'Khuda bhi khayalon mein laya hai tumko, Khud haathon se apne banaya hai tumko.'
Madhubala, the name itself creates an image of a Celestial Beauty with dancing eyes and a lop-sided smile, a perfect blend of exquisite looks and sensuality. None of her photographs did full justice to her extraordinary beauty. It could not be a coincidence that Madhubala was born on Valentine’s Day. She lived her entire life with her heart on her sleeve. Rarely has the heart played such an important role in anyone’s life as hers, right from the emotional and romantic to the medical, as she was born with a hole in her heart.
Madhubala was born as Mumtaz and was the fifth child of the eleven children of Ataullah Khan. Father Ataullah came to Bombay and started looking for some good work at film studios. Mumtaz would accompany him and soon the eight year old girl got a break in Bombay Talkies’ superhit Basant (1942).
Baby Mumtaz soon became a star opposite another debutant Raj Kapoor in Kidar Sharma’s Neel Kamal (1947). A confident Mumtaz outshone Raj in several scenes. Her father took complete charge of her life and accepted several offers that came her way, changing her screen name to Madhubala.
Madhubala hit the jackpot with Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal (1949), a film written with actor Suraiya in mind. She worked in as many as 24 films after that in the first 4 years of her career as an actress and secured her family financially. She earned a lot of wealth before she was twenty and owned bungalows and luxurious cars.
Her father had instilled in her a sense of discipline and proper values which she abided by all her life. Instances of her punctuality, professionalism and huge donations to charitable causes are quite famous too. Madhubala lived a simple ‘home-to-studio & studio-to-home’ life and used to be in studios, sharp at 8.30 am, come whatever may!
The Madhubala mystique grew because of her characteristic aloofness and the consequent element of mystery. She was a very private person who kept the press and public constantly at arm’s length. She had a fear of crowds and neither attended parties nor premieres of any of her own films.
Madhubala was written about even in Hollywood. An article in August 1952 issue of Theatre Arts referred to her as “The Biggest Star in the World and she is not in Beverly Hills”. She was often compared to Marilyn Monroe, the American beauty, because of her looks, mystique, and smile.
The famous American filmmaker, Frank Capra was keen on meeting Madhubala during his Bombay trip. He suggested an opening for her in Hollywood but her father declined the offer saying that she could not eat with forks and knives.
Madhubala did 4 films with Dilip Kumar – Tarana (1951), Sangdil (1952), Amar (1954) & Mughal-E-Azam (1960). Both Madhu and Dilipji were drawn to each other. Their romance could be termed as Bollywood’s most romantic yet tragic romance ever. Their romance ended when B.R.Chopra replaced Madhubala with Vyjayantimala in Naya Daur (1957) because Ataullah Khan refused to send his daughter for an outdoor schedule. In the court case that followed, Dilip Kumar supported Chopra and testified against Madhubala, thus ending their 5 year old affair.
Madhubala zoomed back with a vengeance in 1958 with hits like Howrah Bridge, Kala Pani, Phagun & Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi. The scenario was similar to the time she had balanced the failure of the critically acclaimed Amar (1954) with the success of Mr. & Mrs. 55 (1955).
Madhubala was found to have a hole in the heart. In the absence of any medical treatment, her illness was hidden from the world until she vomited blood during her shoot of Bahut Din Huwe (1954). She continued working by leading a disciplined life, eating only home food and drinking water from a specific well.
The crowning glory of Madhubala’s career was K.Asif’s magnum opus Mughal-E-Azam, released in 1960. The blockbuster hit gave her an opportunity of fulfilling herself totally as an actress. The romantic feather scene between Dilip Kumar & Madhubala is still rated as the best romantic scene in films.
Madhubala gave 8 years of her life to the role of ‘Anarkali’, ignoring the physically-and- emotionally taxing experience, be it in the long hours of make-up & shooting; or being shackled with heavy chains; extensive ‘kathak’ sessions with Lachchu Maharaj or the stress of acting with Dilip Kumar after their break-up in 1956.
Later, her health deteriorated and she had to be taken to London for treatment. A heart surgery was considered difficult and she was advised not to take undue pressure or exert herself in the bargain of gaining a few more years to live.
Jwala (1971), her only color film released 2 years after her death. She re-appeared to cast her spell with the release of the colorized version of Mughal-E-Azam in the Diwali of 2004. And the Generation Next flocked to the theatres to get dazzled and mesmerized by Madhubala – the loveliest of the shining stars.