Nutan Bahl, better known as Nutan, was an Indian film actress. In a career spanning nearly four decades, she appeared in more than 70 Hindi films, many in starring roles. Regarded as one of the finest female actors in the history of Indian cinema, Nutan was noted for playing unconventional parts and her performances often received praise and accolades.
Nutan holds the record of five wins of the Best Actress award at Filmfare, which was held only by her for over 30 years until it was matched by her niece Kajol in 2011. In 1974, she was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. The daughter of filmmaker Kumarsen Samarth and film actress Shobhna Samarth, Nutan started her career at the age of 14 in the 1950 film Hamari Beti, directed by her mother. She subsequently starred in such films as Nagina and Humlog (both 1951).
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Nutan was born in a Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu or CKP family on 4 June 1936 as the eldest of four children to director-poet Kumarsen Samarth and his actress wife Shobhna. She grew up with complexes as some considered her “skinny” and “ugly” in her childhood. She had two sisters: actress Tanuja and Chatura and a brother Jaideep. Her parents separated before Jaideep’s birth. Nutan was educated in St. Joseph’s Convent School, Panchgani before heading to Switzerland for further studies in 1953.
She was sent there at the behest of her mother after her films failed to perform well. She described the one year spent there as the “happiest in my life”.
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Nutan started her career as an actress as a fourteen-year-old in Hamari Beti (1950). This film was produced by her mother, Shobhana.
Her first big break was Seema, for which she won her first Filmfare Best Actress Award. She followed her success with a romantic comedy, Paying Guest, in which she co-starred with Dev Anand. In 1959 she starred in two hit films, Anari (with Raj Kapoor) and Bimal Roy’s Sujata (with Sunil Dutt). In the 1960s and 1970s, she had many more successful films including Chhalia (1960), Saraswatichandra (1968), Devi (1970) and Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978).
In 1960, she starred opposite Raj Kapoor once again in Manmohan Desai’s Chhalia. She received another Filmfare nomination for the role. In a film review at the time, Filmfare wrote: “As the unfortunate girl disowned by her relatives for no fault of hers, Nutan puts over a superb and memorable portrayal.”
She formed a popular screen couple with co-star Dev Anand and the two acted in four films together – Paying Guest (1957), Baarish (1957), Manzil (1960) and Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963).
In 1963, Nutan starred in Bimal Roy’s socio-realist Bandini as Kalyani, a young prisoner who was convicted after poisoning the wife of her lover (Ashok Kumar). The story follows her life in prison and how later she has to make a choice between her past love and a young prison doctor (Dharmendra) who fell in love with her. Nutan had to be persuaded to act in the film as she had quit acting after marriage.
Bandini was a major critical success, which was attributed by critics mostly to Nutan’s portrayal, which is regarded as one of the finest performances in the history of Indian cinema. The film won the Filmfare Award for Best Movie and she received her third Best Actress Award. The Bengal Film Journalists’ Association, while ranking the film as the third-best Indian film of the year, acknowledged her with the Best Actress (Hindi section) award.
Author and critic Dinesh Raheja wrote: “Sans screaming hysteria-niks, Nutan puts across one of the finest performances seen on Hindi screen. She recognized and was perfectly in tandem with Kalyani’s innate strength of character.” Film and theatre critic Gautaman Bhaskaran wrote for The Hindu: “Nutan as Kalyani gave perhaps her career’s best performance. Splendidly expressive, her understated role is something that cannot be easily matched by today’s painted heroines.
Fear and anger show up so vividly in Nutan’s eyes that they haunt you long after you have walked out of the theatre.” In 2010, Filmfare included her performance in its “80 Iconic Performances” list. Anupama Chopra included the film in her list of “The 20 Best Hindi Films Ever Made”, calling her role “one of Hindi cinema’s most complex and fully realized female characters,” and further noting: “This was the role of a lifetime and Nutan, who … gave it all.
Her face raged with a grand passion and a quiet grace.” In 2013, conducting a list of “25 Greatest Acting Performances of Indian Cinema” in celebration of a hundred years of Indian cinema, Forbes India included Nutan’s performance, hailing her work as “the best acting by a lead actress in Indian cinema”.
Her fourth Filmfare Award came for Milan (1967). She starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan in 1973’s Saudagar (1973), for which she received a sixth Filmfare nomination and a third BFJA award. In 1978, she made an astonishing return to the screen as the righteous Sanjukta Chauhan in Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978). For this performance, she received an eighth Filmfare career nomination and won her fifth Filmfare best actress award, at the age of 42. She thus became a record holder in the category, having won five awards for Best Actress at Filmfare.
At age 42, she is also the oldest winner of the award. Nutan was perhaps the only actress of her generation to command leading roles in her 40s, with tremendous success. Following this, she starred in Saajan ki Saheli (1981), as an ignorant, jealous wife to a husband who knowingly befriends the daughter she abandoned at childbirth.
In the remaining 1980s, she played roles in blockbuster films such as Meri Jung (1985), Naam (1986) and Karma (1986). Karma was notable for being the first time she was paired with actor Dilip Kumar. For Mere Jung, she won a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her last film released while she was alive was Kanoon Apna Apna in 1989. She died in 1991 of cancer. Two of her films Naseebwala (1992) and Insaniyat (1994) were released after her death. She also gave a stellar performance as Kaliganj ki Bahu in the TV serial Mujrim Hazir, her only role on the small screen.
