An unusual pairing was made by the producer and director M L Anand for the Neelkamal Films in 1958. It was signing Kishore Kumar opposite Nargis for the film Ek Tha Raja Ek Thi Rani.
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.
M L Anand had already directed Nargis earlier 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.
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 be 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…