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Nutan, Unmatched Unvanquished

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There was only one heroine, opined a leading filmmaker, who looked equally fetching in a ghagra-choli and a bathing suit – Sharmila Tagore. Boldly breaking free from the image of a saree confined devi in her heyday, Nutan too tried both: the ghagra-choli in A. Bhim Singh’s Gauri and the bathing costume in S.D.Narang’s DiIli Ka Thug. Neither sartorial flourish had the audience panting in submission. Nor for that matter were her off-shoulder gowns and furs in Saawan Kumar’s Saajan Ki Saheli and Raj Khosla’s Teri Maang Sitaron Se Bhar Doon (when the actress was way past her prime) accorded warm receptions. 

But Nutan had that rare capability of carrying audiences with her.

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This is where the actress scored among the splendid sextet of all- time great actresses from the ’50s. Whenever it occurred, the audience was not the least offended by Nutan’s `devi’ations. She inspired a subtle, undefinable confidence among viewers. We trusted her to do her best in the worst of circumstances. Nothing she did up there could be considered aesthetically wrong. There was a serene cool–headedness to Nutan’s personality which placed her miles ahead of the other screen queens who made a crying virtue of over- emotionalism. While Meena Kumari seemed steeped in the ethos of tragedy, Nargis projected an impetuous countenance. Geeta Bali was an eternal waif while Madhubala, the beauteous siren. None of these celluloid heavyweights could be imagined in the midst of hard-headed domestication. They lived life on the precipice of romantic delirium.

Waheeda Rehman is the only actress of the splendid sextet who comes close in personality to Nutan. Both actresses projected a  tranquil soul through their performances. They outlined classical Indian womanhood: trustworthy, loyal and pragmatic. There is a reserve of resilient will power in their emotional make-up that places them in the class of no- nonsense feminity. When Waheeda drops her taciturnity for `aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai’ in Guide and Nutan frolics in bare footed ardour for ‘Jogi jabse to aaya mere dware’ in Bandini the effect is that of a sudden and intense cloudburst. The audience feels privileged to be sharing their unguarded moments.

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Where Nutan scored over Waheeda (and all the other members of the Secret Society Of Subtle Celluloid Skills in the pre-method era of acting) is in her coiling range of histrionic aptitudes. While neither Waheeda nor Nutan could be trifled with by Man or Nature, Nutan could articulate indignance without getting breathless. Her emotional outbursts conveyed the abrupt ferocity of a whiplash. Nutan’s elasticity of emotive emotionalisation prompted Basu Bhattacharya to say that he wished it was Nutan and not Waheeda he had signed for the part of the nautankiwali in Teesri Kasam, if only she knew how to dance. If only!

Certainly Waheeda was more alluring and graceful than Nutan. And certainly Geeta Bali was more spontaneous, Madhubala more chiseled and Meena Kumari more tragic. Nutan’s timeless appeal lay elsewhere. She was the most intuitive actress of the pre-Shabana generation. Nutan used self- imposed gestures and nuances in her parts long before the noisy method actors. She possessed an in­built propensity to go beyond the requirements of the script. Nutan’s favourite filmmaker, Bimal Roy, in whose Bandini and Sujata the actress was at her best, would have vouched for it. Added to this was her quietly zealous dedication to her profession. Nutan did her work without giving press interviews after every shot.

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Nutan was one of those rare breed of actors who would brood over one wrongly spoken line for the whole night. Such commitment to cinematic art later came to be terribly fashionable in the filmdom. Nutan’s dedication was certainly a unique thing in the switch-on switch-off era of faucet acting. She remained unpretentiously devoted to her profession to the very last. Rishi Kapoor recalled the ailing actress waiting patiently for the busy hero of a certain under production film to turn up. She neither complained nor sulked. That wasn’t Nutan’s style.

A thoroughly non-interfering actress, Nutan took active interest in all aspects of filmmaking. This again set her apart from other actresses of her generation who could not tell the difference between a long shot and a close-up. The actress was known to watch her co-stars on the sets only to keep abreast of the film’s overall design. When Nutan made suggestions to the director in her hesitant though clearheaded way, they revealed a mind that grasped the arithmetic, chemistry and the mystery of cinema. Before her death, the actress was readying a script which she intended to direct. I have no doubt the film would have been a landmark in feminist cinema without resorting to the trendy sexual assertions of Aparna Sen or Kalpana Lajmi.

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As is typical of most celluloid greats, Nutan was at her emotive best when given, the least spoken lines. Who can forget the wordless sequence in Bandini when Kalyani mixes poison in her tormentor’s tea? Or the sequence in Sujata where the Harijan girl seeks inadequate shelter during pouring rain under Gandhiji’s statue? Or the long singular song sequence when Sunil Dutt sings, `Jalte hain jiske liye’ to Nutan over the phone? As tears fall silently over the receiver, you can hear the sound of the breaking heart over the line. The enormous eloquence of Nutan’s silences was on par with that of Meryl Streep and Katherine Hepburn. Nutan reified the cultivated charm and the muted grace of a westernised Indian woman whose values have been inculcated to the Indian ethos.

