When I think of natural beauties of Bollywood in the 50s and 60s, the first person who comes to mind is the evergreen Nutan Behl. Known for her unconventional roles and her simplistic beauty, she won the hearts of millions and has always been one of my favorite actresses from the era. It wasn’t easy choosing seven of her films because she has had so many hits in her career and because she had amazing on-screen talent, which made that much harder, but these were particular films I felt had to be mentioned. Of course, these are just five of her many wonderful films, so I know that there are plenty more that I haven’t mentioned. Let me know in the comments below which ones I’ve missed and also which ones are your favorite!
So for all my fellow Nutan fans, let us take a trip down memory lane!
This is Nutan’s debut film, where she plays an orphan who suffers at the hands of her relatives and is then sent to an orphanage after being accused of theft. Nutan shows great promise as an actress, and her dialogues were delivered very convincingly. Her expressions during the song Suno Ek Choti Si Gudiya Ki Lambi Kahaani (sung by Lata Mangeshkar) convey her nostalgia for her happier days during her childhood before the demise of her parents. The music of this film, composed by Shankar Jaikishan, was definitely one of its most noteworthy qualities, with lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra. With fun songs such as Baat Baat Mein Rootho Na (sung by Lata) and then more melancholy ones such as Tu Pyaar Ka Sagar Hai (sung by the legendary Manna Dey) and Yeh Duniya Gham Ka Mela Hai, with beautiful vocals by Mohammed Rafi. This film shows Nutan as a fresh and determined face, with a bright future ahead!
Anyone who has seen Anari cannot deny that Nutan and Raj Kapoor make an excellent on-screen pair. In this film, Nutan played the niece of a rich man who is the employer of a down-to-earth and honest laborer played by Raj Kapoor. What I loved most about this movie was not just Nutan’s superb acting, but also her upbeat and simplistic nature. And of course, Raj Kapoor always does justice to the role of “a simple guy with a heart of gold”. Songs such as Dil Ki Nazar and Woh Chand Khila (my personal favorite!), which were sung by legendary singers Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh, became golden love songs that still tug at the heartstrings! Along with that song, I also loved Nutan’s acting in the song Tera Jaana sung by Lata. She magnificently portrays the despair that her character endures. This movie is a fun watch for everyone!
Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963)
One of Nutan’s most popular films, her pairing with Dev Anand made for a sure hit. Dev Anand has always excelled in such roles, ones which involve both romance and comedy, which gives a light note to movies with strong messages such as this. In this film, Nutan plays a modern girl who is still holds on to her roots and culture, which is particularly admirable, while Dev Anand plays an architect who has returned to India after completing his studies abroad. This film sent a great message: That just because something is shiny and new, doesn’t mean that it is “good” or necessary. It showed us that not all that glitters is gold. Change is not always better, especially when it is done just for the sake of progress and change. And of course, the songs composed by the brilliant S.D. Burman were all-time hits, consisting of gems such as Dekho Rootha Na Karo (one of my favorite Lata and Rafi duets!) and Dil Ka Bhanwar amongst many others! The title song Tere Ghar Ke Samne was seen as a huge advance in cinematic technology because of the way they managed to get Nutan’s reflection in a glass of water, which was beautifully done. Nutan’s facial expressions in Dekho Rootha Na Karo in particular were beautifully shown, and quite fun to watch!
Dil Hi To Hai (1963)
Another superb Raj Kapoor-Nutan pairing (which didn’t happen enough, if you ask me!), Dil Hi To Hai had some great comedy by Raj Kapoor (which is interesting since his brother, Shammi Kapoor, was always known as the comedic hero out of the three Kapoor brothers), which was a treat to watch since he broke away from his usual type of role. It shows Nutan in the role of a Muslim girl who falls in love with fun-loving Raj Kapoor, and I must say that in this film she showed true talent in her dialogue delivery and facial expressions. During the shayri/song Aap Abhi Ishq Ki Tehzeeb Se Aagah Nahin, she managed to speak through her expressions just as much as she did with her poetry. And her scenes with Raj Kapoor, both the dramatic ones and comedic ones, were flawless. In fact, her acting in the lively Asha Bhosle song Nigahein Milane Ko Jee Chah Raha Hai was what mesmerized me the most. Her graceful gestures and simplistic beauty are captivating for all eyes. Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi outdid himself with the lyrics of magnificent songs such as Parda Uthe Salam Ho Jaye (which was quite a lively number!) sung by Asha Bhosle and Manna Dey and Tum Agar Mujhko Na Chaho (a song which no one but Mukesh could do justice to!). It is impossible not to fall in love with this film and its priceless songs.
