Impish, flirtatious, pouty, and perky, veteran actress Nimmi was the epitome of vivacity. It wasn’t even a trait she cultivated; it was part of her DNA.
That’s why they cast her repeatedly as the chulbuli gao ki gori or the rebellious girl who won’t kick off her high heels at a kirtan sammellan. Nimmi’s passing away reminds us of the due she was never given among the great classical actresses of her time, she was never a topnotch player, never in the league of her edified contemporaries like Nargis, Meena Kumari and Madhubala.
The formidable filmmaker Mehboob Khan cast her repeatedly in his films. In one of her best-known roles in Mehboob Khan’s Amar, Nimmi was cast as a rape survivor. It was a role no other major actress of the time would touch.
“It was never about the ‘correct’ role or the size of the role for Nimmi ji, she was always ahead of her times. She was gutsy and rebellious enough to take on roles that more conventional actresses wouldn’t dare to, and she excelled in them,” recounts filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali who wishes he could work with her.
The veteran actress’ most memorable films include Barsaat, Sazaa (in which she for a change, she played the lead and emoted to the immortal song Tum Na Jaane Kis Jahan Mein Kho Gaye), Aan, Daag, Mere Mehboob and Basant Bahar. She was last seen in K Asif’s posthumous Love & God, which took a gruelling 23 years to be completed.
This re-telling of the Laila-Majnu love story was started with Nimmi and Guru Dutt, who died midway and was replaced by Sanjeev Kumar, who also died. “Laila lived but Majnu kept dying,” Nimmi once joked. Now Laila too is gone....