Tanuja Mukherjee, popularly known as Tanuja, is an Indian film actress. She is the mother of Kajol and Tanisha and is most remembered for her roles in Hindi films like Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966), Jewel Thief, Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) and Anubhav (1971). Simultaneously she appeared in Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati films like, Zaakol (Marathi), Naari tu Narayani (Gujarati) and several Bengali films such as Antony Phiringee, Deya Neya, Teen Bhuvaner Parey (1969), Prothom Kadam Phool and Rajkumari.
Tanuja was born in a marathi family of four daughters as Tanuja Samarth to poet Kumarsen Samarth and his wife Shobhna Samarth. Her mother was married to director and cinematographer Kumarsen Samarth from Vile Parle(E), Mumbai. They had four daughters. Eventually the couple parted amicably and Shobhna became linked to actor Motilal. Two of her daughters, Nutan and Tanuja, also became actresses. Shobhna produced their debut films. Another daughter, Chatura, is an artist, and her daughter Reshma, who is married, currently lives in St. Louis, MO. Chatura acted in only 1 Bollywood movie, and Reshma never entered into movies. Nutan's son Mohnish Behl is also an actor as are Tanuja's daughters Kajol and Tanisha Mukherjee. Kajol is married to actor Ajay Devgn. Other members of the dynasty include Shomu Mukherjee who married Tanuja. Tanuja entered films as a child actress and continued working until 1973. Tanuja's eldest sister was the Bollywood actress, Nutan. Tanuja was married to Shomu Mukherjee (1943–2008) from 1973 to 2008. He died on April 10, 2008 from a heart attack aged 64. They have two daughters, Kajol and Tanisha.
She started her film career with her older sister Nutan in Hamari Beti (1950) as Baby Tanuja. As an adult, she debuted in the film Chhabili (1960) which was directed by her mother and had her sister, Nutan, in the lead. The film that truly marked her transition into adult heroine came with Hamari Yaad Aayegi (1961), directed by Kidar Sharma, who had earlier discovered Raj Kapoor, Madhubala and Geeta Bali. One of her early films, noticeable for her acting, was Baharen Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966), directed by Shaheed Latif. Incidentally it was Guru Dutt team's last offering, especially visible in the song, "Woh Hanske Mile Humse" (believed to have been picturized while Guru Dutt was still alive) who worked hard to help her "tone down" her performance. The result was that the natural, spontaneous performer gave a highly restrained performance which became the highlight of the film — as well of her career — as she moved to lead roles soon after.
Her next big film was with Jeetendra, Jeene Ki Raah (1969), an immediate and surprise hit. In the same year, Tanuja won the Best Supporting Actress Filmfare Award for Paisa Ya Pyar. After the success of Haathi Mere Saathi (1971), she acted in Door Ka Raahi, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Do Chor and Ek Baar Muskara Do (1972), Kaam Chor, Yaarana, Khuddar and Masoom. Some of the other films she has acted in are Pavitra Paapi, Bhoot Bangla and Anubhav. Some of her Marathi films are 'Zaakol', 'Unad Maina'. During the mid 1960s Tanuja started a parallel career in Bengali movies in Kolkata starting with Deya Neya (1963) where she was paired opposite Uttam Kumar. She followed it up with Anthony Firangee (1967) and Rajkumari (1970).
Tanuja had on-screen chemistry with Soumitra Chatterjee with whom she made some films like Teen Bhuvaner Parey (1969) and Prothom Kadam Phool. Tanuja spoke her own lines in these Bengali films. Afterward, Tanuja retired from films for a number of years but came back when her marriage ended. She was now offered supporting roles often starring former heroes. Her Pyar Ki Kahani hero Amitabh Bachchan had to call her "bhabhi" (sister-in-law) in Khuddar (1982). She also played a supporting role in Raj Kapoor's Prem Rog (1982). She has recently appeared in such films as Saathiya (2002), Rules: Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula (2003), and Khakee (2003) as a supporting actress. In 2008, Tanuja starred as a judge along with Kajol and Ajay Devgn on Zee TV's family dance series Rock and Roll Family. Tanuja is currently working on a Marathi film 'Pitru Runa' made by Nitish Bharadwaj with Sachin Khedekar where she plays a widow from the Konkan region of Maharashtra. For her role as widow, Tanuja has tonsured her head to make her character look authentic.