Jun 4, 1936 - Feb 21, 1991

Nutan - The Family Albums


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.

Seema (1955) was Nutan's first big break, and she played the role of a juvenile delinquent.

It won her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.

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.

Nutan was one of the most popular stars of her era.

In those days when star-struck fans would write in with requests, this was the autographed photo she would share.

Nutan - Married Life 

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.

As a naval officer, Lt. Cdr. Rajnish Bahl would often have to spend a lot of time away at sea. When back on land, he enjoyed being among nature and wildlife.

He had a passion for hunting and taught Nutan the intricacies of handling weaponry.

A photograph from one of their hunting trips.

In the words of son Mohnish Bahl, "she seems to have had enough of being in the wilderness!"

Nutan was a very private person - she rarely spoke to journalists about her family life.

In this photograph from the family's albums, Nutan and Rajnish Bahl are seen attending the races.

Lt. Cdr. Bahl detailing a scene from the film to Nutan.

Lt. Cdr. Rajnish Bahl was working on a script in which he was to star Nutan, but unfortunately the film was never made.

Glimpses of Nutan's life as a mother

A family portrait.

A photograph of baby Mohnish with his mother and grandfather Pratapchand Bahl.

This photograph captures four generations of actors in the Samarth family. A young Mohnish cuts his birthday cake as Nutan’s grandmother and Ratan Bai (top right), her mother Shobana (top left), and Nutan's younger sister Tanuja (bottom right) look on.

In son Mohnish’s words, "the Willys jeep in the background was my father’s favorite for hunting trips. Mum would tolerate Dad’s jalopy in good spirits, but given a choice she preferred the Chevrolet Impala, her luxury car in the 60s."

In son Mohnish's words, "we were a family of dog lovers. At one point, we had 22 dogs and my mother would look after each one of them individually."

Cupid, a French teacup poodle, was Nutan's favourite and accompanied her everywhere.

Nutan with her mother Shobana Samarth and their pet Collie.

Nutan's legacy as one of the great actors of Hindi cinema lives on, and these photos present a glimpse of a never-before-seen side to her life.

Mohnish Bahl
Credits: Story

Photos: Personal collection of Mohnish Bahl and family
Curation and text: Mohnish Bahl

Credits: All media
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