Nadira, the screen seductress, is no more

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 10.02.06

She was the original sex goddess, given over to the evil side. Eyes gleaming with carnal knowledge, she would tease men with a seductive smile and her knowing ways, and look to rob them of their wealth, their domesticity, and most of all, their innocence, stuff Indian heroes were so full of. And she would do so unabashedly and with style.

Nadira, 73, born Florence Ezekiel, died at 4.55 am on Thursday. She was one of the finest actresses on the Indian screen.

She is survived by two brothers who live abroad.

The actress ? famous for the Mur mur ke na dekh, mur mur ke number in Shree 420, with which she means to initiate an “innocent” Raj Kapoor into the ways of the world ? was admitted to Bhatia Hospital in Mumbai on January 2 after she suffered a paralytic stroke.

Although her last days were spent in loneliness ? Nadira lived alone in her flat on Peddar Road, attended by a servant, who used to be changed quite often ? she was mourned by many at her funeral in the afternoon. Although a Jew, she was cremated according to Hindu rites, as was her desire.

Star of yesteryear Nimmi turned up. Actress Shammi, who could barely speak, whispered that she had lost a dear friend.

She had friends among the younger set, too. Actress Deepti Naval, who was very close to Nadira, sat with a tear-strained face, hardly talking.

One of her other younger admirers was Milind Soman, who grew close to her while working on TV serial Margaritta. He visited her in the hospital.

Nadira started her career in 1952 with Aan and went on to act in Pakeezah, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi, Amar Akbar Anthony and more recently in Pooja Bhatt’s Tamanna and the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Josh.

In Aan, she played the haughty Princess Rajashri, another act she had perfected. In Julie, Nadira was deeply moving as a middle-aged Anglo-Indian woman being forced to send her young, pregnant daughter away for fear of what society would say.

But in real life, she was a joyful, vivacious, affectionate human being, who, with loneliness and age, grew increasingly addicted to alcohol but tried to keep the spark within herself alive.

Theatre person Dolly Thakore, a close friend of Nadira and her neighbour, remembers her tenderly and offers a glimpse into Nadira’s less known profile.

“I met her in 1969 at an Altamount Road residence. She was so bright, dazzling, full of wit and intelligent repartees. Unlike the idea in my mind of an actress, she was extremely well-read. She was erudite,” says Thakore, who could call her Fallu, a name she did not allow everyone to use.

“She was not only well-read in English, but was also well versed in Urdu. She was extremely generous. Till the last, she would want to cook for me,” says Thakore. “She would never speak ill of anyone.”

Nadira did not have any family members around, though she was keen to be in touch with her brothers abroad.

As she grew older and was riddled with a back problem, she became more and more reclusive. She had been in a few relationships, but they did not last. “She used to talk about being hurt,” a friend said.

She was not impoverished, as her money was well-invested. “She couldn’t afford to be extravagant, but she was all right,” the friend said. But with time, her alcohol addiction increased. It would at times make it difficult for even her friends to be near her.

“But still, suddenly, she would call up to just say ‘I love you’,” says Thakore.