Fragrance of Yesteryears: Nargis Dutt

BollyCurry is back once again with the latest edition of Fragrance of Yesteryears featuring Nargis Dutt.

Monday, September 02, 2013 | 9:43:36 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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BollyCurry is back once again with the latest edition of Fragrance of Yesteryears, featuring Nargis Dutt. Born as Fatima Rashid, she is one of the greatest in the Hindi cinema - a legend back in 1940s - a time when the cinema was still at its ongoing rising peak. 

The talented actress was born on June 1, 1929 to Uttamchand Mohanchand fondly known as Mohan Babu, a Punjabi Brahmin, and Jaddanbai, a Muslim immigrant. Before entering the world of cinema, she was a classical music singer and courtesan in Allahabad, as she lived during the time of the British Raj. 

As a child, at tender age of merely six, she was first seen in the movie Talashe Haq, starring alongside her mother Jaddanbai. She received the title 'Baby Nargis' then and has since been lovingly called Nargis, the Persian word for a daffodil. While little is known about her life in between, she returned to the world of Cinema at the age of 14, appearing in various movies, starting with Tamanna (1942) and then Mehboob Khan's production, Taqdeer (1943). 

Her legendary career began in the 1940s and spanned till late 1960s. Dutt appeared in numerous commercially successful as well as critically appreciated films, where the screen-space was mostly shared with actors Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar.  Her charisma, grace and the characters she portrayed lead her to star in numerous acclaimed films, including Barsaat and Andaz in 1949, Awaraa and Deedar in 1951, Shree 420 and Chori Chori in 1955 and 1956 respectively, where she shared the space with Kapoor in Awaraaand Shree 420

Dutt's biggest success came about in 1957, Mehboob Khan's rural drama Mother India, also bagging her the Filmfare Best Actress award, an Oscar nomination and a love to last a lifetime. While it took her a step upwards in the history of Indian Cinema, it also brought her a step closer to her career's end. In Mother India, Nargis portrayed the character of Radha, considered the "mother" of the village whereby the film goes in flash-back to the time when she was married and lived her life in poverty, ending with her having to kill her own son, Birju (Sunil Dutt

In 1958, Nargis married Dutt, an actor, producer, director and a politician. As reports claim, Sunil saved Nargis from a fire on the sets of Mother India, probably leading to the somewhat cliche scenario of the damsel falling in love with her savior. Following the event, Nargis took the decision to end her film career and settle down and give her entire time and sole attention to her family. She made her last appearance in the 1967 movie, Raat Aur Din, winning the National Film Award for Best Actress and thus becoming the first actress ever to win in the category. She also won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for the same. 

Nargis has also shared in Humayun (1945), Nargis (1946), Mela (1848), Anokha Pyar(1948), Pyaar (1950), Hulchul (1951), Bewafaa (1952), Paapi (1953),  Adalat (1958), Yaadein (1964), and many more over the 20 years span of her active career. 

Her success in the film world is not the only high points of her life. Nargis formed the Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe along with her husband. Here, they would gather leading actors and singers of the time to hold stage shows across the war areas to entertain the Indian soldiers. After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and newly formed Bangladesh, this was the first troupe to perform at Dhaka. She also supported the Spastics Society of India, starting in the 1970s, working to improve conditions for children ailed by the muscular disease. All her work did not go unnoticed, gaining her recognition as a social worker and a nomination in the Upper House within a decade. 

Coming to her personal life, she had three children: Sanjay Dutt - an actor, producer, comedian, politician and TV presenter; Priya Dutt - Politician (Indian National Congress), and Namrata Dutt. During the last months of her life, her son Sanjay worked in his first film debut, Rocky. The film went in theaters just four days after she breathed her last due to pancreatic cancer. Upon diagnosis of the cancer, she travelled to New York for treatment at Memorial Sloan - Kettering Cancer Center. Upon her return to India, her condition worsened and she slipped into coma on May 2, passing away on May 3, 1981 at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai.

During the complex moments for the Dutts' was the premier of Rocky on May 7, 1981. At the location, a seat remained vacant in honor of Nargis Dutt, despite the known absence - a loving son's action becoming a nationally famous event. Shortly after in 1982, the Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation was establish in her honor and memory. Dutt remains buried in Mumbai, the road renamed as Nargus Dutt Road in her memory, originally known as Badakabarastan in Marine Lines. 

Here's a tribute from BollyCurry to the ever-charismatic actress who set the stone in motion for many other actresses to follow. "An actress with range, style, grace and an incredibly warm screen presence, Nargis is truly a leading lady to celebrate."

Curiosity Corner: 
  • Her first three films all began with 'T's. 
  • Like her mother who married a Mohylal, she did too.
  • She was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Indian Parliament) (1980-81).
  • Sunil and Nargis' first movie together had them playing the roles of mother and son.
  • The Nargis Dutt award for nationally integrated best feature film is in her honor. 
  • Books have been written on the love story of Nargis and Sunil Dutt by her children.
  • Mehboob Khan had the good fortune of starting both Nargis and Sunil's film careers.
  • As speculating rumors may have it, she was known to have a romantic connection with Raj Kapoor during the 1950s.
Writer: Khushi P.
Editor(s): Gunia M.
Graphics: Saraa K.

User Rating Rating(6 Votes)
zephyr29, MarshP, gk_09, Jenifer., -Araina-, illuminated.

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Posted on: 02 September 2013 at 2:03pm
Apart from that small error of her having "three sons", a very nice and concise feature on Nargis Dutt. Her life actually reads like a movie story - from being the daughter of a courtesan and even growing up as one to her rise as one of the most legendary actresses in Indian Cinema, to her much touted love affair with Raj Kapoor to a life of domesticity with Sunil Dutt till her death due to cancer. Truly a very fascinating life.

2 member(s) Liked the above comment :
Thapelo, pallavi25

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Posted on: 02 September 2013 at 1:28pm
one comment: i didnt know priya and namratta dutt are boys!! aka sunil-nargis dutt's sons!!

*dear author of article.. plz proof-read from next time onwards.

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