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The Venus of Hindi films

Tuesday, February 14, 2012
By Rajesh V. Gaur and Suneel V. Gaur

Madhubala’s birth anniversary falls on February 14, which also happens to be Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated by lovers all over the world. But Madhubala’s love remained unrequited by the ones she loved dearly. Madhubala was the icon of the Hindi film industry and she gained a level of success that actors only dream of.

Her beauty was light, delicate and heavenly. No wonder she was called the Venus of the Hindi film industry and she continues to mesmerise cinema lovers everywhere, even so many years after her passing away.

Madhubala entered the industry at the age of nine as a child star in ‘Basant’ which was a big hit. She played the role of Mumtaz Shanti’s daughter in this film. By the time she was an adolescent her extraordinary good looks and talent were already grooming her for lead roles in films. Madhubala’s first lead role was opposite Raj Kapoor in ‘Neel Kamal’ in 1947. She was only 14 then. Her performance was well received by the audiences. Her 1949 release ‘Mahal’ heralded the arrival of two new superstars Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar who sang the superhit “Aayga Aaanewala….” Madhubala’s enigmatic presence and performance upstage the seasoned Ashok Kumar in this super hit film. Madhubala acted in more than two dozen films in four years after ‘Mahal’. Many of them were big hits. But critics said that her beauty was greater than her acting ability. Madhubala being the sole bread earner in her family compromised on the choice of roles that came her way. She wanted to act in meatier roles that showcased her acting and she tried her level best to procure Bimal Roy’s ‘Biraj Bahu’ in 1954, but the role went to Kamini Kaushal.

Madhubala did reach the top and acted with top notch actors like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Bharat Bhushan, etc. and top directors like Kamal Amrohi in ‘Mahal’, K. Asif in ‘Mughl-e-Azam’ and Guru Dutt in ‘Mr and Mrs 55’. In the early 50s she acted in well received films like ‘Sangdil’, ‘Tarana’, ‘Badal’ and ‘Mr and Mrs 55’.

In the last mentioned film her performance was very well received. But shockingly in 1955 her well-publicised film ‘Amar’ with Dilip Kumar was a box office disaster giving a jolt to her reputation as a dependable actress. But she managed to give her career a fillip with the box office hit in the 1958, ‘Howrah Bridge’ in which she starred opposite Ashok Kumar The song from this film “Aayiyeh Meherbaan…” is celebrated to this day. ‘Howrah Bridge’ was followed by box office bonanzas like ‘Kala Pani’ with Dev Anand, ‘Phagun’ with Bharat Bhushan, ‘Chalti ka Naam Gaadi’ with Kishore and ‘Barsat ki ek Raat’ opposite Bharat Bhushan again.

‘Mughl-e-Azam’ released in 1960 made by K. Asif was the crowning glory of her career. The hellacious shooting demands made a heavy demand on her health. From 1951 to 1959 Madhubala put in her best efforts and post 1956 after her separation from Dilip Kumar with whom she was emotionally involved at one time, created much strain between the two and in the subsequent decline of her health. Madhubala’s performance and beauty in ‘Mughl-e-Azam’ was appreciated by one and all but shockingly she did not win the Filmfare award for this movie which went to an insipid performance by Bina Rai in Ghunghat. After ‘Mughl-e-Azam’ she was offered strong author backed roles but could not enjoy her success due to ill health. She was born with a hole in her heart a fact that was always concealed by her family and hardly anyone in the film world knew about it. One could never conceive she was so ill. After ‘Mughl-e-Azam’ some of her films like ‘Jhumroo’, ‘Half Ticket’ and ‘Sharabi’ did good business but ill health prevented her from completing many films. Her only full length colour film was ‘Jwala’, started in the late 50s and released 2 years after her death. Madhubala who ate only homemade food, performed well in the 1950s despite her ill health.

As her conditioned worsened she went to London for treatment but doctors there refused to operate on her and gave her just one year to live. Madhubala returned to India and defied the predictions of the London doctors and lived for another nine years. When acting was no longer an option she tried her hand at direction but the film never got made and Madhubala finally succumbed to her illness on February 23, 1969 shortly after her 36th birthday. She was buried at the Santa Cruz cemetery by her family.

In the 1950s an extensive article was published on Madhubala in Beverly Hills stating that the most beautiful heroine was not in Hollywood but in the Hindi film industry. The actress was presented as a heavenly beauty with legion of fans. Frank Capra the famous Hollywood director only wanted to meet Madhubala when he was in Bombay in the early 1950s but unfortunately due to reasons known to her she was absent at the party hosted by the Hindi film industry to meet him.

Madhubala was romantically linked with Dilip Kumar in the early 50s for a period of five years. This love affair ended in a highly controversial court case. It’s said that BR Chopra wanted to shoot ‘Naya Daur’ which then starred Madhubala with Dilip, in Bhopal. Madhubala’s father Ataullah Khan objected to this and Madhubala refused to shoot in Bhopal. Dilip Kumar testified against Madhubala and her father in court and thus ended a love story nipped in the bud by fate. On the rebound Madhubala married Kishore Kumar in 1961 but never got the love and understanding she deserved, from Kishore Kumar. Their marriage was always under strain.

Madhubala acted in over 60 films in her short film career. In 2008 a Postage stamp was issued by India post to commemorate Madhubala. Madhubala, born on Valentine’s Day, never found true love in her life. She came with a hole in her heart and left with a broken one.

Her legions of fans still remember her and miss her because there is never going to be another icon like Madhubala again.

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