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Nutan, the versatile beauty of Hindi cinema

Last Updated : 11 June 2022, 07:50 IST

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Nutan brought alive the characters of Sujata and Bandini on screen. My scripts received life through her unforgettable performances,” says popular Bengali writer Nabendu Ghosh.

The eldest daughter of Shobhana Samarth, Nutan was tall, and beautiful. She was educated in Europe with western schooling. She was a gifted singer and rendered ‘Aye Mere Hum Safar’, melodiously tuned by Snehal Bhatkar in ‘Chabili’ (1960), where she was pitted opposite Karan Diwan.

In the 50’s, the ruling divas of Hindi cinema were Meena Kumari, Nargis, and Geeta Bali. Yet, Nutan stood out due to her versatility and emotional range. ‘Laila Majnu’ (1953) opposite Shammi Kapoor, established Nutan as an actress of substance.

If entertainers like ‘Baarish’ (1956) and ‘Paying Guest’ (1957) earned her stardom, she proved her histrionic abilities with ‘Hum Log’ (1951), ‘Seema’ (1955) and ‘Sone Ki Chidiya’ (1958) opposite the gifted Balraj Sahni. When everyone thought emotions were her forte, she proved she was equally effortless in light comedies with ‘Dilli Ka Thug’ (1958) and ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’ (1963).

The Bimal Ray-Nutan combination worked wonders in ‘Sujata’ (1959) and ‘Bandini’ (1963). Sans heavy makeup, Nutan, with glittering eyes, a dignified walk and rhythmic dialogue delivery, gave performances of lifetimes. In the middle 60’s, she was brilliant in ‘Khandan’ (1965), ‘Mehrban’ and Milan (1967).

In the 70’s, Nutan shifted gracefully to mature characters with ‘Saudagar’ (1991). Newcomer Amitabh Bachchan was moved by her cooperation and non-dominating attitude. Asha Parekh was initially afraid; Nutan would steal the show from her in ‘Main Tulsi Teri Angan Ki’ (1978).

Films like ‘Teri Mang Sitaron Se Bhar Doon’ (1982) and ‘Sajan Ki Saheli’ fizzled out due to weak scripts. Flashes of brilliance were again visible in Nutan’s polished performances in ‘Mayuri’ and ‘Chabili’. Nutan was equally comfortable in rural, classic Indian and Western outfits.

Her musical stage shows were very popular. In her last show at an auditorium in Juhu in 1990, she sonorously sang the English number of Julie, My Heart Is Beating, tapping her feet in rhythm. She called Sunil Dutt present there to remember as she and Narendra (a local singer) sang ‘Sawan Ka Mahina’ from ‘Milan’. Sunil Dutt and the audience greeted the singers with applause.

Her favourite actors were Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra and she thoroughly enjoyed working with Shammi Kapoor. Moody, unpredictable yet affectionate, Nutan was of a withdrawn nature.

She believed in true discipline and was an avid reader. It is not without reason Smita Patil and Tabu considered Nutan their favourite actor.

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Published 10 June 2022, 18:48 IST

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