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Legends

Madhubala, One of the most beautiful actress to grace the Indian silver screen, was envisaged early in life, to live a life of fame and die at a young age...this tragic phenomenon, famed for her beauty, natural grace and glamour lives on as a legend in the minds of millions of movie goers.

Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi alias Madhubala was born on 14th February 1933 in a poor, conservative family of Pathan Muslims in Delhi. She was the fifth of eleven children. Her father Ataullah Khan a coach man in Delhi migrated

to Mumbai in search for a better living. It is said that a Muslim Holy man had predicted that young Mumtaz was destined to attain fame and fortune but at the cost of an unhappy life and an early death.. But then nobody would have guessed that those words would come true.

Madhubala dreamt of becoming a movie star and she and her father tried for a break in the Hindi film world. Bombay Talkies provided Baby Mumtaz her first break in 1942 in their film Basant as a child artist when she was only 8 years old. Devika Rani, the proprietor of Bombay talkies and a leading actress of those days impressed by her performance re-christened her Madhubala and she was to act in their next film 'Jwar Bhatta' which incidentally introduced Dilip Kumar. But this did not materialise and she did a number of inconsequent films as a child artist. Though inconsequential, these films may have provided a training ground for young Madhubala who later emerged as a poised and elegant actress. During this period she was also slowly emerging as a beautiful woman. In 1947, barely 14 years she got her first break as a heroine against another debutant Raj Kapoor in 'Neel Kamal' directed by Kedar Sharma. Even then she had to struggle for some more years to attain stardom.

In the next four years she worked in as many 24 films which secured her financially. It was the suspense thriller, 'Mahal' (1949), again a Bombay Talkies movie, with Ashok Kumar 20 years her senior and a leading star at that time, that really established her star status. A love story set in a haunted house, 'Mahal' directed by Kamal Amrohi was a roaring success and Madhubala was noticed and received rave reviews for her excellent and subtle performance in the film. The lead song ' Aayegi Aane Waala' sung by Lata Mangeskar became a super hit. Mahal's success gave her roles with most of the leading men of the time like Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Rehman and Dilip Kumar. She was a thorough professional, hard working and punctual throughout her career. Fascinated by Hollywood movies she used to watch them frequently and pick up tips to enhance her performance. In fact it was the spectacular time of her career.
Dilip Kumar & Madhubala in 'Mughal-e-azam'
Her first movie with Dilip Kumar was Tarana (1951) and the pair hit it off onscreen as well as off screen. Next came 'Sangdil' (1952) another flop with Dilip Kumar and then Mahboob Khan's 'Amar' (1953) with a bold story line which the audience couldn't accept. During this time she had an intimate relationship with Dilip. In fact it was widely believed that the stunning pair would eventually get married. But her father opposed the relationship and things reached a peak when he refused to let Madhubala go for an out door schedule with the leading man Dilip Kumar in B.R Chopra's film 'Naya Daur'. The matter ended in a long and scandalous court case for breach of contract to the film's producers in which Dilip is believed to have deposed against Madhubala. The relationship ended on a bitter note.

It was during the 50's when on a routine check up it was discovered that she had a major heart problem. Madubala endured her fate bravely and her sickness was kept a secret from the industry for many years. Professionally too by the mid fifties her career suffered a set back with some of her major films flopping at the box office. In fact matters reached a stage where she was even labeled as a flop star. The only relief in between was Guru Dutt's 'Mr and Mrs 55' (1955) a comedy which had a slick pace and intelligent banter in which her talent came across in a role of a woman struggling for independence and her rights. Despite the flops, the dedicated actress regained her lost glory by the end of the fifties with a string of hits like 'Phagun' (1958), 'Howrah Bridge' (1958) in which she acted as a seductive club dancer and danced to the tune of the famous song 'Aaiye Mehrbaan', 'Kala Pani' (1958), 'Chalti ka Naam Gaadi' (1958), a comical extravaganza with Kishore Kumar which once again proved her brilliance for comedy, 'Barzaat Ki Raat' and the famous Mughal-e-Azam (1960), a super hit with her lost love Dilip Kumar.


Mughal-e-Azam saw her in one of the most memorable roles maybe the best in her career as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. The film brought out the depth of Madubala' s acting talent. The film took many years to complete, and it is said that all the while Dilip and Madhubala never spoke to each other. It was perhaps her last great movie, as her health problem was restraining her from exerting herself. But she did have some releases like Jhumroo (1961), Passport(1961), Half ticket (1962), Sharabi (1969) etc during the time and she did try to make a big come back with 'Chaalaak' (1964) opposite Raj Kapoor but collapsed on the sets on the very first day of shooting. The film was eventually shelved.

In her personal life, her beauty and elegance attracted men, even married ones to her. She was proposed by many, but she choose Kishore Kumar, her co star in a number of musical comedies and a much married man who was like a breath of fresh air after the bitter end of her relationship with Dilip Kumar. Kishore knew she had a health problem but in spite of that they had a civil marriage and he converted to Islam and was renamed Karim Abdul. Kishore Kumar's family was against the wedding and although they had a Hindu marriage to please them they could not accept her into their family.

After her marriage she went to London for an operation but the doctors refused to operate on her as the chances for survival was remote. She stayed with her own family although her marriage lingered for nine long years till her death. Soon after, her sickness started taking its toll and she was confined to her bed and succumbed to her fate on February 23, 1969, only 36 years of age. 

This ever smiling elegant lady with her classic good looks, hard work and professionalism was a fighter to the core, but her destiny could not let her be.. Even today Madhubala with her lopsided smile and dancing eyes is held in awe and remains an icon of beauty and glamour to scores of her fans.


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