Here is another song list, quick on the heels of the previous one. This one features a legendary actress who worked extensively with Mr. Sunil Dutt, mostly in the melodramatic Madras productions of the mid-late sixties; though this was not her only claim to fame!
Nutan, of the speaking eyes and quiet, elegant dignity, would have been 79 today. Born on June 4, 1936 to the gorgeous Shobhana Samarth and the poet Kumarsen Samarth, Nutan was the eldest of four children. Her stint with acting began in Hamari Beti (1950). A hit movie opposite Nasir Khan, Nagina (1951) followed. Nutan, then a gawky, lanky teenager, was noticed. The next couple of years saw a slight slump in her career; this was also the time, she was criticised for her looks! They said, draw a straight line if you want to draw Nutan! (It is interesting how standards of beauty change over time. These days, it would be a compliment – to be as thin as a stick!) Packed off to a finishing school in Switzerland by her smart mum, Nutan returned, pretty and plump and then began a glorious, memorable cinematic innings. This phase saw her acting in classics such as Seema (1954), Sujata (1959), Paying Guest (1957) Anari (1959), Bandini (1963), and Tere Ghar Ke saamne (1963) to name a few, and cementing her place as one of the cinematic greats. In a career that spanned nearly 4 decades, and at a time when her competition was from the likes of legends like Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Nargis, Nutan excelled and how! She won a yet-to-be-broken record number of 5 Filmfare awards and was said to be among the highest paid actresses of her time.
As a tribute to this versatile, sensitive actress (who happens to be an absolute favourite of mine) here is a list of 10 songs – all solos sung by her onscreen ( in no order). She had some fabulous duets picturised on her. But for that, there shall be a separate list.
Also, I have restricted myself (with just one exception) to happy songs. Post 1965, Nutan seemed to play melodramatic Devis on screen and had much rona-dhona to do. I have left out some really good songs (pre-1965 too) just for the reason that she was weeping in them. So here goes the list :
1) Kali Ghata Chhaye (Sujata, 1959, Asha Bhosle, S.D. Burman): Starting with a song that I was reminded of when I looked out of my window yesterday morning. The Delhi skies were overcast and there was a slight drizzle – a much needed respite to the sweltering heat. So here is this lovely, gentle Asha Bhosle number from the classic Bimal Roy film, Sujata. Like most of Bimal Roy’s films, Sujata tackles a prevalent social ill – untouchability. Nutan puts in a wonderful performance as the sensitive ‘untouchable’ girl who is brought up in a Brahmin household, longing for her foster mother’s complete love and acceptance. She is aware from the beginning that she doesn’t fully belong in this family. It is only later she realises the reason for her exclusion. This song expresses her hesitant longing and desire for love and joy evocatively. Simply lovely.
2) Banke panchchi gaaye pyaar ka taraana (Anari, 1959, Lata Mangeshkar, Shanker-Jaikishen): From one song about wanting to fall in love, to another expressing exactly the same sentiment. But in such a different manner. This song features a stock character we have stopped seeing in Hindi movies nowadays – the heroine’s best friends, the sahelis. This song is about Nutan and her dear friend, Shubha Khote (who was supposed to be one of Nutan’s closest friends) along with their toli of friends, cycling joyfully on a nice, spring day, wishing that it would be lovely to indeed fall in love! Nutan does fall at the end – not in love but off her cycle!
P.S: Anari had some beautiful songs – my personal favourites are Woh Chand Khila (which got left out from this post, as it is a duet) and Tera Jaana dil ke armaanon ka (but then this is a sad number.)
3) Haye unki woh nigahein (Aakhri Dao, 1958, Asha Bhosle, Madan Mohan): Next on this list is an absolutely delightful, playful number sung by Asha Bhosle. A newly in love Nutan is with her saheli (Shammi) in the rear seat of a car, describing the eyes of her beloved and what it does to her, unaware that the self-same beloved is driving the car! Nutan is lively, bashful and absolutely beautiful.
4) Nigahein milane ko jee chahta jee (Dil Hi toh hai, 1963, Asha Bhosle, Roshan): Another song about eyes and new-found love and wanting to look into the eyes of the beloved. But this is a qawaali. Dil hi toh hai was a Muslim social, all about mistaken identities, many disguises, and murder. It starred Raj Kapoor as the poet Chand, who sings and recites his poetry on AIR. Jamila Banu hears this and but naturally falls for the poet even before she sees him. My favourite song from this movie is a song that was either not filmed or edited out – Yunhi dil ne chaaha thha – for its superlative lyrics (Sahir, who else?) and singing (Suman Kalyanpur).
Since that cannot be listed, here is this amazing qawaali. Nutan sings this qawaali in the zenana, as Pran (her most ardent suitor) and Chand (Raj Kapoor) disguised as an old man listen to the number. And yes, both men are happy listening to this beautiful song, one knowing fully well that he is the recipient of her attention and affection and the other believing himself to be so. The singing and acting are both spot-on.
