There was a different kind of attractiveness about Nanda. When she died last week at the age of seventy five, it was that lilting Lata number from Jab Jab Phool Khile that came to mind. The song is a classic, but what gave it added luster was the seductive manner in which Nanda lipsed it in the movie. There she was on a houseboat on the Dal Lake in Kashmir, the breeze blowing through her hair and making music with the long silken gown she wore. And she sang ye sama sama hai ye pyar ka / kisi ke intezar ka / dil na chura le kahin mera / mausam bahar ka.
Yes, that song and that soft, spontaneous dance Nanda was giving expression to is one more hallmark of the creative 1960s. The pout on Nanda makes you almost feel she is aiming her charms at you. The perfect way in which she moves her hips, in tune with the beat of the song, is reason to suppose she was a natural. As a friend pointed out a few days ago, Nanda was one of those movie artistes who could simply sit somewhere and in that position do a dance or two. In Jab Jab Phool Khile, through that song, you realize the truth of that assertion.
There is another image of Nanda which comes alive when you recall another song sequence, this one from the movie Teen Devian. It is Dev Anand who serenades her with aise to na dekho / ke hum ko nasha ho jaaye in the scene. In Nanda is awakened the woman in a state of rising romance. She is young, she is beautiful and she is bashful. She peers through the curtains, and from behind the door and the partition in the room as Dev sings on tum humen roko phir bhi hum na ruken / tum kaho kafir phir bhi aise jhuken. There is grace in Nanda; and into her features comes an ecstasy as she looks at herself in the mirror and feels shy once more. And when she closes her eyes in sheer pleasure, you understand the rest.
That reminds you. It is a coincidence that Meena Kumari too died in March, way back in 1972. Again, Lata's mellifluous numbers, as in chalte chalte yunhi koi mil gaya tha, come rushing into your long-forgotten memory. That song has immortalized her, in much the same way that pyar kia to darna kya placed Madhubala on a high pedestal.
Nanda's departure is indeed a premonition of what is to be. That is the saddest party of our civilisational history.
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star