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Nutan Awards and nominations
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Some Known Facts About Nutan
- Nutan was born and raised in a Marathi family with a filmy background.
- She was the daughter of one of the top actresses of the 1940s- Shobhana Samarth who had played the role of ‘Seeta’ in the superhit ‘Ram Rajya’ (1943).
- Her sister Tanuja Mukherjee, niece Kajol, and son Mohnish Bahl are the renowned Bollywood celebrities.
- Nutan started learning classical singing at the age of just 3.
- During her childhood days, people used to call her skinny and ugly.
- Nutan’s parents had separated before her brother Jaideep’s birth.
- Initially, her mother didn’t expect a bright career of Nutan in the film industry.
- Nutan started her career as a child artist (at the age of 14) with the film ‘Hamari Beti’ (1950) along with her sister Tanuja Mukherjee which was directed by her mother.
- Before making her debut with ‘Hamari Beti’ (1950), she had appeared in a small role in the mid-1940s film ‘Nala Damayanti’.
- Thereafter, Nutan worked in the movies like ‘Nagina’, ‘Hum Log’, ‘Shikwa’, and ‘Shabab’; however, she could not get much success with these films, as a result, in 1953, Shobhna sent her to Switzerland for the further studies. Interestingly, her schoolmates had no idea that she was an actress in Bombay.
- After completing her studies, she returned to India and appeared in the popular Hindi film ‘Seema’ in which she played the role of ‘Amiya Chakraborty’ and was featured in the song ‘Man Mohana Bade Jhooth’ which was not only impressed the audience but also the living legend Lata Mangeshkar.
- After giving the brilliant performance in the ‘Seema’, Nutan had never looked back, and she went on to give back-to-back super hit films like ‘Heer’, ‘Baarish’, ‘Paying Guest’, ‘Kanhaiya’, ‘Bandini’, ‘Yaadgaar’, ‘Kasturi’, ‘Paisa Yeh Paisa’, ‘Karma’, and many more.
- She had always maintained a traditional image; however, she surprised everyone after wearing a swimsuit in the film ‘Dilli Ka Thug’ (1958).
- Soon after giving a string of hits, Nutan got married to a Commander Rajneesh Bahl in 1959. The similar thing was reprised by her sister’s daughter Kajol when she got married to Ajay Devgn; as when she got married, she was also at the peak of her career same as Nutan was.
- Out of the four Filmfare Awards for Best Actress that she had won in her career, three were after her marriage and even the birth of her son.
- In 1960, Nutan sang the song ‘Aye Mere Humsafar’ (Chhabili), which was written by Nutan herself.
- She assumed Bimal Roy as her godfather who gave her a chance to act in the super hit film ‘Bandini’ (1963), and she extremely believed that the movie had played the most significant role in her entire film career.
- In 1963, Nutan and Dev Anand made a fine pair in ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’. Dev Anand also said in her praise-
- In 1965, she was featured in the song ‘Tumhi Mere Mandir Tumhi Meri Pooja’ (Khandan), which was sung by Lata Mangeshkar; the song won Lata Ji her last Filmfare Award before she opted out for being nominated for the Filmfare Awards.
- The magnitude of Nutan’s versatile performances can be considered with the facts that even after turning 40, she had essayed different iconic character roles.
- Nutan filed a case against her mother when she had started observing that her earnings were misappropriated by her mother and broke off all relationship with her.
- By the late 1980s, her interest was started inclining towards her family, singing devotional songs, and in grooming her son Mohnish Behl‘s career.
- Nutan was lucky enough to see her son get established in the film industry with the film ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’; before she passed away in 1991.
- In February 1991, she was admitted to Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai, but a few days later, she passed away. At the time, she was filming for ‘Garajna’ and ‘Insaniyat’.
- Nutan’s last movie was ‘Naseebwala’, which was released after her death in 1992.
- Actresses like Sadhana Shivdasani and Smita Patil considered Nutan as their idol.
- Nutan was a trained Kathak dancer.
- In February 2011, the Government of India released a postal stamp in her honor.
- In 2011, her name was listed by Rediff.com on the list of ‘third-greatest actress of all-time’ (after Nargis and Smita Patil).
- Renowned Marathi author Lalita Tamhane wrote a book- ‘Nutan Asen Mi Nasen Mi’ on Nutan’s self-narrative life story.
- In 2018, Google celebrated her 81st birthday with an adorable doodle.
Who is Nutan’s daughter?
Salman Khan has found a heroine for his ‘Zahero’ – Pranutan Bahl, granddaughter of Nutan and daughter of Mohnish Bahl. Pranutan Bahl is the granddaughter of Nutan and daughter of Salman Khan’s Hum Aapke Hain Koun co-star Mohnish Bahl.
What is the age of Nutan?
54 years (1936–1991)
Who is Nutan’s sister?
Tanuja, Reshma Samarth, Chatura Samarth
Why did nutan slap Sanjeev Kumar?
Nutan felt that Sanjeev Kumar was feeding the media with the news to promote his career, and ruining her life. Seeing Sanjeev Kumar surrounded with media & giving false statements about their relationship she lost her cool & slapped Sanjeev Kumar.
Who is nutan husband?