Nargis Dutt is not just a consummate actress but a nurturing woman too. Perhaps one of Bollywood’s most highly respected and greatest film stars, Nargis Dutt debuted as a child star in Talash-E-Haq in 1935. But really, her film career took off only in 1942 with Tamanna. In her 25-year-long career, Nargis acted in several box office hits and highly acclaimed films, many of which with noted actor and film producer Raj Kapoor.
- Born: Fatima Rashid on June 1, 1929
- Place of birth: Kolkata, West Bengal
- Died: May 3, 1981 (aged 51) at Mumbai, Bombay, Maharashtra
- Years active: 1935, 1942 – 1967
- Awards: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (1958); Best Actress for Mother India and Filmfare Awards for Best actress for the same movie.
She was introduced to the Hindi film industry as a child star under the name of Baby Nargis. At six, she acted in Talashe Haq and when she returned as a full-fledged heroine, she continued her film career under the name of Nargis, meaning Narcissus.
Her first film was Tamanna (1942), after which she acted in several films. But the first film that won her overwhelming praise was the one she did at age 14 years—Taqdeer (1943), a Mehboob Khan film, opposite Motilal. She was a busy actress right through the 1940s and 1950s, acting in Hindi films such as Barsaat and Andaz (1949), Awaara and Deedar (1951), Shree 420 (1955) and Chori Chori (1956). In several of her films, she co-starred with the most popular Hindi film stars of the times, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar.
Her performances were peppered with drama, loudness, ordinariness and a lot of genuineness.
Mother India and international acclaim
However, the film that brought her the most fame in her entire career was the Academy Awards-nominated rural story, Mother India, made by Mehboob Khan in 1957. The film starred Sunil Dutt, Nargis, Raj Kumar and Rajendra Kumar. It was a remake of Mehboob Khan’s film Aurat (1940) and was the product of an Indo-Russian collaboration. Before this, Pardesi (1957) was also made with Russian cooperation and starred Nargis Dutt.[
For her spectacular performance as Radha in Mother India, Nargis was awarded the Filmfare Best Actress Award. It is said that during the shooting of this film, Sunil Dutt, the hero of this film, proposed to her and she accepted. She also won the Best Actress award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Marriage with Sunil Dutt
At 19, she was swept off her feet by the charming and popular film star, Raj Kapoor. Together, they acted in several hit films. But the turning point in her life came when, on the sets of Mother India, Sunil Dutt rescued her from a fire on the sets. Both of them were badly injured in the fire, and to recuperate, Mehboob sent them to his home town, Billimora, away from Mumbai. There, they discovered their true feelings for each other and got married on March 11, 1958. Following this, she gave up her movie career to settle down and raise a family. They had three children, the ever popular film star Sanjay Dutt, Namrata, and Priya.
In 1967, she returned to films to act in what is her last film, Raat Aur Din, for which she won the National Film Award for Best Actress. This made her India’s first actress to win an award of this stature in this category. She also won the Filmfare Best Actress Award Nomination for this film.
Years later, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent extensive treatment for it at New York’s Sloan-Kettering Hospital. When she returned to India, her condition worsened and she slipped into a coma on May 2, 1981 and passed away the following day at Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital. Her death preceded her son Sanjay’s debut film, Rocky, in Bollywood by just four days.
The following year, the Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation was set up in her memory and the best feature film on national integration in the annual National Film Awards ceremony, the Nargis Dutt Award, was also instituted.
Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe
Nargis and her husband Sunil Dutt launched Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe, and invited several top actors and singers to hold stage shows in border areas to entertain Indian soldiers in these areas. After the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and the resultant formation of Bangladesh, this was the first troupe to perform at Dhaka.
She became the first patron of the Spastics Society of India in the early 70s. Her efforts as a social worker in this direction were largely recognized and she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1980.
Awards and recognitions
Apart from all her awards mentioned above, she also received the Urvashy Award, the highest honour to be conferred on an Indian film actress. She was also the first actress to win the famed Karlovy Wary Award and to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1980-81, but due to ill-health, could not complete her tenure. She also received the National Award for Cinematography for her immense contribution to Indian cinema.
Along with Amitabh Bachchan, she was honoured with the Best Artists of the Millennium award, given by Hero Honda and Stardust magazine. And she was the first film personality to receive the national honour, the Padmashree.
In the annals of Hindi cinema, Nargis occupies a very prominent position for her immense and significant contribution to it.
By Mithi Chinoy
Filmography of Nargis, Bollywood Actress
- Tosa oneira stous dromous – Actress 1968
- Deva Tuzhi Sonyachi Jejuri – Actress 1967
- Raat Aur Din – Mrs. Varuna Verma 1967
- Memories – Priya’s silhouette 1964
- Adalat – Nirmala 1958
- Homelife – Uma 1958
- Lajwanti – Mrs. Kavita Kumar 1958
- Mother India – Radha 1957
- Pardesi – Champa 1957
- Chori Chori – Kammo 1956
- Jagte Raho – Temple singer (uncredited) 1956
- Shree 420 – Vidya Omkarnath Shastri 1955
- Angarey – Actress 1954
- Aah – Neelu/Chandra/Reshma Rai 1953
- Dhoon – Actress 1953
- Papi – Lachhi 1953
- Amber – Amber 1952
- Anhonee – Roop/Mohini 1952
- Ashiana – Gaura 1952
- Bewafa – Roopa 1952
- Sheesha – Actress 1952
- Awaara – Rita 1951
- Deedar – Mala 1951
- Hulchul – Asha 1951
- Pyar Ki Baaten – Actress 1951
- Saagar – Actress 1951
- Aadhi Raat – Actress 1950
- Babul – Bela 1950
- Chhoti Bhabbi – Actress 1950
- Jan Pahchan – Asha 1950
- Jogan – Surabhi 1950
- Khel – Actress 1950
- Meena Bazaar – Actress 1950
- Pyaar – Actress 1950
- Barsaat – Reshma 1949
- Andaz – Neena 1949
- Darogaji – Actress 1949
- Lahore – Actress 1949
- Roomal – Actress 1949
- Aag – Nimmi 1948
- Anjuman – Actress 1948
- Anokha Pyar – Geeta 1948
- Mela – Manju 1948
- Mehandi – Actress 1947
- Romeo and Juliet – Actress 1947
- Nargis – Actress 1946
- Bisvi Sadi – Actress 1945
- Humayun – Hamida Bano 1945
- Destiny – Salma 1943
- Tamanna – Actress 1942
- Talashe Haq – Actress (as Baby Nargis) 1935
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