Early Life of Madhubala
The Bollywood Queen, Madhubala was born as Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehlavi.on 14th February, 1933, in New Delhi. She belonged to a conservative Muslim family of Pathan ('Pashtun') origin amidst intense financial insecurities. Acute monetary crisis was the key factor which ushered Madhubala into the tinsel town of Bollywood. Madhubala was the fifth child of eleven children born to her parents. Madhubala's sister, Madhur Bhushan had said that the actress was born with 'blue baby' syndrome. Unfortunately, this was the reason which led to her heart complications, which eventually claimed her life.
Madhubala's family migrated to Mumbai after her father Ataullah Khan was dismissed from his job at the Imperial Tobacco Company in Delhi. Madhubala had two brothers and three sisters. The brothers died when they were six, while three of her sisters died at the age of five. In order to make ends meet and feed her family comprising her parents and her remaining three sisters, Madhubala decided to enter the glamorous world of Indian cinema. She paid frequent visits to the movie studios of Bollywood to seek job opportunities there. This landed Madhubala her very first film, Basant.
Achievements of Madhubala
Early Films of Madhubala
Madhubala graced the Indian screen as a 14-year-old, with her second film 'Neel Kamal' (1947) which cast her as the female lead character, opposite another reputed star, Raj Kapoor. This film, directed by her mentor Kidar Sharma won her instant recognition even though it failed to perform well in the box office. The film which catapulted the actress to instant fame was 'Mahal' (1949), directed by Kamal Amrohi. The lead pairs of this film were Madhubala and the veteran actor Ashok Kumar. Mahal was a phenomenal success and Madhubala's performance was unbeatable and well appreciated by critics. She lip-synced 'Ayega Aanewala', a renowned song of Lata Mangeshkar. It is believed that in the film Mahal, Madhubala replaced Suraiya, another reputed film star of her age and outshone the performance of her co-star Ashok Kumar. In the same year of the release of Mahal, Madhubala delivered another super hit movie, 'Dulari'.
Later Films of Madhubala
In the early 1950s she became one of the most sought after heroines in Indian film industry. However, it is asserted that Madhubala's impressive appearance often surpassed her acting capabilities. This period marked a significant milestone in Madhubala's career, during which many of her films were labelled as brilliant blockbusters. Madhubala had worked with some of the biggest names in the film industry, Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Rehman, Pradeep Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Dev Anand.
She has proved her versatility and expertise through numerous movies in the '50s. Be it a happy-go-lucky village belle in 'Tarana' (1951), rollicking comedy star in 'Chalti ka naam Gadi' (1958), spoilt and capricious girl in 'Kal Hamara Hai' (1959) to romancing the veteran actor Dilip Kumar as 'Anarkali' in 'Mughal-E-Azam' (1960), a traditional Indian woman in 'Sangdil' (1952), or a spoilt brat in Guru Dutt's 'Mr. and Mrs. 55' (1955), Madhubala displayed effortless grace and powerful acting skills. Other films of this period worth mentioning are 'Biraj Bahu' (1954), 'Howrah Bridge' (1958), 'Kala Pani' (1958), 'Barsaat ki Raat'(1960) which won Bharat Bhushan award and Phagun (1958) which again won her accolades and the Bharat Bhushan. Madhubala's fantastic sense of humour in comedy films like Chalti ka naam Gadi, Mr & Mrs.55 marked a sharp contrast to her image of a subtle seductress in the song 'Aaiye meherbaan' in the film Howrah Bridge.
Madhubala's Iconic Claim to Fame
It was with the epic film Mughal-E-Azam directed by K.Asif that she created history. Mughal-E-Azam is considered as the best performance of her career and she had lent a classical appeal to this legendary movie. The famous swansong, 'Pyar kiya toh darna kya' captivated innumerable hearts across the globe and is widely applauded even today. Nobody can forget the way she declared her love fearlessly to Akbar in this dance sequence. Her role as a doomed courtesan, Anarkali, in the film portraying her poignant affair with Salim immortalized her as one of the most talented and attractive actresses in Hindi cinema.
Madhubala's Hollywood Connection
Madhubala's aura not only dumbfounded Indian film industry but also grabbed the attention of Hollywood. She had appeared in a full-page photograph in an American magazine, 'Theatre Arts' in its August 1952 edition. The photograph was entitled, 'The Biggest Star in the World and she's not in Beverly Hills'. An American filmmaker Frank Robert Capra was so impressed by Madhubala's beauty and talent that he wanted to offer her a lucrative role in one of his films. However, he did not succeed in his plan due to the dominating attitude of Madhubala's father, Ataullah Khan, who disapproved of his decision to meet Madhubala.
Personal Life of Madhubala
Life behind the glitz and glamour of the film industry is not at all rosy and this was especially true for the gifted actress Madhubala. However, Madhubala was a dedicated actress and was a very cheerful person. Her directors and co-stars are not alien to her playful innocence and her violent, uncontrollable outburst of giggles during the shootings of films. She was mature, alluring, smart, and flexible enough to play a wide arena of roles, right from crime thrillers, romance and comedy to psychodrama. She was compared to Marilyn Monroe, a globally acknowledged American actress and sex symbol. She displayed determination and diligence in the face of fatal circumstances, while death lurked at every corner of her star-studded life.
The fact that the Indian Marilyn Monroe delivered numerous blockbusters despite her serious illness (she had a hole in her heart), and an unsuccessful love affair with the thespian Dilip Kumar clearly demonstrates her dedication and passion for acting. She could pull of a cigarette-smoking scene and a simple rural girl in the same film with equal ‚lan. However, her acute financial complications drove her to accept many movies which undermined her competency in acting and consequently declared her as the 'box office poison'.
In the late 1950s, it was revealed to the Indian film industry that she was suffering from a serious heart ailment. It was on the sets of S.S. Vassan's film 'Bahut Din Huwe' that she coughed up blood. In the 1960s Madhubala's physical condition deteriorated further. She was taken to London for treatment too but the doctors declared that it was too late for surgery.After being a victim of a persistent heart malady which tortured her for almost nine years, Madhubala She died on 23rd February, 1969 at the age of 36.
Her commendable performance in Indian movies excelled that of her contemporary actresses like Kamini Kaushal, Suraiya, Geeta Bali, Nimmi, Nargis and Meena Kumari. Many artists of the yesteryears including Shammi Kapoor were awe-struck by her flawless and fair complexion. Since Madhubala did not age on the silver screen she epitomizes eternal beauty. Till date she remains one of the pioneering actresses of Hindi cinema. Film stars like Madhuri Dixit, whose beauty is celebrated throughout the nation, has asserted that Madhubala's acting efficacy and her captivating smile is a source of her inspiration and will remain so forever.
Filmography of Madhubala
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