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Remember Nimmi of the flirty eyes or pesky Shyama? We all know what happened to Dilip Kumar, Nargis or Nutan, but do you know many of their co-stars are still around, their days of glory a reality they dream about, but not necessarily hanker after? Afsana Ahmed reports.

A FEW years ago, veteran film actor AK Hangal was admitted to Mumbai's Holi Spirit Hospital. After a couple of days there, his shaggy beard required a barber's services. The barber quietly got down to work, but the moment he saw Hangal's clean-shaven look, he remarked, "Filmon main ek actor pehle kaam kartha tha, aap uske jaise dikhte hain." Hangal was quite amused, but not wishing to let the cat out of the bag, he simply raised an eyebrow in in quiry. The barber continued, "Uska naam thha AK Hangal. Woh toh bahut pehle hi guzar gaya." At this point, the actor, who's still seen in some mainstream films, identified himself in his characteristic quaver and rendered the barber speechless!

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Depending on how you look at it, this episode might bring a smirk to your face or raise a lump in your throat. But at a deeper level, it also makes you think of all those actors and actresses who once brought the screen alive with their performances. Not all were stars of the stature of Dilip Kumar or Madhubala, but nevertheless, their names still evoke nostalgia and a romance of the bygone era, underlining their importance in the history of Hindi cinema. Be it Nimmi, Shyama or Shakila, they came, captured the cinegoer's heart.... and then, faded into oblivion. At the height of their success, any film magazine would have given you the lowdowr on their lives. But today, do you even know where they are and what sort of lives they lead? Or how, after being in the limelight, they are coping with the anonymity that comes with age... We spoke to a few stars of an era gone by and were transported into their unique world these towering celebrities of yesteryear, who bide their time in anonymity today, as they watch life from the sidelines. Nimmi, who made her mark in movies like Barsaat, Amar and Aan in the '50s, remarks, "I've had my share of stardom. I wanted to maintain that mystic aura, that's why I gave up acting at a time when people still wanted to see me on screen. After attaining so much fame, I didn't want to be reduced to playing a character artiste, lingering in the background somewhere. I wouldn't have been able to take that." Her contemporary, Begum Para, who's married to Dilip Kumar's brother, Nasir Khan, agrees. "When you sense that the curtain's going to fall, you should step aside gracefully. This will ensure that the public will always remember you with warmth and yearning," is her belief.

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Begum Para

Though not all if these performers attained the legendary status of a Nargis, Vyjayantimala or Geeta Bali, each of them had their own individual style, which drove their fans crazy. "If Meena Kumari was known for her tragic streak and Madhubala for her eternal beauty, toh main kahan kam thhi", laughs Shyama, who made her debut opposite Guru Dutt in Aar Paar, "I, too, captured hearts in no uncertain terms. I was called the 'vivacious' Shyama. My husband, the late Fali Mistry, who was a famous cinematographer/director used to say that after Nutan, I had the most photogenic face in the industry. That's why he fell in love with me." So, does she miss those days? Shyama ponders over the question and then replies, "Even if I do, I can't help it. Bas yaadein reh gayi hain. Sach bataun, I don't step into the hall of my home anymore. It's adorned with pictures of the days when I was young, beautiful and sought-after. That room is full of such memories..." Memories of those days when their lifestyle matched those of the biggest stars, when they owned an entire fleet of Morrises, Austens, Mercedes, Fiats and other imported cars. Sighs Shakila, who acted opposite Dev Anand in CID, "I possessed all these cars then. And today, I only own an Optra! But, of course, with time, lifestyles too change. Petrol ke bhav bhi toh kitne badh gaye hairi."

At one time, leading a life of supreme luxury and now worrying about escalating prices like the common man, one wonders how these ageing actors manage to make ends meet in the autumn of their lives. "I was wise enough to invest my money while I was still active in films. Today, I'm virtually living off the interest," says Begum Para. Many other stars too admit to having invested in their heydays so that they could "lead a humble yet respectful life" later.

AK Hangal, who stays in a one-bedroom rented flat with his 70-year-old son, says, "Having been a freedom fighter, self-respect is ingrained in me. I have always refused help, but today, I somewhere regret not having saved enough." Shyama avers, "Even in those days, we were totally dependant on our remunerations. But then, maybe if we had explored other avenues, we would have found some way of supplementing our income." Nimmi concurs, "Like how Dimple (Kapadia) opened a candle shop and Waheeda (Rehman) got into organic farming. I must say, today's heroes are so smart and intelligent. I wish we were like them, as far as the issue of investments is concerned."

