By Rishabh Naudiyal Last Updated:
On the day of love, i.e., Valentine's Day, on February 14, 1933, a baby girl, Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi, had taken birth in a Muslim family living in Delhi and was the fifth of the eleven children to their father, Ataullah Khan and Ayesha Begum. In search of work, the family had shifted to Bombay, and the city of dreams had transformed Mumtaz Jehan Begum to Madhubala. The actress had taken the Indian cinema by storm in the 1950s and was one of her generation's highest-paid actresses. In a career spanning over just two decades, Madhubala had received several offers from Hollywood and was adored with titles like 'The Venus of Indian Cinema' and 'Marilyn Monroe of Bollywood'.
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Over the generations, we have seen many renowned filmmakers, writers, and critics naming Madhubala as the greatest actress in the history of Indian cinema because of the way she used to get inside the skin of her every character, which speaks volumes about her versatility till today. However, it was her personal life that had completely overshadowed her illustrious career. The actress had given love multiple chances in her life with different people, only to end up being all alone on her deathbed. Today, on February 23, 2021, the entire nation is remembering Madhubala on her 52nd death anniversary, and as a result, we bring you some of her brightest and darkest lesser-known facts that tell everything about the kind of life she had lived. Scroll down to know it all!
Madhubala was born in Delhi in an impoverished Pashtun family, and her parents, Ataullah Khan and Aayesha Begum were blessed with ten children, but only four along with Madhubala had managed to make it to adulthood. The family had suffered many hardships after her father had lost his job at the Imperial Tobacco Company that had forced the family to move to Bombay in search of work. The family was living in a small home in Bombay, but it was on April 14, 1944, when an explosion had occurred in the Victoria Dock of the city that had wiped out their small house. The sad story's lucky part is that no one from Madhubala's family was present inside the house. As they all were out watching a film in a local theatre. No wonder cinema had given her so much, but there's no denying the fact that it had taken a lot in return too.
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Madhubala's family was suffering from poverty, and for supporting them, the young girl had started going out with her father, Ataullah Khan to find some work in the film studios. That's when Amiya Chakrabarty had given Madhubala her first break as a child artist in his film, Basant, in which she had portrayed the character of the lead actress, Mumtaz Shanti's character, Uma's daughter. The actress was credited as 'Baby Mumtaz' in the credits roll of the film that had become the highest-grossing film of the year 1942. After which, she had worked in several movies like Phoolwari, Pujari, Rajputani, and Dhanna Bhagat, as a child artist.
In the year 1946, one of the most successful and prominent filmmakers of that generation, Kidar Sharma had taken the ground-breaking decision to cast a 14-year-old newcomer, Madhubala as a lead actress opposite Raj Kapoor in his film, Neel Kamal. The film was released in 1947, four months prior to India's partition and was a devastating commercial failure at the box-office.
However, the setback had resulted at the beginning of a whole new journey for the young actress, who was signed by Mohan Sinha for his upcoming film, Mere Bhagwaan and had advised her to gave up on her name, Mumtaz and rechristened her as Madhubala that means honey belle. The actress had agreed to the interesting change, and as a result, Neel Kamal had become the last film in which she was credited as Mumtaz. It'll be fair to say that this little step of giving up on the name, Mumtaz Jehan and picking up Madhubala was the biggest turning point in her life.
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Madhubala had also starred in Indian cinema's first-ever film, Hanste Aansoo (1950) that had received an 'A Certificate' from the Central Board of Film Certification. The actress was already a huge star back at that time, but she hadn't hesitated for a second to be a part of this film, which was way ahead of its time back then. The film was rated adult because the director, K.B. Lall had presented a modern age woman, who fights for her rights against society, refuses to restrict herself to the household chores, and rebel for her education rights. It was a brave and bold step from Madhubala that clearly shows she was a woman, who had never surrendered her ethics and values in front of the world.
