Meena Kumari

Meena Kumari was the daughter of Parsee theatre actor and music teacher Ali Bux and the dancer Iqbal Begum. She entered films as a child artist and shot to stardom in the early fifties with the release of Baiju Bawra (1952). She gave a very strong performance in the film which won her the inaugural Filmfare Award for Best Actress.

She became Film Director Kamal Amrohi's second wife and with Daera (1953), Ek Hi Rasta (1956), Sharda (1957) and Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960), Meena went on to establish herself as the eternal martyr. Audiences loved to weep with her and she was the ultimate tragedy queen in Indian Cinema. She remained shackled to this image for the rest of her life.

Meena Kumari did do a few light-hearted films like Azaad (1955), Miss Mary (1957), Shararat (1959) and Kohinoor (1960). She excelled in all these roles and played her part beautifully. Yet she choose to do tragic roles, maybe that was the result of a broken relationship and turmoil in her personal life. She gave a brilliant performance in Guru Dutt’s Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) as Choti Bahu, the youngest bride in an aristocratic zamindar family who strives to make her errant husband return to her even at the risk of self-destruction. She went on to win the Best actress award for the film.

However by now Meena Kumari was totally in a mess on the personal front. Her relationship with her husband was almost over, she had taken on drinking and found solace in younger male company. While on the professional front, the emphatic success of Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Kajal (1965) and Phoor Aur Pathar (1966) kept her a top star, her marriage with Kamal Amrohi ended in 1964. Meena increasingly relied on the intimate kindness offered by younger men like Dharmendra and often dulled her senses with liquor. Due to excessive drinking she had lost her looks and therefore was offered character roles in films like Jawab (1970) and Dushman (1971).

Meena kumari had sensed that she had very little time and therefore she wanted to complete the film Pakeezah (1972) which was jointly planned by Meena and husband Amrohi in 1958. Pakeezah was the story of a prostitute with the heart of gold. Meena gave a stunning performance in the dual roles of the mother and daughter. Pakeezah finally released in February 1972 and opened to just a lukewarm response but after Meena Kumari’s death on 31st March 1972, the film went on to become a huge success at the box-office and has since then acquired legendary status and is regarded as her best known film.

Meena Kumari was also a talented poetess and a collection of her poems titled Tanha Chand, under the pseudonym Naaz was compiled by Gulzar and published after her death.

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