Born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, as Fatima A Rashid, Nargis was introduced to films at the age of five by her mother — actress, singer, and filmmaker Jaddanbai. Nargis acted in five films as “Baby Rani,” and then starred in her first leading role at the age of 14 in Mehboob Khan’s Taqdeer (Luck). Although her first success came from her role as the ultra modern, Westernized woman in Mehboob Khan’s Andaz, Nargis is best known for being Raj Kapoor’s romantic lead in some of the most popular films of the late 1940s and 1950s. Kapoor used an image of Nargis swooning in his arms from Barsaat as the logo for his R.K. Films. After Awara Nargis worked mostly with Raj Kapoor and they acted in 15 films together until 1956. Their on-screen chemistry was said to be fueled by their off-screen romance, which has since become part of the legends and lore of the Bombay film industry. The pinnacle of Nargis’s career was her role in Mother India where she plays the role of a strong-willed peasant woman who undergoes many physical, emotional, and financial hardships, but emerges with her dignity and honor intact.
After her marriage in 1958 to actor Sunil Dutt who played her son in Mother India, Nargis retired from acting but remained an important public figure doing charity work with disabled children and becoming an appointed Member of Parliament (in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House). She was the recipient of many honors by the Indian as well as Soviet governments. She was the first film personality to receive a Padma Shri, a national honor bestowed by the Indian government on individuals for their achievements in a variety of fields. Shortly after seeing her son, Sanjay Dutt, make his screen debut in Rocky (1981), Nargis died of pancreatic cancer in 1981. In her memory, husband Sunil Dutt established the Nargis Dutt Memorial Foundation in New York Cityy to help patients suffering from cancer in India be able to afford the necessary treatment. The public respect and regard for Nargis is apparent from the fact that a street is named after her in Bombay, and that in 1984 the Indian government, renamed their award for the Best Feature Film on National Integration — given to films which are perceived as bridging gaps between communities and helping in the process of nation building — the Nargis Dutt Award – Tejaswini Ganti