If money is something that most of them seem rueful about, what about loneliness? Do they also miss their coterie of cham-chas, the hallmark of a true star in Bollywood? Answers Begum Para, "Not really. Till a few years ago, Nimmi, Nirupa Roy, Smriti Biswas, Nadira and I used to meet frequently at Mumbai's NSCI Club in Worli, over lunch and drinks. We would meet and gossip to our heart's content. But, I'm 80 now. It gets tiring to go out anywhere. We do keep in touch over the phone, though." Shyama, on the other hand, prefers to call her grandchildren over to spend time with her. While the ladies crave company, the gentlemen prefer solitude. Rajendranath spends his time reading, watching movies and going for long walks. But, the one common passion that they all share is -watching today's films, even as they consider them technically advanced and soulless! "It's sad to see actresses today competing with each other in shedding clothes. A Parineeta or Black is rare. In our days, actresses had so much grace and dignity," says Rajendranath. Begum Para, though, finds today's actresses to be confident and intelligent, while Shyama thinks Madhuri Dixit and Kajol are quite good. And while talking about how she rarely misses an Aamir Khan movie, she says, "Amitabh Bachchan ka jawaab nahin. I thought there was no superstar who could be compared to Yusuf bhai. But Amitabh broke the myth." She also avers that filmmakers today are brilliant, but the current films are only about business, unlike earlier, when they mirrored our art and culture. "Woh zamana nahin raha," she rues.

Exclusive interviews of some forgotten stars coming up in successive posts.
Haan there are more people! Kalpana - two of them. Dev Anand's ex-wife and the other chubby one who acted with Shammi Kapoor in Professor (main chali main chali... - hope I got that one right ! ) Never knew about Begum Para. Thanks for the post.
Great post Pradeep and waiting in anticipation for the continuation of this series.

I've always wondered what happened to character actors such as Kanhaiyalal (bas samjho Bharat ke ghar me Mahabharat, a memorable line from Manoj Kumar's Upkar), Mukri, A k Hangal( always evoking my sympathy as his character always had some problem or another) Shetty etc etc.

Most of them were very talented but unfortunately got cast in the same role over and over again.

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'Top heroes expressed their love for me!' - Nimmi

It isn't quite the time to talk to yesteryear's actress Nimmi about her glory days in the film industry. Her husband, famous writer A.N.Raza (who's written Aan, Andaaz, Mother India, Sawan Bhadon etc) isn't too well. "Memories are beautiful. And to walk down memory lane, one needs a pleasant time," she smiles. Introduced to cinema by Raj Kapoor in Barsaat, groomed by Mehboob Khan, Dilip Kumar's co-star in five films and directed by K Asif in her swansong Love and God, Nimmi sparkled in the '50s.

Mehboob Khan cast her in Aan in 1952 as a rustic maiden. Soon after, offers poured in. "At one time, I would ask for Rs 3 lakh - equivalent of what any top actor was getting!" she reminisces. After creating her niche, Nimmi became very choosy about her films. She stepped down with Mere Mehboob. Around that time, K.Asif had started Love and God. He cast Guru Dutt as Nimmi's co-star. "Unfortunately, Guru Dutt passed away and the film was put on hold. Then Sanjeev Kumar was chosen as his replacement, but he too passed away and to make matters worse, Asif himself passed away," she remembers. Nimmi had stopped acting for almost two decades when Love and God was finally released in the '80s.

On the personal front, Nimmi had many admirers in the industry. "I still remember Sunil Dutt, Raj Kumar and Kishore Kumar expressing their love for me," she recalls shyly. "Har hero ne koshish ki. And I enjoyed every bit of the attention. But I never encouraged anyone. In hindsight, I think perhaps I should have, just a little! Abhi dukh hota hai ki kyon nahin kiya," she laughs.

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'I don't know if people will recognise me now' - Shakila

At a recent filmi function, the evergreen Dev Anand politely greeted a lady and then went right back to socialising with others. The lady approached him, smiled warmly and this time introduced herself as Shakila, his leading lady in his debut film, CID. Dev Anand, of course, couldn't believe his eyes. "You have changed so much!" he said, happy at meeting her after so long, "And where have you been all this while? I thought you must have you must have married a rich Arab and disappeared from India! I am really very happy to see you."

Shakila, of course, was equally happy and touched with the meeting. "Very few of us are as lucky as Dev saab, who is not affected by time at all. All of us have grown old and are ageing accordingly. There's nothing to feel bad about it! Dev saab didn't recognise me as we haven't been in touch. But as we parted, we promised to meet up again soon," she says.

The actress, who acted in films like CID and Aar Paar, quit the industry when she got married. "My priorities changed after I tied the knot and my career assumed secondary importance," she says. One wonders why she never thought of a comeback? "I keep getting film as well as television serial offers. But I don't like any of them. Moreover, the industry has changed so much. I don't know whether people will even recognise me!" she smiles. "And after being at the top and seeing all the glory, suddenly to be in a place where the same respect and dignity may not be accorded can be scary. But at the same time, we've seen the best of time, we've seen the best of times and today if the limelight is on somebody else, why feel bad about it?" Shakila says.

