Ali Peter John
The first time I saw Nutan was outside the Regal cinema in South Mumbai. She was wearing trousers and a fancy top and getting out of a swanky car which she was driving herself and time stood still for me till she passed from my sight and I kept looking at her and even her shadow .As I kept looking ,I remembered films like “Anari”, “Bandini”,”Tere Ghar Ke Samne”and “Milan “which I had seen in my childhood or during the matinee shows I had seen during my school and college days , which in fact were my actual education in Hindi cinema . Memories of that “darshan” of Nutan lived with me for several years and till I was a young man …
I was led by destiny and K.A. Abbas to join “Screen “, the number one film weekly of the country and within five years of my joining , I was fortunate to start writing my own column “Ali’s Notes “which by God’s grace and may be my own hard work and passion became popular not only in the Industry but also among a large number of readers .
One afternoon , my right hand man , Pramod told me there was a call for me (there were no mobiles, only the big black telephones those days). He said it was a woman. The voice was familiar. And before I could guess , the voice said ,”Ali , I am Nutan .”Need I say what my condition was ? She continued ,”I have been reading you regularly. Can I meet you some time?” I was literally fumbling for words .Who was I to tell Nutan when I could meet her ? I gathered courage and told her I could meet her the same evening if she was free .She said she was free if I was free . I couldn’t believe what was happening to this boy from that village . But , There was a hitch. I had heard my senior ,Mr. Kumtakar talk about her apartment being on the thirty six floor and I was suffering from vertigo those days and couldn’t think of going beyond two floors .I told her the truth. I also told her without any shame that I would need three or four large pegs of any kind of liquor before I came to “Sagar Sangeet”, the building she lived in . I had one more “demand”. A person would have to accompany me and I would have to be seated in a room from where I would not be able to see the road . She laughed aloud and said “no one has made such demands before ,all your demands will be met ,Ali , just tell me what time you want me to send my driver to you ” the rest of evening I was treated like royalty and was sent home in a posh car .We had three more dinner meetings like that .
She had started singing at different shows of her own when her acting career had almost come to an end . The Indian Express had requested her to do a show for its workers and she had agreed . She wanted a big star to be the chief guest . I requested Shashi Kapoor who was the busiest star and shooting for seven films in a day but he still agreed . We reached the hall when Nutan was singing and took our seats in the front row and she was singing the song ,”Saawan ka mahina , pawan kare shor” from Milan and Shashi looked at me and asked “Isn’t this excruciatingly painful ?”and I didn’t know what to say . It was now his turn to go on stage and say a few words about Nutan and her singing . He said her voice was better than the voices of all the angels in heaven and kept singing Nutan’s praises and looking at me .Shashi was known for being mischievous and naughty .He came down and dragged me out of the hall and said “phirse aisi jagah laya na Ali , bahut maarunga, chal abhi mere sath mujhe doosri shooting mein jaana hai .”
Nutan did not have the best of life towards the end . She had only one dream and that was to see the success of her only son , Mohnish Behl , but that did not happen even though she played some insignificant roles in films to keep some filmmakers happy. She finally succumbed to cancer and was cremated at the Banganaga crematorium where two of her heroes, Dev Anand who rarely attended funerals and Sunil Dutt were the only ones were present .
I was drinking with some of my so called influential friends at the Press Club when I received the news about her that and her cremation. I left the place immediately and then told my friends why I was leaving and they said in one voice,”chhod na, Ali, bekar ka emotional hota hai , uske naam se do char peg aur pee lena .”The wheel of my relationship with Nutan had come full circle .
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