There are certain actors in the Hindi film industry whose contribution has been underestimated, especially if they faded away faster than others, despite having shone brightly while they did.
Navin Nischol, I believe, is one such actor, whose work never found the appreciation and admiration it deserved. Therefore, on his 8th death anniversary today (March 19), looking at some of his best films would be a fitting tribute to this actor.
Nischol began his career with Sawan Bhadon (1970) alongside Rekha. The newcomers were lucky — and the film was a big hit, with songs like Kaan Men Jhumka, Chaal Men Thumka and Sun Sun Sun O Gulabi Kali hitting the top of the music charts back then and still remaining equally popular today.
This film established Nischol — a gold medallist from the FTII — as an attractive romantic hero. He was compared to Rajesh Khanna whose film Aradhana had released just the year before, in 1969, catapulting him to superstardom overnight. Nischol's smile and romantic adaa made producers line up for him, especially those who could not afford Rajesh Khanna.
Navin Nischol's work remains under-appreciated in Hindi cinema. (Source: Lallantop.com)
Buddha Mil Gaya, Dharma, Hanste Zakhm, Dhund and Victoria No. 203 soon followed. Interestingly, Nischol played the lead in Parwana (1971), while Amitabh Bachchan was cast as the villain — the day of the 'angry young man' was yet to arrive. Zanjeer was still two years away.
When Nischol sings Simti Si Sharmai Si in Kishore Kumar’s voice, for Yogeeta Bali by the bonfire in Parwana, he looks every bit the perfect romantic Hindi film hero — both flamboyant and vibrant. His good looks were never questioned. Though a Rajesh Khanna-influence is quite evident, he did not let that overpower his own personality. He was just 24 when Sawan Bhadon released. He could dance and express himself and he could liven up the screen!
Nischol made a mark for himself that few Hindi film heroes of the time could boast of. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Nischol always had some wonderful songs to sing on screen, strung together by the greatest lyricists, music directors and singers. Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar had a great role to play in his success. Raat Kali Ek Khwab Men Aai and Bhali Bhali Si Ek Surat (Buddha Mil Gaya), Dekha Main Ne Dekha (Victoria 203), Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho, To Yeh Lagta Hai, Ke Jahaan Mil Gaya and Yeh Maana Meri Jaan, Mohabbat Saza Hai (Hanste Zakhm) are just some examples.
Nischol, however, did not fit in the mould of the action hero — and started lagging behind after giving such great hits. His personal life was never smooth and this led to great difficulties in his later years. With the coming of the era of action films post-1973, the chocolate-faced romantic heroes had to retreat. When the superstar Rajesh Khanna himself suffered this destiny, it was evident that Nischol would too.
Eventually, television was the space where he found a footing — his appearance in the extremely popular television serial, Dekh Bhai Dekh, in the 1990s is still remembered fondly.
Navin Nischol's comic timing in Dekh Bhai Dekh was par excellence. (Source: YouTube screengrab)
In 1999, Nischol shared screen space with Rajesh Khanna in Aa Ab Laut Chalen as a friendly doctor. It was a short role — but it brought out the effortless acting of Nischol again. And then, it was in 2006 that we saw the actor in a standout role in Khosla Ka Ghosla!, as Bapu, a theatre personality in Delhi, who pretends to be Mr Sethi from Dubai in order to con Boman Irani (Khurana) to recover the plot of land that Khurana has illegally taken from the Khosla family. A wonderful performance by Nischol!
However, the face of the young, handsome and flamboyant Nischol, as he sang those lilting songs in the 1970s, comes back to me whenever he is mentioned. He lent colour and sincerity to those roles and became quite a rage among the youth with his unique outfits — especially his scarves and the jackets. Watching his early films today takes one back to a world of youth and romance, of dance and music, of wine and roses.
If today’s generation were to watch these films, they would know just how famous this young actor became after the 1970s, setting many a trend for the youngsters through the way he dressed, danced or courted his female leads. Nischol made a mark for himself with his near-flawless performances, that adorable smile and those flirtatious eyes — something few Hindi film heroes of the time can boast of.