Youth and beauty may have faded, but Shakila is thankful for the wonderful friends who've been there for her all these years. "Waheeda, Nanda, Mala Singa and Sairaji and Dilip saab, Nimmi.... the list is endless. We meet very often. Zindagi ke kuchh hi toh pal hain abhi, sab apni apni raftaar main chale gaye, saath reh gaye toh bas dost," she says serenely.

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'I had a glam babe tag' - Begum Para

Age has added to her girth and made her a little less mobile. But Begum Para's face still retains the charm. "I had a 'glam babe' tag those days. I was probably one of the first heroines who wore bold clothes, like trousers and skirts" she laughs. Though seen in movies like Chaand, Lutere, Karbala, Begum Para was not quite in the 'A category' of heroines. Not that she regrets that. "Due to my imagef I was approached only for roles that had a glam element in them," she says.

Her career took a backseat when she married Nasir Khan, Dilip Kumar's brother.

Today, this former actress, who is actor Ayub Khan's mother, lives with her daughter and granddaughter. It's said that after her marriage, the relationship between Nasir and Dilip Kumar soured. Begum Para clarifies, "Nasir and Yusuf bhai (Dilip Kumar) never had a conflict. The problem was with me. I was perhaps too independent and that didn't go down too well with them. Now, we've forgiven each other and moved on."

And cinema, too, she feels, has moved ahead. As for the current crop of heroines, Begum Para says, "These girls look like each other. And they use too much make-up."

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Superb articles Pradeep, clearly marks why todays actors are so commerical.
Its sad to see AK Hangal living in a rented apartment.

This is what Wikipedia has to say:

A.K. Hangal or Avtar Kishan Hangal is an actor of Indian Hindi films. He was born in what is today Pakistan. He was 25 when he came to India. He was involved with theatre and along with actor Balraj Sahni and poet Kaifi Azmi had Marxist leanings, hence did a lot of left themed plays through IPTA.

In movies he has played a very large number of character roles, mostly positive.

His own favourites are the roles he played in Sholay and Shaukeen.

In 1993 he had applied for a visa to visit his birthplace in Pakistan, and the embassy invited him to Pakistan day celebration. Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray took offence and there was a talk of a boycott and having his scenes removed from films. Bal Thackeray clarified a year later that he had not asked for a boycott and roles started coming back to Hangal. He has worked in 126 films to date.

He had one son, and after the death of his wife lives alone in his flat in Santa Cruz Mumbai
Thanks Azgar bhai. Adding to it..

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'I have always been underpaid' - A.K.Hangal

"Why do you want to know my age? If people know I am so old, I won't get work! And I need the work to survive," laughs 90-year-old A.K.Hangal, one of Hindi cinema's most famous character actors.

In a glamour-struck industry, Hangal is probably a veritable rarity... For his age, he's rather energetic. What's the secret? "My intake of everything is in small quantities. Be it food or drink. And I walk a lot," he replies.

Having spent a lifetime in the industry, doesn't he think he deserves a better position, financially and status-wise? "I joined the industry when people retire. I was in my 40s. So I don't miss being called a star. I am fortunate that people offer me work. Maine kaam kabhi manga nahin. I am still respected and given work, when actors of my age are either living in poverty and without work. I don't have any complaints," he says, adding, "But yes, I have always been underpaid. This is thanks to my secretary in the days of yore who never increased my financial standing, so my market price wasn't much. Whom should I blame?" Recipient of the Padma Bhushan, Hangal never hankered after money or materialistic gains, "No doubt I am content today, but money is important. I was a fool not to understand the value of money earlier. In fact, my friend Indrajeet Gupta, who was the Home Minister at one time, offered to give me a house from the freedom fighters' quota. But I refused as it was against my principles. I didn't fight for freedom so that some day I would get something in return. I wasn't doing any favours to my country. And now, when I've got just a few more years to live... Why should I ask for anything now?" he asks earnestly.

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'I don't even remember the name of my last film' - Shyama

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At one time, the sprawling flat on Mumbai's Napeansea Road would resonate with the buzz of parties, attended by guests like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Nadira and others... The house belongs to Khursheed Akhtar Mistry, aka Shyama. The actress debuted as a heroine with Guru Dutt in Aar Paar. She then worked in Sharda, Shabnam, Tarana, Ma and Dil Diya Dard Liya to name just a few.

Shyama romanced and married cinematographer-director Fali Mistry. From the curvaceous heroine to the rotund grandmother, she has come a long way. "I gave up films as I wasn't upto it anymore. I don't even remember the name of my last film," she states.

