New Delhi: Popularly known as ‘The Tragedy Queen’, she dons the titles of ‘Female Guru Dutt’ of Hindi films and the ‘Cinderella of Indian films’.
We are talking of Meena Kumari who ruled Bollywood with her melodious voice and unmatched acting skills back in the ’50s-’60s. As a child artist she sang for films like Bahen till 1945. And then as a heroine, she rendered her voice to songs from films like Duniya Ek Sarai (1946), Piya Ghar Aaja (1948), Bichchade Balam (1948) and Pakeezah (1972).
On her 85th birth anniversary, let’s take a look back at her life:
- Born as Mahjabeen Bano to a family of poor theatre artists, Meena started her career in acting at the age of 4. She earned Rs 25 on her very first day of shooting the film Leatherface released in 1939. In an interview in 1962, Meena Kumari explained that the fact she had been supporting her parents from the age of four gave her immense satisfaction.
- Since she could barely attend school due to busy shooting schedules, Meena was nicknamed “Reading Mahjabeen”, as she brought books onto the sets and when working on location.
- Indian film critics regarded Meena Kumari as a “historically incomparable” actress of Hindi cinema. She was also a poet under the pseudonym “Naaz”.
- In a career spanning 33 years, she starred in about 92 films. Some of her hit films include Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Pakeezah, Mere Apne, Aarti, Baiju Bawra, Parineeta, Foot Path, Dil Ek Mandir and Kaajal.
- Kumari played the female lead in Baiju Bawra (1952) and won her first Filmfare award. This was her first step to success.
- Parineeta (1953) directed by Bimal Roy, with Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari in the lead roles won Kumari her second Filmfare Best Actress Award.
- Sharada (1957) was Meena Kumari’s first venture with Raj Kapoor. Since it was a difficult role to portray, it was refused by all leading actresses of the day until Meena agreed. She won best actress at Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Award for her work.
- Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) produced by Guru Dutt and directed by Abrar Alvi featured Meena Kumari as the iconic Chhoti Bahu. Based on the Bengali novel “Shaheb Bibi Golam” by Bimal Mitra, the film won four Filmfare Awards, including the Best Actress award. The movie was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival, where Meena Kumari was selected as a delegate.
- Meena,18, got married to director Kamal Amrohi, 34, on February 14, 1952 secretly, in a simple “Niqah” ceremony in the presence of Kumari’s younger sister, Mahliqa (Madhu). In 1964, she separated from husband over several issues, and became an alcoholic.
- In 1968, Meena Kumari was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis due to excessive alcohol consumption. She went abroad for treatment and came back in better condition. But not listening to doctor’s advises, she resumed work soon after coming back to India
- Only three weeks after Pakeezah‘s release, Meena Kumari was critically ill. She slid into a coma and died on March 31, 1972. Liver cirrhosis was determined to be the cause of her death.