Lesser known facts about Nargis Dutt on her 86th birth anniversary

Published Jun 1, 2015, 8:56 pm IST
Updated Mar 29, 2019, 12:42 am IST
The actress passed away in 1981 because of pancreatic cancer

Nargis, whose real name was Fatima Rashid, was born on June 1, 1929. She made her screen debut as a child in ‘Talash-E-Haq’ in 1935, but her acting career began in 1942 with ‘Tamanna’. During a career from the 1940s to the 1960s, 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 trophy at the Filmfare Awards.


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 1960s. Some of her films of this period include the drama ‘Raat Aur Din’ (1967), for which she was given the inaugural National Film Award for Best Actress.

Nargis died in 1981 of pancreatic cancer, a few days before her son Sanjay Dutt made his debut in Hindi films. She underwent treatment in New York but her condition deteriorated on her return to India. She went into coma on May 2 and passed away the next day. Sunil who was in a state of depression after her death would often visit Nargis’ grave at 4 a.m.


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. 

On her 86th birth anniversary, let’s take a look at lesser known facts abouts the actress as revealed by her children over the years.

  1. Very few are aware that Nargis was actively involved in her husband’s production venture. They formed the Ajanta Arts Cultural Troupe, which involved several leading stars performing at shows across borders.
  2. Sanjay Dutt made films without paying much heed to the box office prospects. There was a time when the production house failed to pull in money but Nargis never created a fuss over lack of money. Their daughter Namrata was quoted saying in a report, “There was a time when mom had to break her piggy bank to meet the expenses.” 
  3. She became the first patron of Spastics Society of India and her work helped gained recognition to the cause and portrayed the star as a social worker, and later helped her win Rajya Sabha nomination in 1982.
  4. On several occasions, Nargis’ daughter Namrata, has spoken about her mother as a person who carried no halo of stardom around her and was adored by all members. Several celebrities throw their weight around when in public and are extremely cautious about making appearances but Nargis had no qualms in performing routine tasks like watching movies in a theatre and even shop hopping in markets.
  5. Nargis was so fascinated by phones that she would talk on phone while having a massage. Her obsession was even joked about after her demise when Sunil said, if Nargis owned a mobile, he would have been broke.
  6. The actress had no qualms in giving up stardom to revel in her role as a homemaker. She even went on to learn cooking extraordinary dishes.
  7. Nargis was in sync with fashion- like when her contemporaries sported long tresses, she went on to break the norm by opting for a short crop. She was known as the Lady in White given her penchant for white sarees.
  8. Nargis Dutt was apparently always concerned about Sanjay Dutt. Even before she left for the US to undergo treatment for her ailment, she wrote a letter to Namrata, asking her to take care of Sanjay. She wrote, “Please look after Sanju, see that he does not get mixed up with those silly boys again. He is too stupid in his head, he does not realise what he is doing and know it is going to hurt him.