In this movie, Nutan and Sunil Dutt play a married couple who learn that in a past life they were star-crossed lovers who couldn’t be together due to societal pressures. This film shows Nutan’s aptitude for playing simple and strong characters, and her polished dialogue delivery shows true emotion and passion. The song Sawan Ka Mahina was by far my favorite, with amazing vocals by Lata and Mukesh and music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. All in all, I would say that this film cannot be missed!
This was Nutan’s first film after her marriage, since she had quit acting and so had to be persuaded to do it. Needless to say, we are glad that she did the film because otherwise we wouldn’t have such a gem in Hindi cinema! Starring Nutan, Dharmendra, and Ashok Kumar, this film has to be one of Nutan’s most flawless performances. Nutan portrays a female prisoner serving a life sentence in pre-partition India who narrates her story in a flashback, and then has to choose between two men who love her: The freedom fighter (played by Ashok Kumar) and the prison doctor (played by Dharmendra. Nutan’s acting as she shows the emotional despair her character goes through to commit the murder she is ultimately imprisoned for leaves the viewer in awe of her abilities. Her expressions of fear and anger, sadness and love are incredibly captivating. She portrays the struggle of a woman who is bound by her choices and the consequences of them. In fact, the song Ab Ke Baras Bhej Bhaiya Ko Babul (sung by Asha) shows a significant irony, seeing as it is a song in which the bride longs for her family’s home but it is sung from a prison cell. There is also a memorable scene in which Nutan is curled up in a dark jail cell with other inmates and a ray of light falls on her, making the moment very symbolic of the small ray of hope she has left. The music for this film is equally engaging, with music by S.D. Burman and lyrics by Shailendra and Gulzar (who made his debut with the song Mora Gora Ang Lai Le, which was sung by Lata Mangeshkar). S.D. Burman gave us timeless classics such as O Janewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana, sung by Mukesh, amongst many others. The film is more than a love triangle; it is about the crossroads of life and how we must live with our decisions.
This has to be one of my favorite films not just because of Nutan, but also because it takes place during the backdrop of Partition. This film shows the tragedies that took place during this turbulent and tumultuous period and also how people’s lives were permanently affected. The film’s music was composed by Kalyanji-Anandji and contains gems such as the lively number Dum Dum Diga Diga by Mukesh, along with my favorite song Teri Rahon Mein Khade Hain sung by my queen, Lata Mangeshkar. Nutan’s portrayal of a woman abandoned by her husband and her relatives across the border who then falls in love with Raj Kapoor is superb, and her acting in the song Baje Payal Chun Chun was also fun to watch just due to her sheer happiness. If you ask me, her smile is one which lights up a room! One of my favorite dialogues from this movie which was delivered by Nutan is: “Zindagi aur duniya dono bohot khubsurat cheezein hain. Aur aaj main dono se munh mod kar marne jaa rahi hoon. Kayi baar marna asaan maalum hota hai aur jeena mushkil.” (Translation: “Life and the world are both extremely beautiful. And today I turn my back on both of them to die. Sometimes it is easier to die than to live.”. Her sadness is palpable yet her acceptance of her fate is unwavering. This film is truly one of her most moving ones.
Without a doubt, there is an endless supply of movies I could add to this list. Nutan starred in over 70 films throughout her career and much as I wish I could talk about all of them, I’m pretty sure I would be here until next year! Films such as Saraswatichandra (1968), Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978), Devi (1970), Paying Guest (1957), and Manzil (1960) are some of her other noteworthy films amongst others. Nutan’s graceful elegance and delicate beauty made a deep mark on Hindi cinema. Her versatility allowed her to deliver her dialogues in both a sarcastic and witty manner and also a mellow and soft-spoken tone whenever necessary. Her priceless facial expressions conveyed just as much as her dialogues if not more. They truly don’t make gems like her anymore in Bollywood (they don’t really make classics in Bollywood anymore, sadly) and despite not being from that era, watching her movies and singing her songs gives me a lovely nostalgic feeling. Salute to one of Bollywood’s most beautiful and evergreen gems!