Madhubala, the eternal heroine of Hindi cinema


She was the epitome of beauty. That million-watt smile on her innocent face made Madhubala the cynosure of all. Her films were super hit at the Box-Office and she ruled the heart of millions. And yet Madhubala kept yearning for true love till her death 

She remains the mystery woman of Indian cinema. Her meteoric rise from ashes to the high pedestal of beauty and fame as well as her sudden and tragic disappearance from this world has made Madhubala a profoundly mystical figure. One of the most enduring and celebrated legends of Indian cinema, Madhubala had won millions of hearts with her magical charm and powerful acting skills, a combination that remains unmatched in the film industry till now.

Her transformation from Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehlavi to Madhubala was not just a mere change in the name. It signified the reincarnation of a young girl, belonging to a conservative Muslim family, into the world of glitz and glamour. A world which she was destined to rule, a world which got subdued by her ethereal smile and sublime grace and a world where she is still the epitome of natural beauty. Very few people know that it was the veteran actress Devika Rani who gave her the name Madhubala, impressed by her talent and beauty. But it was not just her stunning beauty that was to make her an icon, her road to success and glory remains an inspirational saga of unbridled hard work against all odds.

Madhubala got her first break at the age of fourteen and that too opposite Raj Kapoor in Neel Kamal (1947), but the real show time for her came in 1949 with the release of mega thriller Mahal. Working opposite Ashok Kumar, she attained immense popularity with her stunning performance and captivating beauty. No one can forget the melodious and thrilling number from Mahal ’aayega aanewala’, which made Madhubala a sensation during that time. But that was just the beginning. Very soon she was in the league of other established actresses of that time Nargis and Mina Kumari. Since the beginning of her career Madhubala never hesitated from donning new and challenging roles. Be it the sensuous role of a cabaret singer in Ashok Kumar starrer Howrah Bridge (1958) or that of a cigarette smoking dancer Bella in the film Kal Hamara Hai (1959), Madhubala redefined modernity and conventionality in the Indian cinema in her own way. In a span of just ten years she had worked with all the established actors and directors of that time including Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Kishore Kumar, Pradip Kumar and Dilip Kumar. But the best was yet to come. It was with K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam (1960) that Madhubala reached the zenith of her career in the Indian film Industry. Anarkali’s character, which she played with perfection and elan, remains etched in the heart of young and old alike. Tragically, in more than one way, this was also the time when she was passing through several ups and downs on the personal front that eventually cut short her life.

She met professional success quite early in life but yearned till the end of her life for true love and companionship. Madhubala had a long affair with Dilip Kumar, which continued for several years but couldn’t result in a life-long relationship. The beautiful romance that started blossoming during the filming of Tarana (1951) couldn’t survive to see the phenomenal success of Mughal-e-Azam. Mired in several personal and professional issues, their affair took an ugly turn and ended following a highly controversial court case in 1956. But that couldn’t remove feelings for Dilip Kumar from her heart and Madhubala loved Dilip Kumar till the day she died. Her husband, actor and playback singer, Kishore Kumar failed to fill this void in her life. Since the beginning of their married life in 1960, the relationship remained under great strain and made her more restless and lonely with time. This situation was to a great extent responsible for decline in her health (she had a long standing heart problem) and premature death in 1969 at the age of 36.

In a life span of less than four decades Madhubala successfully donned several roles in her real life too. Be it of an obedient daughter, a passionate lover or an indefatigable fighter–she met with success in all her endeavours. Perhaps, that’s how legends live and become a part of the eternity when they are gone.

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