I feel apprehensive writing this “Self Portrait” because I am sure many of you will not agree with what I am going to tell you first of all.

I believe there is no better person than I. It is my inmost conviction. Now you won’t believe this because naturally, in your own opinion the best person in the world is you yourself!

Let me also tell you that the number of follies I am guilty of are beyond the capacity of a single person to commit.

The number would need the combined energies of three or four and not ordinary people any of them.

That presents me as being at one and same time the best person in the world as well as the most stupid.

And, how such a thing can be was a problem I could not understand, much less solve.

For a long time, I could not solve the problem and my attempts made me frantic. Then, one day, on sets of “Aan”.

Dilip Kumar proved to me (Mehboob Sahab was present) that such a thing was possible.

One could be the best and at the same time, the worst person in the world. Dilip’s explanation was perfect.

  • nimmi with her dog

But I couldn’t remember how he said it. That made another problem, and it seemed I could never get anywhere.

Then one night a sage appeared to me in my dreams and explained everything to me.

He said: “Accept what Dilip Kumar told you. What he said is called philosophy.”

My life is full of such complications. Here are some of them…

A well-to-do military contractor and a famous actress singer fell in love with each other. They loved and married. That is how I came into the world.

It is said that God showers his blessings on those who love each other truly. After their marriage, my father went bankrupt and my mother fell seriously ill.

Now tell me how I should justify the things which should be with what actually came to pass?

Again, both my parents loved me dearly. Yet, I was to be deprived of them and have my upbringing left entirely in my grandmother’s hands.

My mother died. Father had been very much in love with her. To forget the pain of losing her, he married again.

I was doomed to be forgotten. I too virtually died. The only hope for me was marriage.

As a child, I had always wished to be a bride to have my hands painted with mehndi and my face covered with the bride’s veil.

In my daydreams, I saw my bridegroom come, marry me and take me away with him.

Dreaming thus, I used to go to houses where there were weddings just to see the bride.

I would look at her and envy her. I would pray and ask God: “Please make me also see a day like this and send me as a bride to a respectable home.”

My prayers were almost answered, they nearly came true. My family began to look for a bridegroom for me.

Many friends of my mother’s men who had dandled me on their knees as a child, came forward eagerly to marry me!

One of them was a very old man who promised to look after relatives of ours who had been without help after my mother’s death.

The bartering arrangement shattered the romantic notions of marriage I had had.

But I had been taught that God does not allow the faithful and the good to starve and remembering this, I resolved to put all my trust in him rather than in any of the men who offered to marry me.

There was fresh trouble now. Starvation, too. Grim realities were brought home to me.

However, I knew there were many things a woman could do. A woman could work as a doctor, a barrister, or run an office.

But I could do none of those things. After teaching me the Holy Koran, the Maulvi Sahab had told my elders that there was no bigger left for me to learn!

  • nimmi portrait

I was, therefore, not given any further training, such as for work outside one’s home and no one knew better than I how little fitted I was to support myself and others.

It seemed there was absolutely nothing I could do. But I had a bright idea. Why not become a screen heroine? I asked myself.

My mother had worked in Mehboob Sahab’s pictures and I knew Mehboob Sahab. I came to Bombay and called upon him.

“Mehboob Sahab,” I said. “I have been thinking…I’d better become a heroine!”

Mehboob Sahab stared at the girl who spoke so impulsively. He did not understand what I was trying to say, which angered me.

Here was I, ready to become a heroine in his films and he was actually hesitating to have me as one.

Mehboob Sahab said he was sorry, but there was nothing he could do for me. He added that half his picture “Andaaz” was completed and Nargis was the heroine.

Nothing daunted, I said, “Let her be the heroine of the first half you can make me the heroine of the rest of the film.”

Mehboob Sahab did not agree even to this! But he gave me letters of recommendation to other producers.

  • nimmi on shooting location

I went to them with letters. The producers didn’t give me work, only sympathized with me.

Some told me that I did not have a star’s attributes. I was very disappointed.

I decided to leave Bombay. But no sooner did I begin to pack my trunk than fortune smiled and unpacked it for me.

I met Raj Kapoor and the girl named Nawab Banu became Nimmi, the film star.

“Barsaat” was released, and it brought a rain of producers on my doorstep. Among them were the producers who had told me I had no talent.

With completely revised opinions, they unblushingly said I had the makings of the biggest star of all.

They declared I was the queen of emotion, there was magic and mystery in my eyes, I could make audiences laugh and cry at will, there was…I could…I was…

But I disregarded the praise, for when the dawn breaks over the quiet sea before my windows, an inner voice whispers: “The destinations of Art are beyond man’s reach. Your journey has only just begun.

“You still have a great deal to do, an infinite amount to attain. You still have very far to go. “Your destination is beyond the stars…” – Filmfare 1956

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