The Magic Of Madhubala by Subhash K Jha

The collective gasp that   went  up in theatres as  the Venus Of India Madhubala  unveiled her magnetic beauty to moviegoers,  can still  be heard  all over the country.

  The magic of Madhubala is the magic of Hindi cinema. She epitomizes all the grace and feminine beauty that make those flickering images on screen come alive  as a collective emblem of the life force.

  And  to think that she died so young. 36 is no age to die.  Not for one of the most beautiful women God ever created….or  maybe He needed to have her up there to beautify heaven.

Madhubala is as much synonymous with beauty as Lata Mangeshkar is  the epitome for melody.

Recalls  Lataji,  “She stipulated in  her contracts that she wanted only me to do her  playback singing.  This was after the success of Aayega aanewala  in  Mahal, though I had sung for her earlier….During those days we’d  meet socially quite often. That kind  of  camaraderie  no longer exists. ..Madhubala mujhe bahut  pyar se milti thi. After Mahal I did notice a change in her. Me? I was too busy recording to notice changes in myself(laughs). But yes ,  1949 was a decisive year for me. Every film I sang for was a superhit. There was  no looking back after that…Later Madhubala fell ill. But she continued to work. In fact she performed to  some of my best songs in Mughal-e-Azam while she was  terribly ill.  I didn’t meet her as often as I met Nargis.”

  God knows, Madhubala  turned Hindi cinema  into an ambrosial paradise for as long as she remained alive.  Short-lived as her stardom was, the reign at the top was swift and splendid.

  Born  in a conservative Muslim family  Madhubala  started her career in 1942  at the age of 9  in Basant. Her first hit as a grownup leading lady was Kidar Sharma’s Neel Kamal where  both she and Raj Kapoor were introduced.

  It was Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal in 1949 which gave Madhubala  the  image of an ethereal  unattainable yet warm and  gregarious beauty who could be diva  and she-devil at the same time.  Lata Mangeshkar’s haunting melody Ayega  aanewala  added immense allure to Madhubala’s screen persona.  The actress and  the singer remained associated throughout   Madhubala’s life and career.

 The Nightingale recalls meeting the Venus socially. “She was always warm and  friendly. Though  everyone stressed on her breathtaking  beauty Madhubala never took her  looks seriously.”

   Her looks were so overpowering that  most people refused to perceive her as a brilliant actress with impeccable poignant and comic timing.    If she could do  the timeless romance so accurately in Mehboob Khan’a Amar and K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam she was also the perfect comedienne in  her films with Kishore Kumar , like Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Half  Ticket and Jhumroo.

    Some of these comedies were done at a   time when Madhubala  knew she was dying. She had been detected with a hole in the heart.  The doctors gave her just a few years  of live. She dragged on living , with  no one but her husband Kishore Kumar to tend to her in her final days.

 Before his death Kishore Kumar remembered  her screams of pain as she died little by little.   The  chiselled   beauty who won not only Prince Salim’s heart but thousands of hearts  in Mughal-e-Azam always had a problem with her heart.  She had fallen in love with the Thespian Dilip Kumar.   They were signed together for B.R.Chopra’s rustic romance Naya Daur. But when Madhubala refused to shoot outdoors due to her failing health, she was dragged to court where Dilip Kumar made a  public declaration of his  love  for the beauteous damsel.

       “I will love her until the SHE dies,” thereby pre-empting her inevitable end.

       Why  are the world’s most beautiful women doomed to destruction at a shockingly young? Whether it was  Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood or Meena  Kumari and Madhubala  in Mumbai, they all perished before reaching the age of 40.

    Madhubala has remained embedded in public  memory as the timeless beauty  who enthralled audiences in  Mahal,  Mr & Mrs 55Howrah Bridge  and of course Mughale-Azam where she had to wear heavy iron chains in spite of doctors warning her against such strain due to heart condition.

       Madhubala’s last  released film was Jwala with Sunil  Dutt in 1970. By then she was already gone. The legend of course lives on,  as does stories of impish personality and incessant giggles  from those who had the privilege of knowing her personally.

 Yash Chopra had  the  opportunity to  direct  Madhubala  for his brother B.R.Chopra’s film Naya  Daur before she was replaced by Vyjanthimala. He can’t forget that brief interlude with her.

  “She was there for a while…and then she was gone!” he says, putting his finger on Madhubala’s brief romance with fame and life.    

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