Nanda: the little-known life of a screen goddess

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Nanda: the little-known life of a screen goddess

Nanda has appeared in movies like Teen Deviyan, Jab Jab Phool Khilein and Chhoti Bahen.

Actress Nanda, star of films like Teen Deviyan, was born into one of Maharashtra's premier film families and appeared in a string of hit films. Despite this, she remained a figure of mystique till her death on March 25, 2014. She had celebrated her 75th birthday on January 8.

Nanda was the daughter of Marathi actor-director Master Vinayak and actress Meenaxi. Her uncle was film pioneer V Shantaram and her cousin was Brahmachari actress Rajshree. After her father died, Nanda began her career as a child artiste aged eight. She appeared in films like Mandir (1948) and Jagriti (1954) under the name Baby Nanda.

Her first grown up role came in uncle V Shantaram's 1956 film Toofan Aur Diya. In 1957's Bhabhi, co-starring Balraj Sahni, Nanda played the widowed sister of the protagonist and was nominated for a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Two years later came the film that made her a star, Chhoti Bahen opposite Balraj Sahni. She was then cast in big movies like Hum Dono (1961) and Teen Deviyan (1965) opposite big heroes like Dev Anand.

1960's Anchal fetched her the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. She would later be nominated for Best Actress for 1969's Ittefaq and twice again for Best Supporting Actress for Ahista Ahista (1981) and Prem Rog (1982).

In the 1960s, Nanda was among the top heroines in Bollywood with Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and Sadhana. Undeterred by her own stardom, Nanda helped launch the careers of at least two actors who later took their places among the pantheon of matinee idols - Shashi Kapoor and Rajesh Khanna.

Nanda co-starred with Shashi Kapoor before he was an actor of any great success and became a hit screen couple in films like Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965). Mr Kapoor has often named her his favourite co-star. In 1970, Nanda convinced The Train co-producer Rajendra Kumar - her co-star from Dhool Ka Phool and Kanoon - to cast the struggling Rajesh Khanna. The Train became a hit.

As the Seventies petered out, Nanda briefly appeared in supporting roles in films like Ahista Ahista and Prem Rog, playing Padmini Kolhapure's mother in both films.

Nanda formed strong friendships with contemporary actresses Waheeda Rehman, Sadhana and Asha Parekh but rejected almost every suitor and wedding proposal that was brought to her.

In 1992, Waheeda Rehman, Nanda's best friend since they co-starred in 1960's Kala Bazar, brokered a romance between the actress and Amar Akbar Anthony director Manmohan Desai, resulting in an engagement.

However, Mr Desai died two years later and Nanda remained unmarried ever since.

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