Now I will try to look at her in my way from 1952 to 1954 period, the next chapter in her life.
The previous phase of the thin and straight line girl was in 1950s and 51s. Unfortunately I can’t comment what happened in 1952. All the movies that were made in that year seemed to have flopped so badly that the names are not whispered even in private,
- Hungama (Nasir Khan-hero, Director-Ram Kamlani)
- Nirmohi(Sajjan of Hum Log hero, Directed by Baij Sharma)
- Parbat (Premnath hero, O.P Dutta director) and
- Sheesham (Again Nasir Khan as hero, Directed by Kishore Sharma).
This created a major gap in my activity and this gap can be filled if and only if somehow I can manage the copies of these movies.
However after this I got lucky and of 1953, three movies I could manage two, Aagosh and Laila Majnu, the missing being Malkin (the third and last movie withSajjan, directed by O.P Dutta) and the only movie of 1954 , Shabab too I could manage.
This is the stage, before she went to become a temporary swiss miss and came back with additional 40 pounds (as per her own statement).
These were the years her same age competitor, Vyjayanthimala had a couple of big hits in Ladki (Kishore Kumar, Bharat Bhushan in 1953) and the superhit Nagin (1954) along with another moderately hit in Yasmin (Suresh, 1954). Of course she too had faced a string of flops (Anjaam- Premnath, 1952; Miss Mala – Kishore; Sitara – Pradeep Kumar and Pehli Jhalak – all 1954)
While checking the era, I found the whole list of movies in ‘red’ colour. Though not mentioned as such, these seem to be the movies whose business was in red. At least none of the known profit makers are in red letter, so I think that must be what the list colour coding is based on. In fact even on today out of the scores of masalas churned out, only few earn the money, most of them simply sink. So there is nothing very untoward for a heroine like this to have a series of ‘Red’s.
These were the time screen was dominated by reigning divas, and they were not willing to make space for new comers so easily.
Significant movies still remembered (by old timers) and hence likely box office success are –
Nargis ( Aah, Anhonee, Bewafa); Bina Rai (Anarkali, Aurat, Mayurpankh), Geeta Bali (Baaz, Jaal) ; MeenaKumari(BaijuBawra, Footpath, Prineeta, Baadbaan); Shyama(Thokar, Aarpar); Madhubala(Amar, Sangdil); Suraiyya- Mirza Ghalib, Deewana); Nimmi (Amar, Aan, Daag) and Nutan’s aunt NaliniJaywant (Rahi, Shikast, Lakeerein) was a big draw then and even mother Sobhana (Ramayan) had a hit.
Vyjayanthimala of course had made major inroad with two superhits (Ladki and Nagin) and joined the bandwagon of leading stars. Also unknown to Nutan, another of her competitir is on the way, mala Sinha was about to migrate from the Bengali screen and make her bollywood debut in 1954 . Interestingly all these three divas, Nutan, Vyjayanthimala and Mala Sinha were born in 1936, Mala being youngest (November).
And to make matters worse for Nutan, Vyjayanthi’s Devdas, New Delhi, Kathputli, Naya Daur etc were about to follow in quick succession.
Vyjayanthimala had a major advantage of being backed by the Madras Film Industry. She had continued to act in both Bollywood and Madras. In the years she didn’t have big Bollywood hit she, in most of the cases, had quite a few big hits in one of the south Indian language (Most of the time Tamil, but a few Telugu and Kannada too). And due to this the Madras producers never lost their hope on the race horse, and they too were proved to be right too, since Vyjayanthi, we know went on to become a big star in her rights, though to be frank not the order of the underdog Nutan, or even Mala Sinha.
Of course our Nutan was not a completely washout then. Nagina and Shabab had done some business and broken even, or made some moderate profit too. The reports of those times are not very clear, some say these three movies, Humlog, Nagina and Shabaab to be moderately success, others count them in the list of flops and mentions Seema to be her first ever box office plus. The availability of the movies in market still, seem to indicate they were not a complete failure so I assume them to be at least not in red. But the amount of movies and thus money sunk in this period makes me wonder, even if Shobhana Samarth had clout, I doubt of it, how did she survive?
We have seen at a later date these clouts don’t work for long. Despite the super hit debut, in “Love Story”, Rajendra Kumar’s son fizzled out quickly. Same thing happened to quite a few other super star children, Karan and Kunal Kapoors (Shashi Kapoor- of course hampered by their semi-Caucasian looks) another Kunal, Goswami (Manoj Kumar’s son), Rajiv Kapoor (Raj Kapoor’s third son, Suniel Anand (of evergreen Dev Anand), Rahul Khanna (Vinod Khanna), Prem Kishan (Children of two legends Premnath and Bina Rai)… the list is long and the on the other gender, Raima (Moon Moon Sen), Esha Deol (Hema) carry the mantle. And of course we have our Nutan’s son (Mohnish).
