It's not always easy to start in the choppy waters of Bollywood to begin as a child actor and go on to establish as one of the top stars. But veteran actress Nanda, who died of cardiac arrest in Mumbai on Tuesday at the age of 75, overcame odds to reach the zenith along with her contemporaries Saira Banu, Asha Parekh and Sadhana.
Nanda has been seen in a variety of supporting and main roles — as a sister, sister-in-law, romancing heroine with abundant oomph factor and a sober and caring housewife — and she essayed them with equal elan during a career spanning from early 1950s to 1970. She did not let herself to be stereotyped.
However, she will be best remembered for her stellar performances in films like “Hum Dono” opposite Dev Anand, “Kanoon”, “Ittefaq”, “Jab Jab Phool Khiley” and “Gumnaam”,
Nanda came from a family steeped in cinema — her father Vinayak Damodar Karnataki was a Marathi film actor-director and her uncle V Shantaram was a legendary filmmaker.
But her father's death in 1947 put her family in hard times and she was forced to start a film career as a child artiste with films like “Mandir” in 1948 and “Jaggu” in early 1950s. She earned her first break as the lead actress in Shantaram's “Toofan aur Diya” (1956), a film that revolved around a brother-sister bond.
After navigating through a range of supporting roles in movies like “Behen”, “Çholi” and “Dulhan”, Nanda rose to stardom with her title role in “Chhoti Behen” in 1959.
It was in sixties that she established herself as a top-notch Bollywood heroine and came out with a series of hits like “Hum Dono”, “Teen Deviyan”, “Jab Jab Phool Khiley” opposite Shashi Kapoor, “Gumnaam” with Manoj Kumar, “Ittefaq” (1969), “The Train” ( 1970) and “Joroo Ka Ghula”(1972) alongside Rajesh Khanna.
Nanda and Shashi Kapoor had formed a hit pair in 1960s and they acted together in eight films, including “Char Diwari” (1961), “Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain” and “Jab Jab Phool Khiley” (1965) in a row, joining the Bollywood folklore.
In “Ittefaq”, Nanda appeared in a negative role while in “The Train”, she played the quintessential Bollywood heroine.
After that film, Nanda disappeared from Bollywood scene and retreated into her closely-held privacy before making a reappearance in Raj Kapoor's movie “Prem Rog” (1983), playing the role of mother to Padmini Kolhapure.
Nanda also acted in films like “Dhool Ka Phool”, “Bhabhi”, “Shor” and “Parineeta”.
Nanda remained unmarried throughout her life after Manmohan Desai who she was engaged to in 1992, died after falling from the terrace of his apartment in 1994.