During her entire career, Madhubala had received tons of offers from Hollywood, but the actress had never left Indian cinema, and the International cinema was always in awe of her incredible acting and beauty. In 1951, the renowned and popular American magazine of that era, Theatre Arts Magazine, had called Madhubala the biggest star globally. Yes! You read it right, a full-page article was dedicated to the Indian actress, and it had skyrocketed her comparisons with Marilyn Monroe.
One of the most iconic filmmakers in the history of Hollywood, the three-time Academy Award winner, Frank Capra had approached Madhubala's father, Ataullah Khan and had told him that he wants to give his daughter, Madhubala, a grand break in Hollywood. But the doting father had declined the offer and had clearly stated that his daughter is only going to act in Indian cinema.
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Legendary actress, Meena Kumari's husband and renowned director, Kamal Amrohi had cast Madhubala in his cult horror movie, Mahal, which had gone on to become a superhit of all times. It was said that the two would spend hours with each other and that her time with Kamal, was the best time of her life. Reportedly, Madhubala's father had also approved of their relationship and was agreed with their marriage. But, apparently, Madhubala had some issues. She did not want to be Kamal's second wife and had insisted Kamal to divorce his then-wife, Meena Kumari.
However, Kamal had refused to do so and had asked Madhubala to adjust with his first wife, which had largely depressed Madhubala. It was also said that Madhubala had also put forward an outrageous deal in which she had offered a sum amount of Rs 9 lakh to Kamal in order to marry him. But things didn't work out, and their love story had ended on a bitter note.
Popular actor of that era, Premnath and Madhubala had met each other on the sets of Badal. Madhubala was already a superstar back then, and the two had dated each other for a period of 6 months. Sadly, after which, Madhubala had started to distance herself from him. As told to Filmfare by Madhubala's sister, Madhur, their relationship had gotten over on the grounds of religion. The doting sister had also stated that Premnath had asked Madhubala to convert, and the actress had refused his demand. As a result, the two had parted ways.
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Dilip Kumar and Madhubala's love story is an epic one and is still regarded as one of the saddest real-life stories about heartbreak. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar had met each other on the sets of Tarana. Theirs was a long relationship that went on for nine years. Both of them had even gotten engaged to each other. It was said that the two had broke-up over a film's location that had involved Madhubala's father, Ataullah Khan. Madhubala had kept on crying for days and had even tried working things out on the phone, but Dilip Kumar would not budge.
In an interview, Madhubala's sister, Madhur had stated that her sister had requested Dilip Kumar to come home and say sorry to his father in order to resolve all the differences between them. But instead of coming home and hugging her father, Dilip had told Madhubala to leave her father if she wants to marry him. The actress couldn't be able to accept Dilip's offer, and as a result, their love story had ended on a heartbreaking note.
It was the final years of her life when Madhubala had gotten tired of all the unstable relationships and heartbreaks in her life so far. That is the reason why she had longed for a stable relationship, a companion. It was then that Madhubala had met Kishore Kumar when they were shooting for Chalti Ka Naam Gadi and Half Ticket. They had gotten married in 1960, post which they had flown down to London where she was detected with a hole in her heart, and the doctors had said that she has only two years to live.
Madhubala's sister, Madhur, had once revealed in an interview that Kishore Kumar had left her sister in their home, saying that he remains outdoor most of his time because of his work and professional commitments. Hence, he will not be able to take care of her properly. However, Madhur had clearly stated that it was his way of detaching himself slowly and steadily from Madhubala before the final separation. But he used to visit Madhubala once every two months and had taken full responsibility for her medical expenses before the end of their nine years of marital life.
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It was in the year, 1969, when the successful actress was all set to make her directorial debut with the film, Farz Aur Ishq, but the project was terminated at the pre-production stage because of her illness that had gotten worse at that time. After fighting like a warrior against the life-threatening disease, Madhubala had breathed her last on February 23, 1969, sadly, just nine days after her 36th birthday. She will always be remembered as one of the finest actresses in the history of Indian cinema, who had never settled for less than they deserve.