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India’s True International ‘FilmStar’

I do not believe that an actor should be “international” only if he or she has been to Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Moscow, Tashkent or for Academy Awards. Real international performers are those who have crossed boundaries with their acting, be it within the framework of their work or by showcasing a talent that can be compared to any international standards.

This was my feeling after I completed viewing a film named ‘Bandini” during a retrospective of films of Bimal Roy many years back. This film had, among other greats like Ashok Kumar, …., a young beauty named Nutan.

I still remember the film with vivid details that launched my imagination to think beyond the boundaries of the screen.

She was groomed at La Chatelaine, a Swiss grooming school which helped shape a girl who was all ‘skin and bones” to a powerful performer. Such was her appeal that expressions that she made with her face and eyes left an indelible mark on young souls like me.

Today’s international film star will be Nutan.

Daughter of well-known actress of yesteryear, Shobhana Samarth, young Nutan wasted no opportunities when she got a chance to play the lady with a hapless love in the film ‘Bandini”, considered by many as an epic portrayal of the complex persona of the character Kalyani. It is said that if someone took away her character from this film, the only thing that you remember was the genius that Bimal Roy was. A film that she did right after marriage to Rajnish Behl, she demonstrated that an actress is not ‘dead” even after having a family of her own. The Bollywood duniya had considered otherwise.

Nutan was a beauty in real life. A capable woman in her own rights, she never showed the air of pride that was so natural of Bollywood beauties of that time. Already, a leading lady in her own rights, Nutan showed her trademark brilliance in another film of Bimal Roy, named ‘Sujata”, where she played the role of the Dalit girl with guts that was then unparallel in Indian cinema.

However, it was a film called ‘Seema” that brought Nutan to the limelight. In this movie, Nutan showed what “lifeless” looking eyes and an “ugly” face can do by just twisting a muscle here and there. During this time, she was also part of other landmark films like ‘Sone Ki Chidiya” that claimed critical acclaim.

The reason I liked her was because of her face. Here was a person, most affably lovely and beautiful, and the way she carried herself to demonstrate the elegance of a homely and affectionate woman. Add to that the powerful rendering of complex roles, and you get someone who can be easily called a genius.

Though many of her films are lost among the thousands that were either badly released or earned a cropper in the box-office, Nutan was determined to strike the right chord given the opportunity. And she did that consistently …. another trait which was a strong reason for me to love her acting.

Needless to say, after the birth of her son, Mohnish, she had to be content with the roles of mother. That was another way the industry wanted to bid her good-bye. She proved them wrong, again. She performed stellar roles in a series of films like ‘Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki”, ‘Meri Jung”, ‘Naam” and ‘Maa aur Mamata”. All of these films bore a deep impression of the talent that was uniquely Nutan’s.

Towards the end of her life, she took to spiritualism deeply. She kept her indoors in her farmhouse near Mumbai and was soon forgotten by the outside world. Son Mohnish had to pursue a pilot’s job in US after he was unable to find a foothold in the Indian Film Industry.

Nutan died of cancer, out of the pain and agony that none recognized her son as an actor. This was so unfortunate ….. she passed away and there was a two-minute clipping on the television informing her death.

Alas! Her son got a film offer after her death and slowly he established himself independently.

Unfortunately, the mother never waited to see this big break for Mohnish which established him as a quality actor.

Did anybody say, fate?

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