It was one of those breezy and humid winter evenings in Bombay back in 2011 when I was generously invited to Ketnav Studio for the private screening of Hum Dono Rangeen. Although I had already been to watch the film in a multiplex, it had enchanted me so deeply that I considered watching it again a splendid way to spend another of my Bombay evenings.
As I sat having snacks with friends and waiting for the film to start, there were rumours that both heroines, Nanda and Sadhana, might show up for the screening.
We entered the theatre and I watched the film all over again, in love with the performances, the music and its cinematic aura (read my review of Hum Dono Rangeen here).
When the lights were turned on again once the film had ended, a family member whispered to me: "That lady is Nanda ji".
I looked up to see a classy lady dressed in white and though I would normally not have said anything, afraid to invade her private space, I saw myself walking up to her. I greeted her and explained that I was a foreigner and had been very moved by her performance. She interrupted me holding my arm firmly as if I were an old friend and replied with wide-eyed surprise "But oh my... Do you speak Hindi!? You watched the whole film in Hindi? But how..."
The surprise and concern she felt for a member of the audience who might not have been able to understand the language fully was disarmingly candid. I reassured her that I could definitely follow what had been said throughout the film. We had a brief conversation and she seemingly left to see her co-actor, Dev Anand, that night to tell him she had been at the screening.
"Nanda ji", as she was introduced to me, succumbed to a heart attack this March 25th in her Versova home at the age of 75, but I am certain she will live on, not only because she was the niece of V Shantaram, or because of her wonderful performances in landmark films alongside Dev Anand, Waheeda Rehman, Dharmendra, Ashok Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Shashi Kapoor (whose highly successful Jab Jab Phool Khile later probably inspired films such as Raja Hindustani).
The classy lady will surely be remembered for her talent but also for her beautiful simplicity, in and outside the movie industry.
Nanda ji, rest in peace.