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.


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


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.


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.

The book finally got re-published in August 2013.

Buy Vinod Mehta's Meena Kumari from

Political Science “made easy”

We in India have a magic pill for the pains that one has to suffer while undergoing process of education. This "magic pill" is usually called a “guide” or a “made easy” and whole lot of other names though out India. Name might be different, but we know what it is. We know where to find it and when to buy it, at what cost to buy it and at what rate to sell it.

Like a laxative it works, only it helps in passing exams but sometimes it works like an anacathartic pill too, helping to vomit out crammed up undigested-hence poisonous-stuff. The concoctions that go into these pills are made by unknown quakes and at sometime by hacks who like to make a name and a lot of money for themselves.

Sham Lal in his essay titled Slums of the Mind, written way back in 1988 and first published in The Times of India, revealed the secret ingredients that go into making of a “made easies”. Sham Lal shred to tears a “made easy” prescribed for modern political theory course covering both BA (Pass) and BA (Hons.) to students in Delhi.

Here are some of the gems from the “emulgated mind” of the writer of the “made easy”, a certain Mr. Yog Raj. The essay was written way back in 1988, things are no today. These Mr.Yog Rajs are still in business and the generation that grew up on “made easies” is running the wheels of the nation.

Sham Lal tells us that the preface of the book reads, “the distinguishing feature of this book is the clarity of thought and expression”.

Sham Lal read some random pages and here is what he found to his distress.

Hobbes: The parties to the contract are natural men. The parties are not groups or (sic) any sort and into (sic) any superior or sovereign authority (sic). The superior or the sovereign is the result (sic) of the pact and existed to that (sic).

Locke: His sovereign is party to a contract. He has given supreme power to the community and says that the public will of the society to which the member owe allegiance (sic).

Rousseau: He says that the state of nature was disturbed because property entered in the society like a serpent, bite the whole society (sic).

Adam Smith: The sovereign is completely discharged from superintending the industry of the private people (sic).

Karl Marx: He considers democracy necessary for establishment of dictatorship of the proletariats (sic).

John Stuart Mill: He has considered representative government as a super-government (sic). In order to remove the defects of majority rule he introduced proportional representation system…In this way he pleaded for not only external pleasure (sic) rather than internal sanctions and conscience (sic)

Jeremy Bentham: Legislators have right to ignore the happiness of the people (sic)…Individual himself is capable of exercising moral judgment.

The author also has some other gems up his sleeves.

Democracy: It will never die. It is a continuous (sic) system which has its roots in the native of community (sic).”

Liberalism: It is not conservative theory. It is not synonym of individuality. It is not only democracy. It emulgates (sic) many ideas.

Quite a read for the "emulgated minds".

The students, who must have written these explanations in their examination paper, must have passed, without a doubt. The magic pill always works. That's why it is a bloody magic pill!

A Second-hand Bookshop by John Arlott

A Second-hand Bookshop

The sunlight filters through the panes

Of book-shop windows, pockmarked grey

By years of grimy city rains,

And falls in mild, dust-laden ray

Across the stock, in shelf and stack,

Of this old bookshop-man who brought,

To a shabby shop in a cul-de-sac,

Three hundred years of print and thought.

Like a cloak hangs the bookshop smell,

Soothing, unique and reminding:

The book-collector knows its spell,

Subtle hints of books and binding

In the fine, black bookshop dust

Paper, printer's-ink and leather,

Binder's-glue and paper-rust

And time, all mixed together.

`Blake's Poems, Sir-ah, yes, I know,

Bohn did it in the old black binding,

In '83.' Then shuffles slow

To scan his shelves, intent on finding

This book of songs he has not heard,

With that deaf searcher's hopeful frown

Who knows the nightingale a bird

With Feathers grey and reddish-brown.

by John Arlott
Found it in the Book:
Last Liberal and Other Essays by Ramachandra Guha

