She was born on June 1, 1929. He died on June 2, 1988. There is an interesting story about how they met...
Raj Kapoor, the eldest son of Prithviraj Kapoor, was looking for a studio to shoot his directorial debut Aag. Someone suggested Famous Studio at Mahalaxmi. Jaddanbai, Nargis’ mother, was filming Romeo And Juliet there. Raj decided to drop by at the studio and check on the facilities with her. But by the time he arrived there, she had packed up and left.
Unperturbed, the 23-year-old wanna-be director drove straight to her sea-facing apartment at Marine Drive and rang the bell. Nargis answered the door. She’d been frying bhajias and was looking flushed and disheveled. Surprised by the handsome stranger, she pushed a stray lock off her forehead and ended up streaking her face with besan batter. (The moment was recreated in Bobby when Dimple, who is in the process of baking a cake, opens the door to a cherubic Rishi Kapoor, smearing her face with dough). Raj was mesmerised...
From Marine Drive, he rushed straight to his screenplay writer and a bemused Inder Raj Anand was told to write in a role for the girl he’d just met. Nargis entered Aag in the ninth reel and stayed on in Raj’s life for a decade.
They starred in 16 films together. After Aag came Andaz, Barsaat, Pyar, Jan Pehchan, Awara, Amber, Bewafa, Anhonee, Ashiana, Aah, Dhoon, Paapi, Shree 420, Chori Chori and Jaagte Raho. Five of these were RK productions but three of their biggest hits together – Barsaat, Awaara and Shree 420–did not feature Raj’s name in the credits, either as an actor or a director. However, they featured the famous RK emblem that had been inspired by a scene from Barsaat.
Nargis runs towards Raj in the movie...He sweeps her up in his arms...He then bends her backwards on one hand, a violin dangling from the other...It was just another scene but their instinctive, intimate pose gave RK its insignia. And immortalised the duo who gave screen romance a new meaning. Love till then had been about suffering and sacrifice, mirrored in nodding daisies and pecking lovebirds. But with Raj and Nargis it was about ‘seeing’ and ‘feeling’.
In 1949, the Indian Cinematograph Act of 1918 was amended to include a new censorship classification for ‘Adult’ and ‘Unrestricted’ exhibition. Barsaat that released that year on September 30 was initially passed with an ‘U’ certificate. But it was later reviewed and re-censored with a ‘U/A’ rating on moral grounds.
More than Raj and Nargis’ celebration of a spontaneous passion, it was Premnath and Nimmi’s love story that sparked apprehensions amongst the guardians of morality. They were afraid that after Barsaat, young men from the cities would drift to the hills to seduce the innocents there.
The ‘adult’ rating created quite a stir. Youngsters were strictly forbidden from seeingthe film. Industry veteran and trade analyst Amod Mehra remembers his uncles, some of whom were married, telling the elders that they were going to watch Ram Rajya and sneaking into a theatre to catch the ‘forbidden’ Barsaat. He himself had to wait till he was 16 before seeing it at a matinee show at Dadar's Kohinoor theatre. He admitted to being disappointed by this ordinary love story. The only difference being that one of the heroes drives his girl to suicide. The film was a superhit!
Last Thursday, the skies finally opened up, bringing welcome showers to Mumbai. I walked home in the season’s first ‘barsaat’ with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. A song that had first played 62 years ago... Hawa mein udta jaye mera lal dupatta malmal ka...