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How Nadira inspired the song 'Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh' – Birth anniversary special

In an old video interview with Nasreen Munni Kabir, the actress revealed how Nargis and composer Jaikishan came up with the iconic song after seeing her dance.

Sonal Pandya

Nadira, born Farhat Ezekiel on 5 December 1932, made a splash with her debut as Princess Rajshree in Mehboob Khan's magnum opus Aan (1952) opposite Dilip Kumar. She was recently highlighted in the documentary Shalom Bollywood (2017), directed by Danny Ben-Moshe, which brought to light the important contribution of Jews in Indian cinema.

She essayed key roles in films like Shree 420 (1955), Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960), Pakeezah (1972), Julie (1975), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Saagar (1985). She won a Filmfare trophy for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Julie's mother in Julie.

But throughout her career, it was the song 'Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh' from Raj Kapoor's Shree 420 that followed her everywhere. In an old video interview with Nasreen Munni Kabir as part of the UK's Movie Mahal television series in the late 1980s, Nadira narrated the behind-the-scenes inspiration for the iconic song.

The interview was shot in the afternoon of 9 September 1987 at Nadira's Peddar Road flat in Bombay. The actress revealed that the song wasn't even part of the script. She told Kabir, "'Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh’ was not in the original script — was there a script? (Laughs.) I don’t think there was a script. Actually, I used to get into these mad moods, wanting to prove my versatility. Raj Kapoor was already a known name, and I wanted to work in his film."

The song itself was spontaneously thought up by Nargis and music composer Jaikishan after they saw Nadira dancing to a tune.

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"We had this one-hour lunch break and I walked into the music room where Nargisji was there and little Ritu, Raj saheb’s daughter, was playing the piano. I just got up and started dancing. I saw something on Nargisji’s face, she ran down and brought [music composer] Jaikishanji up and then they whispered something to each other. And in about three or four days, I heard a song called ‘Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh’. And that actually evolved — it wasn’t there at all. I think Nargisji and Jaikishanji had this coup and said to Raj saheb: “Let’s make her a cabaret dancer, and instead of having another lady doing the cabaret, let’s have her doing it,” and so that’s how I did [it]," Nadira said.

Nadira also shared that it took three days to learn how to use the fashionable cigarette holder. She exclaimed, "A lot of people still swear that I smoke because I did it so perfectly."

Nadira said whenever she walked on the road, people cried out the song name to her. In other interviews she had also stated that Shree 420 was her "Waterloo because after that I kept getting cast as a vamp".

Nadira, one of the few actresses to possess a Rolls-Royce in the 1960s, was almost penniless when she died. She didn't believe in having a secretary or a manager but was extremely devoted to her Jewish faith and after her death on 9 February 2006, many of her possessions were donated to her synagogue.

Filmmaker Ben-Moshe said, "When elderly and basically confined to her flat, she used to give sweets to the local children, and she used to relish being brought a Jewish Sabbath meal on Friday nights brought to her by community leader Solomon Sopher."