Parveen Babi: Half woman and Half Dream

Oh woman, you are half woman and half dream.
~Rabindranath Tagore, The Gardener


I was surprised. The most beautiful and seductive actress of Bombay film world! She lived alone in her bachelor apartment and has had a series of sensational love affairs. She had never learned to act but was sought after by producers for her glamour. At the peak of her career she had suddenly disappeared leaving behind many films unfinished, ruining the producers. Later, people learnt that she was washing dishes in a New York restaurant. After two years, healed of her wild and crazy actions, she retured to Bombay. The film industry embraced her and she became a star once again.
I first met her in 1981 at a party at Sanjay Khan’s ― the flamboyant film producer-actor-director. As she walked in, a warm wave ran through the party. She smiled and shook hands with everyone. She told me that she had read my novel and invited me over for a cup of coffee to her apartment.
When I went to see her, she was in her nightie, her long black hair tousled. She sat on a cushion places over a straw mat and lighted a cigarette. During the conversation on art, literature, films, I asked her way she had disappeared. “I was ill…a different kind of illness,” she said. “ I couldn’t help my actions. I tried to control myself but a surging wave overtook me. Another force, another being, with a superior will. I was in grip of that superior being, my Double…a superior Parveen Babi who commanded me. But now I’m all right. I love to work in films. I am grateful to my producers. Why don’t you come to my shooting tomorrow?”
The next day I watched her on the sets of a dance-action film. She wore shiny kne-hish leather boots, black short with a silver and gold fringe, and black leather boots, a jacket studded with metal buttons and chains.

It was evening. I sat in the wicker chair in my courtyard. My mind was in a haze…Everything was changing…I saw my face in the mirror while shaving. It was the face of an alien…a different man…the beautiful Parveen Babi had become enormously fat…her glossy hair ratty and snarled, her face ballooned, abnormal. The DOUBLE had taken over. Everything had changed. Communism had committed hara-kiri in Russia. Lenin’s tall statue pulled down by a noose around his neck…Impossible…Impossible! Thirty years ago in a heated discussion with writers in this very room I had laughed at the word ‘impossible’. Everything was possible. Life was moving…changing tracks…heading towards a blind alley.
Passages from Purple Moonlight by Balwant Gargi.
Image: Parveen Babi in bikini is from 1982 film yeh nazdeekiyan directed by Vinod Pande. Vinod Pande is the maker of movies like Sins and a more recent C-Grade flick Red Swastik

Madhuri Dixit posted to The Roof of the World

Maduri Dixit
Sections of Lingkhor, Lhasa’s outer pilgrims’ walk with its shrines and temples, were the new red-light district. Literally hundreds of brothels, each with a blue glass front and a curtain across the door, lined the route. Chinese hookers, mainly from Sichuan and Qinghai, sat in the doorways knitting or combing their hair. Posters of Indian movie stars were stuck to the windows to give a sense of foreign glamour, the most popular draw being the luscious Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit.

Patrick French writing in “Tibet, Tibet: a personal history of a lost land”, page 219

Allama Iqbal and Gita

“I regret that it is impossible to render the melody of the Sanskrit words into Urdu language. If time permits, I have decided to translate the Gita into Urdu. You must have seen the Persian translation of the Gita, rendered by Faizi. Nobody can deny the excellence of his writing. But I think that while translating the Gita, he has not done proper justice to its content and style. I am clear in my mind that Faizi has failed to understand the sprit of the Gita.”

Allama Iqbal, in a letter dated 11th October, 1921 to Maharaja Kishan Prashad, writing about his wish to translate Gita. Maharaja Kishan Prashad was the Prime Minister of Hyderabad in the court of Nizam. He wrote a book, Matam-e-Husain, about Imam Hussain

Also read about Iqbal's view about Sri Krishna

Lines penned by Bahadur Shah Zafar (along with Urdu to English translation)

Bahadur Shah Zafar, Last Mughal Emperor and a Poet

Umr-e- daraaz se maang ke laye the char din
Do aarzu mein guzar gaye, do intezaar mein
Hai kitna badnaseeb Zafar dafn ke liye
Do gaz zameen bhi na mili koo-e-yaar mein

(I had requested for a long life a life of four days
Two passed by in pining, and two in waiting
How unlucky is Zafar! For burial
Even two yards of land were not to be had, in
The land (of the) beloved.)

