On Madhubala’s birthday, her star-crossed romance with Dilip Kumar and why it ended in heartbreak
Madhubala was a screen goddess like none other; her beauty, dazzling smile and bewitching persona was stuff of legends. She achieved success others could only dream of but her love life was far removed from her screen life.Updated: Feb 14, 2020 11:54 IST
Had legendary Hindi film actor Madhubala been alive today, she would have turned 87 on February 14. The actor died at a young age of 36 but left behind a legacy that few can manage to this day. Even today, the benchmark of beauty and grace in Bollywood is Madhubala.
Yet for someone so beautiful and successful, her personal life was dotted with remorse, illness and heartbreaks. She was born with a congenital heart disease, Ventricular Septal Defect, which loosely translates to ‘hole in the heart’. In simple terms, it meant that her body would produce more blood than necessary and it would spill out of her mouth and nose.
Despite ill health, which was discovered in 1954, she found love. Sadly, she also lost it soon. Though she married singer Kishore Kumar and reportedly had other dalliances before, the love of her life was thespian Dilip Kumar. The two met as co-stars in the 1951 film Tarana. She was vivacious, he inherently shy — sparks had to fly. They fell in love.
Speaking about it in his autobiography, Dilip Kumar: The Substance and The Shadow, Times Now, had quoted him as saying: “Was I in love with Madhubala as the newspapers and magazines reported at that time? As an answer to this oft-repeated question straight from the horse’s mouth, I must admit that I was attracted to her both as a fine co-star and as a person who had some of the attributes I hoped to find in a woman at that age and time. We had viewers admiring our pairing in Tarana and our working relationship was warm and cordial. She, as I said earlier, was very sprightly and vivacious and, as such, she could draw me out of my shyness and reticence effortlessly. She filled a void that was crying out to be filled — not by an intellectually sharp woman but a spirited woman whose liveliness and charm were the ideal panacea for the wound that was taking its own time to heal.”
Soon they were inseparable. Their relationship continued for nine years; they even got engaged. Confirming it, Madhubala’s sister Madhur Bhushan had told Filmfare, “Apa first fell in love with Premnath. The relationship lasted six months. It broke on grounds of religion. He asked her to convert and she refused. The next relationship was with Dilip Kumar. She met Bhaijan (Dilip Kumar) on the sets of Tarana. They later worked in Sangdil, Amar and Mughal-e-Azam. It was a nine year long affair. They even got engaged.”
By 1956-57, however, the relationship ended. The final nail in the coffin was the Naya Daur court case, when Dilip Kumar testified for director BR Chopra against Madhubala and her father.
But was Madhubala’s father Ataullah Khan really against the match? Far from it. Elaborating about it, Dilip explained in his book that it was his desire to make a business venture out of a proposed marriage that proved to be the undoing.
He said in his book, “I sensed Asif was seriously trying to mend the situation for her when matters began to sour between us, thanks to her father’s attempt to make the proposed marriage a business venture. The outcome was that half way through the production of Mughal-e-Azam, we were not even talking to each other. The classic scene with the feather coming between our lips, which set a million imaginations on fire, was shot when we had completely stopped even greeting each other. It should, in all fairness, go down in the annals of film history as a tribute to the artistry of two professionally committed actors who kept aside personal differences and fulfilled the director’s vision of a sensitive, arresting and sensuous screen moment to perfection.”
In his book, Dilip has painstakingly explained how he did his best to make Madhubala understand that both of them as artists should keep their professional and personal lives separate. Times of India, quoting him from his book, has written, “Contrary to popular notions, her father, Ataullah Khan was not opposed to her marrying me. He had his own production company and he was only too glad to have two stars under the same roof. Had I not seen the whole business from my own point of view, it would have been just what he wanted, that is, Dilip Kumar and Madhubala holding hands and singing duets in his productions till the end of our careers. When I learned about his plans from Madhu, I explained to both of them that I had my own way of functioning and selecting projects and I would not show any laxity even if it were my own production house. It must have tilted the apple cart for him and he successfully convince Madhu that I was being rude and presumptuous. I told her in all sincerity and honesty that I did not mean any offence and it was in her interest and mine as artistes to keep out professional options away from any personal considerations. She was naturally inclined to agree with her father and she persisted in trying to convince me that it would all be sorted out once we married.”
“My instincts, however, predicted a situation in my career would be blown away by a hapeless surrender to someone else’s dictates and strategies. I had many upfront discussions with her father and she, not surprisingly, remained neutral and unmoved by my dilemma.”
Despite all the bitterness between them, their love for each other was still willing to overcome it all. However, it was possibly their egos that meant that the two couldn’t marry. Her sister Madhur, in the said Filmfare report, mentioned that during phone conversations, he would tell her to leave her father and she would insist that he apologise to her dad. “They had conversations on the phone trying to patch up. He kept saying, ‘Leave your father and I’ll marry you’. She’d say, ‘I’ll marry you but just come home, say sorry and hug him’.”
Madhubala’s heart condition was discovered in 1954, when she was shooting for Bahut Din Huwe in Chennai (which was Madras then). This was before open heart surgeries were possible. She continued working but she was fighting a losing battle against her disease. Her end came on February 23, 1969.
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