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Madhubala: Heart copy

Bollywood is full of beautiful women. But if you were to ask the mirror who is the loveliest of them all, it would undoubtedly murmur, “Madhubala.” Roshmila Bhattacharya tells more.

entertainment Updated: Mar 09, 2009 20:52 IST
Roshmila Bhattacharya

Today is Woman’s Day. And Bollywood is full of beautiful women. But if you were to ask the mirror who is the loveliest of them all, it would undoubtedly murmur, “Madhubala.”

For two decades she reigned as the Venus of our silver screen. But she had been dead for almost a quarter of a century when, as a newbee reporter, I landed the unenviable task of unearthing little known details about her. And only then realised that there are few who don’t know Madubala.. and few who really do. <b1>

Her sisters wouldn’t speak about their apa. “There have been too many scandals about her. We don’t talk to the press,” I was told brusquely.

Laugh out loud
But bad man Ajeet was coaxed into sharing memories of his de facto bahen. They had met on the sets of Beqasoor and Ajeet recalled how a snoring pehalwan on the sets had turned her almost hysterical.

“She was laughing so hard that she had to leave the set. She was always bursting into peals of laughter at the slightest provocation,” he smiled, as we turned the pages of a dusty album.

Similar fits of laughter during an intense moment in Neelkamal had earned her a frowning reprimand from the director, Kidar Sharma. <b2>

“But Madhu just wouldn’t get serious. So finally, I sat her down and quoted a few lines from the Bhagwad Gita to explain the significance of the scene. Radha’s words to Krishna, ‘Radha ko na tarsa Shyam pachhtayega, nain chhalak aaye to Govardhan beh jayega’ moved her to tears,” Sharma narrated, as I prodded him to speak about his protégé, the girl he had sold his house and a plot of land to launch in Neelkamal.

Mughal obsession
The laughter died up after Madhubala broke off with Dilip Kumar following his appearance in court when he gave evidence against her in the Naya Daur case.

During Mughal-e-Azam, Ajeet admitted that she was a broken woman who was obsessed with proving that she was the best Anarkali Indian cinema had ever seen.

For 10 years she battled illness.. she kept the pain in her heart bottled up inside. The agony lent intensity to her performance and K Asif’s Mughal dream, finally released in 1960, immortalised her.

Will you marry me?
A hole had been detected in her heart and she knew she would die soon. Before that happened, she wanted to be someone’s wife. She had proposed to Kishore Kumar, two years earlier, on the sets of Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi.

He was a lonely man after his split with his first wife Ruma Devi who had returned to Kolkata with their child, Amit Kumar. Kishore agreed to marry Madhubala knowing that they could never enjoy a normal married life because she had been detected with a hole in her heart.

No miracles
After the wedding, Kishore flew her down to London hoping for a miracle. “The doctor gave her a year at the most. He died.. she lived on for another eight years,” I was informed by Ashok Kumar who had known Madubala since she was the six-year-old Baby Mumtaz.

After Mughal-e-Azam, her health deteriorated rapidly. She couldn’t go out or climb stairs. After a while she shifted back to her father’s house.

There were rumours of serious differences with Kishore Kumar but Aloke Dasgupta, the cinematographer of Chalti Ka Naaam Gaadi, insisted that her husband visited her everyday for two-three hours.

“It broke his heart to sit by her bedside and helplessly watch her slip away. Kishore never got home before 11 p m and often stayed up all night,” Dasgupta told me.

Love letter
During those last years, her mentor, Kidar Sharma, was surprised by a visit from Madhubala’s father. Ataullah Khan came bearing a love letter from his daughter. “I was shocked because our relationship had always been platonic,” Sharma reminisced. “Madhu started the letter expressing her regard for me. She ended it with the request that I dedicate the lines, Radha ko na tarsao, to her.”

Sharma promised her father that he would never use the lines again on screen. Soon after Madhubala died. The end came on February 23, 1969.. she was only 36.

Her husband poured his heart out in Koi humdum na raha koi sahara na raha, hum kissi ke na rahe, koi hamara na raha. There never was a more beautiful Anarkali.