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Golden girl of the silver screen

Madhubala has been described as the most bewitching beauty to grace the silver screen and someone whose legend lives on even today, 42 years after her untimely death in 1969 at the age of 36.

books Updated: May 26, 2011 10:49 IST
Pankaj Vohra

I Want to Live: The Story of Madhubala
Khatija Akbar
Hay House
Rs399 pp 261

Madhubala has been described as the most bewitching beauty to grace the silver screen and someone whose legend lives on even today, 42 years after her untimely death in 1969 at the age of 36. She was an actress whose subtle sensuality and dazzling personality not only charmed her co-stars but also prompted her huge fan following to call her Venus, the greek goddess of beauty and love.

Khatija Akbar, based on painstaking research work and meetings with those who knew Madhubala, has produced an excellent account of the late actress which should be a part of every cinema lover’s collection.

The book captures the personality of this vivacious, versatile and talented actress and narrates how she floored her co-stars like Shammi Kapoor and Dilip Kumar. Her break up with the latter and the circumstances leading to it have been captured with immense sensitivity. On page 127, there is a mention of the only time Kumar spoke about his former co-star in a Filmfare feature on ‘Unforgettable Faces’.

According to Kumar, “Madhubala’s beauty was so overpowering that in paying homage to it people have missed out on a lot of her other attributes. Of course she was beautiful, though I don’t think hers was a perfectly chiseled face. She had an accentuated nose, though it didn’t take away from the totality of her beauty… As an actress, her greatest asset was her spontaneity. She’d appear casual, totally unassuming until the moment she’d suddenly come alive… Mughal-e-Azam immortalised the Madhubala visage’’.

The book also talks about Madhubala’s “only one friend” Sarla, actor Bharat Bhushan’s wife with whom the late actress shared a close relationship. The two would meet often and go out together.

The author also brings out well how a young Shammi Kapoor was totally smitten by the Diva and was unable to focus on his work. It is mentioned that he was so lovelorn that in a besotted condition, he would weep in front of his mother, hoping she would find a way to get him married to this paragon of beauty, only to be reminded that such a union was out of the question since Madhubala was a Muslim, With Dev Anand, she acted in the maximum number of films and they were the “Adonis and Venus of the Indian screen’’. The imaginatively picturised ‘Achaji mein haari chalo maan jao na’ from Kalapani showed Madhubala at her best in terms of expressing different emotions.

Of course, audiences also saw her portray different roles opposite many lead actors. But some of her shots from Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, Barsaat ki Raat and Mughal-e-Azam will always remain etched in the minds of cine lovers.

Dev Anand once told me that Madhubala’s sensuality and presence could overawe anyone and that many actors used to forget what they had to say in her presence. Her laughter brought enormous joy and her mischievous look was most seductive.

The book is a must read for cinegoers and all fans of this actress whose “aura has not dimmed with the passage of time”.