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When the night shines radiant under the moonlight and the breeze blows ever so gently, there spreads a strange intoxication in the air.

It is on nights like these that I can almost feel the longing with which the legendry but almost forgotten lyricist, Rajendra Krishan felt for his lady love when he penned;

Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni, teri ik adaa peh nisaar hai,
Mujhay kyun na ho teri aarzu, Teri justaju mein bahaar hai.

Add to this Dilip Kumar lip-synching to the immortal voice of Talat Mahmood in Sangdil and you’ll realise every time that nobody does justice to Krishan's verses than the exuberant, Madhubala - the Venus of the Indian cinema screen.

If a flower-like mouth and large gentle eyes, neither black nor blue, nor gray nor violet; rather all those shades together, full of nocturnal mysteries, are the standards of beauty set by British novelist Thomas Hardy, it may as well have been Madhubala he was picturing.

VIDEO | Chalti Ka Naam Gaari, Haal kaisa hai janab ka:

If beauty were confined to a limited space drawn by the great Punjabi poet Waris Shah, it would only be Madhubala meeting all the parameters set in place by Shah. She was an archetypal epitome of subcontinental beauty.

Madhubala was born on February 14, 1933 to Attaullah Khan and Begum Ayesha in Delhi – her birth was celebrated as that of any ninth daughters’ in a poor patriarchal family. She was named Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlvi.

Fortune came well disguised when her father lost his job in Delhi and the family relocated to Mumbai. At the age of nine, when her coevals were playing in the streets, she walked into a film studio with her father who wanted her to financially support the family - this was Madhubala's introduction to the movie industry.

She began her career with Basant released in 1942 and went on to star as a child actress in several movies. Here in South Asia it is very commonly believed that names have power, and when actress Devika Rani caught wind of little Mumtaz Jehan’s talent, she convinced her to adopt the screen name of Madhubala, literally meaning 'honey belle'.

Her first lead role came in Kidar Sharma's Neel Kamal starring opposite Raj Kapoor, however, it wasn’t until Kamal Amrohi's Mahal – the third largest hit at the 1949 Indian box office – that she truly gained stardom. There was no looking back from there as she won applause after resounding applause in the subsequent Badal, Tarana, Bayqasoor, Sangdil and Barsaat Ki Raat, all box office hits.

Her magnum opus, however, lay patiently in wait until the year 1960 when Madhubala gave her most iconic performance in Mughal-e-Azam in the role of Prince Jehangir’s beloved, Anarkali.

VIDEO | Mughal-e-Azam, Pyaar kia toh darna kya:

Parallel to the plot of this movie ran Madhubala and Dilip Kumar’s real life story as star-crossed lovers. However, unlike the movie in which Jehangir’s father, the vicious Akbar stands in the way of the lovers, in reality it was the conventional and selfish Attaullah Khan, Madhubala’s father, who refused Dilip Kumar.

VIDEO | Tarana, Mohse rooth gayo mora savariya:

Her glorious journey was cut short soon after she was detected with ventricular septal defect – also known as a “hole in the heart” in 1954. Her paramour Dilip Kumar was aware that his beloved could die any moment. He has been quoted to have publically declared his love for Madhubala in a courtroom;

I shall love her until the day she dies.

By the late 1950s, her health was deteriorating quickly.

During her short stint she proved herself to be the most influential and sought after actress in Bollywood. It is then even more regrettable that Madhubala’s importance to her father remained that of merely a bread winner.

VIDEO | Howrah Bridge, Aaiye mehrbaa'n:

An American magazine, Theatre Arts featured her in an article titled, “The Biggest Star in the World – and she's not in Beverly Hills”, and while Academy Award winner Frank Capra was determined to take her to Hollywood, her father rejected the offer.

With an impact so magnificently wide-reaching, it is astounding to realise that out of the 70 films Madhubala starred in, only 15 were declared box office hits. According to Dilip Kumar;

Had she selected her films with more care, she would have been far superior to her contemporaries.

Even so, for the time she was granted, Madhubala shone as brightly as possible, remaining humble and grounded all the while, as if unaware of her own value, much like how Talat expresses;

Tujhay kya khabar aye o bay'khabar; teri ik nazar mein hai kya assar,
Jo ghazab mein aaye to qehr hai jo ho mehrbaan to qarar hai.

To this day, songs like “Pyaar kia toh darna kya” and “Aaiye mehrbaa'n” are remembered for Madhubala being at her seductive best.

Too young to die at just 36, Madhubala’s beauty remains immortalised in our hearts.

Today is Madhubala’s 45th death anniversary.

Author Image

The writer is Dawn’s Correspondent in Chakwal.

