Nutan was born on 4th June 1936, in Bombay, she was the eldest child of actress Shobhana Samarth. She had three other siblings, 2 younger sisters and a younger brother. Her younger sister Tanuja is also an actress. Her parents separated when she was still a child.
In 1950 Nutan starred in a film directed by her film star mother Shobana Samarth, appropriately titled - Hamari Beti (1950). Nutan was only 14. Previously she had starred as a child artiste in Nala Damayanti (1945) directed by her father Kumar Sen Samarth. In 1951 she reached her first peak with her first hits, Hum Log (1951) and Nagina (1951), along with being crowned the first ever Miss India. After a short stint at a Swiss finishing school - Le Chatelaine - Nutan gained a major breakthrough with her exceptional performance as a juvenile delinquent in Seema (1955) for which she won a Filmfare Award.
Nutan was by far India's most sensitive and attractive actress. She had performed every role with a certain moral superiority and grace. Her face, described by late make-up maestro Sarosh Mody as ".. a cameraman's dream because she has no bad angles.", was much admired in later years, but when young she was dismissed as 'skinny' and 'ugly', so it was a surprise that in 1949 Chandulal Shah and K Asif were going to cast her as the heroine opposite Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar. Unfortunately the film fell through.
Nutan's unique quality, which set her apart from her contemporaries, was that she was a thinking actress who tried to perceive the undeveloped motivations of her characters. Consequently, a fleeting expression on her face conveyed much more than expansive dialogue. For instance, in Seema (1955) we can see the tempests raging and dying in her eyes as the bhajan 'Manmohana bade jhoote' sung by Lata Mangeshkar salves her stricken soul.
Lata Mangeshkar has singled out Nutan as the heroine whose expressions conveyed the impression that she was genuinely singing a song. Even though Nutan herself had a beautiful voice of her own, she chose to concentrate on her acting rather than her singing. In the 1960 film Chhabili (1960), Nutan sang 'Aye Mere Humsafar'
Nutan has won 6 Filmfare Awards and countless others - the most any actress has won to date.
Nutan retained her gracious style and sensitive portrayals way into maternal roles as she was increasingly asked to do. Her dairy farm, her antique laden home, her piloting of her son Mohnish's career, her bhajan singing and her search for spirituality, took up her time. Nevertheless, she continued to act. After over 40 years in the profession, Nutan passed away in February 1991 at the age of 54 to cancer. She died as she would have wished - with one more film to be released.