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Madhubala - The Enchantress

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  • mohammad imran
    Monday, 24 December 2007 TEHELKA INITIATIVES: Critical Futures | Tehelka Foundation Posted on December 21, 2007 WEB SPECIAL The Enchantress A film historian
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 23, 2007
      Monday, 24 December 2007 TEHELKA INITIATIVES: Critical Futures |
      Tehelka Foundation

      Posted on December 21, 2007

      The Enchantress

      A film historian reminisces on the icon of timeless beauty that was

      SMM Ausaja

      Madhubala evokes similar sympathy and yearning as Marilyn Monroe and
      Princess Diana do in the West. A true poster girl with undiminished
      popularity, she was born in Delhi on 14th February 1933 in a large
      lower middle family. She spent her early years in the capital often
      participating in radio programmes for children under music director
      Khurshid Anwar.

      Named Mumtaz Jahan by her father Ataullah Khan, quite early in her life
      Madhubala impressed Rai Bahadur Chunnilal, the general manager of
      Bombay Talkies to recommend her to Devika Rani, actress and owner of
      the studio. Consequently, her father Ataullah Khan came to Bombay with
      her for an audition, where she was selected for her first film,
      Basant(1942) as a child artiste which ran for 75 weeks in the
      theatres.Paid Rs.150 per month for this film, she played the daughter
      of the famous actress Mumtaz Shanti.

      Her second film was Ranjit Studios’ Mumtaz Mahal, released in 1944
      where she played the role of Jahanara, the daughter of emperor
      Shahjahan. Since then she continued working as a child artiste in
      various films and eventually her family settled in Mumbai.

      It was in Ranjit Studios that Madhubala charmed her way to reach a lead
      role in Kedar Sharma’s Neel Kamal (1947) opposite Raj Kapoor. She faced
      the camera as a lead actress at the age of thirteen. She also did
      several films for filmmaker Mohan Sinha viz. Mere Bhagwan, Lal Dupatta
      and Imtehaan.

      Seven years after her first screen appearance, she returned to Bombay
      Talkies again with Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal (1949). A path-breaking
      milestone in hindi cinema, the film not only zoomed the collective
      careers of the lead pair Ashok Kumar and Madhubala, director Kamal
      Amrohi, music director Khemchand Prakash, it also gave playback singer
      Lata Mangeshkar her first chartbuster Aayega aane wala….

      Post Mahal, Madhubala became the most desirable actress of the big
      screen. She bagged several big offers including films with the reigning
      superstars – Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar. Her next two films Nirala and
      Madhubala released in 1950 were opposite Dev Anand. Tarana opposite
      Dilip Kumar followed in 1951.

      However, she was diagnosed with septal disorder, commonly known as a
      ‘hole in the heart’, a cardiac disorder that year which often made her
      spit blood on the sets. In spite of her illness she performed
      spectacularly in Badal (1951) and Saaqi (1952) opposite Premnath, which
      also led to a lot of speculation about their relationship.

      Apart from him, Madhbala was romantically linked with Dilip Kumar too
      later in her career. Her second film with Dilip Kumar was Sangdil
      (1952), followed by Mehboob Khan’s Amar in 1954 added fuel to fire. The
      rumours continued till 1957 – when due to a controversy, she was
      replaced as the lead actress of B R Chopra’s Naya Daur. The reason
      stated was that her father didn’t approve her outdoor schedule for the
      fim with Dilip Kumar.

      During the making of Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958), she got closer to
      Kishore Kumar. In 1960, actor, singer Kishore proposed to her and they
      got married. However, his family didn’t accept her and she led a lonely
      and disturbed life post-marriage, which was further aggravated by her
      failing health. Yet, the year of 1960 immortalized her with the
      portrayal of Anarkali in K. Asif’s Mughl-e-Azam, which took almost a
      decade to complete.

      In the sixties she hardly had any notable releases except Jhumroo
      (1961) with her husband and Sharabi (1964) opposite Dev Anand. She
      started cutting down on her assignments later in the year due to
      familial tensions and failing health. Consequently, she had no releases
      since 1964 till her death on 23rd February 1969. Her last assignment –
      Jwala opposite Sunil Dutt- was released two years after her death.

      SMM Ausaja is a film historian, critic and collector of film-memorabilia
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