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Away from the limelight

AC Tuli |

How filial ingratitude and callousness can make a parent's life miserable in old age was recently brought home to us when we read in newspapers about the sad plight of the ailing yesteryear actress Geeta Kapoor. Abandoned by her choreographer son, she had no one to pay the bills for her medical treatment at the Mumbai hospital. When good Samaritans of the film industry, Ashok Pandit and Ramesh Taurani, knew about her plight, they promptly rushed to her aid. She had appeared in supporting roles in films like Mughal-e-Azam, Pakeezah, Razia Sultan. She has been shifted to an old age home in Andheri, where she is well cared for.

This is not the sole case either. It was occasionally when some newspaper or TV journalist doing a retro feature on yesteryear Bollywood stars dropped in to interview them that we would come to know about them.

Nalini Jaywant was among the topmost stars. Beginning her film career with Mehboob Khan's film Bahen (1941), she suddenly shot into fame with Samadhi (1950) which was a blockbuster. Subsequently, she did a number of successful films with Ashok Kumar like Sangram (1951), Jadoo(1951), Nau Bahar (1951), Jalpari (1952), Saloni(1952), Lakeeren (1954), and Sheroo (1957). Shikast, Nastik, Munimji, Hum Sab Chor Hain, and Milan (1958) were some other successful films of Nalini Jaywant. She received the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award in Dev Anand's Kala Pani(1958). When her second husband Prabhu Dayal, also an actor, passed away, she was left completely alone in her old age in Chembur, Mumbai. Reclusive by nature, she seldom attended any film industry function. It was a complete surprise when after almost 20 years of retirement from films, she suddenly took on the role of Amitabh Bachchan's mother in Nastik(1983). That was her last appearance in films and Nalini Jaywant passed away on 20December, 2010, aged 84.

Sometimes frustration can also drive a Bollywood star to premature death. Petite and pretty Vimi shot to fame with the BR Chopra-directed film Hamraaz (1967), which was a box-office superhit. But it failed to lift Vimi's film career. Thereafter she appeared in Patanga (1971), Vachan (1974) and some other films but none could give a boost to her sagging career. She fell into severe depression and addiction to alcohol. She was still in her thirties w hen she passed away on 22 August 1977 in the general ward of Nanawati Hospital in Mumbai. There was no one to even foot her hospital bills.

Meena Kumari, quintessential tragedienne of Hindi films and actress of great substance, was barely 20 years old she fell in love with writer-director Kamal Amrohi, 20 years her senior. It proved an unhappy marriage. After separating from Amrohi, Meena Kumari got involved in numerous love affairs but none could fill the void in her life. She will always be remembered for some landmark films like Baiju Bawra (1952), Parineeta (1953), Azaad (1955), Sharada (1957), Kohinoor (1961), Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), and Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Kaajal (1965) were great. She won the Filmfare Best Actress Award four times. Pakeezah (1972) was long in the making. Meena Kumari was in the pivotal role in this film. But her failed marriage and frustration in love affairs had completely shattered her health and could complete Pakeezah with great difficulty. Just three weeks after the film's release she passed away in a nursing home of Mumbai in 1972, at the age of 39. She had no one to pay her medical bills after her death.

Achala Sachdev appeared in almost 140 films, starting with Fashionable Wife (1938), and her last film was Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (2002). Her first marriage with Gian Sachdev ended in divorce. She had a son by this marriage. She then married a widower Charles Douglas Peters and settled with him in Pune. But after his demise, Achala was left completely alone. She spent her old age in reclusive loneliness and passed away at the ripe age of 91.

Lalita Pawar began her film career as a child of 12 with a silent movie in the 1920s and went on to act in hundreds of films. Her last film was Laash (1998). In her 70 years in the film industry she was chiefly known for her stereotypical role with a vitriolic tongue who tortured her daughters-in-law. However, in Raj Kapoor's Shri 420 (1955), she appeared as a kindhearted vendor of bananas. In Anari (1959), she was seen as a benign landlady who is always very lenient with her impecunious tenant and. received the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was alone in her flat in Pune on 24 February 1998 when she passed away at 82. For two days no one even knew about her death. So, her dead body remained in her house. It was only when her son and daughter-in-law came from Mumbai that she was cremated.