Manmohana: Celebrating Nutan, by Antara Nanda Mondal

A picture of grace and dignity.

A persona of pleasing compassion with the warmest smile straight from the heart.

An impish beauty who could readily play pranks.

An indignant, deprived girl who fights it out with society on her own.

A quiet, loving, affectionate woman who has the courage to brave the worst for others and craves for only love and respect.

A lonely heart – with all her pain kept well-covered and never shared.

Which song of Nutan do I pick? An amazing repertoire with the widest variety of roles – she institutionalized the deglamorised role in a way no other contemporary actress could.

Shorn of the regular layers of pancake, she still looked the most pleasing and comforting picture of compassion. The distributors did not like the idea of the heroine in plain khadi clothes in Bandini but can you imagine the quiet, courageous Kalyani in chiffon running to be with her ailing love? Nutan never gave these regular razzmatazz of Hindi films more importance than her role deserved. And that made her rise above the ordinary.

Well, on Nutan’s birth anniversary, I am taking the liberty of deviating from the regular song intro to write a short note on an actress who amazed me with every role she did – she lived the character, spontaneous, natural, unaffected. So you watch Kalyani and Sujata and Aarti Sohanlal (Anari) not Nutan.

Sharing here this classical gem from Shankar Jaikishan in Seema,1955, which I am told is based on Raag Jayjaywanti. Lip synching even the most complex melodies came naturally to her and watch the way she strums the tanpura, and closes her eyes just at the right moments, moves her neck in perfect harmony with the notes.

The cinematographer can well afford extreme closeups here – the lip synch and movements are as true to the song as can be and mind you, it’s one complex melody with tons of murkis peppered in. With Nutan there is no danger of fingers playing something the music doesn’t portray.

What an aalap and what a performance at the end – I have to remind myself its Lata Mangeshkar and not who I see on screen! A large credit for this goes to her own knowledge and passion for music – I had read somewhere she had a music room and collected instruments.

Enjoy this evergreen beauty – a Shankar Jaikishan-Shailendra-Lata Mangeshkar team work of excellence!

(Originally written: 4 June, 2017)

Gifted writer Antara Nanda Mondal lives in Delhi, and is a Consulting Editor at Silhouette magazine, and also Creative Director at Wisitech InfoSolutions Pvt, Ltd.

9 thoughts on “Manmohana: Celebrating Nutan, by Antara Nanda Mondal

  1. Antra you as a writer
    The writer interweaves a story with her own doubts, questions, and values. That is art. Sheer good writing..KUDOS

  2. Brilliant Antara as always. I am a huge fan of Nutan and your write up was so apt on great actress.
    To my mind, Mother India, Sujata, Sahib Bibi aur Gulam and Bandini were four movies that gave stature to Hindi cinema. More importantly, they supplied the cinema its missing facet – the movies with women at the centre stage. Nutan appeared in two of these – Sujata and Bandini. Mother India centred around Nargis and Meena Kumari was the essence of Sahib Bibi and Gulam.

    But Nutan is my favourite. Her persona had a quiet dignity and a natural poise. Her face had a vulnerable innocence and possessed speaking eyes that gave her an irresistible cine presence. Her dusky aura seemed well merging with the black and white cinema.
    What set Nutan apart as an actress was her ability to convey the character with minimal histrionics and bodily expressions. She had an uncanny gift of speaking through her eyes and had a silence that was eloquent.
    No wonder Bimal Roy, arguably the best Hindi film director ever and one who understood the power of the unsaid better than anyone else , relied upon Nutan to deliver two of his master-pieces – Sujata and Bandini.
    She was superb in romantic pairing with Devanand in Paying Guest, Tere Ghar Ke Samne and with Rajkapoor in Anari. Her singing talent, though evident in Chabili…….. O mere ham safar ……. remained largely unexplored.

    She died young at the age of 55, to be in the top league of Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nargis and Smita Patil, who all died young.

  3. Amazing write up. Your style of putting her beauty in such simple style touches the heart. Nutan was a straight forward no nonsense person who was not afraid of calling a spade a spade. Some values from her mother got imbibed and she fiercely guarded her family life. Kudos Antara ji keep writing…

    1. Thank you so very much Dr Satwik ji,

      You have always been very encouraging and I really await your comments eagerly. Truly delighted and humbled you liked my writeup and style. Nutan’s sheer versatility and spontaneity never ceases to amaze.

      Thanks again for the generous appreciation! 🙂 _()_

  4. Thank you so very much Manek Sir! This is very humbling! I am delighted you found it valuable enough to post on your site!!! 🙂 _()_

    This encourages me to add some more to it and publish it in our mag but only after I have given the credit for “First published…” with a backlink to your esteemed website. 🙂

    Thank you so very much again! Grateful Sir.

  5. This is extraordinary, Antara, just extraordinary!

    “Which song of Nutan do I pick? An amazing repertoire with the widest variety of roles – she institutionalized the deglamorised role in a way no other contemporary actress could.” Wow, well said!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *