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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.