Nanda was at a critical stage in her career when I first met her sometime in 1973. Our photographer late Taiyeb Badshah was doing a photo shoot with her at her residence in Bandra (she used to live in Bandra those days). I had joined halfway through for an interview. We chatted for almost an hour. I was fascinated by the way she was able to analyse herself dispassionately.
Naya Nasha, a film produced by her brother-in-law CVK Shastry, was getting ready for release. Nanda made no bones about the fact that the film was her last bid to fight back into the reckoning once again. At the same time, she knew that it was almost a losing battle.
For someone with her talent and range as an actor, Nanda deserved a much better deal. In the early stage of her career she got bogged down by the 'Baby' tag thanks to her first major break in her maternal uncle V Shantaram's Toofan Aur Deeya, a brother-sister saga.
Born into a family that was into films - her father Vinayak Damodar Karnataki, popularly known to the industry as Master Vinayak, was an actor-director in Marathi films --- Nanda took to acting at the tender age of eight to ease the financial burden on the family caused by her father's untimely demise.
After doing a couple of films as a child artist, she got a great break in her maternal uncle, legendary V Shantaram's Toofan Aur Deeya. The film was a phenomenal success and Baby Nanda was greeted with raves.
It took Nanda quite a while to live down the sister syndrome. During that phase, she was seen by critics as 'Meena Kumari material'. The observation was reinforced by a few highly successful tear-jerkers. Dev Anand whose sister she played in Kala Bazaar promised to give her due by making her his heroine in a glamorous role. But Hum Dono didn't give her any great relief. Dev did make it up with a sexy role for Nanda in his Teen Deviyan, which he himself directed, though the credits mentioned Amarjeet's name.
Nanda finally managed to break the mould in Jab Jab Phool Khile, opposite her all-time favourite hero, Shashi Kapoor, where she did a seductive number, Ye samaa, samaa hai ye pyaar ka, with great elan. The film was a huge hit. Films like Shor, Gumnaam, Ittefaq (an off-beat thriller opposite the emerging superstar Rajesh Khanna), Joroo Ka Ghulam and The Train (also with Rajesh Khanna) followed to establish Nanda's versatility.
Shashi Kapoor was "ever indebted to her" for agreeing to do Char Diwari with him "when no other heroine wanted to do a film with a newcomer" like him. She went on to act in seven more films with him.
In the early '80s, she took the film industry by surprise by making a sudden comeback with three films, Ahista Ahista, Mazdoor and Prem Rog, only return to her shell again
Persuaded by her friend Waheeda Rehman, Nanda accepted filmmaker Manmohan Desais proposal to marry her in 1992. Unfortunately Desai's death under tragic circumstances shattered her and compelled her to withdraw again.
(Rauf Ahmed is former editor of Filmfare)