Also to my knowledge, back then, the stars didn’t really carry much clout. Of course the new generation people like Dilip Kumar, though not strongly, but have started their tantrums, Raj Kapoor was a bit different, his strength was due to his production house. But why Nutan- a regular flop was being given roles again and again?
Shobhana and MotiLal, her pillars were already yesterday’s actors, father Kumarsen had faded away. However Nutan survived.
My take is that the base of her survival wasn’t as much her parents, as the industry itself. Which has realized her, but didn’t know what to do with it. When one gets a raw stone and knows that inside it there is a gem far greater than Kohinoor, he might not only not know how to get that gem out from the layers of the dust, but also might be scared to attempt, lest he damages it.
It could be more so here, since here we had a human and that also a slip of o girl involved.
This word always intrigued me, since the ‘slip’ in today’s day has another connotation especially when a girl is concerned, just like what she has said about two moons, while she was up high their (courtesy some champagnes).
I am still intrigued at her being allowed to partake it assuming that she was as of then underage, and well chaperoned. Of course had Shobhana been there I am sure Nutan would have been shooed away from anywhere near the bar. But with a family friend she would have got her chance, since being from Royal family, probably the Maharani too won’t be averse to a few sips, and permitted Nutan to have her first taste of the sin. And we know that the problem with the wines, unlike the stronger liquors, is that you don’t immediately know when you have too much, till you suddenly feel (or rather the people around you observe you are) on ether (mythological ether for you, actual liquid those who are around you, and know what you took).
In Hindi though we have the different two moon theory,
But as said by Yves, the theories differ. And when she have heard of it, she might have thought of this and might have been happy and flattered, may be embarrassed too due to this and not that.
When I checked the etymology of the phrase, Slip of a Girl, Slip doesn’t refer to the clothing, but ‘Slice’ and the phrase is meant to denote a thin girl. And she would have fitted the phrase to perfection, straight line, as per her, and still a girl, from what I saw of her movies of then.
This uncertainty, of trying to handle with extra care, must have stunted her growth (in the movie arena). However there is no doubt that the people that mattered were not going to write her off, despite her being the jinxed actor.
Probably it was her off screen activities? When you are on screen, it is the way you are presented. But when you are off screen, people look at your natural self. There, not been constrained, she would be free. The emotions, the animations on the face, would be in full display. The self-consciousness, that she was in front of camera, and hence act to her best ability, would have gone. We can say that one who forces herself to act, might make worse display, than one who is allowed to behave naturally, whether or not he/she has an expressive face.
She would then be attending quite a few filmy parties or gatherings as an actress and also a few she would be attending with the stars of those times, Motilal and Shobhana, as their family member. In those parties, at least quite a few, the people in the industry that mattered would be there. If they had watched her naturally expressive face (though of a slip of a girl), probably they won’t be ready to write her off as a bad egg. It is clear that she had left some impressions on a few greats like Asif, which made him to offer her Mughal-e-Azam, as the first actor, even before any other actor, including the hero, was finalized. It buttresses this theory.
Later when she started living the role, and not acting to the camera, she brought all that to screen for us to see, which her parents and the people in those parties must have been privy of. This hypothesis can be strengthened by the fact that not only Asif, who reportedly had even signed her as the very first actor in his magnum opus Mughal-e-Azam, though from which she had later backed out, but also there was a movie, this one jinxed though, where she had been with the Dilip Kumar (Shikwa). With one of the top stars of those times willing to do a role against her would definitely mean that there is a substance to my hypothesis.
Without the missing pieces of the puzzle (of 1952) and that is a big gap, I really won’t be able to make from where it all started changing on the screen. At the moment there was just an actress, if you can call her even that, doing things by rote.
As I see it, her moves were mechanical, as the choreographer asked her to. Of course she, or any one on screen, would be doing the same later too, but that won’t be so obvious as it is here.
Skipping the 1952s, not for a fault of mine, I come to the first movie of 1953, the Laila Majnu, with Shammi Kapoor.
This movie of course both the actors matched in one aspect, or rather our Nutan for the first time scored a bit over her co-actor on this aspect. This is the movie where both looked just out of the Great Bengal famine. Nutan always was, here the hero too matched her in the zero size, and in addition, he had a hungry look. In fact here the linearity of Nutan, was over shadowed by Shammi Kapoor.
Shammi wasn’t still the “Yahoo” man and this was in the list of his almost one and half dozen consecutive flops, after the debut movie Jeevan Jyoti, which could do some business. The next movie to do, and this time big business, was as far as I recall, the 1957 Tum Sa Nahin Dekha. The gap filled by movies with names like Miss Coca Cola, Tangewali, including he did a Pran act in a Kishore Kumar movie (Mem Sahib), one of the rare movies where Meena Kumari wasn’t filling up buckets. That was quite a nice movie, I don’t know why it flopped.
