Daily Recco, June 1: When Nargis decides Raat Aur Din
On her birth anniversary, watch Nargis’s swansong — Raat Aur Din — that bagged her the first-ever National Film Award for Best Actress. A fitting tribute to her indomitable talent.
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Nargis. The name inspires talent and skill. From wooing her audience with one hit after another — right from Mehboob Khan's Taqdeer (her first lead role), to her magnum opus Mother India — Nargis has been the one to leave her mark in almost every role she chose for herself.
While reams have been written about her characters in Awaara (1951), Shree 420 (1955), Chori Chori (1956) and Mother India (1957), her career-best was perhaps reserved for her swansong — Raat Aur Din (1967).
Satyen Bose’s masterpiece, Raat Aur Din, had Nargis playing the dual roles of Varuna and her alter ego, Peggy. Varuna is every bit the quintessential traditional Indian bahu and is the conservative, dutiful wife to Pratap (Pradeep Kumar). She is soft-spoken, reticent and gentle.
However, Pratap notices some subtle changes in her at night and follows her when she leaves home. Enter Peggy, the very anti-thesis of Varuna. Irreverent, loud, dancing in clubs with gay abandon, drinking and smoking. Pratap is initially shocked and confronts Varuna (now Peggy) who says she doesn’t even know him. She is having a gala time with her “boyfriend” Dilip (Feroz Khan). As the night paves way for the day, Varuna has no clue who Dilip is or what her loving husband Pratap is even talking about: her jaunt to the club.
The film is about Varuna/Peggy’s mental health, her past, and her acceptance of reality. Actually, it is more about how Nargis effortlessly alternates between the placid Varuna and a flippant Peggy. She is the anchor who holds the film with her mutable performance. Trust her to make a comeback to cinema after 15 years, give a spellbinding performance and walk away with a National Film Award. In fact, she was the first-ever recipient of the National Film Award in the Best Actress category for her performance in Raat Aur Din.
On her birth anniversary today, watch Raat Aur Din (you can freely stream it on the internet) and understand how the actress broke every conceivable boundary to showcase her myriad talents. An ideal swansong for the woman with indomitable talent and spirit.