Meena Kumari is known as the “tragedy queen of Bollywood“, a tag she never wanted but got associated with her. A family that pushed her to showbiz, a successful career but a failed marriage, a love life that went nowhere and alcoholism at the end. Meena Kumari’s life had no glamour if you look closely, and she died at a very young age.
Like many of her contemporaries, Meena Kumari also born into a Muslim family and started her career as child artist (Nargis, Madhubala etc. also started their character as child artist).
- Love story of Nargis Dutt
- Love Story and sad ending of Madhubala
- The failed live story of Suraiya and Dev Anand
Meena Kumari Early Life
When was Meena Kumari born
Born on 1st August,1932 in a very non fancy chawl in Dadar, Mumbai called “Meetawala Chawl”. Master Ali Bux though shifted her wife Iqbal Begum to the maternity ward of Dr Gadre’s hospital in Parel where she delivered the beautiful Mahjabeen Bano and returned home after 7 days. Mahjabeen had two more sisters named Khurshid and Madhu (one elder and one younger).
Her father was born and brought up in a village called Bhera in Sargodha District of Punjab( now in Pakistan). He had a keen interest in music and started playing harmonium which was one of the most prominent instrument in music those days. Becoming popular as a harmonium player he was then addressed as Master in his village by many and thus he carried this adjective to his name for lifetime.
Ali Bux married a girl from near by village. He became father of three girls but he felt content in his village as there was little hope of development . He thought of moving bigger city to achieve something in life and thus migrated to Bombay (Mumbai was called Bombay that time) leaving behind his wife and daughters.
While playing harmonium for the Krishna music company in Bombay he got attracted to a dancer called Prabhabati who was a Bengali Christian who had family roots to Rabindra Nath Tagore (Prabhabati’s mother was niece of Rabindra Nath Tagore who later converted). Both got married and Prabhabati was converted to Islam and her new name was Iqbal Begum.
In 1935 Mahjabeen’s whole family moved to Lahore for one year as he caught a disease that was hard to recognize and doctors asked him to take rest. After return to Bombay their mother Iqbal caught with a lung infection which forced her to leave her acting and dancing career.
Mahjabeen/Menna Kumari elder sister used to work as a child artist in those days but the income was not sufficient for the family. So Ali Bux thought also started looking for work for his second daughter and eventually he succeeded when Vijay Bhatt gave her a small role in his movie and then there was no looking back. It was Vijay Bhatt who gave her the screen name “Baby Meena”.
Meena damaged her pinky finger of left hand in her childhood but gracefully managed to hide it in her movies.
Meena Kumari Career and films
It was 1946 and baby Meena is now considerably grown up for a child artist. She got her kind of first adult role in Bachchon Ka Khel.
Slowly and steadily she was establishing herself in Hindi Cinema but in meantime in 1947 she lost her mother. They have moved to their new house at Chapel Road, Bandra from the chawl in Dadar.
By the end of 1950, Meena Kumari had signed Kamal Amrohi’s picture Anarkali. Initially, Kamal had chosen Madhubala for this role, but later Madhubala refused to work in this film. It is said that she wanted Dilip Kumar as the hero of this film, but it could not happen, so she refused to work with it. And some people also say that the relationship between Kamal Amrohi and Madhubala’s father was not very good, so he refused to do this film.
Although Nargis was a big star during the 1950s, she mostly worked in RK films. Madhubala refused to do this picture and Suraiya stopped taking more work. So Meena Kumari was the best option left for the makers.
But in May, 1951 Meena Kumari met with an accident that left her bed ridden for four months and this was the period she developed an affair with Kamal Amrohi.
The move Anarkali could not be completed as its producer lost a heavy chunk of his money in the Share market. But Meena Kumari signed two other movies in the meantime, Footpath and Baiju Bawra.
She won the “Best Actress” award in the first Filmfare Awards in 1954 for her role in “Baiju Bawara”. Also, music director Naushad won “Best Music” award for the movie.
The success of Baiju Bawara established her as a star to reckon. Meena Kumari appeared in seventy-seven movies in her career that was spanned more than three decades.
In 1962 one of her best movie released (Saheb Biwi aur Gulam) and also see it was the peak time in her career. In 1963 filmfare awards she made a history with all performance nominated for best actress belonged to her. Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam with Guru Dutt, Mein Chup Rahungi with Sunil Dutt and Aarti with Ashok Kumar.
In 1972 Pakeezah became the last movie that was released when she was alive, though battling with life. Initially, the film did not do anything special, but when the news of Meena Kumari’s death spread across the country, people thronged the film hall and Pakeezah proved to be a superhit film.
After her death, only one film was released which was Gomti Ke Kinare and this was credited as her last movie to be released.
Her Love affair and marriage
On 21st May 1951, Meena Kumari met with a road accident when returning from Mahabaleswar in which she suffered many injuries, and she was lying in the hospital for 4 months. Kamal Amrohi used to visit Meena Kumari during this time in Poona’s hospital. It is said that this was the time when both came closer to each other, and love started between the two. However, Kamal Amrohi was married at that time and had three sons. But all this could not become a wall between the love of Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi, and both of them came closer to each other.
Meena Kumari used call Kamal Amrohi “Chandan” and Amrohi used to call her “Manju” with love.
When Meena Kumari was discharged from the hospital, both kept talking on the phone till late at night. The love between the two grew, and in 1952, both of them quietly got married. Both wanted to keep this thing hidden from the world. This was known to one of Kamal Amrohi’s friends, the Kazi who got them married, and Meena Kumari’s younger sister Madhu.
Meena Kumari wanted to keep her marriage hidden from her father, but her father came to know. And there was a lot of fight between them regarding the marriage, and her father had even told Meena Kumari to immediately divorce Kamal Amrohi. But Meena Kumari was not ready for this.
