Fate conspired to ensure that actor Nanda, who passed away recently, was denied company and happiness.

Some people are cursed to lead their lives in the shades of sorrow. Actor Nanda was probably one such unfortunate person who seemed like destiny’s abandoned child with no right to lasting happiness. Otherwise, what else can explain why, despite her serene beauty, fine talent and dignified behaviour, Nanda never scaled pinnacles of success in personal and professional domain that many others achieved without ability, skill and effort? Milton’s maxim that “they also serve who stand and wait” is an apt summarisation of her life since Nanda perennially lived on the periphery of greatness but with a cross of thorns upon her back.

Yet she never allowed misfortunes to dampen her spirit. Unlike many stars who lie about their struggles even when they make it through family legacies and riches, Nanda never sought sympathy. She may have been forced into acting at the tender age of eight after the death of her father, renowned Marathi actor-director Master Vinayak, to support her family but she never offered the sob story for public consumption. On the contrary, Nanda gained a distinct halo from the hard knocks of life, enlivening not just her performances but also her public demeanour. She was never accused of an indecent act or mischief.

Sages and scriptures say purity of soul and the honesty of karma (duty) are mirrored in a person’s smile. Going by that yardstick, Nanda radiated one of the best smiles in the business, adding loads of charm and elegance to her attractive and unruffled persona. A spontaneous actor who shared a remarkable affinity with the camera, Nanda’s exquisite performances in “Kanoon”, “Chhoti Bahen”, “Chaar Diwari”, “Hum Dono”, “Aaj Aur Kal”, “Teen Devian”, “Jab Jab Phool Khile”, “Mohabbat Isko Kahte Hain”, “The Train”, “Ittefaq” and several other movies made her a great favourite with the masses. However, according to producer S.S. Broca, Nanda never unleashed “a sexual hysteria since she was more adored than lusted” and “while every mother wanted Nanda as a daughter-in-law, men revered her as a sister they were happy to protect and save from the evils of the world.”

Perhaps this also explains her early exit from screen as also the absence of a lifelong companion though, paradoxically, she was extremely friendly with all her leading men. From Dev Anand to Shashi Kapoor and Jeetendra to Rajesh Khanna, everyone had a fondness for the fine actress yet Nanda never adorned the gossip columns. Busy tending to her mother and attending family responsibilities, probably the only man who came into her life, although too late and too briefly, was the widowed Manmohan Desai but unfortunately he too was whisked away by death, denying her solace of company and matrimony. Though never relegated to obscurity, one hopes Nanda is remembered as a bright, cheerful lady.