Indo-Asian News Service
Mumbai, Feb 9 (IANS) The "Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh" woman will never turn back again. Yesteryear Bollywood actress Nadira died early Thursday at a Mumbai hospital after a prolonged illness. She was 74.
The feisty Nadira, alias Farhat Ezekiel, who took Indian cinema by storm with her debut film "Aan", passed away in the Bhatia hospital, where she had been admitted Jan 2.
She was cremated according to Hindu rites despite her being a Jew in the Chandanwadi electric crematorium at Marine Lines in south Mumbai.
Her friends from the film industry like veteran actress Nimmi, Ali Raza Hussain, former radio jockey Ameen Sayani, lyricist Gulzar, directors Mahesh Bhatt, Ashok Pandit and Madhur Bhandarkar and others attended her last rites.
"She acted in my film 'Tamanna'. The role was so perfect for her as it was about an ageing actress from whom the limelight was fading away. She was thoroughly professional," Bhatt told reporters.
It is said Nadira brought her own sari for the 1975 Kamal Amrohi classic "Pakeezah".
"She was one woman with crystal clear thoughts about any matter or subject. She maintained that till her end. She will be thoroughly missed," said Ameen Sayani.
Nadira suffered from myriad illnesses -- tubercular meningitis, alcoholic liver disorder and paralysis. She lived alone in her south Mumbai flat in Vasundhara building.
Sources close to her said she had taken to heavy drinking in the last few years.
With all her successes behind her, Nadira led a lonely life after most of her family members - including her two brothers - migrated to either the US or Israel.
Her maid Shobha was the one who took care of her. A few of her neighbours, mostly children, celebrated her birthday Dec 5 with cakes and biryani, sources close to the departed actress said.
She was also sought after for books from her small but well-maintained library, which had works of Shakespeare, Hitler, Vivekananda, books on World War II, on Judaism and philosophy.
Her friends from the film industry, including actresses Tanuja, Nimmi, Shyama, Deepti Naval and model-turned Milind Soman, who acted with her in the teleserial "Margaritta", visited her frequently.
A Baghdadi Jew hailing from Nagpada in south Mumbai - a predominantly Muslim and Jewish locality - Nadira was all of 19 when she stormed her way into Bollywood with Mehboob Khan's "Aan" (1950) opposite the reigning tragedy king Dilip Kumar.
Khan had chosen Nadira for her glowing skin, sharp features and European looks as he wanted to remake "Aan" in English too.
The boisterous Nadira, however, was not just heroine material. She went on to don negative roles with élan.
Her role as the villainous Maya in Raj Kapoor's classic "Shri 420" where she wooed Kapoor with the evergreen club-dance number "Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh" - still a favourite among party-hoppers - is etched in the minds of millions of matinee fans.
The song "Ajeeb Daastan Hai Yeh" picturised on the trio of Nadira, Rajkumar and Meena Kumari in "Dil Apna Preet Parayi" is another evergreen favourite.
She reigned supreme in the 1950s and 1960s and was one of the busiest actresses of her time.
Although by the 1970s lead roles dried up, Nadira continued to play character roles, but with a difference. Even when she played the mother, Nadira was rarely the sobbing, helpless woman in white. She added rare dignity and spirit to the various roles of the mother, aunt or other older woman roles that she did with such conviction.
Nadira's role in "Julie" (1975) as the heroine Lakshmi's mother - an Anglo-Indian housewife keeping her brood together in the face of enormous odds and facing crises with poise - fetched her a Best Supporting Actress Award.
"Pakeezah" (1972), "Sagar" (1985), "Tamanna" (1997) and more recently "Josh" (2000) are some of the movies that featured her.
Her role as the wronged wife of veteran actor Shriram Lagoo in the serial "Thoda Sa Aasmaan" is rated as one of the best television performances ever.
From heady fame to complete isolation, Nadira's life was indeed 'Ajeeb dastaan'.