#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp | Photogallery

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Farhat Ezekiel Nadira, known professionally as Nadira, worked in 250 movies in her lifetime. She is still remembered for her song, “Mud mud ke na dekh, mud mud ke….” in the movie ‘Shree 420.’ She was among the highest-paid actresses during her career, and was one of the first Indian actresses to own a Rolls-Royce.


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Born into a staunch Jewish family, Farhat Ezekiel Nadira went to St Anthony’s Convent and planned to become a doctor. But she could not study further as her mother had to leave her job with the Royal Air Force unit after India became free and couldn’t afford to pay her fees. Her parents had already divorced when she was four, and her maternal grandparents brought her and her brother up. Her mother remarried and had another son. But the second husband threw her out, taking away her baby, and left her to fend for herself. Eventually, Nadira and her brother went back to her.


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Nadira had never been photographed before and had seen barely two movies in her life—’Laila Majnu’ and ‘Mirza Sahiba’. It was perhaps destiny that Mrs Mehboob Khan spotted seventeen-year-old Nadira and got her signed for ‘Aan’ (1952). Nargis, the original choice for the role, could not do the movie because of date problems. Mrs Mehboob Khan groomed her for stardom.


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

‘Aan’ (1952) had Mehboob Khan as the director and stalwarts like Dilip Kumar, Prem Nath and Nimmi in the star cast. According to the directions, Nadira had to glare at people to exhibit arrogance. Throughout the movie, she raises her eyebrows and glares. Sometimes she feared that her eyeballs would pop out.


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

Dilip Kumar, who was her co-star in ‘Aan’ (1952), once told her: “You are the most despicable character I have ever met!” Nadira did not know the meaning of the word “despicable” and smiled, thinking he was paying her a compliment. Later, at home, she looked up the word in the dictionary and came to know what he had meant. Since then, they have never talked to each other. Years later, whenever Dilip Saab patted her on the back and cracked jokes, she never really forgot the word “despicable”.

(Nadira and Dilip Kumar in Aan, 1952)


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

Naqshab, an Urdu poet, wooed her with couplets, and Nadira married him. The poet, however, became a producer and made her act in his movies ‘Nagma’ (1953) and ‘Raftaar’ (1955). But he had double standards. He made her pose for sexy movie posters but kept her in purdah at home. And when he once declared that he and Nadira were not married and only living together, she walked out of his home in disgust.


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

According to Nadira, “Mud mud ke na dekh” was not in the original script. During a one-hour lunch break, Nadira walked into the music room where Nargis was sitting and little Ritu, Raj Kapoor’s daughter, played the piano. Nadira just got up and started dancing. Nargis brought up the composer Jaikishan. They saw her dance and whispered something to each other. Three or four days later, Nadira heard a song called “Mud mud ke na dekh”. Nargis and Jaikishan had this coup between Raj Kapoor and said: “Let’s make a cabaret dancer, and instead of having another lady doing the cabaret, let’s have her doing it,” and so that’s how Nadira did the song.

(Raj Kapoor and Nadira in Shree 420, 1955)


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

Nadira was flattered when people cried out: “Mud mud ke na dekh”.But that really was Nadira’s Waterloo because she kept getting cast as a vamp after that. She was jobless for almost a year because she refused to do vamp roles. Nadira believed that ‘Shri 420’ (1956) was responsible for ruining her career.


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

Nadira married for the second time to an Arab who boasted he owned a kingdom which he would lay at her feet. The marriage lasted just a week. Within hours of the wedding, Nadira learnt that she had been duped and that her husband had nothing in the world.


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#GoldenFrames: Nadira, the original Bollywood vamp

Nadira accepted character roles. One such memorable role was in ‘Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi’ (1960) with Raaj Kumar and Meena Kumari. As a rich, spoilt, pompous girl who marries a not-so-well-off doctor, Nadira perfectly plays the role. She played another memorable role of an Anglo-Indian woman in ‘Julie’ (1975). Her portrayal of a distraught mother whose unmarried daughter becomes pregnant fetched fifteen awards.



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