Tragedy Queen of Bollywood

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“I am not a spendthrift for the simple reason that I don’t know what to spend money on. I do not have passion for jewelry or clothes. I do not travel. I do not go out much. By God’s grace I have all the necessities of my life and I am happy.”


The very popular and very beautiful actress of Indian cinema who lived a very short life, is the epitome of the fact that fate isn’t friends with everyone. She was known for her beauty, personality and sensitive portrayals of tragic women. Madhubala, also known as ‘The Beauty with Tragedy’ and ‘The Venus Queen of Indian Cinema’ lived only for 36 years. The struggle she faced right from her childhood, due to terrible financial condition of her family, followed by a series of unsuccessful love affairs gave her everlasting disappointment and pain. Although she was very obedient and humble, life wasn’t fair with her.

Madhubala’s story is nothing less than a Bollywood script itself.

Madhubala was born on February 14’ 1933 with the name Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi. She was the fifth of the eleven children of her parents – Ataullah Khan and Aayesha Begum. Out of the eleven children, only six survived till their adulthood. The family initially lived in Peshawar. On losing his job there, Ataullah Khan moved to Delhi. The family went through a number of unfortunate incidents. Their home was wiped out in the Dock explosion and fire of 1944. Atuallah Khan would pay frequent visits to Bombay film studios, along with young Madhubala, to look for work. Khan would often take his daughter to audition for Bombay cinema. At the age of 9, she got her first film alongside Mumtaz Shanti and acted as her daughter in the film. After this she was credited as Baby Mumtaz in the film industry. The film was Basant (1942), it was the highest grossing film of that year. This gave Madhubala’s career a kick-start in Bombay cinema.  She spoke Urdu and Hindi and didn’t know a word of English. But after entering the industry, she gradually learnt to speak English.

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At the age of 14, Madhubala got her first lead role opposite Raj Kapoor, in the film Neel Kamal (1947). It was directed by Kidar Sharma. Impressed by her acting, aura and performance, Devika Rani advised her to adopt the screen name Madhubala (meaning – Honey Belle). Neel Kamal was the last film in which she was credited with the name Mumtaz. This film and this name changed her entire life and Madhubala became a big name in Bombay cinema in no time. Bombay talkies’s film Mahal turned her to a mega star overnight. The song in this film – Aaega aanewala, sung by Lata Mangeshwar gave hype to Madhubala as well as Lata Mangeshkar. In mid 1950s, Madhubala turned out to be a producer as well as an actor. She produced Naata (1955) and Mahalon ke Khwaab (1960) and acted in both the films. She worked with notable personalities of that period like – Ashok Kumar, Rahman, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt, Kamini Kaushal, Suraiya, Geeta Bali, Nalini Jaywant, Shyama, Nimmi etc. The directors she worked with were among the leading directors of that time – Mehboob Khan (Amar), Guru Dutt (Mr and Mrs ’55) and K. Asif (Mughal-e-Azam).  Madhubala starred in films of almost every genre, she even did a film Hanste Aansoo (1950), which was the first film ever to receive an ‘A’ rating – Adults Only, from the Central Board of Film Certification.

Some of the best films of her career were : Mughal-e-Azam, Chalti ka naam gaadi, Mr. and Mrs. ’55, Howrah Bridge, Mahal, Barsaat ki raat, Kala Pani, Tarana, Amar, Sangdil and many more.

Although, most of her films were big hits but some of her films were marred because of her absence. Not because she was unprofessional or something but she was suffering from a heart disease called Ventricular Septal Disease (a hole in heart). This was detected when she was shooting in Madras for Bahut Din Huwe in 1954. By 1960s, her condition became worse as her body would produce extra blood which would spill out of her nose and mouth. In her last days, she was reduced to skin and bones. The doctors would go to her place and extract extra bottles of blood to keep her alright. She was confined to bed for almost 9 long years.

She appeared in the American magazine Theatre Arts in 1952 issue. She was featured in a full page article under the title: ‘The Biggest Star in the World – and she’s not in Beverly Hills’ and that shows her stardom.

Coming to her love life, she never got contentment in her relationships. She had a friend named Latif, who she gave a rose at a very young age, to express her love for him, while she was leaving for Bombay . Later he was depressed and turned out to be an IAS officer. When he came to know of Madhubala’s death, he placed that rose on her grave. Now, he is retired and keeps a rose on her grave every year on 23 February. The one love interest of her life, who turned her life upside down was Dilip Kumar. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar were in love and wanted to marry each other. But Madhubala’s father didn’t approve of him because Madhubala was the only breadwinner of the family and he didn’t want to lose the financial cushion. Later, followed by some more incidents, Dilip and Madhubala broke up. In 1960, when Madhubala lost all hope in her relationship with the actor, she decided to marry Kishore Kumar, whom she met during the shooting of Dhake ki Malmal (1956) when she was 27 years old. Soon after their marriage, they both went to London for honeymoon, where the doctor told her that she had only two years to live. On coming back, Kishore Kumar bought her a flat in Bandra, Mumbai. They lived there for a very short period of time and then he left her there with a nurse and a driver. He bore her medical expenses but only came to pay her short visits in two to three months, which was heartbreaking for Madhubala. After prolonged illness, she finally died in 1969. Six years after that, Kishore Kumar married Yogita Bali.

Madhubala was buried in Juhu Muslim Cemetery in Santacruz, Mumbai. Her tomb was built with marbles and inscriptions, including Aayats from Qur’an Sharif and verse dedications. Later in 2010, her tomb was demolished to make way for newer graves. Some artists are missed forever. The Venus Queen of Indian Cinema will never leave our Hearts.


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