Comments (33) Closed

aamir Feb 23, 2014 12:40am

Mr. Dhakku, you have collected much information about this fairy from Heaven! Congratulations on your interest and your effort.

Very good job!

muniriddiqi Feb 23, 2014 01:24am

Excellent contribution by the writer. Dawn is also appreciated for giving space.

Tariq K Sami Feb 23, 2014 01:39am

On the 45th anniversary of Madhuballa's death we remember her. Thanks to Mr Dhakku for such a nice article. We can watch her on you-tube the amazing song yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandini. These are few lines from Byron that may describe a similar face. "She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies, And all that's best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes. "

Chnd Feb 23, 2014 01:44am

I regret your oversight that you ignored that Kishore Kumar married her and nursed during her final days.

Mumbai-Nagpur Express Feb 23, 2014 02:39am

Author forget to write that She had got marry with Kishore Kumar and Amit Kumar is her Son. Kishore Kumar had sent her to US for treatment but she passes away there.

Joe Highlander Feb 23, 2014 02:40am

We can just say Subhanallah. Or, we can think that though having good looks, talent, hard work and good directors, she was not superior, in any way, to many others. Advertisement had lot to do with popularity and lasting effect on people.

SherePunjab Singh SherGill Feb 23, 2014 03:29am

A few days back I was thinking that if Madhubala would have been a young actress at present time when colours and technical aspects of film making have improvedso much, she would have been more popular, talented and beautiful than marilyn monroe. She was so beautiful, Hazel eyes with a life and naughtyness in them. She was really great but life, lovers and family none of them did justice to this great soul. Every one had his own axe to grind. But she will be ever loved by millions like me. Ameen.

M. Iqbal Feb 23, 2014 03:42am

Kishore Kumar left her when she came back from London to die because her ailment was uncureable at the young age of 36, she was dying. He left her with one of her friends because he was unable to care for her in the few days she had to live. What a sad ending of this beauty. No one, even today, has a smile like hers. No one has a personality like hers. Now they use contact lances and make up to create fake beauty.

Prakash Feb 23, 2014 05:09am

Author has conveniently forgot to mention that Madhubala also married to Famous Singer Kishore Kumar and Dilip Kumar gave court testimony against Madhubala.

Abhishek Feb 23, 2014 05:19am

Another Indian legend. famous across the world.

Chaigram Feb 23, 2014 05:26am

Madhubala, she was the best of the best. Her beauty, elegance can never be duplicated. Thanks.

Sameer Feb 23, 2014 06:23am

Madhubala and Madhuri Dixit. A particular camera angle was not needed to show these beauties beautiful. They looked beautiful from any camera angle.

Rahul Feb 23, 2014 06:50am

The author alluded to her aptness for the description of Heer, as described by Waris Shah. How blessed the audiences would have been if she had been cast as Heer! :(

Rest in peace, Mumtaz Jehan!

a.k.lal Feb 23, 2014 09:44am

@Chnd: He married her and when her health deteriorated, dumped her at her fathers house. He rarely visited her, nursing is a far cry.

Avneesh Balyan Feb 23, 2014 10:26am

@Chnd: That is a very controversial part of her life. Its not he just nursed her, he took care of her financials (medical). The rest is all hidden truth in the dark alleys of Bollywood.

Feroz Feb 23, 2014 12:11pm

Madhubala was probably the most beautiful woman of her time. Like many other great actresses, hers was a life of personal failure and sadness. Her photographs can still send the hearts of young men racing.

SAK Feb 23, 2014 03:39pm

To pay tribute to the writer, I quote from Ghalib:
Zikr Us Pariwash Ka Aur Phir Bayan Apna
Bun Gaya Raqeeb Jo Ke Tha Razdan Apna

Rohana Feb 23, 2014 05:03pm

Thank you, writer, for this excellent piece.I am a Sri Lankan. My admiration of Madhubala, the Venus Queen of Indian cinema, is boundless. It seems that there is an inadvertent error in your text. It is the word 'paramour' applied to Madhubala. A paramour is an unlawful lover of a married man or woman according to the dictionary. Madhubala was never Dilip's paramour; he was not married during the time they were in love with each other. It was a very straightforward love affair. To describe Madhubala as Dilip's paramour is not a compliment to either. Please amend this if possible. No offense is meant. Thank you again. I watched all the videos you have included, though I have watched them many times before.

Nasiroski Feb 23, 2014 05:59pm

Hands down most beautiful actress in Bollywood.

Ramesh Mohindra Feb 23, 2014 09:28pm

NDTV had a clip " Ek thee Madhubala"-a must watch. Please go to you tube and click NDTV Ek thee Madhubala. You will enjoy it.

