Nargis Dutt (Hindi: नर्गिस, Urdu: نرگس; June 1, 1929 – May 3, 1981), known by her screen name, Nargis, was an Indian film actress. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest actresses in the history of Hindi cinema. She made her screen debut as a child in Talash-E-Haq in 1935, but her acting carer began in 1942 with Tamanna. During a career that spanned from the 1940s to the 60s, Nargis appeared in numerous commercially successful as well as critically appreciated films, many of which featured her alongside actor and filmmaker Raj Kapoor. One of her best-known roles was that of Radha in the Academy Award-nominated Mother India (1957), a performance that won her Best Actress trophies at the Filmfare Awards and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. In 1958, Nargis married her Mother India co-star, actor Sunil Dutt, and left the film industry. She would appear infrequently in films during the 60s. Some of her films of this period include the drama Raat Aur Din (1967), for which she got the inaugural National Film Award for Best Actress.
Along with her husband, Nargis formed the Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe, which roped in several leading actors and singers of the time and held stage shows at border areas. In early 1970s, she became the first patron of Spastics Society of India, and her subsequent work with the organisation brought her recognition as a social worker, and later a Rajya Sabha nomination in 1980.
Nargis died in 1981 of pancreatic cancer, a few days before her son Sanjay Dutt made his film debut in Bollywood. In 1982, the Nargis Dutt Memorial Cancer Foundation was established in her memory. The award for best feature film on national integration in the annual National Film Awards ceremony is called the Nargis Dutt Award in her honour.
Early life and background
Nargis was born in Calcutta, the daughter of the Allahabad-based Muslim singer, Jaddanbai and a Hindu Mohyal father of Rawalpindi, named Uttamchand Mohanchand. Her only brother, Anwar Hussain, also became a film actor.
Fatima was recruited to the cinema at an early age. She made her first film appearance in the 1935 Talashe Haq when she was six years old, credited as "Baby Nargis". Nargis, her stage name, means "Narcissus", the flower. She was subsequently credited as Nargis in all of her films.
Nargis appeared in numerous movies after her film debut; she won lasting fame for her later, adult, roles, starting with at the age of 14, in Mehboob Khan's Taqdeer in 1943 opposite, Motilal. She starred in many popular Hindi-Urdu movies of the late 1940s and 1950s such as Barsaat (1949), Andaz (1949), Awaara (1951), Deedar (1951), Shree 420 (1955), and Chori Chori (1956). In most of her films she starred alongside Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar.
Her most famous role came in Mehboob Khan's Oscar-nominated rural drama Mother India in 1957. She won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance. After her marriage to Sunil Dutt in 1958, Nargis gave up her film career after her last few film releases to settle down with her family. She made her last film appearance in the 1967 film Raat Aur Din for which she won a National Film Award for Best Actress, the first actress to win in this category. She also received a Filmfare Best Actress Award Nomination for this film.
Nargis had been romantically linked with Raj Kapoor with whom she was cast in most of her films. However, the rumoured affair did not materialise and Nargis went on to marry actor Sunil Dutt (himself a Mohyal from Jhelum, British India). Reportedly, Dutt had saved her life from a fire accident on the sets of Mother India. The couple married on March 11, 1958 and had three children together: Sanjay, Namrata, and Priya. Sanjay Dutt went onto become a very successful film actor. Namrata married actor Kumar Gaurav, son of veteran actor Rajendra Kumar who had appeared alongside both Nargis and Sunil Dutt in Mother India. Priya became a politician, and since 2005 has been a Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha).
Along with her husband, Nargis formed the Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe, which roped in several leading actors and singers of the time, and performed at remote frontiers to entertain the Indian soldiers; it was the first troupe to perform at Dhaka, after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and the formation of Bangladesh. 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.
Years later, Nargis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and underwent treatment for the disease at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York. Upon her return to India, her condition deteriorated, and she was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. She sank into a coma on May 2, 1981 and passed away on May 3, 1981. Her absence at the premiere of her son's debut film Rocky on May 7, 1981, where one seat was kept vacant for her, was a nationally famous event.