This is the period from when not only us after more than half a century but the Film magazines, other media, connoisseurs of the art and other movie goers of that time had started talking of her, may be for the first time and that talk continues till date after more than half a century over, even when she is no more.
Most probably I should have promoted this to the bloom stage. But I wanted to play safe. This was the period, she was still a young girl, at least looked to be. It is not the figure, which had become now feminine, courtesy those extra 40 pounds (and Champagne?). But in general, I don’t see her as a grown up young woman still, acting prowess of course excluded. So I would think of it as a bud about to flower. The colours, that she would display is now well known, and there is no confusion of what she would be.
Most of the time, the talk about her and her movies, would be from this period on wards. Of course people like us excluded. In fact in the night show (where they show the old time songs, I am yet to see a single one from Shabab, and that had a plethora of sweet songs. In fact in Radio I still recall hearing at least one song,
Those were the time of radios, we had a big black Bush at our home with those netted copper ribbon like antennas hung across the hall to pick up signal. No semiconductors, with valves, and you have to wait for quite few minutes till that valve heats up and you see the green eye finally becoming a thin slit telling us now it is ready, as the sounds starts finally coming out of it. I think it was called cat’s eye, due to the dilation and then finally forming the slit, signifying that the channel is tuned. The media was ruled by the print and the Radio Ceylone. This after few years became Srilanka Broad Casting Corporation, of whose “Ka Videsh Bibhag” (Foreign section) is what we were attuned to. Then we had of course the Vividh Bharati, which still exists, though in senile age and condition. I even remember one Urdu Service which would play songs somewhere at night 10 PM onwards, I don’t know which Broadcasting corporation it belonged to.
Morning would start with the old songs in SLBC (Purani Filmon Ke Geet), the last song invariably be one of K L Saigal’s. I recall “So Jaa Raaj Kumari”, “Jab Dil Hi toot Gaya..” being quite common and we would mock/copy the nasal sound of him. That would as I recall be followed by the normal ‘today’s song, I don’t think ‘Aap Ki Pasand’ – audience choice, was then, it was I think in the evening, just before the Binaca Times. The audio cassettes have just started coming in the market, but we would be more into the vinyls. Video cassettes? We hadn’t even heard of TV then, then where do you play Video Cassettes? Good old days…
Anyway I should come back to present, and talk of those days. Seema has been talked about in all the places innumerable times, so it is only repeating what someone or else had said anywhere else, and would be travesty.
What I always wonder is what happened back there in Swiss that changed her so much? Not figure wise of course, that too though is not less important, since a girl has suddenly become young lady in just 8 to 9 months. But I assume it might have been due to the relaxed atmosphere, the physical stress of the work reduced. We must remember that in those times she would be shooting 3 movies per year. That is definitely not what a young girl like her should do.
This break what Shobhana gave her, was most likely with some other motive, an absence to boost her sagging career, the “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” principle. But it did what was needed, the rest made her a physically healthy and now with the puppy or non-puppy fats at proper places she looked beautiful. The divine aspect would be in another year or so, since she still looked at the threshold. Though, to my eyes at least, she was able to change her age on screen, so she was a full woman too quite often in this movie.
What else happened back there in Switzerland? Something else had definitely happened. Not on personal front, I am sure no boyfriend thing, and that is with logical deduction that her first affair almost certainly had been with Rajnish. That’s not as her fan, and would like to believe it, but there are certain other indications.
What I just pure guess is that the visit, to the movie set, must have exposed her to the acting, as it should be. More than the shooting visit, the Locarno Fest, where definitely the movies that mattered would be screened, must have educated her. This is what must have what taught her to act naturally and without affectation or exaggeration, which fortunately she didn’t earlier too, but could have been doing soon, since others did. So technically it removed her inhibitions, and she knew that the actors should behave, even on screen, as the people in daily life do. Only difference being that in our daily life, due to the various inhibitions and the insecurity, we mask our face to hide the feelings, on screen she would have to let the unmasked emotion take her over. This she might have observed in the movies, when she wasn’t too hot, or her companions weren’t on the moon.
As she escaped back, before getting expelled, she was lucky, and we were lucky, that she met her mentor, Amiya. There is no doubt that he was the one who polished whatever rough edges his Angel, still had.
This is a movie where most of the talents of Nutan were honed to a great extent. It was where she got the real jump, and to be frank this was the time. She had been unnecessarily overstrained earlier, where the stress as well as mental pressure could have been tremendous. It is lucky that she survived so many failures at that tender age, without any permanent effect on psyche. The crystal was given the final shape here and then it was only polishing the facets to get more and more perfection.
There is no doubt of the affection they had for each other, which is clear from his affectionate name for her (‘Angel’) and the regrets Nutan had had later (if only He and Bimal Roy had lived longer…). But did she herself either? She too left somewhere in middle (at 54) of Amiya (45) and Bimal (57).
Unfortunately also, his next two movies in the rest of the time available, only two years, in 1957 he died of a broken and failed heart, she wasn’t in either. The Kathputli went to her rival, Vyjayanthimala, due to her dancing capability and Dekh Kabira Roya, an out and out comedy, had three female protagonists in Anita Guha, Ameeta and Nutan’s friend, Shubha Khote.
They did have their plans, since Nutan mentions “We had so many ideas, but”
This is the love, which must have helped in moulding of Seema, and practically Nutan’s character was formed from this movie, she remained Seema, a bit polished and some more arrows, not so sharp as these.
Some people had mentioned of there being a bit of over acting by Nutan. But when I really look at the protagonist, a girl in teens (she is below 18 since the judge releases her telling that there is no earlier transgression and additionally she is a minor”), and from a slum, she would be a bit loud in real life too. If someone says no, he hasn’t seen the Chawls.
