Actresses have come and actresses have gone, but we still insist on giving the coveted title of the most desirable woman in Hindi cinema to Madhubala.
The screenplay of her life imitated the suspense, drama and romanticism of a tragic love story, a role that she played with intensity in many memorable films. Calling her just pretty would be a understatement. She was stunner, who won the hearts of many, but her end was tragic.
1. Madhubala joined Bollywood to support her siblings and parents.
Born as Mumtaz, Madhubala joined the Bombay film industry when she was 9 as her father lost his job. She was one of five children in the family and her earnings helped the family to survive hard times. By the time she turned 14, Madhubala was playing the leading lady (in ‘Neel Kamal’) with Raj Kapoor in 1947.
2. Mumtaz was rechristened Madhubala after ‘Neel Kamal’.
To find acceptability in the Hindi film industry, the budding actress took up Madhubala as her new name after the success of film ‘Neel Kamal’. Director Kidar Sharma later recalled that the young Madhubala was a professional. She worked like a machine, even skipped meals, traveled third class, but was always on time for work.
3. Setting her mind to master English, she did exactly that before turning 17.
Forced to earn a livelihood early in life, Madhubala was deprived of the opportunity to attend regular school. A strong willed person, she took to learning English and was fluent in the language by the time she was 17 years old.
4. Tales of her beauty and fame spread beyond India.
Theater Arts, an American Magazine, was bold enough to confer Madhubala with the title of being ‘The Biggest Star in the World!”. A rare honor that the beauty held even though she had never visited Beverly Hills.
5. Madhubala only had 15 box office hits.
While the actress attracted long lines of fans to catch a glimpse of her, with only 15 hits out of 70 movies that she acted in, Madhubala had a box office strike rate of 21 percent.
6. Her relationship with Dilip Kumar filled gossip columns.
Madhubala had a string of relationships with many lead actors but the one with tragedy king Dilip Kumar caught the public’s fancy. They had met on the sets of ‘Jwar Bhata’, and confessed their love for each other during the filming of ‘Tarana’.
7. The Madhubala–Dilip Kumar breakup is attributed to opposition from her father.
Not one to go against her father’s wishes, film chroniclers of the time say that it was her father’s strong opposition to her affair with Dilip that caused a breakup.
8. Madhubala’s father dragged Dilip Kumar to court for backing out of marrying her.
The heartbreak turned Madhubala into a wreck and, on realizing his mistake, her father later took Dilip Kumar to court, charging him with retracting from a promise to marry her. Dilip Kumar is said to have openly confessed his love for her in the courtroom by saying, “I shall always love her until the day she dies”.
9. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar had drifted apart when ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ was shot.
The professional performances and the passionate love scenes of blockbuster film ‘Mughla-e-Azam’ drop no hint that the Dilip-Madhubala love affair was over much before the two were paired for this film.
10. Like other ill-fated celebrities, Madhubala also died young.
Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Bob Marley and Madhubala, all died at the age of 36.
11. The overbearing presence of her father is believed to have destroyed her.
Seeking love and being led by her heart, Madhubala ended up in one disastrous relationship after another. With her father traveling to sets with her, the regular routine was to get straight back home after a hard day’s work. She was not allowed any social life. Even visitors at home were strictly supervised .
12. Her dream of marrying Dilip Kumar shattered, she married Kishore Kumar on the rebound.
Unable to achieve her love and losing all hope of marrying Dilip Kumar, in retaliation Madhubala hurriedly married Kishore Kumar, who had already been married and divorced twice earlier.
13. Not one to splurge money on clothes and jewelry, it took very little to make her happy.
14. Madhubala’s idea of relaxation was to go on long drives.
She had learnt to drive by 12 and went out on long drives whenever she got the opportunity.
15. Her last film ‘Chalaak’ with Raj Kapoor in the lead remained unfinished.
The film had to be shelved because of her illness, from which she never recovered. Shooting for this film was the last time she put on makeup for the silver screen.
16. Madhubala suffered from an heart aliment.
She did travel to London for treatment but the doctors advised against surgery saying that she only had a year more to live. She beat the odds and survived for nine years after that.
17. She aspired to direct a film.
Despite being gravely ill, Madhubala was all prepared to make her directorial debut in 1969, with a movie named ‘Farz Aur Ishq’. Sadly, the movie could not hit the floor, as she finally succumbed to illness before that.
18. She was a dog lover.
If you were to visit her home in 1959, you would be greeted with her taking care of 18 dogs.