Wajahat Hussain Feb 23, 2014 10:54pm

@Rohana: Bless you lady! Your understanding of english language is perfect. While reading the article it struck me that the word is inappropriately used.

aamir Feb 23, 2014 11:21pm

I do not know what you are actually saying,,,she was in a class by herself, and in her grace and beauty like a bubbling fairy

Shamoon Ahmad Feb 24, 2014 12:59am

Paying tribute to an Indian movie artist is a valiant deed by Mr. Dhakku in a culture rampant with religiosity. Beside being the most beautiful and talented movie artist, she also deserve to be remembered as good human being - a person of extraordinary qualities, having determination, dedication, integrity, loyalty and humility. Her conservative Muslim background posed a constant struggle and challenge between her work and her values. At one point she had to choose between the man she loved and her father, but her loyalty to family made her sacrifice her own happiness. Her marriage to Kishore Kumar was the last nail in coffin, two great artist, but a mismatch of cotton and silk. She did 70 movies with bleeding heart, emotionally and literally, and died young carrying the dream to her grave. Reference: biography by Khatija Akbar.

mOHINDER SANDHU Feb 24, 2014 01:59am

The credit also goes to excellent directors and camera-person who captured the best of her and portrayed her with utmost dignity.She was truly the pride of the south asia.I wish she was still there.I also read somewhere which the writer did not mention that dilip kumar was a witness against her in the court of law in some dispute,which broke her heart.

krao Feb 24, 2014 03:50am

@Mumbai Nagpur Express. Madhubala was Kishore's second wife. Amit Kumar is his son from his first wife Ruma Guha, who was a Bengali singer and actress.

shamoon Feb 24, 2014 10:21am

Fact is she was alone during her long illness, except her family members. Financial support for medical expenses and by-monthly visit cannot compensate for the absence of loved ones. Money is not love, and she died longing for love. Defender of kishore Kumar should think - would they be happy if their life partner is not around when they are on their death bed. Her tragedy is a betrayal by two men who she expected would give her love. War in support or against kishore does not diminish the pain of tragedy.

roofi Feb 24, 2014 10:41am

such stars like Madubala(Mumtaz jehan) look evergreen and everlasting for those who have some rare sensations regarding beauty and inspiration.....

Jamshed Feb 24, 2014 01:12pm

@Rohana: Sir, a paramour is a lover, any lover. It is only now-a-days that people choose to use this term for 'a lover of a married person'. When in truth, the origin of this French word means 'by or through love'.

Jamshed Feb 24, 2014 01:13pm

What a way to spend a Sunday, thanks for including her songs. Made my day!

Joe Highlander Feb 24, 2014 07:11pm

@mOHINDER SANDHU: Dilip Sahib gave honest testimony. Any problem with teuthful answer in court of law?

Ramesh Mohindra Feb 24, 2014 10:28pm

@Mumbai-Nagpur Express : Wrong! Amit is not Madhubala's son. He is from his first wife, Ruma.

aamir Feb 25, 2014 07:30am

A number of comments have come up. I am in no way an expert on the details, but i want to state some clarifications:

  1. The author whose book has been mentioned in good words is Madhubala's elder sister
  2. The famous court case started when Yash Chopra's eldest brother sued Madhubala and her father for violating the requirement to go to a certain place away from Bombay for shooting. Madhubala's father's stand was that Chopra chose that place because he wanted to provide an opportunity for Dilip Kumar and Madhubala to meet each other. He said why can you not do the shooting in Bombay. Chopra's stand was that he wanted to get realistic surroundings of dacoits, who were present in that area
  3. In this sequence of things, Madhubala got probably the biggest shock of her life the man for whom she could give her life, sided with Chopra rather than with her
  4. In the same trial Dilip Kumar related events that no one could imagine he would say for the woman he claimed to love from the bottom of his heart

When one looks back at Dilip Kumar, one cannot help but wonder at the narrow vision of pathans. They will not bow down before anyone, no matter if somebody's love in that process is totally dashed to smithreens. My personal opinion Dilip Kumar destroyed himself when he destroyed Madhubala

  1. Madhubala's marriage to Kishore Kumar was a disaster. She was utterly heartbroken the way Dilip Kumar had treated her---she was trying for any breath of fresh air to get support from, and right then she made a film with Kishore Kumar. He was a natural comedian, made her laugh much, and she felt that he was the man she needed. Laughter was only for so many days---then incompatibility, arguments, fights, and towards the end nothing but tears, memories and loneliness
Rahul Feb 25, 2014 07:24pm

Author missed an opportunity to cover the infatuation ZA Bhutto had for this great indian actress and how he used to come to Mumbai to watch her perform. Had she lived, she may have ended up as the first lady of Pakistan, changing the course of history.