Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

Meena Kumari: Her Death, Work, Love and Birth

November. 2007.

Meena Kumari: Her Death, Work, Love and Birth. A beautiful collageI never had a collection of bright colored marbles like other children.
~ Meena Kumari.

Meena Kumari was born with the birth name Mahajabeen into the family of Ali Bux and Iqbal Begum (known as Prabhawati Devi before her marriage and conversion to Islam). At home, Mahajabeen’s family fondly called her by the name “Munna”.

Vijay Bhatt, Director, Producer and Proprietor of Prakash Studio was approached by Ali Bux to cast Mahajabeen in one of his films. Vijay Bhatt was at that time making Leather Face aka Farzande Watan ( Hindi title, film released in 1939) in which Jairaj was the hero and Mehtab the heroine. There was a vacancy for a small girl to play Jairaj’s daughter (14 years later in the film Magroor she was to play the role of Jairaj’s love) and it is for this part that Vjay Bhatt wanted to cast Mahajabeen. At the audition, the little girl was neither intimidated nor overawed by the surroundings or the equipment. Vijay Bhatt was quick to spot this and gave her the role. A fabulous sum of 25 rupees was paid to Mahajabeen.

From that day onwards there was no looking back. Film followed film and in four years this funny looking girl starred in Adhuri Kahani, Pooja, Nai Roshni, Behan, Vijayay, Kasauti and Garib. Vijay Bhatt made most of these films. On the sets of the film Ek hi phool Vijay Bhatt’s suggested the name Baby Meena and henceforth Mahajabeen was know by this name until she grew up to be a lady and her name naturally matured to Meena Kumari. In Ramnik Production’s Bachon Ke Khel, Baby Meena performed with credit and got noticed.

The year 1938 found Mahajabeen six-year old and already mini famous. An up and coming writer called Kamal Amrohi was looking for a seven-year-old girl to play a minor part in Sohrab Modi’s Jailor. Amrohi went to the house of Ali Bux at Dadar. After the greeting and the nature of the call established, Ali Bux sent for his daughters and one came running immediately, barefoot, with traces of mashed banana all over her face. Ali Bux apologized for the uncouth appearance of his daughter and said that she looked nice without the fruit all over her face. Amrohi agreed and promised he would recommend the girl to Mr. Modi. As it turned out she did not get the role. This was the first time that Kamal Amrohi had met Meena Kumari.


Appa! Appa! I don’t want to die.

Meena Kumari crying out from her deathbed to her elder sister Khursheed.


She ended life with a broken fiddle,
With a broken song,
With a broken heart,
But not a single regret.

Meena Kumari wished this epitaph to be on her grave.

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This write up was based on the book Meena Kumari written by Vinod Mehta.

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Meena Kumari first became etched in my mind because of her cinematic death in the movie Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, the death of her character — Chhoti Bahu. The scene towards the end of the movie, when the skeletal hand of Chotti Bahu is discovered during a dig years after her death, for me became synonymous with the tragedy queen of Hindi cinema ― Meena Kumari. Even the song Bhawra bada nadan hai, although picturised on Waheeda Rahman and Guru Dutt, for no particular reason reminded me of her and it still does. And , that’s how I came to know Meena Kumari, because of a haunting cinematic death.

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About the photograph: Meena Kumari was a big fan of Marilyn Monroe. And so, Andy Warhol’s famous portrait of Marlin Monroe was the obvious inspiration for me to create this image.

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The book finally got re-published in August 2013.

Buy Vinod Mehta's Meena Kumari from Flipkart.com

21 comments:

  1. i sware meena kumari was such a great actress. and i don't think any1 will ever forget her.i am onli 20 and i don't lyk the actresses of today.i happened to watch pakeezah once and den after that went crazy behind her acting.today the movies r different.before der was no technolgy den to the movies were very nice.but what today.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anony,
    Thanks for the comment!

    Pakeezah is among India's best films ever made.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Meena Kumari was an actresss who could do any kind of roles.but she passed away very fast.its sad that indian actresses r onli for name sake.during those days ppl use to watch movies onli by Meena Kumari's name.what a actress.i think now actress should learn something.i use to wonder why my mom ,dad granny never watched new films now i understand.if we have personalities like Meena ji u will never like any1 else.
    nidhi

    ReplyDelete
  4. Nidhi,
    Thanks for the comment!
    Meena Kumari was the best leading ladies in India. Sometime before her death she did say that people remember her long after she is gone. And people do remember her!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I AM 23yr old girlMeena kumari was a very gud actress i like her very much i am the big fan of her.i have all the collections of her movies i never miss an oppertunity to see her photos or movies she had done an eternal& memorable role in her movies i am very very sad that now she is not with us if i was in the place of her husband i would have kept her like a princess if i had born at that time definately i would have killed her husband &made her as my princess. i really miss her very much iam sure no actress are there to whom i can compare with my meena kumari she is the one only one god had made.

