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Madhubala – the venus of indian cinema

Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi popularly known as Madhubala, daughter of Atahullah Khan and Ayesha Begum, was born on 14th February 1933 and died on 23rd February 1969 at the age of 36. She was born in Delhi(then a part of British India) and later shifted to Mumbai(then Bombay).

 Madhubala was a woman of grace, elegance, talent, charm and immense beauty. She was one of the most beautiful actresses Indian Cinema ever had. She ranked as one of the highest-paid actresses of the post-independence era and was given the title of ‘The Venus of Indian Cinema’. A fascinating fact about her is that she owned five cars – a Buick, a Chevrolet, a Station Wagon, a Hillman and a Town in Country(a car owned by only two people in India – Maharaja of Gwalior and Madhubala.

Madhubala never went to school and thus she was uneducated. She was 7 years old when she was employed at the All India Radio station to sing compositions of Khurshid Anwar, she had to start working at such an early age because her father got unemployed and they had a big family of 11 children to feed. She worked at All India Radio station for three months. Rai Bahadur Chunnilal who was the general manager of Bombay Talkies film studio took an immediate liking towards the little girl and suggested her father take her to Bombay so that she could get better employment opportunities.  It is said that a little girl with a beautiful smile on her face used to visit different studios and production houses in Bombay(now Mumbai) with her father to seek some work as in those times film industry was at its initial stage, production houses and filmmakers were in search of actors and child actors. Fortunately, Madhubala was given a role in a movie named Basant, which was produced by Bombay Talkies in 1942 and then Madhubala being a child artist was called Baby Mumtaz, this marked her beginning in Hindi cinema.

In 1947 she worked in a film named Neel Kamal in which she got her first lead role. Then in 1949, she worked in a horror film named Mahal opposite the legendary actor Ashok Kumar also known as Dadamouni, which was directed by the legend Kamal Amrohi and produced by Bombay Talkies, this film proved to be the first step towards success for Madubala.

In films like Basant(1942), Dhanna Bhagat (1945), Rajputani (1946), Phoolwari (1946) and Pujari (1946) in which Madhubala played a minor role, she was credited as Baby Mumtaz. Still, then when she grew up and was cast in the film Mahal in 1949 she was named ‘MADHUBALA’ by the owner of Bombay Talkies, the legend Mrs Devika Rani.

Soon, Madhubala became a popular and famous actress in Hindi cinema and started playing lead roles in films. She gave some of the biggest hits of her film career with the legend Dilip Kumar, their very popular films are Tarana(1951), Sangdil(1952), Amar(1954) and the iconic Mughal-e-Azam(1960).  Madhubala other than Dilip Kumar worked with the great artists of those times like Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Guru Dutt, Bharat Bhushan, Ashok Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Prithvi Raj Kapoor, Pradeep Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Pran, Premnath, etc.

But, Madhubala and Dilip Kumar got emotionally involved with each other and were in a nine years long-term relationship but then they ended up getting separated during the making of Mughal-e-Azam. The biggest reason for their separation was Madhubala’s father, as he did not want her daughter to get married to a man of her choice and Madhubala could never go against her father’s will, another reason was the ‘Naya Daur’s court case in 1957, Naya Daur was a film made by B.R. Chopra in which he first cast Madhubala opposite Dilip Kumar and later Vyajanthimala. When Chopra asked Madhubala to come along with the team for outdoor shooting(shooting outside Bombay), she refused as her father did not allow her to go anywhere outside Bombay, on this B.R. Chopra asked Madhubala to return the signing amount of 23,000/-  and filed a case against her and her father as he decided to sign another actress for the movie because Madhubala could not go for the outdoor shoot. When Chopra had filed a case against her and her father, she expected that in court hearings Dilip Kumar will take her side and support her but Dilip Kumar did the opposite of this and supported the filmmaker, it is said that in one of the hearings, Kumar said that Madhubala’s father is a dictator and does not allow her daughter to live and work on her own terms, after hearing such words from Kumar for her father Madhubala could not stop herself from getting separated from Dilip Kumar. During this time Dilip Kumar and Madhubala were working together in Mughal-e-Azam, and the director of this film Mr K. Asif had told in one of his interviews that when the iconic feather scene was being filmed between Kumar and Madhubala, at that time they had even stopped greeting and wishing each other.

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When all this court case and her breakup with Dilip Kumar happened, Madhubala was also shooting a film named ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi’ opposite the legend Kishore Kumar(Abhas Kumar Ganguly) popularly known as Kishore Da, which was released in 1958, Madhubala was completely heartbroken but she still had to work as she was the only person who was earning in her family, Kishore Da used to watch her upset and cheer-up her mood with his silly jokes and used to sing songs for her.

Madhubala was working well in films but was never physically fit and fine, she suffered from a heart disease – Ventricular Septal Defect(a hole in the heart) since her birth, which had no treatment at the time. She often used to vomit blood on the sets but still used to work. Kishore Da was well aware of Madhubala’s illness but he fell in love with her during the filming of the iconic song ‘ Haal Kaisa Hai Janaab Ka?’, Kishore Da proposed to Madhubala for marriage and after almost a year and a half they got married on 16th October 1960. People were left with a question that how Madhubala’s father allowed her to marry a man of her choice and that too a man of another religion, and it still remains to be a question. Soon after a few days of their marriage, Madhubala and Kishore Kumar fled to London for Madhubala’s treatment. There in London, the doctors advised her to stop working as she was extremely ill and they said that she would only live for two years, but fortunately, she lived for 9 years after she was told that she could survive only for 2 years, maybe because of her strong will-power, she was able to survive a little longer than told by the doctors. She came back to India with a smile and did not stop working, 1960 she worked on some major hits like Boyfriend(1961), Half Ticket(1962) and Sharabi(1964), but unfortunately, she was not able to work a lot and finally got bedridden in the mid of 1964, she started turning pale and weak, her body had more blood than required and thus she used to vomit blood on a regular basis and got confined to her home(The Arabian Villa).

Madhubala’s youngest sister Madhur Bhushan wife of Brij Bhushan tells that Madhubala chopped off her hair as she found it difficult to take care of her hair due to her worsening health, Madhur also tells that Madhubala did not want to die so early and wanted to work, she used to pray to God to give her more days to live but could not survive much.

People say that Mughal-e-Azam is Madhubala’s last film, but no, her last film was Jwala opposite Sunil Dutt which was released in 1971.

Madhubala is still regarded as one of the finest actresses in Hindi cinema ever had. Her iconic character of the courtesan Anarkali in Mughal-e-Azam is still remembered by her fans and everyone else, we can never forget those pretty eyes, sharp Iranian nose, and that pretty smile of Madhubala. Her co-actors and other people like her hair-dresser, makeup artist, dance choreographers, music composers, singers, etc. always said that Madhubala had an outstanding personality, after being so famous and popular she had a very down-to-earth nature and gave immense respect to everyone. Our film industry lost such an amazing actress so early, wish she was here with us today to see how much everyone still loves and admires her. She had a very tragic life but she still died with a smile on her angelic face.

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Bhamini Mishra
Bhamini Mishra, Author Worldly Voice

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