Remembering Nargis on her 36th death anniversary.
Nargis, known as Nargis Dutt after her marriage, was born as Fatima Rashid in Calcutta to a very wealthy family. She was introduced to cinema by her mother, Jaddanbai, who was a classical music singer and one of the earliest figures associated with the Indian film industry. She was born on 1 June 1929. Nargis made her debut as a child actor with the film Talashe Haq (1935). She was six at that time. She made her adult debut at the age of 14 with the film Taqdeer (1943) opposite Motilal, who was 19 years older than her!
Since her debut, she appeared in various films that are now considered classics such as Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat (1949) and Shree 420 (1955), Mehboob Khan’s Andaz (1949), Nitin Bose’s Deedar (1951), and Anant Thakur’s Chori Chori (1956). She gave the best performance of her career in the film Mother India (1957) where she played the lead role of Radha. This film is often considered one of the greatest Indian films ever made. It also won her the Filmfare Award for the Best Actress.
In a career spanning about twenty years, she worked in over fifty films.
She had a long relationship with her co-star of many films Raj Kapoor. But as he was already married and refused to leave his wife, Nargis ended her relationship with him after Chori Chori (1956). She married her Mother India (1957) co-star Sunil Dutt in 1958 and left the film industry. Dutt had saved her from a fire accident on the sets of the film. She made her last on-screen appearance with Raat Aur Din (1967) which won her the inaugural National Award for Best Actress.
She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer for which she underwent treatment in New York. However, on her return, she succumbed to her illness and died on 3 May 1981. She was 51 years old. She was also a recipient of the Padma Shri in 1958, and the first Indian film actresses to receive the honor.