Golden Era

Nargis (1921 – 1981) – First Lady of Indian Cinema

Nargis (Hindi: नर्गिस, Urdu: نرگس) is one of the greatest Indian actress, best known for her role as Radha in the Oscar-nominated film Mother India. Starting her career as baby Rani, she reached the crescendo by represeting an ideal Indian womenhood with Mother India in 1957.

We, at musicNmovies pay a tribute to this actress of the millenium [Stardust, 2001].

Born in 1921, as Fatima Rashid, to a classical singer, dancer & actress Nargis began her film career as a child artist. Her debut as an adult, was only in Mehboob Khan’s Taqdeer (1943) opposite Motilal. She made her stardom within next years itself with till date best love traingle Aandaz in 1949. She played the love intrest of Dilip Kumar & Raj Kapoor. Subsequently in the same year Barsaat(1947) happened with Raj Kapoor.

With Barsaat, the new era of romantic movies began. The movies were not more theatrical and loud. More of realistic and natural behaviours were seen on screen, and who could have portrayed the naturalness more than Nargis. Her performances were authentic and natural to a degree not seen then in Indian Cinema.

Nargis often played women caught in a dilemma of the heart leading to a tragic ending – Mela (1948), Andaaz (1949), Jogan (1950), Babul (1950), Deedar (1951) and Bewafaa (1952) among others (the kind of roles Patience Cooper did in the 1920s).

Pyaar Huwa Ikrar Huwa Hai (Shree 420)

There was a whole chapter of both on screen & off screen romance between Raj Kapoor & Nargis in early 50s. With strings of romantic movies together Barsaat, Shree 420, Awaara till Chori Chori, her immense love for then already married co-star Raj Kapoor was evident on screen [Lost in Love – Raj Kapoor & Nargis].

However by 1956 the pair had broken up, Chori Chori (1956), a breezy entertainer based on Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1934), being their last film together. She did do a special appearance in his production Jagte Raho (1956) for old times sake and perhaps it was fitting that at the end of the film she is the woman who finally quenches Raj Kapoor’s thirst.

Mother India

As soon as, the affair ended, her mentor Mehboob offered her his magnum opus Mother India (1957), remake of his own black & white Aurat(1940).The film represents the pinnacle of her career and won her the Best Actress award at the prestigious Karlovy Vary festival. Mother India was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film but it lost to Fellini’s Nights of Caberia by a solitary vote!

Its well known fact during shooting of Mother India, Nargis got trapped in wildfire and Sunil Dutt, who was playing his son in the movie risked his life and saved her. Soon after that, he proposed her and Nargis became Mrs. Dutt. After marriage, Mrs. Dutt gave up her film carreer, though she made comeback in Raat Aur Din (1967) for which she won even National Award. With three children, Sanjay Dutt, being one she settled down for social work instead of movies.

Short Documentary – Nargis

Nargis Dutt was the recipient of the Urvashy Award, the highest honour that can be conferred on a movie actress in India. Nargis was the first film personality to be awarded the Padmashree and later her charitable work for spastics saw her nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

In Late 70s, she became frequently ill and finally got daigonosed for cancer in pancreas. Rushed to some of the biggest medical centres in USA for cure but no avial, she died of cancer in 1981. The very same year, when her son Sanjay Dutt made his debut in film industry with Rocky (1981).


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