NEW DELHI: Kum Kum, a much-loved Indian actress whose long career fetched her roles opposite wrestler Dara Singh and ace thespian Dilip Kumar, passed away at her home in Mumbai on Tuesday. She was 86.

Kumkum was known as Zebunnisa before venturing into the tinsel town in 1954. She was admired for her natural presence before the camera and was at ease equally in a delightful dance number, or with her carefree laughter or in a memorable song that could spiral into a heavier emotional finale.

“Jadugar qatil, hazir hai mera dil,” was the delectable song with which she wooed Dilip Kumar in Kohinoor. His response was to test her dancing ability with a fabled song set to Raag Hameer by music maestro Naushad and delivered mellifluously by Mohammed Rafi in the same movie.

The song, Madhuban mein Radhika naache re, in a way defined Kumkum’s alluring screen presence.

In Naya Daur she danced as a nautanki girl to Sahir Ludhianvi’s risqué number, Reshmi roomaal kurta jaali ka. It was a cameo role, but it left an indelible memory of her enormously attractive presence.

Apart from appearing with Dara Singh in King Kong, she is remembered for films like Mother India, Ujala, Ek Sapera Ek Lootera, and Naya Daur.

Her death was confirmed by late comedian Johnny Walker’s son, actor Nasirr Khan, on Twitter. The cause of her death was not immediately clear.

Sharing two throwback pictures of Kumkum, Nasirr Khan wrote, “Yesteryear’s film actress Kumkum aunty, passed away.”

In another tweet, he recalled two of her famous films — Piyaasa and CID.

TV director Naved Jafri, son of late comedian Jagdeep, also condoled the actress’s death on Twitter.

He wrote: “We have lost another gem. I have known her since I was a kid and she was family, a superb artist and a fantastic human being, innalillahe wa innailaihe raajeoon. Rest in peace Kumkum aunty.”

Kumkum made her movie debut as a dancer in 1954 with the song, Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar Laaga Teere Nazar from the film Aar Paar. She then went on to act in several successful films, including Raja Aur Runk, Geet, Aankhen, and Lalkar.

Kumkum also acted in the first-ever Bhojpuri film, Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadhaibo. The film was released in 1963. The song Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan from the film CID was picturised on the late actress.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2020