Glimpses of an iconic film star of Hindi Cinema's Golden Era, from never-seen-before family photos
Nutan Samarth Bahl (4 June 1936 - 21 February 1991) was an Indian film actress who featured in over 70 films.
Popularly known as Nutan, she came from a family associated with cinema - her mother Shobhana was an actress, and her father Kumarsen a filmmaker and Marathi poet.
Nutan made her debut at age 14 in Humari Beti (1950), which was directed by her mother Shobana.
Since her initial films weren't successful, Nutan's mother decided to send her to a finishing school in Switzerland for further formal education.
In the year Nutan was away, she was happy to have the time to study and to learn French. While in Switzerland, Nutan sent a few photographs of herself to her mother, who noticed that Nutan wasn't thin and frail like before, but had, in fact, blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
Some of these photos were seen by filmmakers, and Nutan got her subsequent film Seema.
The song Sawan Ka Mahina from the 1967 hit Milan is one of Nutan's most memorable songs.
The on-screen characters Nutan played were considered unconventional for the time. What set her apart from contemporaries was her art of portraying a character through her expressions and body language.
Whether it was the character of a Dalit girl in Bimal Roy's Sujata or a murder convict in Bandini, Nutan made the audiences feel she was living the character's life for real.
In 1959, Nutan married Lieutenant Commander Rajnish Bahl.
Their son Mohnish Bahl remembers, "in my parents' own words, when my mother assumed she wouldn’t work after marriage as that was the norm, my father replied, 'Would I ask you to stop painting if you were a painter? Then why should I ask you to stop acting?'"
That same year, she had two hit films: Anari with Raj Kapoor and Bimal Roy’s Sujata.
Anari won the Filmfare Award for best music director, for Shankar-Jaikishan's beautiful melodies.
Photos: Personal collection of Mohnish Bahl and family
Curation and text: Mohnish Bahl