Often referred to as the ‘Marilyn Monroe of Bollywood’, Madhubala was a gifted actor and was known for her beauty, personality and sensitive portrayals of women in films.
Born in Delhi on this day in 1933, Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi was raised in a town located near the Bombay Talkies film studio. She appeared in her first film at the age of 9, billed as Baby Mumtaz.
Raised in the slums of Bombay, she supported her family as a child star and soon became a leading lady known for her elegance on screen and considerable acting abilities.
In 1947, she landed the lead role in Neel Kamal at the age of 14, changing her name to Madhubala upon insistence from actor Devika Rani. As the family’s main breadwinner, she worked tirelessly to support her parents and four sisters.
She famously fell in love with actor Dilip Kumar, her co-star in cult classic Mughal-E-Azam (1960). Her character as Anarkali and the chemistry with Kumar, who essayed the role of Salim, is still remembered and etched in millions of hearts across the country.
“While her breathtaking appearance earned comparisons to Venus, Madhubala was a gifted actor with an understated style well suited for comedies, dramas, and romantic roles alike,” Google said in its blog.
Madhubala appeared in nine films during 1949, including a spellbinding breakout performance in the box office hit Mahal.
Madhubala had captured the fancy of Hollywood stalwarts including photographer James Burke, who visited India and photographed her for Life Magazine, a feat which was unheard of for crossover cinema.
The woman blessed with beauty and fame was said to “prefer a veiled secrecy around her” and was “seldom seen in social gatherings or public functions”, write Harish Booch and Karing Doyle in their 1962 book Self-Portrait. The fact that she hardly made any public appearances, fuelled her craze among the people so much so that there often gathered a crowd outside studios only get a glimpse of her in real life.
While the talented actress won fame all over her love life was no less than a dramatic plot for a Bollywood film. An obedient daughter, her father is said to be the main reason why Dilip Kumar and Madhubala could not marry. Even though after much denial when Madhubala’s father did agree to let the lovers tie the knot, he is said to have also wanted to make financial gains through a marriage between the two biggest stars of the Bollywood.
The last straw that led to the final separation between the star-crossed lovers is said to be the
The Naya Daur (1957 film) court case happened in 1956 when Dilip Kumar testified against Madhubala and her father in favor of director B.R. Chopra in open court.
Madhubala had a ventricular septal defect (a hole in her heart) in 1954 and also suffered from pulmonary pressure of the lungs. Her sister had explained in an interview that Madhubala’s heart produced extra blood which was regularly extracted by doctors filling up bottles. She also required to be given oxygen in every few hours to keep her from getting breathless. “She was confined to bed for nine years and was reduced to just bones and skin,” her sister said. She died on 23 February 1969, shortly after her 36th birthday. The cause of death was determined to be the prolonged lung and heart illness.
Appearing in over 70 films over the course of a tragically brief career, Madhubala—who would have turned 86 today—was called “The Biggest Star in the World” in 1952 by Theatre Arts magazine. In 2008 she appeared on a commemorative postage stamp in India, where she is remembered by many as one of the greatest to ever grace the silver screen.
(With inputs from ANI)