahane bana liye’ and of course the stunningly effective song, ‘Un ko yeh shikayat hai ke hum kuchch nahin kehte’. This song comes in the film twice. Once Nargis sings it on the Kotha and then, when her lost lover Pradeep Kumar finally is able to trace her and is ready to take her back, she remains silent in his arms. He asks her to speak, Bob, bob’. And from the background comes a line of that very song saying, ‘Kuchch nahin kehte. How could she say anything when her soul had left the body? Nargis recalled the days when her first film ‘Taqdeer’ was being made. She says Mehboob Khan had engaged her to act in the film. Her ambition was to become a doctor. But he told her that a film or two won’t act as a hindrance. Since he knew her mother Jaddan Bai very well, he could persuade her to allow Nargis to play a role in the film. The mother finally agreed. Nargis says, ‘In the film Motilal was my hero. He was much older. So I used to call him Moti Bhaiya. Whenever a romantic scene was over and I would ask him, how was the shot Moti Bhaiya? And he would hit back angrily and say that by calling him Bhaiya I had spoilt his entire romantic mood’. Nargis mentioned that Chandramohan acted as her father and the role of the comedian was done by Charlie. She said, Charlie was indeed very, very amusing. Even when a pathetic scene was to be enacted, he would do it in such a way as to provoke loud laughter.’ Nargis mentioned: ‘There was a scene the film in which I have to go to see the jailed Charlie. I had to serious. But so funny was Charlie that I kept on laughing all the time. I just couldn’t control my laughter. Mehboob Saab then came and gave me a tight slap and asked me to be serious about the role. That slap did the trick’. Mehboob assigned her another major role in his historical film, Humayun, in which, another senior actor was in the male lead, Ashok Kumar. Veena also played an important role of a Rajput princess who later seeks Humayun’s help. I recall Veena singing (in Raj Kumari’s voice), ‘Mere bhaiya ne pehna hal .aaj re’, when Humayun gets back his crown.. But the song that stole the hearts of the viewers was a chorus led by Shamshad Husna kehta jaa raha hai baadshahi kuchch nahin’. Nargis is atop a camel. She had refused Humayun’s marriage proposal. You can realize the meaningfulness of the lyrics: Husn kehta jaa aha hai Bdshahi kuchch I have deliberately referred to Nargis earlier films because when we recall her now we merely do so by talking about ‘Motherindia’ or her RK films. Incidentally I may mention that in her earlier films, Shamshad Begum played back for her, as there was no Lata then. In ‘Taqdeer’ while Motilal apparently sang in his own voice a duet atop a tree peeping into the upper-storey room of Nargis, Shamshad sang for the heroine. The song was, ‘Aap kyon ayen ge. This film had a sad haunting number too by Shamshad, ‘Turn se duniya mujhe chhurrati hai, akhiri aas tooti jaati hai’.(Lest I should forget, I may say that Vividh Bharti blundered on her death anniversary by saying that the song Le jaa men duaaen’ in ‘Deedar’ was sung by Nargis. That song was filmed on Nimmi. Likewise the announcer, to highlight Shamshad’s songs for Nargis, played the song, ‘Gari wale gaari dheere hank re’. But this was not rendered on the screen by Nargis. The hit Shamshad songs for Nargis were mainly tuned by Naushad. And the biggest hit was ‘Mela’ in which Shams had sang all her songs including the sad numbers, ‘Taqdeer bani ban kar bigarri’ and ‘Gham ka fasana kis ko sunaayen’. In ‘Babul’ too Shamshad was employed to sing for Nargis, ‘Na socha tha yeh dil lagane se pehIe’, ‘Jadubhare nainon me dole jiya ten qasam’ and of course the peach song, ‘Chorr babul ka ghar’. But Lata also sang for Nargis in ‘Babul. One was a solo, ‘Lagan more man ki balam nahin jaane and the other was a duet with Shamshad Begum (who sang for the other leading lady Munnawar Sultana). The memorable song-was, ‘Kisi ke dil mein rehna thaa to mere dil mein kyon aye’. The ‘Deedar’ song, ‘Chaman mein reh ke veerana’ from Deedar was also rendered by Shamshad. In ‘Aag’ too Shamshad sang all the songs for Nargis. But the Lata melodies filmed on her are unforgettable classics. In ‘Barsaat’ she crooned, Mujhe Kisi se pyar ho Gaya, bichade hue pardesi’, ‘Ab mera kaun Sahara’ and Chörr gae balam’. In Awara’ it was ‘Ajao tarapte ham arman’ to say nothing of ‘Jab se balam ghar aye’ and ‘Ghar aya mera pardesi’. In Aah’ she crooned, ‘Ye sham ki tanhaiyan’ and ‘Raja ki aye gi baraat’. In Shri 420 there was that immortal romantic duet (with Manna Dey), ‘Pyar hua iqrar hua’ as also 0 jaane wale mud ke zara dekhte jaana’ to say nothing of is unending. Through those classic songs too Nargis will continue to live in the hearts of the cinegoers.