So in this aspect too he was a long way ahead of Nutan, who had only half a dozen, or less, of such (flop) movies to her credit. But then he was the scion of the (movie) first family, and he could afford the luxury, of having a string of flops behind him, which Nutan could hardly afford.
I know there are a lot Shammi fans, but can even they say , does he or doesn’t he look like one who would be standing outside say Mumbai VT platform? And that statement goes even when he was well dressed, say first few snaps above.
As against that, I feel Nutan had started filling up a bit. The trouble with Nutan was, up to a very late stage, it was really difficult, even for males, like me, who would try to guess the figure of the woman, to guess her.
The dresses she wore back then, were so loose, that the nearest would be the dresses that the Princess of Wales wears to hide the information from media of impending arrival.
It simply doesn’t give any hint of any curve anywhere. Of course there were certain other factors too. She was quite tall for an Indian woman. Somewhere I read it to be 5’4” but I think it could be more, or may be her bearing was like that. A lot of women, I have seen would be a bit stooping forward (try to hide their tall ness?) and that would further depress the curves of the upper portion. Nutan had this habit (unlike quite a few of the heroines who would thrust forward for obvious reasons). Her mom seems to have not told her to keep the back straight. But sometimes they didn’t listen to their parents, even in those times, I recall my parents trying to straighten my elder sister, but failed.
So what can a mere mortal (male) can do even with X ray eyes? And to make the matter worse, she would be back then not won’t be in Sari (to be fair on her, she wasn’t of that age either) and would be usually in Salwar and with the ever present Chunri (Shawl or stole is the nearest word?) even more successfully hiding the figure. The advantage of Sari, for us males, is that a girl can’t hide her straight-ness, or fatness, she can well hide the details, and thus though it is one of the modest attires, but hiding the basic outline is a bit difficult. May be she went for Sari, in Seema on wards, only after she lost her line.
I did the best I could, look at the feature she wasn’t hiding, the face. And when there is a puppy fat in it, which tried to cover her prominent cheek bones, I assumed it was elsewhere too.
By this logic, she is still almost straight line, still considering whether to start picking up the flesh or not. She isn’t in a hurry for that, and not really of the age too, at sixteen.
This one is only available in VCD format (and that too luckily, considering it is a sunk movie) and as happens with all the Bollywood movies, no one bothered to improve the print and sharpen the pictures. That obviously made the interpretation even more difficult.
In this movie of course there are a few improvements seen. She is much more beautiful than earlier (obviously now she is sixteen, then she was a thin, consumptive, slice of fourteen).
The expression of emotions, especially the histrionics are now visible, though much more subdued, which would be her forte from a few year hence.
The second movie during this period of life was Aagosh, the second movie of this year 1953. This was one of the major milestones though it was a flop movie. It was directed by one of the greatest Bollywood cinematographers of that era, obviously he had done cinematography too.
He wasn’t only trained cinematographer and photographer (trained in New York Inst. of Photo& Cinematography in photography, Cinematography & film processing) and also had done some work, though for a short time in the top studios of Hollywood. He was also assistant to the great pioneer Josef Wirsching (famously he agreed to take him under his tutelage only after he found that R D Mathur didn’t smoke)
However he had to leave the acting to the actor, and she was good. Not yet brilliant or exceptional, but still she was very good in patches, and those patches, which the people must have been watching live, had been brought on film in close up. It was a sweet story of puppy love, oft repeated in various movies, with the villains thrown in. However the treatment of the subject was not bad. In fact this flop was better and nearer to ‘could happen in real life’ than the later big hit copies on the same theme. The extreme close ups of heroine were used in this movie several times, later very often repeated, with Nutan especially. One of the very sweet (made more so by her) was when the hero (in this case Nasir Khan, but it doesn’t matter, since it is only his hand that is visible) cups her face in his hands.
The next movie in this series is of course another missing item (most of my gaps unfortunately are from this era), Malkin her third movie of 1953.
The movie won’t be too bad since the director was O P Dutta (the father of J P Dutta) who was a good script writer and dabbled in about ten movie directions, all of them were unsuccessful in the box office, so obviously his name was struck off from the employment exchange and he went back to what was his forte. However since this being a single blip, I can join the points through straight line and come to Shabaab, her last movie before first retirement.
She still hasn’t turned dumb, but there were by now significantly long episodes when she won’t talk.
Her growth in this period I will look into two aspects person and personality.
