Nargis Dutt

Karishma Mishra
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Nargis Dutt[3] (born Fatima Rashid; 1 June 1929 – 3 May 1981),[4] also known by her stage name Nargis,[5] was an Indian film actress, who starred in classic films of Bollywood. Regarded as one of the greatest actress in the history of Hindi cinema, she made her screen debut in a minor role at the age of 5 with Talash-E-Haq (1935), but her acting career actually began with the film Tamanna (1942).

Nargis was born as Fatima Rashid in CalcuttaBengal PresidencyBritish Indian Empire (now KolkataWest Bengal, India) in a Punjabi Muslim family. Her father Abdul Rashid, formerly Mohanchand Uttamchand ("Mohan Babu"), was originally a wealthy Punjabi Hindu heir from RawalpindiPunjab Province who had converted to Islam.[3][1][6][7] Her mother was Jaddanbai, a Hindustani classical music singer and one of the early pioneers of Indian cinema.[8] Nargis' family then moved from Punjab to Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.[citation needed] She introduced Nargis into the movie culture unfolding in India at the time. Nargis' maternal half-brother, Anwar Hussain, was also a film actor.



Portrait of Nargis from Jan Pahechan

Fatima made her first film appearance in the 1935 film Talashe Haq when she was six years old, credited as Baby Nargis. Nargis (نرگس [ˈnərɡɪs]) is a Persian word meaning Narcissus, the daffodil flower. She was subsequently credited as Nargis in all of her films.[9]

Nargis appeared in numerous films after her debut. In 1943 at the age of 14, she appeared in Mehboob Khan's Taqdeer, opposite Motilal.[10] She starred in many Hindi films of the late 1940s and 1950s such as Barsaat (1949),[11] Andaz (1949),[12] Jogan (1950),[13] Awaara (1951),[14] Deedar (1951),[15] Anhonee (1952),[16] Shree 420 (1955),[14] and Chori Chori (1956).[17] She appeared in Mehboob Khan's Oscar-nominated epic drama Mother India in 1957, for which she won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance.[18] Baburao Patel of the film magazine, Filmindia, in December 1957, described Mother India as "the greatest picture produced in India" and wrote that no other actress would have been able to perform the role as well as Nargis.[19] Also in 1957, she acted in the movie Pardesi (marketed as Journey Beyond Three Seas in English), which was an Indo-Soviet co-production.[20]

Nargis, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar in a scene from the 1949 film Andaz

Nargis acted with multiple prominent actors of the time, including Ashok KumarDev Anand and Motilal. She was a versatile actor. Her serious roles alongside Dilip Kumar in DeedarBabulAndazHulchulMelaJogan and Anokha Pyar were successful. Andaz featured a love-triangle between Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Raj Kapoor and their roles were greatly appreciated.[21]

Nargis and Raj Kapoor acted together in 16 films spanning over a period of 10 years, including AwaaraShree 420Jagte Raho (cameo), AndazChori ChoriAahAag and Barsaat. Their first film together was Aag in 1948. Aag was not a commercial success, Aah's earnings were average, but others were commercially successful. Songs from these movies featuring them have grown to become memorable. Some examples are "Barsat mein humse mile" and "Jiya beqarar hai" (in Barsaat); "Dam bhar jo udhar munh phere" and "Ghar aaya mera pardesi" (in Awaara); "Sham gayi raat aayi", "Ichak dana beechak dana" and "Pyar ha ikraar hua" (in Shree 420); and "Pancchi banoon udti phiroon", "Aa ja sanam madhur chandni mein", and "Yeh raat bheegi bheegi" (in Chori Chori).[17] Their work in Awaara made the couple famous internationally,[21] particularly in the Soviet Union, where the film was dubbed in Russian and released as Brodiaga.[22]

After her marriage to Sunil Dutt in 1958, Nargis gave up her film career to settle down with her family, after her last few films were released.[23] She made her last film appearance in the 1967 film Raat Aur Din, being convinced to act after fifteen years.[21] The film was well received and Nargis' performance as a woman who has dissociative identity disorder was critically acclaimed.

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She was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha (Upper house of Indian Parliament) from 1980–81[4][28] but due to cancer she fell ill and died during her tenure.[29]


Personal lifeEdit

Raj Kapoor and Nargis

Nargis had a long-time relationship with actor Raj Kapoor, who was her co-star in the films Awaara and Shree 420. Raj Kapoor was married and had children. After he refused to divorce his wife, Nargis ended their nine-year-long relationship.[30][31]

Nargis tends to an injured Sunil Dutt during the filming of Mother India

Nargis married actor Sunil Dutt (a Punjabi Hindu from Jhelum district, British India) on 11 March 1958. Reportedly, Dutt had saved her life from a fire on the sets of Mother India.[32] She had also reportedly helped Dutt's sister and mother.[33] They married on 11 March 1958.[34] She converted to Hinduism on her marriage.[35] Three children were born from their union: Sanjay, Namrata, and Priya.

Sanjay went on to become a successful film actor. Namrata married actor Kumar Gaurav, son of veteran actor Rajendra Kumar who had appeared alongside Nargis and Sunil Dutt in Mother India. Priya became a politician and a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha).[32]

With her husband, Nargis formed the Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe, which involved several leading actors and singers of the time, and performed at remote frontiers to entertain the Indian soldiers at border. It was the first troupe to perform in Dhaka, after the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. Later, Nargis worked for the cause of spastic children. She became the first patron of the Spastics Society of India. Her charitable work for the organisation got her recognition as a social worker.[33]

Nargis loved wearing white saris, speaking over the telephone and eating panipuris sold on the streets. She was an excellent swimmer and enjoyed playing cricket with her brothers.[23] The founder of the Spastic Society of India, Mithu Alur, stated in an interview that Nargis had a dream of pursuing medicine that she could never fulfill.[36]


Illness and deathEdit

On 2 August 1980, Nargis fell ill during a session of the Rajya Sabha, with the initial cause assumed to be jaundice. She was rushed home and admitted to Breach Candy Hospital in Bombay. After fifteen days of tests, during which her condition kept worsening and she rapidly lost weight, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1980 and underwent treatment for the disease at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.[37][38] Upon her return to India, her condition deteriorated and she was admitted at Breach Candy Hospital. Nargis went into a coma on 2 May 1981 after she became seriously ill and died the next day. She was buried at Badakabarastan in Marine LinesMumbai. On 7 May 1981, at the premiere of her son's debut film Rocky, one seat was kept vacant for her.[32]

One year after her death, the Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation was established by Sunil Dutt in her memory.[39] Though Nargis' death was widely attributed to cancer, her daughter Namrata shared that she had successfully fought the pancreatic cancer but died from a urinary tract infection. Her son Sanjay added that her lowered immunity levels made her susceptible to the infection.


Nargis on a 1993 stamp of India

A scene from the 1949 film Barsaat, featuring Raj Kapoor holding Nargis in one arm and a violin in the other, was chosen as the basis of the logo of R. K. Films.

Nargis was played by actress Manisha Koirala in the 2018 film Sanju, the biopic of her son, Sanjay Dutt. The film is ranked as one of the highest grossing Indian films of 2018. Feryna Wazheir portrayed her in the 2018 film Manto.

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