    ReplyDelete
  6. we all wish for what she does, a belief goes for saying that holding onto this belief, things we wish for 'do' come true. however, a young person who seeks for the same things she once did, realises that as humans, we forget what we really have and concentrate on the things we 'want' to have. why not just enjoy life as it is? things have reasons in being what they shall be, hold onto hopes but dont always expect it to happen. my only hope is that meena will get a great deal more in paradice than what she had so longed for in this life. we everyone in this world do so, life is too short to be miserable.

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  7. i am sunny from jammu if i could get one more life i will live for her and give her all the love and cearing for which she wept all her life she is mine true love i pray for her peace in grave and heavens above Amin

    ReplyDelete
  8. I really admire the acting of Meena Kumari. Actually the real acting comes when you face the situation of that kind and really she faced every kind of situation which came out in her acting.
    I want to see all the movies of Meena Kumari. Can any one can help me to give address where I can buy all the collection of Meena Kumari either it is Movie,Songs,Books.
    I will be obliged to the kind person.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Please help me for the collection. I will pay the genuine for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  10. SATROOP SINGH COMENTED:- KABHI TO EN MANDEROO PAR CHANND UGA KARTE THEY ASHK AAJ MITII KE DIYE NAHI JALTE
    CONTECT NO.09813742240

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. shabd kam ho jaye lekin inki mahaanta kam nhi ho sakti meena kumari is a great actress of the world

    ReplyDelete
  13. she was in search of selfless love but due to bad luck,she trapped with all selfish people,she cry like a fish(Meena) without water in her entire life.

    ReplyDelete
  14. she was an angel, i am a very big fan of hers. from the time i started to like her, i still go on fasting every 31st of march.

    ReplyDelete
  15. hi,

    i feel very close to meena kumari wen i read abt her maine aaj ek hindi magzin me meena kumari k liye ek articl padha n my eyes are filld wid tears... i want to know her more pls share if u hv anything more abt her............

    ReplyDelete
  16. I am Mahmood from Malaysia. To me, the success of Indian stars of the past were in their uniqueness to be unique. I remember Nanda had to change her image when people started comparing her with Meena Kumari. Indeed, the change worked for Nanda and she stands now in her own genre just as Madhubala, Nargis, Mala Sinha, Sadhana, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman and so many others who remains favourites in our minds till today. What of Meena Kumari? As always, great talents and artistic individuals (in general) are very sensitive. What more with cultural impact amongst families and friends playing significant roles in the embodiment of the person. I highly respect the sense of professionalism that this actress carried, creating very very respected brand name - Meena Kumari; in the film history of your country.

    ReplyDelete
  17. i m vinay sharma from delhi, i m 25 yrs old, i like to watch old movie, and i really happy to see all the comments , ki or bhi hai jo meena kumari ji ko itna pasand karte hai, i like her a lot in movies, specially in dharmendra movies, mei t.v. ke channel badalta rehta hu ki kahi koi purani movie a arahi hogi or mei use dekh saku, yakin karna new movies aap dobara nah dekh sakte, but when u see a old movie sorry not old super old movies , sware u never want to leave, this is only my thinking, but never returns old days, we had only memories, god also busy in seeing old movies so god purane acter actreses ko bula raha hai, so sad, we missed all of heroes and heroines

    ReplyDelete
  18. the ever green actress of the bollywood is/was meena kumari. I dont think that everyone'll forget her.the movie "paakeezah" reflects her beautiful acting and create sympathy in our hearts....................................
    it 'll be correctly said that she died,but her name'll remain in the world till the end...............

    ReplyDelete
  19. She was an extra ordinary talented actress of our film industry.Nobody like her.She is the kohinoor of hindi film industry.I love her so much.

    ReplyDelete
  20. My heart goes out for Meena Kumariji. She lived her life passionately whether it was her work marriage or relationships. She was a self made actress par excellence. She will be loved and never forgotten as a versatile actress and a very sensitive and selfless graceful and extremely beautiful lady with a royal touch by her relatives and friends. Rebecca Rebello

    ReplyDelete
  21. Im d big fan of Meena Kumari i love her a lot its very sad that she is no more but she will be in my heart forever. Everyone know that she married a much older man she did not see his age or physical appearance but she saw his inner beauty. She could have got a very handsome goodl looking man as her life partner but we could imagine how nice she was that for a single man who betrayed her she lost everything she lost her life. She wanted only love but she didnt get she wanted to be a mother but her husband didnt want child from her because she didnt belong to Syed family then y did he marry her. She sacrificed her life for love she had everything in her life name fame but not love. In her death bed she told her elder sister i don't want to die it made me cry when i read it for the first time even today i cry for her. May God keep her in Paradise because she deserves it. May her soul rest in peace (Ameen )

    ReplyDelete

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