In the late nineteenth century in a small village in northern India a thirteen-year-old Brahmin widow meets a Muslim sarangi player and elopes with him. Many years later their daughter Jaddanbai moves to Bombay and becomes a star of the early talkies. Chateau Marine her home on Marine Drive is famous for its evening mehfils and for the dreams it nurtures: regular visitors include Dilip Kumar Mehboob and Kamal Amrohi. It is also the home of Fatima Jaddanbai's daughter who will set the screen ablaze as Nargis the most accomplished actress of her time.
Far removed from this world of glamour a young boy named Balraj Dutt spends his teenage years attempting to rehabilitate himself and his family after the trauma of Partition. In 1950 at the age of twenty he arrives in Bombay. And there his life takes an unexpected turn: he is given the lead role in a new film and is soon on his way to becoming Sunil Dutt the film star.
Then comes the moment that transforms both their lives: on 1 March 1957 during the making of Mother India Nargis is trapped in a circle of flames and Sunil risks his life to save her. They recuperate together and fall in love. Nargis has been in a long but futile relationship with the mercurial Raj Kapoor and in Sunil she finally finds an anchor. Their relationship is stormy and secretive to start with but it survives every crisis to culminate in a quite wedding on 11 March 1958. What follows are years of togetherness including the joys of caring three children Sanjay Namrata and Priya but also days of pain and heartbreak: financuial trouble Nargis's illness Sanjay's addiction to drugs.
Based on the diaries and letters of Nargis Sunil and their daughter Priya as well as on conversations and interviews with family and friends Darlingji - as they often addressed each other - is a probing yet affectionate biography of two extraordinary people and their love for each other. Travelling as it does from the nineteenth century to the present the book tells the larger story of the evolution of Hindi cinema and of a society and a nation in the throes of change.