Following Mother India (1957), Nargis had 3 releases in 1958 – Ghar Sansar, Adalat and Lajwanti. It is widely accepted that following her marriage to her Mother India co-star, Sunil Dutt, who, incidentally, played her son in Mehboob’s masterpiece, these were her last releases as she concentrated on settling down away from the world of films and raising a family. She did subsequently lend her voice to Dutt’s single actor experiment, Yaadein (1964), and came back to the silver screen just once more for Satyen Bose’s Raat Aur Din (1967), even winning the National Award for Best Actress for the same, the very first actress to be honored thus.
However, sometime in the second half of 1958, Nargis had signed on another film, Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani. The film was produced and directed by ML Anand. Anand had already directed Nargis before in Lahore (1949), one of the first films to address the trauma of Partition of the sub-continent, and in Bewafa (1952), where Raj Kapoor played a rare negative role in a love triangle that also co-starred Ashok Kumar. Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani saw Nargis paired opposite Kishore Kumar for the first time, a most unusual pairing, what with her being known for her intense dramatic roles and he for his outrageous comic ones. The film, written by Inder Raj Anand, had them both in double roles, in a tale of mistaken identities. The supporting cast included Johnny Walker, Pran, Ulhas, Mukri, Anwar Hussain (Nargis’ brother), Ram Mohan and Minoo Mumtaz with Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri writing the songs, which were composed by Shankar-Jaikishan. Ramchandra, who had photographed Nargis in Anhonee (1952), where she also played dual roles of the good sister and bad sister, and Miss India (1957), was the film’s cinematographer.
It is said that 8 songs of the film were recorded in the voices of Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi and Geeta Dutt. The film also made quite some headway in its filming following a major schedule in Shimla. One of the songs, recorded on September 9, 1958, Kaisi Khoob Raat Hai, a light-hearted ditty sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi was all set to be filmed later in Kashmir. But then Nargis got pregnant with her first child, actor Sanjay Dutt. She opted out of the film, leading it to being shelved for good.
The pairing of Nargis and Kishore Kumar never happened. Today, just the film advertisement (the picture accompanying this piece) and a couple of surviving stills with Osianama give us a hint of what might have been…