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NUTAN (1936-1991)

Nutan was a film actor. Born on 4 June, she was the eldest child of Shobhna Samarth (q.v.) and the director Kumarsen Samarth. She was thus related to many actors of then and now, including Tanuja, Kajol and Rani Mukherjee. Nutan is one of the biggest legends of the Hindi film industry. Her face was described by the late make-up maestro Sarosh Mody as ‘a cameraman’s dream because she has no bad angles.’ However, when young she was regarded as ‘skinny’ and ‘ugly’.

Her film career began at the age of nine when she featured as a child artiste in her father’s Nala Damayanti in 1945. In 1950 when she was only 14, Nutan starred in a film directed by her mother, appropriately titled Hamari Beti (Our Daughter). In 1951 she had her first hits, Hum Log (1951) and Nagina (1951), and was also crowned the first ever Miss India. She was then sent to Switzerland to spend some time in a Swiss finishing school, Le Chatelaine. On her return she stunned the industry by playing a juvenile delinquent in Seema (1955). It was evident quite early on that her style of acting and emoting was very different from what had hitherto been seen on the Bombay screen. She tried to think herself into her characters and to use her mobile and expressive face to maximum effect. Characters such as Seema with their tormented, mercurial temperaments gave her the maximum scope to showcase this talent. Even though Nutan herself had a beautiful voice, she chose to concentrate on her acting rather than her singing.

In 1959 she married Rajnish Behl, a lieutenant commander in the Indian navy, and had a son, Mohnish, after which she took a break from films, returning with the award-winning Bandini (1963). In the next couple of decades she played diverse roles in films like Milan (1967), Saraswati Chandra (1968), Saudagar (1973) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978), winning many awards. She worked with directors as distinct as Bimal Roy, Manmohan Desai, Raj Khosla and Basu Bhattacharya. As she aged, she began to take on more mature roles in the 1980s, and also launched her son Mohnish Behl in films. In February 1991 she died of cancer. Her last film, Insaniyat, was released posthumously. Nutan won six Filmfare Awards and countless others, the most any actress has won to date.
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