Nutan, one of India’s leading actresses of the 1950s and 1960s, was born on June 4, 1936, to film director Kumarsen Samarth and actress Shobana Samarth. She was the eldest of four children and sister of actress Tanuja. Her parents separated before her brother Jaideep was born. Nutan started her career at the age of 14 with the film ‘Hamari Beti’ in 1950 which was directed by her mother. Not many know that she was also the winner of Miss India pageant in 1952. Next year, she was sent to Switzerland for her higher studies as her movies were not faring well at the box-office.
Nutan starred in roles that defined her as an unconventional actor. Seasoned actors Smita Patil and Sadhana spoke about how Nutan had been their inspiration. One of the finest performances of her life came in the movies Bandini and Sujata, films that not only displayed a fine set of acting skills but also touched upon social evils. Both the films were directed by Bimal Roy.
Nutan’s role in ‘Seema’ in 1955 won her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress. She went to win the Filmfare Award for four more films — ‘Sujata’ (1959), ‘Bandini’ (1963), ‘Milan’ (1967) and ‘Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki’ (1978). She continued to play the leading roles until the late 1970s. She is also the oldest actress to win the Filmfare Award for Best Actress at the age of 42 for her role in ‘Main Tulsi Tere Aangan ki’.
Later in her career, she started playing character roles which were mostly that of a mother in films like ‘Saajan Ki Saheli’ (1981), ‘Meri Jung’ (1985) and ‘Naam’ (1986). She won her last and sixth Filmfare award for her role in ‘Meri Jung’, but this time for ‘Best Supporting Actress’.
Her career spanned over 40 years and she was the only female actor to hold five Filmfare Best Actress wins until her niece and Tanuja Mukherji’s daughter Kajol broke the record in 2011. Nutan is also a recipient of the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian honour conferred by the Government of India.
She got married to Lieutenant-Commander Rajnish Bahl on October 11, 1959. Their only son Mohnish Bahl is a film and TV actor. Interestingly, she was persuaded by her husband to act in the film ‘Bandini’ as she had quit acting after marriage. The film turned out to be a major hit and her portrayal in the film is touted to be one of the best performances in the history of Indian cinema.
Nutan died young, at the age 54, in 1991 after being diagnosed of breast cancer. At that time, she was shooting for the film ‘Garajna’, which never saw the light of day. Her films ‘Naseebwala’ (1992) and ‘Insaniyat’ (1994) were released after her death. Her film ‘Kanoon Apna Apna’ was her last film to be released while she was alive in 1989.