CultureCinema Remembering Nargis Dutt: The Flamboyant Actress Of The Fifties

Remembering Nargis Dutt: The Flamboyant Actress Of The Fifties

From her sassy replies to the media, to portraying unconventional characters in films, Nargis Dutt lived life on her own terms.

One of the most iconic actresses of the Indian film industry, Nargis Dutt is still remembered for her charming personality and her graceful demeanour. Nargis is mostly known for her films, but she wore many hats. A parliamentarian and a humanitarian fighting for social causes were a few other roles that she played with equal elan. On her birth anniversary let us look at a few of her most cherished films.

Awaara (1951)

Nargis plays the role of Rita, a flamboyant young woman much like her own real self. Rita is the strong force which reforms the hero Raj (played by Raj Kapoor) from his vagrant ways and diverts him from a life of crime to a life of honesty and honour.

Lajwanti (1958)

Kavita, who is a home maker and a dutiful wife is accused of having an affair by her husband and is thrown away from her house without her baby. Lajwanti plays on the emotional aspect of the mother daughter relationship, when eventually Kavita reunited back with her daughter and is fighting to secure her romantic relationship for her. Such empowering and unconventional characters resonated Nargis Dutt’s temperament in real life, as all her three children were believed to be quite close and dear to her.

Shree 420 (1955)

Raj (played by Raj Kapoor) is a poor man who comes to the city from the small town of Allahabad. Seduced by the riches of the city life, Raj gradually turns to conning other people to earn money. It is however, Vidya (played by Nargis Dutt), who stands her ground, even when the rich and wealthy Raj comes and proposes to her. She sticks to her principles and virtues and doesn’t encourage Raj’s actions. The characterisation of Vidya was highly important because of her portrayal of a strong woman standing her ground.

Mother India (1957)

Mother India, the film which originally put India on the global map was a path breaking film. Nargis was only 28 years old when she portrayed the role of Radha in Mother India. The film was made to counter author Katherine Mayo’s critique of India in the book Mother India and evoke feelings of nationalism in the country. Nargis Dutt portrayed the role of Radha whose virtue as an Indian woman overcame her love and affection as a mother as she shot her own son in the film thereby preventing him from sexually assaulting a woman from the village. Nargis’ strong portrayal of the character made the movie famous worldwide. It is the only Indian movie till date to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Born as Fatima Rashid to Hindustani classical singer Jaddanbai, Nargis Dutt was introduced to films by her mother at the young age of six years, in the film Talashe Haq (1935). Known for her humility and simplicity, Nargis liked living the life of a common woman, even though she was a big star. She was known for her sass and has often provided badass answers such as, ‘But who will marry the daughter of a tawaif?’ when asked by reporters on her marriage plans and personal life. She is also known to have grappled with mental illness and overcome it gradually.

Nargis’ persona was so relatable and real, that it made more and more people from the Indian audience love and respect her. Her death was a proof of her huge fan following, which surpassed age boundaries.

Also Read: The Evolution Of Bollywood Movie Posters And What They Tell Us About The Society We Live In

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