Although father and daughter used to fight a lot about this matter, Meena Kumari did not leave her father’s house. In 1953, Kamal Amrohi made a film in which he had asked Meena Kumari for the lead role, and Meena Kumari also said yes to the offer.
But this was not acceptable to her father. So he tried to pressure Meena Kumari and asked her not to work in Amrohi’s film. But she did not listen to him and reached the shooting of Amrohi’s film. When her father came to know about this, then one day (on 14th August 1953), when Meena Kumari returned from shooting, her father refused to open the door of the house. So on that day, Meena Kumari left her house and went to Kamal Amrohi’s house.
Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari even made a movie called Daaera in 1953 which was based on their love story but the movie did not do that well on box office.
The initial years were fine, and the couple were happy. Gradually, the sourness in the relationship between both of them increased, and the distance also increased. And by 1964, the distance increased so much that Meena Kumari left her husband’s house. She spent a few days at her friend’s house and then she moved to the house of famous comedian Mehmood, who was her younger sister’s husband. She spent about 5 months at Mehmood’s house, and after that, she shifted to her new house.
During this Meena Kumari had started drinking alcohol or rather she was now addicted to alcohol. Though Meena Kumari stayed with her husband for 11 long years but they had no children.
Dharmendra and Meena Kumari
Dharmendra was a newcomer to Hindi cinema then and Meena Kumari was an established star then. The first movie of both was Poornima which was released in 1965. But this film did not do that well at the box office. The second film of both was Kajal but Dharmendra was the second lead in this film while Rajkumar was in the first lead.
Both appeared in more than 5 movies. At that time, many print media published the news that Dharmendra and Meena Kumari have a love relationship. Vinod Mehta, who wrote the biography of Meena Kumari, has also written in his book that there was a relationship of love between the two. However, Dharmendra has denied this in many of his interviews and said that Meena Kumari was like his mentor and was also a big reason for his success in his career.
Meena Kumari’s health and death
Meena Kumari had a sleep disorder that is insomnia, due to which the doctor advised her to sleep after drinking a peg of brandy. But this one peg brandy turned into a bottle. Slowly Meena Kumari became addicted to alcohol and after she left her husband’s house, her acquaintances say that she had started drinking even during the day. Because of this, her liver started getting affected and she started getting sick often.
In 1968, when she fell very ill, after the doctor’s advice, her close friend took her to London for better treatment. There she got her treatment and stayed there for a few months. And when her health got better, she came back to India.
She completed some of her assignments and took some new assignments, including Mere Apne, Gomti Ke Kinare, and Pakeezah. Pakeezah was something her husband Kamal Amrohi and she planned long ago when they were together. Finally, they started Pakeezah after she returned from London and completed it.
In an interview, Gomti Ke Kinare director and writer Saawan Kumar Tak said that he used to be with her in Meen Kumari’s last days and saw her in pain. He even claimed that the duo had a spiritual relation. He even said that she helped him financially with the movie. She sold her bungalow to actress Mumtaz and gave him 150000 Rupees.
The movie was released in February 1972 and was not a hit among the mass. Due to her prolonged liver disease, which got serious, Meena Kumari got admitted to St Elizabeth’s Nursing Home in Malabar Hill on 27th March 1972.
At the last moment, when the doctor advised Meena Kumari to shift to the hospital, Meena Kumari wondered how she would pay such a huge hospital bill because she had only Rs 100 left at that time. Then she asked her elder sister Khurshid to call her producer with whom Meena Kumari had worked and some money was owed to her. Her elder sister immediately called up the producer and the producer too, showing sincerity, immediately sent the money to Meena Kumari’s house.
On 31st March, she died, and as soon as the news reached her fans, the emotion brought them to the cinema hall. The usually empty shows were jam-packed. Theatres even saw advance booking.
It took her life to make Pakeezah one of the cult movies of Indian cinema.
Meena Kumari Filmography
|Sl No||Movie Name||Year|
|4||Ek Hi Bhool||1940|
|12||Duniya Ek Sarai||1946|
|13||Bachchon Ka Khel||1946|
|14||Piya Ghar Aaja||1947|
|17||Shri Ganesh Mahima||1950|
|23||Hanuman Patal Vijay||1951|
|26||Aladdin Aur Jadui Chirag||1952|
|30||Do Bigha Zamin||1953|
|41||Ek Hi Raasta||1956|
|58||Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan||1959|
|59||Char Dil Char Rahen||1959|
|61||Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai||1960|
|63||Zindagi aur Khwab||1961|
|64||Pyaar Ka Saagar||1961|
|65||Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan||1961|
|66||Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam||1962|
|67||Main Chup Rahungi||1962|
|70||Dil Ek Mandir||1963|
|71||Akeli Mat Jaiyo||1963|
|73||Main Bhi Ladki Hoon||1964|
|74||Sanjh Aur Savera||1964|
|80||Phool Aur Patthar||1966|
|81||Pinjre Ke Panchhi||1966|
|84||Chandan Ka Palna||1967|
|86||Baharon Ki Manzil||1968|
|93||Gomti Ke Kinare||1972|
At what age Meena Kumari died?
Meena Kumari died at the age of 38 years and 7 months of age.
Who is Meena Kumari daughter?
Meena Kumari did not have any children.
What was Meena Kumari last movie?
Gomti Ke Kinare was the last movie of Meena Kumari.
Where is Meena Kumari buried?
She is buried near her father and mother grave at Rehmatabad Graveyard in Mumbai.
Who is Meena Kumari husband?
Kamal Amrohi was the husband of Meena ji. Both got married in 1953 secretly.