Ray introduced Sharmila Tagore in Apur Sansar, the final film of the Apu Trilogy. She played the young wife Aparna. She was just a fourteen-year-old then, with no previous acting experience. As the shooting began, Ray had to shout instructions to Sharmila during the takes. None of this, however, is reflected on the screen. Ray cast her in his next film Devi too.
She went on to become a very successful actress in Bombay?s Hindi films. She returned to work in later Ray films - Nayak, Aranyer Din Ratri and Seemabaddha.
With Shakti Samanta's Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), she acquired the status of a sex symbol. She made a quite a splash with appearing in two-piece bikini.
Aradhana with Rajesh Khanna was one of the most successful films of 1970's. In Gulzar's Mausam, she played a memorable role of a prostitute. Her later notable films include Amanush, Anand Ashram and New Delhi Times.
She married the former cricketer Nawab Ali Khan Pataudi, and has a son - Saif Ali Khan who is one of the leading actors of Bombay cinema.