Nimmi belonged to an era in Hindi cinema when actresses came with their own distinct adaa (style). Acting was all about quicksilver turn of expressions. A raised brow or the quiver of the lips could say it all. Nimmi was known for graceful presence, doe eyes that were a pool of emotions and a voice layered with gravitas.
One of the leading stars of yesteryears, Nimmi passed away in Mumbai on Wednesday at the age of 88.
She was born Nawab Banoo and it was filmmaker-actor Raj Kapoor who gave her the name Nimmi and introduced her on screen. She met him on the sets of Mehboob Khan’s Andaz, which is when he decided to cast her as the second lead in Barsaat. Her debut performance as a naive shepherdess in love with a reckless city slicker went on to define her persona. She came to be identified for a unique air of melancholy and intensity combined with charm, guilelessness and innocence.
Nimmi straddled genres and had a substantial number of hits (a clutch of them with superstar Dilip Kumar) to her credit but could not quite get her due. Despite successes like Aan, Deedar, Daag, Amar, Kundun, Uran Khatola and Basant Bahar, she didn’t get counted in the top league of Meena Kumari, Nargis and Madhubala.
Family friend and music director Madan Mohan’s daughter Sangeeta Gupta, who also acted with her in Bhai Bhai, remembers her as an educated, well-spoken, sensitive and charming person. “She used to live across Madan ji’s music room and used to visit quite often,” she says.
Nimmi had slipped into obscurity after the death of her husband Ali Raza. It was a rare interview in 2013 (Guftagoo with Irfan) on Rajya Sabha TV that the reclusive star revealed lots of unknown facets about her personal and professional life. Like how at the London première of Aan she received four Hollywood film offers, including one from none other than Cecil B. Demille.
Lata Mangeshkar tweeted about working together on many films and remembered her as a well mannered, gracious lady. Actor Rishi Kapoor tweeted: “RIP. Thank you, Nimmi aunty, for all the blessings and love for Bobby on its première release. You were part of the RK family. Barsaat was your first film. Allah aapko jannat naseeb kare. Amen.”
Saira Banu tweeted through Dilip Kumar’s handle: “Dilip Sahab and I are feeling a deep sense of personal loss at the passing away of our beloved Nimmi ji. She was my elder and had always maintained close contacts with Sahab and I through her beautiful, loving, prolific, handwritten personal letters in Urdu. Nimmi ji spent good time with my mother Naseem Banu and through my mother and my husband, I built a bond with her. Such stalwarts are rare. Nimmi ji will be missed. May Allah bless her with Jannat.”
Amongst some of her most memorable songs was Jiya beqarar hai and an apt one for the moment Tum na jaane kis jahaan mein kho gaye.