Na kisii kii ankh ka nur hun na kisii ke dil ka qarar hun
Jo kisii ke kam na a sake main vo ek mushat-e- Gubar hun
Na to main kissi ka habiib hun na to main kisii ka raqiib hun
Jo bigar gaya vo nasiib hun jo ujar gaya vo dayar hun

(My life gives no ray of light, I bring no solace to heart or eye
Out of dust to dust again, of no use to anyone am I
Barred the door of fate for me, bereft of my dear ones am I
The spring of a flower garden ruined
Alas, my autumn wing am I)

Hamane duniyaa mein aake kyaa dekhaa
Gekhaa jo kuch so Khvaab-saa dekhaa
Haa to insaan Khaak kaa putalaa
Lekin paanii kaa bulbulaa dekhaa

(I came into the world and what did I see?
Whatever I saw was just like a dream.
Man is moulded from clay but
I saw him as a bubble of water.)

Found these in Hindustan Times dated 24th October, 2007
(Here are some more from the book, Masterpieces of Urdu Rabalyat By K.C. Kanda. Translation by the author.)

Dil hai wohi pasand jo tujh pe fida rahe,
Jaan hai wohi aziz jo tujh par nisaar ho,
Hun khaak-e-raah uska, par aisa na ho Zafar,
Mera gubaar khaatir-e-naazuk pe baar ho.

(That heart alone is dear which delights in you,
That life is dearly prized which is pledged to you,
Albeit I’m the way-side dust,but, Zafar, I fear,
Lest this dust too heavily lies on that delicate shrew.)

Aae tum is dum ke jis dum aa gaya aankhon meain dum,
Main ne dekha bhi na tum ko meri jaan achhi tarah,
Itni bhi fursat na di hum ko falak ne, ai Zafar,
Karte is kuche mein hum aah-o-fughaan achhi tarah.

(You arrived when I’d well-nigh breathed my last,
I couldn’t even gaze at you, or please my heart;
I wasn’t allowed to cry at length in this terrestrial lane,
The lease of life given to me was, indeed, too short.)

Itna na apne jaame se baahar nikal ke chal,
Duniya hai chal chaalaao ka rasta sambhal ke chal;
Kya chal sakega hum se ke pahchaante hain hum,
Tu laakh apni chaal ko zaalim badal ke chal.

(Don’t outstrip your limits, keep thy self-control,
In this ever-shifting world, warily should you stroll;
You can’t outsmart us, we know you through and through,
You may change and change your gait, you can’t change your goal.)

Kahan who maha jabeen aur hum, kahan who wasal ki raaten,
Magar hum ne kabhi tha ek yeh bhi khwaab saa dekha,
Zafar, ki sair is gulshan mein hum ne par kisi gul mein,
Na kuchh ulfat ki boo paai, na kuchh rang-e-wafa dekha.

(Whither I, whither my moon, and whither those nights of love?
But to see such a dream had once been my fate;
Athough, Zafar, I combed the garden, I didn’t see one bloom,
Breathing scent of love, reflecting hues of faith.)

Sozish-e-dil ko hain kya khaak bujhaate meri,
Mujh ko ruswaa-e-jahan deeda-e-tar katte hain,
Aatish-e-ishq se ur jaaen samunder ke hawaas,
Yeh hameen hain ke jo is aag mein ghar karte hain.

(My streaming eyes can only bring public disgrace,
Impotent are they to quench internal fire;
With the heat of love, oceans vaporize,
I alone can bide in the heart of fire.)

Kitne hi ban ke shahr ke aur gaon ke nishaan,
Yoon mit gaye zameen pe ke yoon paon ke nishaan,
Gar nakhal-e-khushk koi kahin rah gaya, Zafar,
Paae na uske paaon tale chhaaon ke nishaa.

(Many a mark of town and village, many a mark of waste,
Have faded like the foot-prints from the earth’s face,
It at all a withered trunk, somewhere you espy,
In vain you may look beneath for a trace of shade.)

Sketch of Bahadur Shah Zafar II, The Last Mughal Emperor

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