Completely ahead of her times, Nutan Samarth (better known as Nutan), lit up the silver screen of Hindi films in the 1950s. But that wasn’t the first time she faced the camera, because she was a fairly well-known child artiste too and daughter of the very famous actress Shobhana Samarth. As a child, she starred in Nal Damyanti, and when she was a little older, her mother launched her career in Hamari Beti (1950).
When the ugly duckling grew into a beautiful swan, Nutan proved herself to be extremely individualistic. On one hand, she posed before a photographer’s camera in a swimsuit and was declared Miss India in 1951. On the other hand, she filed a case of misappropriation of funds against her mother and slapped actor Sanjeev Kumar for making a pass at her.
Life soon tempered this young firebrand when her first film, Hamari Beti didn’t fare too well, but the following year, when she returned from Switzerland, she starred in Nagina and Hum Log—movies that gave her middle of the road success. However, ironically, Nagina was an adults’ only film, but Nutan being under aged, wasn’t allowed to see her own film! These movies didn’t take her career forward and at this time, her mother sent her to a Swiss finishing school.
When she returned, she was just right for Hindi films and won great accolades for her performance in Seema, where she played a criminal in jail. Her superlative performance won her the first of her five Filmfare Awards for Best Actress.
Emboldened by her award, she fanned out to doing lighthearted roles in Dilli ka Thug and Paying Guest opposite Dev Anand. However, her career’s best performance was in Bimal Roy’s Sujata opposite Sunil Dutt—the film that brought out the best in her. Right through the 50s and the 60s, she dominated the Hindi film industry with her enigmatic smile, her beautiful eyes, her dignity and traditional looks. She acted in many women-centric roles and made that her niche in Hindi films.
She acted opposite almost all the top stars of the time. She could convey through her expressions what perhaps 100 words could. Being an intelligent actress, she could emote perfectly and get into the skin of the character she played.
After her role in Anadi, she married naval Lieutenant-Commander Rajnish Behl. In 1963, she made a comeback with two powerful films, Tere Ghar Ke Saamne with Dev Anand and Bimal Roy’s Bandini—a romantic film and the other a social comment on the times. Bandini was touted as the film that showcased her talent best. The story is about a woman who is accused of killing her lover’s wife. In this role, Nutan blended theatrics with rhetoric, grace with dignity and many more emotions in this high-voltage film. No one was surprised to hear that yet again she won the Filmfare Award for Best Actress that year.
Apart from Bandini, the 60s also saw her in Chhalia (1960), Rishte Naate (1965), Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966) Milan (1967) and Saraswatichandra (1968). In the 70s, she starred in Devi (1970), Saudagar (1973), Sajan Bina Suhagan (1978), Kasturi (1978) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978). As she grew older, she did impressive and unforgettable character roles in Meri Jung (1985), Karma (1986) and Kanoon Apna Apna in 1989. Karma was a milestone of sorts in her career, as for the first time ever, she was paired opposite Dilip Kumar.
In 1991, she acted in the last two films of her career—Naseebwala and Insaniyat. She succumbed to cancer that year. Perhaps the last of her Filmfare awards was for Meri Jung where she won the award for Best Supporting Actress. To this day, she remains the actress with the highest number of Filmfare Awards for Seema, Sujata, Bandini, Milan, Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki and Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award, for Meri Jung.
A short life with many achievements, her twinkling eyes lay still as she succumbed to cancer at the age of 54.
Article by Mithi Chinoy, CT Contributor.
Buy Tere Ghar Ke Samne and watch videos of NUTAN from Bollywood Hindi Films
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