5) Chand Phir Nikla (Paying Guest, 1957, Lata Mangeshkar, S.D. Burman): Ideally I would have liked to list another song with ‘Nigahein‘ in its antara – the lovely O Nigahein Mastana from Paying Guest. But since that is not a solo, here is this sad, plaintive song from the same movie. Directed by Subodh Mukherjee for Filmistan and written by Nasir Hussain, this movie stars Dev Anand, Nutan and Shubha Khote. Ramesh Kumar (Dev Anand) is an inexperienced advocate who poses as an old man to get an accommodation. He gets it but ends up falling for his landlord’s daughter Shanti (Nutan). Soon the secret is out, they fall in love. Ramesh then finds work with a famous older advocate. The wife of the renowned advocate (played by Shubha Khote) now starts wooing and seducing Ramesh and he slowly goes astray. Complications such as blackmail and murder follow; but finally all is sorted out. This song comes at a point when Shanti is at her lowest. She is left pining for an errant Ramesh remembering happier moments spent on the very same terrace.
P.S: this is the one exception to the ‘happy songs’ restriction here. I could have listed Chupke chupke rukte rukte, which is a light, frothy, happy song – but I do prefer this more!
6) Jogi Jabse tu aaya mere dware (Bandini, 1963, Lata Mangeshkar, S.D.Burman): The year 1963 saw Nutan’s return to acting after a short break wherein marriage and family took priority. What a comeback it was! It saw her act in two delightful roles, both diametrically opposite each other, and among her finest performances. Besides Nutan, both these movies had another thing in common – superlative music by S.D. Burman. She lent dignity, grace and gravitas to Kalyani, the prisoner who in a moment of cold rage and frustration murders her ex-lover’s wife, in Bandini. There are no melodramatic touches as she first gets dumped by her lover (a freedom fighter, played by Ashok Kumar) and is ostracised by her village and is forced to earn a living in the city. And neither is there any apparent wallowing in self-pity when she is imprisoned in the jail. She accepts her fate with utmost dignity. Bandini’s songs are classic. There is the fine Mere Saajan Hain us paar sung by Burmanda himself; and then there is the haunting Mukesh number, O Jaane wale ho sake toh laut ke aana. In a rare departure from stereotype, Burmanda gets Asha Bhosle to sing the two emotional, heart-wrenching numbers (Ab ke baras bheje and O Panchi Pyare) while opting for Lata Mangeshkar when it came to the happier, lighter pieces. This song, by Lata, then is of happier times, revelling in the first flushes of her new love. Nutan is alluring as she prances about in the fields in sheer, gay abandon.
7) Yeh tanhai haye re haye (Tere Ghar Ke saamne, 1963, Lata Mangeshkar, S.D. Burman): Nutan stars as Sulekha in this delightful comedy about two warring influential businessmen in Delhi and an architect who gets caught in between this crossfire. She plays Sulekha with a light, airy charm and an innate style – Sulekha is chirpy and fun but not at all silly or frivolous. In this song, she expresses her love to her beloved in a playful manner. She teases him, extends her arms only to withdraw it at the last moment.
8) Dil mein samake milne na aaye (Kanhaiya, 1959, Lata Mangeshkar, Shanker-Jaikishen): This 1959 had a rather unconventional story. Nutan plays Shanno, an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna and often wanders singing and dancing her Kanhaiya’s praises. A local drunk named Kanhaiya (Raj Kapoor) comes into the picture and soon the village is abuzz with gossip about Kanhaiya and Shanno. What happens after that forms the rest of the story.
The song is a typical lover’s reproach as she pines for a visit from her beloved. Except that the beloved here is Lord Krishna!
9) Kai din se jee hai bekal (Dulhan ek raat ki, 1966, Lata Mangeshkar, Madan Mohan): While this movie was absolutely awful, despite starring Dharmendra, Nutan and Rehman (all superlative actors), it did have some nice songs. This one has Nutan playing the piano and wishing to be with her loved one. What does stand out, when compared to other songs featuring the piano of that era, is that she does make it seem like she is actually playing the piano. Very believable. And she looks nice.
10) Aye mere humsafar (Chhabili, 1960, Nutan, Snehal Bhatkar): Ending this list with a song sung by Nutan herself. This one is from their home production (Shobhana pictures), where her younger sister Tanuja made her debut and Nutan also acted in it. The video of the song or the movie is not available. But the song is lovely – has a lilting melody and sung very well. And yes, Nutan did have a very sweet singing voice.
This was a tough list to make. I can think of 10 other songs at least (duets, sad songs and the like) that should have been here. But for those, another list on another day will have to do.
Nutan had a career that lasted approximately four decades. For nearly three of those four decades, she played the leading lady. While a lot seems to be made today of actresses who work after marriage and childbirth, it was probably fairly common back in the fifties. For Nutan made a very successful comeback after her marriage and childbirth and her career continued unhindered!
Also she was one of the earliest Miss Indias (1951 or 1952). Does this make her the only exception to the fact that beauty queens cannot act? I would think so. She was also said to be a writer who had composed many bhajans and written several poems. Dev Anand had once remarked that she was one of the actresses with whom one could have an intelligent conversation.
She was a great actress indeed. Yes, I could not understand her choice of roles after 1965 (and do not watch most of those depressing movies) but to her credit, she was very much in the reckoning as a leading lady till the early 80s.
RIP, Happy Birthday to Nutan!