An Everlasting Style Icon

Written by Emma Alam
“Madhubala graced the Indian screen with her magical appearance and to
this day remains an icon who symbolizes beauty, glamour and style.”

Madhubala dreamt of becoming a movie star from her childhood. In fact a soothsayer had predicted that she would earn recognition and fortune as a celebrity but would lead an unhappy and forlorn life and die at a young age. Her jobless father took her to Bombay remembering the holy man’s words. Both father and little girl struggled for over a year when Mumtaz was chosen for a childhood role in Basant. Devika Rani was impressed with her performance and changed her name to Madhubala, who was to appear in Jwar Bhata, in which Dilip Kumar was playing the lead role. She was unable to work in the movie but this was the moment the teenager first set eyes on Dilip Kumar. Mohan Sinha, a Producer-director taught her to drive at the age of thirteen. Madhubala and her father had to strive until she became a leading lady.
She was only 16 years old, when her popularity started mounting from 1949 onwards, however Mahal was the movie that really established her star status. She was always punctual throughout her career and would arrive at the studio at 7am and leave on the dot at 6pm. Madhubala’s heart problem was diagnosed in a routine check up in 1950, when heart surgery was not available in those days. Despite this, she had put on a brave face and her illness was kept a secret from the industry for many years. She frequently used to cough up blood; nevertheless she tried to live life to its fullest extent.  Being a prankster this goddess of several hearts loved to laugh and giggle, once started she found it difficult to control herself. Madhubala never experienced childhood and was exploited by many men. She was very naive in trusting people and was let down on many occasions. She was mesmerized by Hollywood movies and persistently watched them to pick up a few tips to enhance her performance; moreover she had a tutor to teach her English and had a good command over the language within a few months.
Her talent and glamour was not fully utilized by some of her directors as movies were chosen for the money and security they brought. However she has given outstanding performances in some of the greatest movies ever to be produced. Madhubala was a true romantic who, always craved for love. She had a clean heart and generosity to forgive and forget, as she couldn’t hold onto grudges. She was 21 years old when the doctors declared uncertainty about her life. She was a generous and kindhearted nymph who donated a lot to charity and continued to support her family till her dying days. She had five sisters and made Ajit her rakhi brother in 1950; she was the first movie star that had a cold war with the media. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar met seven years later on the sets of Tarana when she was eighteen years old. During the shooting she sent her hairdresser with a note written in Urdu together with a red rose asking him to accept it if he loved her, which intrigued and amused Dilip Kumar and naturally he accepted the rose. Dilip Kumar and Premnath became friends whilst working together in Anand and realized they were being two timed by Madhubala. Premnath later became involved with Bina Rai whom he married but he remained friend of Madhubala even after his marriage. She was immature and had a confused state of mind. Dilip Kumar was angry and never forgave her; even though their relationship lasted seven years he never married Madhubala. However she truly loved him and desperately wanted to marry him. She had to endure Dilip’s coldness for nine years. During the
Shooting of Mughal-e-Azam Madhubala knew that she had the role of a    lifetime even though her ill health retained her from shooting but she had the determination to revive herself and continued with the shooting. K Asif was obsessed with realism and ignorant of Madhubala’s illness so, used real chains on her, which used to deeply cut her and make her skin go blue, her father tried to persuade him to use plastic chains but to no avail. Madhubala’s laughter and sparkle had gone during this period maybe it was due to the heartache she felt, as Dilip’s attitude towards her was so icy. On 5 August Mughal-e-Azam was released which was a major blockbuster. She didn’t receive the film fare award that she rightly deserved as they were normally obtained by foul play in those days and Madhubala was too proud to stoop to such a level. Three men proposed her and she turned to Nargis who was a close friend for advice. Nargis suggested that Bharat Bhusan would respect her, as he was a widower whereas Pradeep Kumar and Kishor Kumar were both married. However she had already made up her mind on Kishor Kumar, as he was like a breath of fresh air and the sweet puff of romantic breeze in her deserted life. She accepted him, as he was the first man who came into her life on the rebound whilst shooting Chalti ka naam gadi and Jhumroo. Her father had informed Kishor that Madhubala would be flying to London for a complicated surgery and he could marry her on her return but Kishor knew she wanted to get married before she died and he wanted to fulfill her desire. They had a civil marriage and Kishore converted to Islam and was renamed Karim Abdul.

His parents refused to attend the wedding and never really accepted Madhubala as they thought she had broken their son’s marriage. When Madhubala went to touch her father in law’s feet he moved away. The doctors in London refused to operate on Madhubala as they thought she would die during the operation and if she did survive it would only be for a year. Madhubala and Kishor also had a Hindu ceremony to please the parents but they were still not happy.
She moved back to her bungalow a couple of weeks or so later because her in laws attitude was distressing her. Madhubala realized that she had made a mistake in marrying Kishore.

Last days

Madhubala was confined to her bed in the last days of her life; she repeatedly watched her favourite movies, Mughal-e-Azam, Barsaat Ki Raat, Chalti ka naam gadi and Mahal.
She used to recite Urdu poems to herself and saw her song ‘pyar kiya to darna kya’ over 500 times. Kishor Kumar used to get upset with her for watching Dilip Movies and insisted she watched Chalti ka naam gadi and Jhumroo. Her family made sure that someone would keep an eye on the door to see if Kishor was coming in order to swap the Dilip movies. She had a 105 degrees temperature a day before she died and expressed her desire to see Dilip. She died on 23 February 1969 on a Sunday morning and was buried with her diary at Santa Cruz burial ground by her family and Kishor Kumar. Dilip Kumar wasn’t at the funeral, it’s not known if he was informed

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