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Nargis: A daughter remembers
Priya Dutt |
June 01, 2004 15:51 IST
Nargis would have turned 75 on June 1. She is best known for her role in Mother India, but her roles in Aag, Andaaz, Awaara, Barsaat are amazingly powerful.
She is undoubtedly one of the most powerful actresses in Indian cinema.
Youngest daughter Priya remembers her mother in a conversation with Lata Khubchandani:
Today being her birthday is a very special day. We have a puja in the morning, then the family might go out to have a meal together.
My memories of mom are short because I was only 15 when she passed away. Whenever I remember my mother, it is always happy memories. You know how you often remember people and feel sad? That is not the case with my memories of Mummy.
She was so fun-loving, always game for doing something different. She was very positive. She could sit at a dhaba and eat food with as much ease as she could at a five-star hotel. It made no difference to her. I wish I could be like her, like both my parents [her father is, of course, actor-MP-Minister Sunil Dutt], because they never gave up their roots.
She was so normal, so she brought us up to be normal.
I am the youngest in the family. My sister [Namrata] and brother [Sanjay] had grown up and they had their own friends and didn't want to be with their parents. Between my sister and me, there is a five-year gap and between Sanju and me, there is a seven-year gap. Like all kids, my sister and I would always fight. My brother and sister were very close, but since I was the kid sister, I was not allowed to participate in anything they did.
So I got left home alone with mum. I was petted a lot. I was called her tail because I tagged along with her everywhere. Wherever she went I went too -- marriages, boring functions, everywhere. She was happy that at least one child accompanied her.
I always held on to her sari pallu. I needed to hold her somewhere.
After Mum passed away, my sister became the mother figure. But we used to fight. I couldn't take the fact that she told me what to do and not to do. After she got married, we became close and outgrew those childish spats. As a kid when mum stuck up for me, my sister used to get mad, like all siblings, I guess.
My earliest memory of Mummy was the time we travelled to Europe together. I was about 8 years old. My cousins, we three kids and Mummy -- we flew to Germany, hired a van and toured Europe. Mum had carried a stove and whenever we were dying to eat Indian food, she would cook in those parking spaces you have for caravans. We had so much fun.
One day, it was very cold and we begged mum to make egg bhurji for us. The stove was so small and she was trying to make this bhurji and we finally ate it half-cooked. I remember we had carried a bottle of pickle, and we ate it with half raw eggs.
She was very adventurous. Nothing mattered so long as we were having fun. When she became a Rajya Sabha member, it was a huge thing for us. But for me it was difficult because she had to be away in Delhi for a long time.
I didn't know how to handle it. She was always there when I came home from school, but now I was alone. I missed her. I remember she told me, "See, Rajya Sabha is also like school. I go at 9 in the morning and return at 5, and you return at four, so you come and call me after school or I will call you."
So every day after school, I used to ring her up and talk to her. She used to try and come home for the weekends. Unfortunately she fell very ill during her Rajya Sabha stint.
Later, when I was making a documentary on her, I discovered more about her. Earlier, I used to see photographs, etc, but I didn't know what they were about. Everyone I spoke to remembered her as this kind, generous and helpful person. She was always there when someone needed help. Her attitude was never why should I put myself out for someone else? What am I getting out of it?
Her friends, people she worked with, everyone remembered her as a wonderful, completely selfless person. I remember going with her to the Spastic Society of India [in Mumbai's northwestern suburb of Bandra], which was so close to her heart. There too she never treated the kids as if they were different. She treated them as kids. That is why they loved her so much.
Before she got married [to Sunil Dutt], she had a nanny. She came to us as part of Mum's dowry! We called her Ameena Nani, and she would tell us tales about how naughty mum was, what a practical joker and full of life she was.
She went through this whole year of suffering, but she really fought cancer. She was so positive. Unfortunately, she never got to enjoy moments with her grandchildren or see her children get married.