On screen, Nutan seemed a woman who would laugh politely, but insincerely at your joke. But you didn’t mind the deception. She wasn’t the kind of a person who played for effect. Interestingly, Nutan’s very mode of westernised responses— that distant and unapproachable sophistication— imparted a compelling conviction to the part of the educated, sensitive, middleclass girl who aspired to just a little more than a husband and children. Nutan’s one failing–if it could be called that– was her inability to dance. (In any case, she didn’t seem the kind who would wriggle her hips to woo her beloved). But she could sing, though. Lata Mangeshkar, who was the actress’ constant playback singer, had singled out Nutan as the only actress who looked fully convincing in providing lip synch to the songs. The conviction was never throat-deep. It came from deep within the actress’s being from where she borrowed inspiration to lend absolute credibility both to the tragic parts (Bandini, Sujata, Milan, Saraswatichandra, Seema, Sone Ki Chidiya, Soorat Aur Seerat, Saudagar, Main Tulsi Tere Angan Ki) and light hearted musicals (Anari, Chhalia, Dil Hi To Hai, Kanhaiya, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, Paying Guest).

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Each of these films contain summits of histrionic dexterity. Of all the incandescent passages of Nutan’s brilliancy, I think the most majestic was in Sudhendu Roy’s Saudagar (1973) where the heroine tells the gur dealer, “why did you have to marry me to make gur? I’d have made it for you even otherwise.” The sequence best represents the Nutan persona: the pained consciousness of a strong, self-dependent woman, battling male domination quietly and unobtrusively. Nutan’s rebukes were doubly potent for their infrequency. Interestingly, in real life the actress took her mother to court on a property dispute. Like the characters she portrayed, it was the principle of the matter that bothered Nutan.

Excepting some films like Saudagar, Main Tulsi…, the television serial, Mujrim Haazir and some parts of the film Rishta Kaagaz Ka, all of Nutan’s shrewdest performances are to be seen in her pre-southern phase. The scrubbed naturalness of her dazzling personality was replaced by a dull artifice which she adopted for the melodramatic roles in the highly successful Madras productions of the 60s (most of them co-starring Sunil Dutt) : Khandaan, Meherbaan, Milan, Gauri, Devi etc. By the time Nutan came to Meri Jung in 1985 that enigmatic, indefinable smile had acquired a distinctly plastic quality. The representational naturalism of her personality was replaced by an uneasy artifice which, I feel, was imposed on the actress’ performances by the South Indian directors who insist on exaggerated emoting. Fans of the actress were dismayed to find Nutan hamming it up in her more recent films like Saajan Bina Suhaagan, Meri Jung and Yeh Kaisa Farz (the last was a compromise she made to boost her son Mohnish’s career).

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To the last, filmmakers approached Nutan only if they had a substantial part to offer. In a rare interview to Filmfare, two years ago, the actress had said, “I accept only powerful pivotal character roles—not the ones which can be done by any mediocre actress. That would be fooling the public who come to see a film of mine expecting a good performance.” Amplifying her sincerity to self and art were her self–discipline and humility. “I must have done something stupendous in my last life to have got so much in this life,” she said in the same interview, “and what is more, I have always been content with what I have.” This wasn’t the whole truth. Nutan was an actress who strove to ferret out the Ultimate role to the very end.

Nutan was constantly alert to histrionic challenges. Whether she played the restless wife in a pretentious art film like Bimal Dutt’s Kasturi or the slinky, vampish mother of Rekha in Saawan Kumar’s Saajan Ki Saheli, the actress was perpetually sharpening her range of dramatics. Nutan seldom stumbled in selecting parts. While her performance in Bandini ranks as among the five best ever in the Hindi cinema (alongside Meena Kumari’s Saahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Nargis’s Mother India, Waheeda’s Guide and Shabana’s Arth) there are several other histrionic highs in Nutan’s illustrious career. Her performance as the mysterious Kaliganj ki bahu in Mujrim Haazir ranks as the highest point of aesthetic achievement on Indian television. Nobody knew at that time that this was meant to be Nutan’s final hurrah. Like her capricious career moves (evident from the very beginning when she hopped from a family social Hamari Beti to a suspense thriller Nagina) fate had other plans. On February 21, 1991, the Bandini flew the coop. 

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Why On  Earth Is Sushmita Sen Smoking A Cigar In Aarya’s First  Look?

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Aarya

Season 3  of Aarya is being shot as  you read this, and naturally Sushmita Sen is  super-kicked about it, so kicked that she has put  out a  video where she is seen  in the  best Lady Boss version of herself.

Alarmingly, she is seen puffing away at a  cigar, to  complete her Badass Lady Boss image.

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 There was a  time when women smoking  cigarettes  in Hindi cinema signaled vampishness. If a female actor was  shown smoking it meant she had evil designs  over the  hero, and life in general.

