Bollywood Legends - Nargis


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Nargis will always be counted among the best and most glamorous actresses of Indian cinema. She used her star status to address several social issues and was a precursor of the current ”celebrity for a cause” trend. She was the first Indian actress to be awarded a Padmashree. She was also nominated to the Rajya Sabha.
Born in Calcutta in 1929, Fatima, daughter of singer, actress and film producer Jaddanbai, started her acting career as a child of five (Baby Rani) with Talash-e-Haq. When she was 14, she was launched as a leading lady by the legendary Mehboob Khan with Taqdeer.
When Raj Kapoor signed Nargis for Aag she was already a big star - his first meeting with her is immortalised in the film Bobby, the scene in which Raj (Rishi Kapoor) goes to Bobby”s (Dimple Kapadia) house and she answers the door casually dressed, her hair dishevelled. (She later told her friends a ”fat pinkie” had come to sign her!)
The Raj Kapoor-Nargis association lasted for years and they did about 17 films together, most of them hits. She became Raj Kapoor”s ‘Lady In White’, his inspiration, while doing some of her best films with him. (She is reported to have met the then Home Minister Moraji Desai to try and get him to sanction her marriage to Raj Kapoor, but she was turned down!)
However, it was Mehboob Khan who cast her in the classic love triangle Andaz with Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, in which she played a woman whose platonic relationship with a man ruins her marriage. And of course, the masterpiece Mother India, which is one of Indian cinema’s all time classics, where she played a strong village woman Radha, who braves insurmountable odds but does not compromise on her principles - even if it means she has to kill her own son. During the making of this film, a new actor Sunil Dutt, who was playing her son, rescued her from a fire. They fell in love and got married. Nargis retired from films soon after her marriage and involved herself with social issues.
Nargis has starred in some memorable films like Barsaat, Jogan, Mela, Babul, Awara, Shri 420, Chori Chori, Adalat and usually played strong women. Her unusual looks helped her to fit into a wide range of roles from the simple sanyasin in Jogan to the glamorous socialite in Chori Chori. She brought a refreshing sophistication and spontaneity to her performances at a time when theatrical acting was the norm.
As a person, she was warm and caring getting along with everyone from the spot boys in the studios, to the elite of society. She would travel with Sunil Dutt”s troupe Ajanta Arts all over the country under all conditions to entertain troops or raise funds.
But she had to suffer the pain of cancer and passed away in 1981 just when her son Sanjay was making his debut in Rocky, directed by his father. Sunil Dutt did not let his wife”s memory fade away and runs the Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation to aid organisations involved with cancer care.