Wishing yesteryear shining star, Nimmi happy birthday as she turns 86 years today.

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Wishing yesteryear shining star, Nimmi happy birthday as she turns 86 years today.

Nimmi was a highly popular star right through the 1950s acting with all the top heroes of her time and working with directors like Raj Kapoor, Kidar Sharma, Mehboob Khan, Amiya Chakravarty, S.U. Sunny and KA Abbas. However, her larger than life gestures and eye-popping theatrics have not always held up well and admittedly many of her performances look stilted today. But there’s no denying her stardom and popularity in her heyday. In fact, one of her greatest admirers was no less than Ismail Merchant!

She gained popularity playing spirited village belle type characters but also appeared in diverse genres such as fantasy and social films.

Here, Nimmi speaks about her first break in films:

“Raj Kapoor noticed me on the sets of “Andaz” in 1948 and offered me the role of a prominent character opposite his brother-in-law Prem Nath in “Barsaat” in 1949. I was thrilled at the opportunity of working with established actors like Raj Kapoor and Nargis. At the same time, I also feared being sandwiched between heavyweights like them.

Though it was his second film as a director, Raj Kapoor showed ample promise both behind and in front of the camera. Since he himself was a natural actor, he did not believe in theatricals and gave equal footage to all actors. Raj Kapoor was one director who never kept the camera focused too much on himself.

During the shooting of “Barsaat”, I emoted more than required in some of my pathos scenes. Raj Kapoor maintained his cool and then told me, “Don’t overdo. Remember, you are a normal human being who has been ditched by her playboy lover. Be conscious whilst delivering your shots but again don’t get over conscious.” These words from Raj Kapoor were like an inspirational mantra for me. I followed them throughout my career.

After the success of “Barsaat”, I was flooded with offers. Mehboob Khan cast me opposite Dilip Kumar in his technicolor costume drama “Aan” in 1951. I had to perform an absurd scene of dancing even after consuming poison in “Aan”. I was not convinced but Mehboob Khan, the grand director that he was, explained to me that it was fantasy and not a realistic film as such.

With Dilip Kumar I formed a successful pair and we starred in hit after hit like “Uran Khatola”, “Daag”, “Amar” and “Deedar”. Dilip was and still is fond of me. He affectionately addresses me as Pagli. I still don’t forget how after the shooting of the “Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal” sequence in “Daag”, picturized on me, he softy kissed my forehead and said, “Brilliant”. Whilst Raj was a born actor, spontaneous in approach, Dilip is studied, method and versatile. Another gifted actor of those times, Dev Anand, worked with me in “Saaza” and “Aandhiyan”. Handsome and romantic, Dev Anand simply conquered all hearts with his smile. “Aandhiyan” is a memorable film of mine directed with expertise by Dev’s elder brother Chetan Anand. He and cinematographer Jal Mistry waited for seven days to shoot the storm sequence in “Aandhiyan” on Dev and me. They waited to get the reddish sky before the storm.

I consider “Anjali” as my best film and the entire credit for it goes to the imaginative Chetan Anand for extracting commendable work out of me as the Chandalini. “Mere Mehboob” was a beautiful Muslim social I enjoyed working in but my true challenge was as the dumb lover of Ashok Kumar in “Akash Deep” in 1964, in which Dharmendra also showed his acting skills very well.”

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