 Sushmita being Sushmita, a cigarette won’t do. A  cigar it is, to go with her formidable image. The last Bollywood actor I saw smoking a cigar  on screen was Premnath in the 1970s. Back then so  many  people didn’t die of cancer  by smoking.

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 These are  different far more dangerous  and deadly times.

Sushmita is an iconic  actor.She  needs to be more careful about the image  she projects . Smoking  a  cigar doesn’t  enhance a woman’s(or a  man’s) muscle power. Nor does it make her look cool.

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About shooting for the third season of Aarya  Sushmita says, “Aarya is synonymous with my name.  I have lived as Aarya for two whole seasons and the love received by the audiences has only encouraged me to do more. Walking on the sets of Aarya Season 3 makes me feel at home and gives me  a sense of empowerment. I’m grateful to the entire team at Disney+ Hotstar, Ram Madhvani Films and Endemol Shine India for the vision of creating Aarya and taking it to newer heights with every season.”

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Shah Rukh, Deepika, John Will Meet The Media  On Monday At 4 pm(But There’s  A Catch)

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Pathaan

Pathaan has effectually discredited the  efficacy  of media interactions to promote  a  film. The  film’s lead actors Shah Rukh  Khan, Deepika Padukone  and John Abraham did not conduct any  press or portal interviews  to  promote the  film.

And  yet Pathaan  is  a blockbuster.

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 This  weekend  the Pathaan producer Aditya  Chopra  of  Yash Raj Films  took a call on behalf  of  the Pathaan team  to do one media  meet at the Taj Land’s End in Mumbai  on Monday January 30 at 4 pm.

The  three principal actors  and  director Siddharth Malhotra  will address  the  media.

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 But  here’s the catch: the media will not be allowed to ask any questions. There will be no  Q& A s or  one-on-one  interactions.This  basically means that the  Pathaan  team will  have an opportunity to  say what it wants  to the media. But the  media will have no say.

Make what  you will of this  one-way traffic.

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A  source close  to Yash Raj informs  me that this is  the   pattern  regarding the media that  Yash Raj will follow for  future  releases: no  press meets  no promotional  engagements.

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Fake Projects of Pathaan Director Being Planted In Media

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Pathaan

Siddharth Anand Denies Considering  Any Project With  Deepak Mukut

A  word of caution to those marketing and publicity wizkids  who think  it’s okay to  plant fake stories  on (fake) projects  with the Pathaan director.

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 It is  not.

Such baseless announcements  are meant only to  raise  the equity  of the  producers  with whom Siddharth   Anand’s name is  linked. One  such  producer whose name  has cropped up after the  spectacular success of  Pathaan is  Deepak Mukut.

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There were  reports  everywhere that Siddharth Anand’s next would  be with Mukut.

Turned out to be a false rumour.

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A  source in the  know informs, “Siddharth now has to complete Fighter  starring Hrithik Roshan and  Deepika Padukone  for Yash Raj.Then  he  is   committed to direct the sequel to War 2 for  Yash Raj films.  They will then start  work on the  next film in the Pathaan  franchise. There is no scope  or  room for any outside  projects  for Siddharth Anand. So every announcement  that  you read of a  new film  to be  directed by Siddharth Anand  for an  outside  producer is likely to  be  a hundred  percent fake.”

When I asked Siddharth Anand  about the  supposed project  with  producer Deepak Mukut he promptly replied,  “NOT AT ALL.”

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Pink Director’s Next  Featuring Yami As A Crime Reporter To Stream From February 16

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Yami

Anniruddha Roy  Chowdhury whose  Pink  featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu was one of  the  most important  films of  2016, is all set to  release his  next  Hindi film.

Entitled LostAnniruddha’s film , based on true  events, will see Yami Gautam Dhar(that’s  what the actress calls herself after her marriage)  as a crime journalist. LOST is an emotional social thriller that represents a higher quest, a search for lost values of empathy and integrity.

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Inspired by true events, Lost is a story of a bright young woman crime reporter in her relentless search for the truth behind the sudden disappearance of a young theatre activist.

Lost

Lost

Says Aniruddha  “The shoot of LOST has been an incredible journey. I have been eager for the release of our hard-worked venture. The film is a realistic highlight of media in a social context and I am sure that it will give the audience a compelling watch. I am curious about its release and see the responses it shall get. I hope they will welcome it with open hearts.”

Yami Gautam Dhar  who plays  the lead  of  the  crime reporter  says,   “I can’t be happier and more proud of the film’s selection for the opening night at CSAFF. I feel like its one that the people will connect to and will be the one that you cannot miss, especially in the current age and time. I have loved playing this role because it was such a special experience, it allowed me to explore so many layers of emotions as an actor and the entire team has worked really hard on it. I genuinely cannot wait for the film’s release, especially to see the reactions of the audience to it.”

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The crime investigation  drama boasts a stellar cast. Along with Yami, the film will feature Pankaj Kapur, Rahul Khanna, and an ensemble of younger talent, including Neil Bhoopalam, Pia Bajpai, and Tushar Pandey, in pivotal roles.

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