She is regarded as one of the greatest actors to grace Indian cinema. Nargis Dutt acted in many classical films of the 1940s and 1950s and etched her name in history.
She could be intense, playful and haughty with equal ease which added to her popularity. She started as a child star and later her career began with Tamanna in 1942. Her best known role was in the film Mother India where her intensity stood out in the tragic tale of a woman living in abject poverty and fighting against the odds.
She made a great screen pair with Raj Kapoor, delivering hit after hit with him. After her marriage to actor Sunil Dutt, Nargis retired but did one memorable role in Raat Aur Din.
Here is some of her best work:
Cast: Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Premnath, K N Singh, Cukoo, Nimmi, B M Vyas
Director: Raj Kapoor
Two love stories run parallel in this film which brought fame to Raj Kapoor and marked the debut of music directors Shankar-Jaikishan. Pran (Kapoor) falls in love with a tribal girl Reshma (Nargis) and faces many trials and tribulations before true love triumphs.
Meanwhile, his friend Gopal (Premnath), a womaniser, disregards the faithful Neela (Nimmi) and keeps having affairs. But finally it dawns on him that Neela is the person he should love and he reforms but to no avail. He finds Neela dead when he comes to profess his love.
Cast: Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Prithviraj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Leela Chitnis, K N Singh
Director: Raj Kapoor
A young man is forced into poverty and turns to crime when his father disowns him and his mother. Judge Raghunath (Prithviraj Kapoor) sentences a criminal Jagga (K N Singh) on very little evidence. This irks Jagga who takes revenge by kidnapping the judge’s wife Leela (Chitnis). The judge refuses to take his wife back after learning she became pregnant during her captivity.
Raj (Kapoor) takes to petty stealing and once steals a purse from his childhood sweetheart Rita (Nargis) whom he doesn’t recognise. Once he does, she is willing to accept him even if he is a thief. But complications arise aplenty before Raj is sentenced to death for killing Jagga. But justice prevails.
Cast: Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Nimmi, Motilal, Agha
Director: Nitin Bose
A tragic love triangle is central to the plot dealing with a blind singer Shamu (Dilip Kumar), his childhood sweetheart Mala (Nargis) and Dr Kishore (Ashok Kumar). There is a fourth element in the form of Champa (Nimmi), who has looked after Shamu and is deeply in love with him.
Shamu and Mala grow up together but then get separated. Shamu’s hope of actually seeing Mala improves after Dr Kishore is ready to help him get the eye fixed. The doctor is to get married and he speaks at length about his to-be wife who turns out to be Mala. Love gets tangled in complications.
Shree 420 (1955)
Cast: Nargis, Raj Kapoor, Lalita Pawar, Nadira, Nemo, Iftekhar
Director: Raj Kapoor
A poor but educated young man Raj (Kapoor) walks his way to Mumbai from Allahabad searching for work. Once there, he comes under the influence of the corrupt Seth Sonachand (Nemo) who introduces him to the world of cheats. Raj falls in love with virtuous Vidya (Nargis) who does not like him indulging in cheating.
Raj is trapped in a housing scheme initiated by Sonachand but comes to his senses when he realises that the poor are being robbed under the pretext of providing a house. He tries to steal the papers signed by the poor but is shot. Vidya now becomes a friend and she helps him recover and expose Sonachand.
Raat Aur Din (1967)
Cast: Nargis, Pradeep Kumar, Feroz Khan, K N Singh, Leela Mishra, Harindranath Chattopadhyay, Anoop Kumar, Anwar Hussain
Director: Satyen Bose
A woman with a split personality Varuna/Peggy (Nargis) becomes very confused between the two that she raises suspicions in the mind of her husband Pratap (Pradeep Kumar) and a young man Dilip (Feroz Khan). At times she is found in a nightclub, thinking she is Peggy, drinking and dancing away through the night.
At times as Varuna, she is a faithful wife to Pradeep. Then she is found to be pregnant and as Peggy she wants to abort. Pradeep is caught in a dilemma as he searches for the truth. Then the answer is found from her disturbed childhood and her relationship with her mother and a neighbour named Peggy.