Nargis was the daughter of actress, singer and filmmaker Jaddanbai who introduced her to films at the tender age of 5. Her first film in the female lead was in Mehboob Khan's Taqdeer (1943) opposite Motilal. Though she went quite un-noticed but her lucky break was the with the same filmmaker's Humayun (1945) as Hamida Bano. Her performance was appreciated and she went on to bag roles in the films Andaaz (1949) and Barsaat (1949) which were major box office hits. Andaaz remains one of the best triangles in Hindi Cinema with Nargis as the modern woman caught between Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor.

Nargis rose to stardom and with every film she became a mature actress. She met Raj Kapoor while filming for Andaaz and both of them fell head over heels in love. Raj Kapoor was married but that didn’t seem to be a problem for the couple. They were the talk of the town. They were always together. After Awaara (1951) she worked almost exclusively with Raj Kapoor even turning down her mentor Mehboob Khan's Aan (1952).
The passion that Raj Kapoor and Nargis poured out on the screen as they romanced each other in several films was magical and unseen on the Indian Cinema.

Nargis was also called Raj Kapoor’s lady in white since she used to wear only white knowing about Kapoor’s obsession for white. However the relationship didn’t last too long. Kapoor being a married man and unable to divorce his wife, it was Nargis who finally walked away. Chori Chori (1956), a romantic movie based on Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), was their last film together. She did do a special appearance in his production Jagte Raho (1956) for old time’s sake.

With Raj Kapoor out of her life, Mehboob Khan offered her his magnum opus Mother India (1957). The film won her the best actress award. She gave a powerful performance and the movie showed the Indian cinema how intense and emotive actress she was. Mother India was the ultimate tribute to Indian Womanhood! Mother India was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film but it lost to Fellini's Nights of Caberia by a solitary vote.

While shooting for the film, Nargis was trapped amidst lit haystacks and Sunil Dutt who played her rebellious son, Birju, in the film ran through the fire and rescued her. He proposed to her and Nargis married Sunil Dutt and quit films after marriage. She did lend her voice and we do see her silhouette in Sunil Dutt's Yaadein (1964). Her last film was Raat Aur Din (1967) in which she played a woman with a split personality which won her the National Award.

Nargis was the first film personality to be awarded the Padmashree and later her charitable work for spastics saw her nominated to the Rajya Sabha. She died of cancer in 1981.

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