In April of 1970, I finished writing the theory exams for the Pre-University Course (12th grade). I and a friend who also took the same exams treated ourselves to a hit Hindi movie in the Navrang theater. The film was ‘Sawan Bhadon’ and featured two newcomers in the lead. Rekha, who earlier made her debut in Telugu as Bhanurekha in Anjali Pictures “amma maaTa”, made her Hindi debut with that movie. She was still a duckling that hasn’t quite turned into the beautiful swan that she later became. She was playing the role of a boisterous and feisty North Indian village girl (the posters of the film had her lifting the hero from behind). The film was produced and directed by Mohan Segal who was known for making decent mystery films. But what impressed us the most was the new guy who played the hero of the movie, Navin Nischol, who was making his debut at the same time. Navin Nischol was good looking, tall and well built, but with a round and full face and sparkling smiling eyes. He looked suave, and acted very confidently. It seemed that he was destined to go places. He could sway his hips and shake his legs with the best of them. The film featured a fast Mohammed Rafi number, kaan mein jumka… to which Nischol jumped around with abandon and we had another hero that we were fans of. The film was a silver jubilee hit.
Navin Nischol was a gold medalist in acting from the Film and Television Institute of India, and he was related to the Anand brothers (Dev). I think he was married to their niece. He followed up his debut film with a few other impressive films. He was the hero in Parwana, framed in a murder case by the brooding, melancholic Amitabh Bacchan. There was a comedy Buddha Mil Gaya directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He played the happy-go-lucky son of a rich father, falling in love with the tangewali Saira Banu in another silver jubilee hit, Victoria No. 203. Then, there was BR Chopra’s Dhund followed later by Dharma. Somehow, his career as a leading man began to hit the skids after that. A string of lackluster films followed. By the time I left for US in 1980, he seemed to have been washed-up as a hero.
Several years later, I was pleasantly surprised to see him in a small supporting role in Basu Chaterjee’s Aastha. I learned that he has gotten a new lease of life as a character actor in television serials. He had a major role as the overaged, overweight, prima donna film star Manu Kapoor in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Bollywood Calling; he was fabulous in that role. I also saw him in a few other films playing smaller supporting roles, last one being ‘Khosla Ka Ghosla’.
Navin Nischol died of a massive heart attack in Bombay on March 19. He had achieved stardom overnight and then it went away just as suddenly. But, he was a survivor. He was well respected as an actor even in his later days. A generation of us would remember Navin Nischol and his films fondly.
-V. Chowdary Jampala