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Nalini Jaywant

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Dinesh Raheja

Blessed with an extraordinarily serene face, as innocent as a cherub's, Nalini Jaywant was a huge star in the early fifties.

She did ten films with Ashok Kumar and people raved over her gamine good looks and petite frame. The story goes that on a post stardom trip abroad, a bus conductor mistook her for an adolescent. Nalini won a cinematographer's poll as the most photogenic actress. Dilip Kumar was struck by her histrionic abilities when they worked together in Shikast (1953).

Nalini Jaywant's Landmark Films
 Year  Film  Hero
 1950  Samadhi  Dev Anand
 1951  Sangram  Ashok Kumar
 1951  Jaadoo  Suresh
 1953  Shikast  Dilip Kumar
 1954  Nastik  Dev Anand
 1955  Munimji  Dev Anand
 1958  Kaala Paani  Dev Anand

Today, her fame may be somewhat obscured by the mists of time that have blown in the 40 odd years since she retired; but Nalini deserves to have the spotlight trained brightly on her.

She worked with some of the best directors, from Mehboob Khan, Gyan Mukherji and Bimal Roy to Raj Khosla. What is more, she has often risen above the ordinary to give a clutch of truly absorbing performances.

A cousin of Shobhana Samarth (which makes her Nutan and Tanuja's aunt), Nalini Jaywant's entry into films was ironical considering her father had stridently opposed his niece, Shobhna's decision to act. Perhaps egged on by her cousin's success, Nalini was only 14 when she appeared in Radhika (1941) for National Studios. That year, she appeared in Mehboob Khan's Bahen as the object of her screen brother (Sheikh Mukhtar's) affection.

Little Nalini failed to become a significant success all through the forties. She married director Virendra Desai and did barely nine films that decade. Only towards the end of the forties she won notice, singing Yaad rakhna chaand taaron is suhani raat ko in the three-cornered love story Anokha Pyar (1948), one of those Dilip Kumar-Nargis tragedies.

Nalini's forlorn flower girl won instant sympathy.

What finally proved a career igniting film was the Ashok Kumar hit Samadhi in 1950. Nalini played the glamorous, Westernised Lily, twirling an umbrella in the crowd pleasing O gore gore o banke chhore. No Mata Hari, she gets pulled into an espionage web because of her sister Dolly (Kuldip Kaur).

Nalini's love scenes with Ashok Kumar carried a real romantic charge.

Another success, Sangram, with Ashok Kumar, followed quickly on its heels. This Gyan Kismet Mukherji film had a Shakti-like story (cop father, criminal son) and a tres modern Nalini played the voice of reason.

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She made a splash when she wore a swinmsuit in the film. The Ashok-Nalini pair now became a rage.

Having a pretty young Nalini as his costar helped forties superstar Ashok counter the inroads made by Raj Kapoor-Dilip Kumar-Dev Anand in the early fifties.

The Ashok-Nalini pair became famouos but she had successes with other heroes too. Devendra Goel's Aankhen proved a springboard for both her heroes, Shekhar and Bharat Bhushan. And she acted alongside Suresh in A R Kardar's merry musical Jaadoo with Naushad's unforgettable Laroo loo refrain.

In 1953, Nalini delivered a one-two knockout punch in two absolutely stunning performances, in the Dev Anand starrer Rahee and in the Dilip Kumar film Shikast. In K A Abbas's Rahee, Nalini played an upright tea plantation worker who reforms hero Dev Anand. Her posthumous Ek pal ruk jaana refrain haunts long after the film is over.

In Shikast, Nalini vividly etched out the pain and passion, the helplessness and the desire to hurt inherent in her ill-fated relationship with her village love Dilip Kumar.

These films were not huge commercial successes. But Nalini had a smash hit in 1954 with Nastik, which had poet Pradeep's immortal hit: Dekh tere sansar ki haalat. Incidentally, it was famous funnyman I S Johar who helmed this blockbuster. Even though indifferently photographed sometimes, Nalini, as the trusting girl who doesn't realise that her lover (Ajit) is using her for his own means, was truly radiant.

Thereafter, Nalini played the modern miffed miss in the musical Munimji with Dev Anand and starred opposite the newer breed of heroes like Sunil Dutt in Railway Platform and Shammi Kapoor in Hum Sab Chor Hain. Bimal Roy cast her in the now forgotten Baap Beti. Mehboob Khan, who directed her in his Bahen 15 years ago, once again cast her in his production Awaaz (1956) alongside Zul Vellani and Rajendra Kumar.

Famous songs of Nalini Jaywant
 Song  Film  Singers
 O gore gore
 o banke chhore
 Samadhi  Lata Mangeshkar
 Thandi hawayein
 lehrake gayen
 Naujawan  Lata Mangeshkar
 Aeri main toh
 prem diwani
 Naubahar  Lata Mageshkar
 Jab jab phool khile  Shikast  Lata Mangeshkar,
 Talat Mehmood
 Kanha bajaye bansuri  Nastik  Lata Mangeshkar
 Chaand madhyam
 aasman chup hai
 Railway Platform  Lata Mangeshkar
 Jeevan ke
 safar mein rahi
 Munimji  Lata Mangeshkar
 Beimaan balma
 maan bhi ja
 Hum Sab
 Chor Hain
 Lata Mangeshkar
 Din ho ya raat  Miss Bombay  Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh
 Nazar laagi raja tore
 bangle pe
 Kaali Paani  Asha Bhosle

But in the late 1950s Nalini starred most often with her Nastik hero Ajit in a succession of movies with ever decreasing merit.

Kaala Paani (1958) was the last effulgent flaring up of Nalini's talent. It was not easy for any heroine to hold her own against the 1,000-watt luminosity of Madhubala (the film's other heroine), but Nalini managed to leave a mark thanks to a strikingly dramatic role and three great Asha Bhosle mujras. Watch her enact only with her hand movements during Hum bekhudi mein tumko pukare chale gaye.

Playing an amoral courtesan who is holding onto some secrets to use as a blackmail instrument (her old age pension plan), Nalini is seduced by Dev into spilling the beans. Nalini makes her initial dazzlement (by Dev) and ultimate disillusionment heart-wrenching to watch. It is arguably Nalini's most realised performance ever and she and Dev deservedly won their first Filmfare Awards for Kaala Paani.

Having played the heroine for two decades and with a paucity of good roles, Nalini retired soon thereafter.

Almost 20 years later, Nalini sprang a surprise when she agreed to play her only character role, that of Amitabh Bachchan's blind, long-suffering mother in Nastik (1983). Much was made about the title being the same as Nalini's 1950s hit. But it was a totally different story.

With her having lived the life of a semi recluse, her fans were only too happy to catch a glimpse of the old Nalini.

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