Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023 | Last Update : 11:51 AM IST
We all remember Nargis for her role in Oscar nominated Bollywood movie Mother India (1957). She was married to Bollywood actor and Congress leader Sunil Dutt and is mother of three, actor Sanjay Dutt, politician Priya Dutt & Namrata Dutt. Not many of us know that Nargis was not her real name. She was born as Fatima Rashid in Calcutta. She belonged to a wealthy family. Her father hailed from Rawalpindi, Punjab and her mother was a Hindustani classical music singer and one of the early pioneers of Indian cinema. Nargis' maternal half-brother, Anwar Hussain, was also a film actor.
Nargis made her movie debut at the age of 6. She appeared in 1935 film titled Talashe Haq. She was credited as Baby Nargis in the movie and she chose this name for her subsequent movies. She later appeared as a lead actress in many Bollywood movies of the 40s and 50s. She worked in successful Bollywood movies like Barsaat (1949), Andaz (1949), Awaara (1951), Deedar (1951), Shree 420 (1955) and Chori Chori (1956). However, her best performance came in Oscar-nominated Bollywood drama Mother India in 1957. Nargis won the Filmfare Best Actress Award for her performance. During the shoot of Mother India, she fell in love with Sunil Dutt and got married to him in 1958.
Nargis gave up her film career to settle down with her family, after her last few films were released. She made her last film appearance in the 1967 film Raat Aur Din. She won the National Film Award for Best Actress and became the first actress to win in this category.
Before getting married to Sunil Dutt, Nargis was romantically linked to Raj Kapoor. He was her co-star in movies like Shri 420 and Aawara. Raj Kapoor was already married that time and couldn't divorce his wife. This is the reason Nargis ended their year-long relationship. She got married to Sunil Dutt as he had saved her life from a fire on the sets of Mother India. She converted to Hinduism and changed her legal name to "Nirmala Dutt" after they married on 11 March 1958. Together they have three children. Sanjay Dutt, Priya Dutt and Namrata Dutt. Namrata got married to Bollywood actor Kumar Gaurav.
Namrata remembers her mother Nargis as a fun-loving person. She has been quoted as saying in reports that, “She was a great swimmer. As a young girl, she played cricket and football with her brothers - Anwar and Akhtar Hussain. She was a pucca tomboy!” Nargis carried no halo of stardom around her. Namrata adds, “She’d happily eat paani puri from the chaatwallah down the road. She’d watch movies in a theatre. While her nieces wore burqas, she’d say, ‘Who wants to suffer in a burqa?’” Reportedly, Nargis had no qualms about shop hopping in bazaars either. “One day mom, her friend Indra Gidwani, Priya and I went to a mall in Delhi. But Indra aunty got lost and went on asking every shopkeeper, ‘Nargis ko dekha kya?’ Soon word passed around and before we knew it, a herd was following mom".
Bollywood actress Nargis was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas produces digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. Cells called exocrine pancreas cells produce the digestive juices, while cells called endocrine pancreas cells produce the hormones. The majority of pancreatic cancers start in the exocrine cells. Nargis underwent treatment for the disease at Memorial Sloan–Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Upon her return to India, her condition deteriorated, and she was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital in Bombay. She went into a coma on 2nd May, 1981 and died the next day. Less than a week after her death, on 7 May 1981, at the premiere of her son Sanjay Dutt's debut film Rocky, one seat was kept vacant for her.