And then she's back to her naughty avataar, as she reveals that she was rather taken up with actor and singer Talat Mehmood. "I liked him, but never expressed my feelings. Just before his demise, I met him. He was almost dying. I cried when I came home," she sighs. Apart from a few bitter-sweet memories and some aying guests for company, her house doesn't have anything much now. "Nadira and I would chat at 5 pm everyday, till she passed away. Ek ek karke sab guzar gaye, including Fali," says the 68-year-old actress. And then, suddenly breaks into a full-throated laugh, "No, I am not as dukhiyaari as I sound! I am pretty excited about the way life has shaped up for me. I am happy with my children and grandchildren. They are my world. I have nothing to complain about."

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'Shammi and I loved playing pranks!' - Rajendranath

"Who says people have forgotten me? There's this school principal from Ranchi, who calls me up almost daily," smiles Rajendranath, the comedian popularly called Popatlal - a character he portrayed in the '60s hit film Jab Pyar Kissi Se Hota Hai. The actor, who recently turned 75, is the late Raj Kapoor's brother-in-law and the younger brother of the late Premnath.

Though he is a veteran of over 200 films, Rajendranath doesn't really miss the limelight today. He is content with the life he leads with his wife, his son, who works with British Airways and a daughter who's into computers. And no, he doesn't really work anymore as "comedy today is not accorded the kind of importance that it got during our days".

Rajendranath admits that he tried to carve a niche for himself as a hero, but failed, till he hit upon the role of Popatlal. His friend, Shammi Kapoor promoted him in a big way. "I owe him a lot. And the number of pranks we've played together...!" he grins, "Often, Shammi and I used to go to the Parisian Dairy at Marine Drive. Sometimes, we'd literally eat at others' expense! We'd talk loudly about our famous brothers, so that someone would invite us to join them. And after eating, we used to make some excuse and make good our escape!"
Thanks alot Pradeep! smile.gif How can i ever thank you for all these rare articles. smile.gif
very touching articles, Pradeep ji! mellow.gif

while reading these pages, i was reminded of another article that appeared in marathi newspaper about singer Mubarak Begum.

its a sad fact that these artists were underpaid and also the modes of investments were very few then and they had to be content with limited options. sigh.gif

another touching truth is that the current film actors and stars have done very little to help their ancestors in true sense. sad.gif

That is right August. Wish they could build a syndicate to help these yesteryear actors/actresses. Sigh! It is so sad to see their sad state.
QUOTE(Nimii @ Aug 27 2006, 07:45 PM) *
That is right August. Wish they could build a syndicate to help these yesteryear actors/actresses. Sigh! It is so sad to seen their sad state.

i had read about some Cine Artists Association trying to help them but nothing really came out of it.

rajendranath is certainly happiest man among the lot.
few days ago there were pics of him celebrating his birthday in some posh suburban hotel and how entire kapoor clan turned up there to wish him. biggrin.gif
These appeared today in the newspaper section times life. It was refreshing to read and know more about their personal life. Yes, reality bites when we come across the state they are in and what has been, and how has life been keeping them.
Thanks a lot for sharing all these treasures. Just makes me realize.. old age affects everyone.. jaane kahan gaye woh din... aur woh log.

Nice to see Amol Palekar's photo. Nanda has changed so much I couldn't recognize her.

What about Sadhana? Jaya Prada? Mumtaz (is she the mother-in-law of Fardeen Khan)? Tina Munim? Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra?
I met with A.K. Hangel when I was young man in Agra, nice man. I saw Dharmendra here few years back in Fremont California, he looks great.
QUOTE(Chitralekha @ Aug 31 2006, 11:02 AM) *
Thanks a lot for sharing all these treasures. Just makes me realize.. old age affects everyone.. jaane kahan gaye woh din... aur woh log.

Nice to see Amol Palekar's photo. Nanda has changed so much I couldn't recognize her.

What about Sadhana? Jaya Prada? Mumtaz (is she the mother-in-law of Fardeen Khan)? Tina Munim? Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra?

yes. mumtaz is the mother-in-law of fardeen Khan.

sadhana, jaya prada, tina, vinod khanna and dharam ji are leading happy lives.
they were never thrown out of new and films like these yesteryear stars.
they have their children working in films and from time to time, they enjoy lime light too.
dharam ji to ab MP ban gaye hain.. Bikaner ke.. rolleyes.gif
(dharam ji was asked to place Bikaner in the map of india and he couldn't. this was after he won the elections. biggrin.gif just like him.. )
Too Good. Did you typed all these articles Pradeep bhai?

I had kept this copy of TOI for scanning. you saved my lot of time.

Thanks a lot . This type of articles I like most.

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