The More You Know Her, The More You Want To Know About Her
(ON HER BIRTH ANNIVERSARY)
Thank God, the higher – ups, the people in power who decide and define the destinies of even the most extraordinary Indians take the right decisions sometimes. They take their own time in most cases, but what can these poor powerful people do? They are so busy with so many other burning (literally) and petty (most of them) and trivial (it is their main job) issues and problems to tackle.
Now, just take the case of Madhubala, unanimously accepted as the most beautiful woman to have illuminated the film scene in India. She had a glorious but unfortunately short career during which she proved that she was created for immortality. Madhubala died in 1969 when she was just thirty- six and almost forty- years after her death, the Indian Postal Department decided to issue a stamp in her honour. I personally think a major part of the credit for this “miracle to happen goes to the media, especially to the various television channels which keep telecasting some of her best films which in most cases end up in raising their TRPs and bringing in the ads and the money that comes with them. This specially happens when Madhubala’s starrers like ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gadi’, ‘Mahal’ and the all-time classic ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ are shown and people of all ages, even the teenagers of today sit glued to their couches and watch Madhubala enrapturing them, enchanting then and entertaining them like very few actresses have and can ever.
Today, more than ever before the DVD’s of her films are best sellers in every corner of the country and even in Pakistan and several countries in the Gulf. There is a huge demand for her photographs which are sold in all the hi-fi shops haunted by youngsters. The sales of the DVD’s, her photographs and audio cassettes of most of her films have doubled ever since the coloured version of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ in which she stood the might of actors like Prithviraj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar was released all over the world. All her songs, especially from ‘Mahal’, ‘Howrah Bridge’, ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gadi’ and above all ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ catch the fancy of people of all generations. Madhubala, the actress had that rare power to inspire directors to come up with their best, cinematographers to capture ethereal beauty at its best, music directors and song writers to create divine music which lasts now and will last for ever. She also had the power to give a major complex to all her male stars. There have been many women who have come to films to try and make it as other Madhubalas, but not one of them has even come near the eye brow of her beautiful eyes.
Madhubala was without doubt the most beautiful Hindi film heroine and perhaps the most underrated actress with her beauty attracting more attention than her performances. She was brilliant in comedy with her sense of comic timing spot on and she came up with performances of high dramatic calibre in Amar (1954) and the unforgettable “Mughal-e-Azam” (1960).
Born in abject poverty, the 5th of 11 children, Madhubala began life in the film world as a child star, Baby Mumtaz, in films like Bombay Talkies’s “Basant” (1942). It was Kidar Sharma who gave her a break as heroine opposite Raj Kapoor in “Neel Kamal” (1947).
However it was with the Bombay Talkies suspense thriller “Mahal” (1949) that Madhubala became a star. Aaega aanewala from the film remains her signature song till today! A spate of films followed opposite the top leading men of the day – Ashok Kumar, Rehman, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand but by the mid 1950s when some of her major films like Mehboob Khan’s “Amar” flopped, Madhubala, the most beautiful actress in the country was declared ‘box office poison!’ Further, she got involved with Dilip Kumar and this took its toll on her as she could not face her father’s opposition of him and ultimately had to bow out of “Naya Daur” (1957) opposite him following a scandalous court case.
She however bounced back with a string of hits in the 1958-60 period – “Phagun” (1958), “Howrah Bridge” (1958), “Kala Pani” (1958), “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi” (1958) – all among her more memorable films and of course “Mughal-e-Azam” (1960).
As the club dancer in “Howrah Bridge” Madhubala never looked more beautiful or alluring as she swayed to the seductive notes of “Aaiye mehrbaan”. And she matched Kishore Kumar step by step in his madcap antics in “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi”. However it was “Mughal-e-Azam” that saw perhaps her greatest performance as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. The film showed off the finely modulated depth she could bring to her performances if given the opportunity. It is an outstanding performance in an outstanding film.
Tragically she was diagnosed as having a hole in her heart and her illness to cut short. She also plunged into a loveless marriage with Kishore Kumar and lingered on for nine years till her death in 1969.
She did have the odd release in this period like “Passport” (1961), “Half Ticket” (1962) and “Sharabi” (1964) but they were mostly old films that managed to limp towards release. In fact, “Jwala” was released almost two years after her death in 1971! She did try making a comeback opposite Raj Kapoor in 1964 but collapsed on the sets on the very first day of shooting and the film was shelved.
Even today the very mention of the name Madhubala conjures up the image of those dancing eyes, that lopsided smile and so much more…
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