So let us look at the person aspect first. How much she physically grew in this period, in looks? It is the more difficult of the two growths. She had an uncanny (and bad) habit even in those days, I have seen that even in her first movie that I could get hold of. She could look two different ages in the movie and quite spaced at that. Sometimes she would look like a mature woman of say early or mid-twenties, and the next moment a small pre-teen one. This she would do just by a minor change in the facial muscles (expressions), not even by exaggerated behavior.It is difficult to really bring it out on the stills, but that’s the exact reason she didn’t look odd with much older Ashok or Balraj Sahni or ever-old Raj Kapoor.
And since she kept all her parts except the face carefully hidden from our prying eyes, I can’t really guess from the body change from girl to woman. Only the face I could see has been just filling up, but not by much.
The second and easier was to monitor personality development. She isn’t a woman yet, off screen, psychologically. On the screen of course she had been falling in love again and again. But the feeling of the love in the presence of the beloved, she is yet to bring out clearly. She is however able to bring out by then the other emotions, especially the disappointments, pains, grieves either due to the loss of the beloved or caused by beloved (parents included).
To find her personality growth as an actor, now I thought using the theory than going on surface and giving personal opinion. Of course it would be still personal, but at least it would be with some back-ground to throw it on critics.
The acting I thought of going back to the basics, the art (and the science) of it. Where our learned men over a couple of millennium back had said that the whole life is made up of eight rasas (the juices/ nectars of life), or should we call the emotions?
Not as an expert or scholar of the subject, just for curiosity I had read it, and hence all my thoughts would be as I understood, and hence debatable 🙂
Shringar (means beautification and is related to love) , Hasya (merriment) , Roudra (anger) , Karunya (pity) , Vibhatsya (aversion, hate), Veera (Bravery) and Adbhuta (Surprise), at a later date of course they thought of adding one main Shanta (Peace) and two more subsidiaries or half Rasas – Vatsalya (motherly) and Bhakti (devotion).
These eleven Rasas (situation) give rise to Bhavas (Bhavati = happenings, or effects on human) and the Anubhavas (the experience that they feel). It signifies that when one is flooded with a particular rasa, what he/ she becomes or in broad terms his/ her reactions to it.
Obviously no actor perfects all the Rasas and the Bhavas (the effect) or Anubhavas (the feelings) and able to express them.
What was our Nutan then?
The Sringar was till end her weak point especially the seductive (siren) acts. In this period she had to use this Rasa obviously, after all she was in the love stories, luckily all were teen stories and she didn’t have to fake age, which in her stature would have been difficult. The movies are basically love stories, either ending up in ‘and they lived happily ever after’ or opposite. However as I had observed in this shringar aspect, one portion she could do, enticing (though bash fully) looking beautiful (that she didn’t have to make any extra effort), but when the need to seduce came she miserably failed, in fact even when she tried, it didn’t end up conveying that Bhava to the audience.
It ended up either in the bashful invitation (and that continued even when she has grown up)
or pure naughty,
So My take on her in this period is,
Now she is finally sweet sixteen (though per calendar eighteen). Yet to be properly directed to use her resources. That exist is by now evident. And I am sure that it was evident off screen, when she wasn’t self conscious. Since that largely explains the movie makers persisting with her. Of course these were the ‘B’ grade heroes, but the movies were not ‘B’ Grade (which would have names like Hatimtaikibeti, Jungle KaJawahar, or Tarzan ka beta..)
Still she isn’t very comfortable in the company of men (read hero), though there is an improvement. She isn’t trying to run away from them scared, like she did in the first phase. It almost looked like the boy is a leper and she has to be with him, only because mother told so, and she is watching (Sobhana I assume would be there physically too, chaperoning her, quite often. The moment she got a chance, she is going to run away.
One thing is sure, she liked to be cuddled and spoiled. Whenever in these periods or later the hero held her face in palms, she would practically melt with happiness and bliss, like young children do. And I have observed her to shed ten years of age in these shots. Since she wasn’t still fully professionalized actor, and in fact I don’t think she ever became (except the last decade of her life) this feeling must be her own. Did she miss it at home? Probably so, since though her mother mentions that she was a very loving girl, whether that was reciprocated by anyone other than Chatura isn’t clearly brought out.
If I didn’t know the future, the verdict would have been that she is not likely to go much further. The competition is tough, the actresses like Madhubala, Nargis, Meena Kumari, Nimmi, Suraiyya, Bina Rai are at their prime, and are followed by the second rung Shyama, Geeta Bali.
Now that there is competition from a few of her generation like Mala Sinha and Vyjayantimala, and though their acting is a bit too affected and not natural, but still they are better than her. It is better that she stops trying to be an actress, since here she won’t succeed, may be a side role?. Agreed she can act, but not too brilliant, there is nothing that calls me to sink my money on her again and again. I will take her in heroine’s sister’s role in next movie.
Obviously the movie makers didn’t agree with me, so there was something that they knew/ expected.