Madhubala was the name given to her by Devika Rani. Her original name was Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dahelvi. She was the daughter of an imperious father Ata Ullah Khan, who had forced her to act in films at the delicate age of eight years.
OUT OF the distance of several decades, I can still vividly recollect my first pilgrimage to the city of my dreams – Bombay (now Mumbai). Before embarking on that journey I had always lived like and anchorite, with two ambitions in heart: first – to make enough money in this Eldorado and come back to my snobbish and aristocratic home town and demand and command respect from those, who had dropped me down as unprosperous connection. Second, to visit the grave of the fairy of my dreams – Madhubala – a human being I loved as a kid, as a child, as a juvenile delinquent and as a mature young man.
Madhubala was the name given to her by Devika Rani – a legend unto herself. Her original name was Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dahelvi. She was the daughter of an imperious father Ata Ullah Khan, who had forced her to act in films at the delicate age of eight years.
She was born on Valentine Day, on February 14, 1937, and she died on February 23, 1968, just nine days after her birthday. Few days before her death she had asked her sister to bring the mirror. She was so shocked to see the face in mirror that she couldn’t speak coherently till she breathed her last. Her dominating and commanding father picked for her so many inconsequential films that it took longer than necessary to establish her as a serious actress again. His father for whatever reasons never liked Dilip Saheb.
“Mahal” was the film directed by legendary Kamal Amrohi that catapulted her to stardom. She had played the enigmatic role of the daughter of a gardener against super star Ashok Kumar. Before the release of the film, Kamal Amrohi’s advisers told him to punch out the song – ‘Ayega anewala’. They said it was meaningless and would confuse the viewers. Kamal refused to accept argument saying that Madhubala’s presence on the screen would clear all confusions. He was right as even today this song of Lata Mangeshkar remains one of the favourite of millions.
Her life was marked with disappointments. In 1951, she had met Dilip Kumar on the set of ‘Tarana’. She was 18 then. She fell in love with Dilip Kumar and sent her hair dresser with a billet doux (love letter) in Urdu along with a Red Rose asking him to accept it if he loved hem. The tragedy-king was amused and intrigued at the gesture and accepted the rose. The flame of this ill-fated romance kindled on for seven years and finally it was extinguished by her father in an ugly melodrama which bruised and wounded her till she entered her last resting place.
She was laid to bed with a heart disease. However, she carried her work in films despite her illness. She had a punctured heart valve and she often used to cough up blood on sets.
Eventually her illness forced her to end her career in ‘Jwala’.
She died but her magic lives on. Even after 40 years of her death she commands immense respect, love and adoration. Her posters are sold at premium price on the urban streets. People still visit the houses where her pictures are hung just to have a look at her oxygenated smile. The deep expression of her eyes and the curl of her lips still transport the viewer into the ethereal dream. I don’t know how much I would write if I have no constraint of space. I have seen all her 70 movies during my stay in Bombay and visited her grave like a Sajjadah Nasheen (one who takes care of the grave).
The only thing I forgot about her was the time I had spent when I had visited the grave of the Venus of Indian screen for the first time.