Sometime back internet got flooded with these stunning and candid photographs of Madhubala (search the net in case you didn't get them somehow). If earlier one thought Madhubala was a beautiful actress of yesteryears, everyone said it, you believed it, and now suddenly, even without asking for it you had this maddening proof of her beauty. Madhubala looks brimming with life in these images, enchanting, yet human and not a screen goddess, a beauty more basic and all the more powerful.
Who captured this beauty on camera? When? Which year?
Everyone was clueless even as these shared and uploaded and emailed and liked it on social networks.
Queries were raised but no answer. This was another quest.
The photographs were shot in November 1941 by famous photographer James Burke for Life Magazine. The answer is so obvious that I now believe that whoever first shared these photographs, deliberately, just for fun, left out the name of the photographer.
How I arrived at the name? Sometime back, even before the 'Madhubala rare pics' flooded the net, while looking for the famous Time magazine cover with Parveen Babi , at google books I came across a stunning color photograph of an Indian actress in 31 Dec 1951 issue of LIFE about Asia.
|Begum Para in Life Magazine|
The actress was Begum Para. Film journals of late 40s and early 50s were full of 'bust' talk about her. She was supposed to be 'sex-symbol' of her era. The caption to that photograph (above) mentioned how she 'drew favorable comparisons with Jane Russell' of The Outlaw fame. I thought of doing a post about it and then forgot.
Recently, when I again came across those rare B&W photographs of Madhubala, I noticed that this collection actually had one color photograph of Madhubala too, and obliviously from the same shoot.
I now had a name to look for. And I had a publication to look in. A publication whose almost entire archive is available online.
I Image searched Google with James+Burke+source:life and one of the results was:
A Match. November 1941. James Burke. But the image was used in 1951 issue. Difference of a good decade. The caption to that image mentioned that Para was 24 at that time. Born in around 1927 (figured out via: Outlook article about her move to Pakistan and then back to India mentions that in 1974 she was 47) indeed in 1951 she would have been 24. So the photograph was taken in 1951. The photograph did not directly give out her name, it was simply titled 'Movie Queens'
Among of the result images for Movie+Queens+source:life, I found a treasure chest (no pun intended), and I got some of the images from that rare Madhubala shoot. Some like:
|Madhubala in front of mirror.|
|Begum Para by James Burke, 1951. So this is what they were writing about.|
You can check out the entire collection here:
A little over a decade later, Burke returned in 1963 to capture the reigning movie queen of India at that time: Asha Parekh.
|Asha Parekh by James Burke, 1963|
You can check out the 1963 collection here: