Nargis ranks amongst the most complete or consummate Indian actresses of all time. Sadly she left for her heavenly abode, 40 years ago. She was as natural as moonlight glimmering, in anger, sadness or laughter. Nargis posessed the intensity of coal fire and the sweetness of arose blooming. Nargis could in one moment look as calm as the water flowing in a stream and in the next scene look as turbulent as a thunderstorm bursting. Few actresses ever blended seriousness and humour so aesthetically or did equal justice to a character.Nargis had artistic fervour with her expression shaving the creativity or intensity of a Bethoven Symphony., touching the core of your soul. Nargis took diversity to a crescendo no actress did in her time, and very few ever.As a female lead Nargis played a pivotal role in giving shape to Raj Kapoor’s best films donning the Charlie Chaplinseque form. Her expressions were like sheer poetry in motion and her eyes and body movements could often convey the story. Very few female artist posessed the bubliness, radiance or Joie de vivre like Nargis.In the very same movie she could make a 360 degree turnabout in expression. or ebb and flow as few could. Her innocence and simplicity was also heart catching. Rarely could artists infuse so much life into roles as Nargis.Nargis expressed sensitivity in regions of the sublime with her facial expression simply poetic. No Indian actress blended the Oriental classical poetic grace with the Modernised Western culture. Her smile was more effervescent than any woman and her spontaneity unmatched. Few female stars were more dignified.
Perhaps we missed out on seeing Nargis enact characters later like Smita Patil or Shabana Azmi enough, in art films. I would have loved to see Nargis portray character roles in the later periods but sadly she perished in 1981.I doubt any superstar actress of the last four decades could outclass Nargis.I really wish we could have seen many more films of Nargis which she carried on her very shoulders and enacting more progressive roles.
No Indian actress was as popular abroad in her days, and Russian fans simply adored her. She carried herself with simplicity very rare in the film world, always clad in a white Sari. She never danced in public or performed in fashion shows like other stars.
As a child artist and school girl Nargis gave subtle glimpses of her talent, displaying her inherent malleability, innocence and liveliness.
Few actresses ever synchronised better with Romantic or emotional songs like ‘Pyaar hua Ikraar Hua’ , ‘Aajare Ab Mera dil Pukara,’ ‘‘Chod Gaye Balam ‘, ‘Ab mera kaun sahara’ in duet or as a single.
She was a very charitable person championing cause of spastics..Unfortunately she morally supported Indira Gandhi during emergency in 1975 with husband Sunil Dutt and was critical of film maker Satyajit Ray. Earlier she was a hardcore supporter of Nehru.It is my great regret that she became a member of parliament, representing the Congress politics in April 1980.
It was fitting that Nargis respected all religions in her life, regularly visiting the church in Mahim and reading Hindu scriptures. She was a devotee of Swami Muktananda, regularly visiting his Ashram in Vajreshwari.Although she married Hindu actor Suni Dutt,she did not compel him to convert to Islam. She visited temples as much as dargahs,proving her secular credentials.
Sadly she let us too early is suffering from Cancer in May 3rd 1981.in Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai.
Best films of Nargis
- Awaara(1951)-Bridges a perfect chemistry as ‘Rita’ with Raj Kapoor ,playing a major role in shaping the theme of the classic. Brilliant in her conviction to defend Raj as a lawyer and very fragrant in romantic scenes. Enacting ‘Rita’ Nargis superbly blends seriousness with humour, joy with despair, or innocence with mischief..In almost subtle manner changes her expressions in different junctures. Above all portrays a lady as a symbol or crusader of justice, when challenging her very own father
2.Shri 420 (1955)-Portays a poor girl ‘Vidya ’ with virtuous qualities in contrast to a vampire ,Nadira.Portrays innocence at highest magnitude and superbly blends as a counterpart to Raju.Most touching to see her reject Raju treading on wrong path. Her role as ‘Vidya’plays an important part in giving the meaning of the movie its shape in the film.
- Barsaat(1949)-Romance and sensitivity in regions of the sublime reminding one of a rainbow. Mastery in changing expressions. Love expressed in depth of an ocean with great mastery in enacting flux of moods. Above all projects moral aspect or virtues.
- Jagte Raho(1956)-A very minor role .However even in guest role gave the movie the essential icing on the cake at the conclusion.
- Mother India(1957)-A truly classical performance portraying every expression. Nargis is in the complete skin of the character portraying the traumas or hardships of a rural woman ‘Radha.’.Expresses ecstasy of joy like the coming of a spring and depths of despair like dark winter day.Nargis expresses the intensity of an inferno or rage of cola fire burning ,but still carries her role with great composure. I can’t forget scenes when she confronts the village moneylender taking anger to the boiling lid of indignation and when she reprimands her own son. It makes me cry witnessing her hardships ploughing the fields and bringing up her sons. She was pioneer in portraying a woman as a crusader for justice or a woman literally carrying a film on her shoulders.
6.Andaz(1949)-In a love triangle with Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar Nargis playing role of ‘Neena’ revealed great flair and composure.Nargis is sandwiched between two men and most artistically projects emotional conflicts and fluxes in situations. The scene when she expresses grief after being sentenced in jail wall sis one of Hindi film’s most touching or engrossing climaxes. No actress could have given the male heroes more life or give such a plot as much justice. with the ebb and few in her moods literally shaping the movie.
- Jogan (1950) – Even as a virtual novice Nargis as ‘Merra Devi’ or ‘Surabhi’ gave a smashing performance revealing great synchronization in a romantic film. She portrays a singer with deeply religious feelings with expressions ranging from the rage of a thunderstorm to the sweetness of a rose twinkling. Not so melodious and underplayed but still heart touching with spiritual overtones.Gives vibration s of divinity..I admire the grace and resilience in rejecting Dilip Kumar.
- Raat Aur Din(1967) –Nargis in magical proportions portrays two completely contrasting characters. One is that of Peggy, with ultra modern values and culture smoking and dancing nod the other of Varuna, a traditional Indian women. Nargis takes element of split personality in films to regions rarely traversed.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist. Toured India, particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com.