When we look at this story from a skeletal angle, it is a fatherly figure of a orphanage, where a waif young girl is brought in (we know of a false charge but he doesn’t) and he with fatherly compassion reforms her into a responsible young woman, and in the way she falls in love with him. He too reciprocates towards the end, but that feeling he keeps deep inside and unspoken, due to age and health issues. So it should be a Vatsalya from his side and the recipient would have the Shringara, where she tries to convert his fatherly love into actual love, and also a bit of Karuna, the sadness and disappointment. The others as her life traversed are as I could (may be wrongly, since I am not an expert on this subject and is only a skimmer) tried to analyse, with a bit of commonsense and of course thinking of the situations.
But what I found, and this would be her forte ever hence, is an over suffusion of Vatsalya from her side. Her frustration at being informed that doctor has told no one should be near him (isn’t her expression – a child is sick and mother is debarred? Who is he to do it?). She practically treats Balraj as mother do, especially clear when he is sick or in the last scene. If one looks at her demeanor or expression while she is keeping watch at sleeping Balraj, it isn’t a lover like to a small bit. Of course in some places she had indulged in Shringar, at least however much she could, with the sleeping/ unconscious hero.
When I look at most of the movies, she had this complex Vatsalya-Shringar type love to each of her heroes. Ashok Kumar last scene in Bandini? Paying Guest, her relation with Dev too was on this line, if one watches when she is angry on him for getting drunk. It is more of an unhappy mother than an unhappy lover. Or even the way she protected him (the rents) against her father, doesn’t the mothers do to their wayward children often?
This may be the reason, she has ended with the adorers off screen (in audience) than the lovers (who would whistle at her arrival)? She made the audience too her children and not lovers by default?
Despite getting personal, I wonder why she stopped after Mohnish! Some times of course they do, till having first they think it is fun, then they know 🙂 May be she too did, and may be the initially cuddly Mohnish when he grew wasn’t so cuddly.
The trouble is where to put a stop in this period? Upto when she was still sixteen? Or say maximum eighteen in looks? I am talking of looks, now her infancy, in histrionics is already gone like it never existed, proving that those who had bet on her weren’t only realist, but might have been even pessimist. She was now a mistress of her face and eyes, and would remain so, continuously perfecting the already perfect for another thirty six years, given the chance by the script writers and directors.
Another trouble with her, as I see, is her ability to change age on screen, (without dyed hairs or even changing the hairstyle).
I will consider the immediate next, Heer, in this category, since in general she looked still a child. Why I am putting these two years (and only with one movie per year) all by a category? May be difficult to justify, probably my thought processes are getting so long if I take more, I would lose track of from where I began? But there is some other reason too.
Of course every movie doesn’t give one a chance to act every mode and nuances of the Rasa and Bhavas but what had been impressive is, which I hope everyone would accept that she had put life in the roles by portraying them, speechlessly when the situation said that the protagonist is undergoing the circumstances, unfailingly every time, and for her adorers, to perfection.
In this movie except one aspect of Shringar, the seduction, rest of it, the enticing, coy invitation all were visible, but not the ‘Come hither’ which was the strength of Madhubala.
At that time still her being a bit of a child isn’t in doubt, she doesn’t only look but also behaves, in fact I believe she was mentally so too. The behavior of not able to stand at one place, twisting the body (or rolling it) and the children do, continued still. That would go, once she is a really adult in a few years hence. But she is only per birth certificate adult. Of course there had been portions, when she had acted and looked adult, but that was role demand. Here she was freely acting her (mental) age. For an actor to act older might be much easier than one to look and act as a child, without the viewers feeling it artificial, well it is rare. As we feel when same age actresses try to play school girls. But here, she could easily fit into the role of a high-school student, shedding four to five years, (of course a tall one).
This movie she had tried for some Shringar, trying to seduce the hero, to what she could, but as always she failed, remaining sweet, with no carnal effect induced on the hero. She even did the classic invitational stretch exercise, or beckoning, inviting the hero to come to her, and looking at him, did she think sexily? I differ madam, that’s not your cup of tea.
Why was it so? What I feel is her beauty had a rare virginal quality. And that too of the type, one won’t like to soil it, it would be almost sacrilege.
May be it was due to her Shringar (making love to hero) was with the Vatsalya mixed, with the latter in a bit excess? So She was almost mother like to hero, and hence the audience? Automatically then thinking or desiring her would be sacrilegious (Freud would strongly disagree and tell me that is the most natural reaction and otherwise means something is wrong with you/ mother).
One way she wasn’t wrong, she was fulfilling all the roles of the wife (or would be) of the Hero, the classic “Grihini, Sachiva, Sakhi, Mithah, Priya-Sishya Lalite Kalavidhau Dharma-Vanijyaka” i.e. Owner of the home, Advisor, Friend, Close to heart, favourite disciple, expert in arts, maintainer of Dharma and economy.
This definition had missed the other activity, assuming that is natural and need not be spelt out, and our girl must have thought instead, that it was out of syllabus. Anyway the way I look at it, had it been in the syllabi, she would have miserably failed in that subject paper.
This period was the real foundation of Nutan as we are going to know. Her character is formed and would grow over time perfecting itself further and further shining overpoweringly if it could be used, shining in the pitch dark too when we have those type of directors.
I won’t say Amiya made a mistake in not bringing the missing feature in her. As I see, with her tranquil beauty and behaviour (at least on screen, I don’t know off screen whether she was fire-band or tranquil) it would have been a discordant aspect. As far as I could make out from her simplicity off screen and lack of ego, she wasn’t much different from what she essayed on screen. Failings do and might certainly exist in action, perfection do not exist in nature, and definitely she was not something out of the world (except on screen).