It was time for the annual awards again.. time to plan casting coups. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get
Nalini Jaywant to come out of hibernation and present an Lifetime Achievement Award to Ashok Kumar?” my editor exulted.
Not a product of the sedate ’50s, I didn’t share his excitement. But since I lived closest to her Chembur bungalow.. the responsibility of delivering the invite fell on me.
The problem was how to get past the security at the gate who had been instructed not to let visitors in.
I discussed it with Dadamoni (Ashok Kumar) whose bungalow was on the way to Nalini’s and had been my first stop.
“Tell her Ashok Kumar sent you and you’ll be let him. After that you’re on your own,” he said. Dadamoni and the dimpled beauty had been the Jodi No 1 of their time. Samadhi.. Sangram.. Kafila.. Sheroo.. Naubahar.. Naaz.. superhit films that known for their torrid love scenes.
I was told by Dadamoni that the first time he had passionately embraced Nalini on the Samadhi sets, the actress who was making a comeback three years after her controversial marriage to dashing director Virendra Desai,
was so shaken that she refused to shoot till the set was cleared off everyone except the technical crew.
Afterwards, buzz was that at some point reel love had turned real and according to studio gossip, Dadamoni and his beautiful neighbour, both of whom were married, had planned to elope to Nepal and from there charter a flight to London. But at the last moment, studio moghul Sashadhar Mukherjee got wind of his brother-in-law’s plans and put an end to the
I never did whip up the courage to question Dadamoni on this alleged affair. As for Nalini, even Dadamoni’s daughter, Preity Ganguly, couldn’t convince her to speak about her father in the film she’s made on him.
To get back to my story, Dadamoni’s brainwave got me into Nalini Jaywant’s house. I was lead into the living room and told to wait because memsaab was busy with her evening puja.
After about half-an-hour, the yesteryear star stepped out.. painfully thin, eyes wary,
in her hand. Though in her sixties, she was beautiful and I suddenly knew why my parents almost went into rhapsodies over her Dresden China features and flashing dimples.
Those dimples didn’t flash for me though. Rather a frown creased her forehead as she realised that I was a stranger. The frown darkened into a scowl when she learnt that I was a journalist. I moved forward to hand the card to her. She signalled me to stay away and leave the invite on a side table. After that I was almost shooed off the premises.
Neither Ashok Kumar nor Nalini Jaywant came for the show. He was unwell.. she unwilling. Mr X was the last film that starred the jodi. The 1957 fantasy inspired Mr India decades later.
In 1983, Jaywant made a fleeting appearance in Pramod Chakravorty’s Nastik.. since then she’s been invisible. At least I got to meet the desi Garbo.