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Meena Kumari Biography

Meena Kumari Biography

Have you ever thought of an intense artistic persona, who mirrored the deep sorrow and grief of her life in her films? Well whatever you must have thought, it's definitely Meena Kumari, the 'Tragedy Queen' of Bollywood. The industry has produced quite a number of well acclaimed and super talented artists and Meena Kumari holds one of the top positions amongst them. Born as Mahjabeen Bano on 1st August 1932, her career in the industry is the most worth remembering till date.

She has the credit of doing ninety films throughout her career apart from being an Urdu poetess. Her films are considered as one of the classics from Bollywood's "Golden Era".

She was the youngest daughter of artist Ali Baksh, who used to work at the Parsi Theatre, played harmonium, and was also an Urdu poet. Ali Baksh had also played some roles, such as the ones in 'Idd Ka Chand' apart from doing music composition for 'Shahi Lutera'. She was his third daughter and had two elder sisters. She was born to Ali Baksh's second wife Iqbal Begum, who was a stage actress and a dancer before her marriage. It is said that when Meena was born, her parents had no money to pay to the doctor, for which they had to leave her to a Muslim orphanage for a couple of hours, before taking her back.

As Meena's father was an artist himself, her mother too urged him to get her into films. However, she was totally unwilling to work in films and wanted to attend school like other children. As a child artist, she worked in films such as 'Farzand-e-Watan' (1939), 'Veer Ghatotkach' (1949), the mythological 'Shree Ganesh Mahima' (1950) and children's fantasy film 'Alladin & The Wonderful Lamp' (1952). She was fondly called 'Baby Meena'.

However, the breakthrough in her career came with Vijay Bhatt's 'Baiju Bawra' (1952). The film, which was a story of a dedicated wife and contained an intense flow of emotions, won her the 'Filmfare Best Actress Award' in the year 1953. The films in the following years, such as 'Parineeta', 'Daera' (both 1953), 'Ek Hi Raasta' (1956), 'Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai' (1960). All these films portrayed her as a grief struck female protagonist, which propelled her image as a tragedienne. However, she also worked for some light hearted films in the 50s, such as 'Azaad', 'Miss Mary' and 'Shararat'.

However, her best known and most remembered film was Guru Dutt's 'Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam' (1962), which was not only considered as a major commercial success, but also won accolades for its story and performances from critics. Her other noteworthy films were 'Aarti' and 'Main Chup Rahungi'. She was nominated as the Filmfare Best Actress Award for all the three films, whereby she won the award for 'Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam'.

Through the 60s, she worked in films like 'Dil Ek Mandir', 'Phool Aur Patthar', 'Kaajal','Majhli Didi' and 'Chandan Ka Palna'. Her 1965 film 'Kaajal' won her the last Filmfare Award, for the best actress category. By the end of the decade, her alcohol consumption crossed bounds and had started severely affecting her health. In the early 70s, she was seen in films like 'Jawab', 'Mere Apne'and 'Dushman'. Along with these films, she also completed the shooting of 'Pakeezah', which begun in 1964, but was only partially completed.

When talking about Meena Kumari, one cannot do without mentioning Kamal Amrohi, her long time lover. Meena met Kamal in 1952 and fell in love with him, despite, he was 15 years older than her and was already married. She was also strongly attached to his younger son Tajdaar, who fondly used to call her 'Chhoti Ammi'. However, their relationship started denting when they began disagreeing and fighting over issues. It was in 1964, when she got divorced from Kamal Amrohi. This led to intense alcoholism and psychological disorders to her. Though they got re-married, that didn't repair the damage.

Finally, she left for the heavenly abode on 31st March 1972. Her film 'Pakeezah' got released the same year and was a major success. Unfortunately, she wasn't around to witness her success.

Such is the story of Meena Kumari, which can also be seen as a reflection in her films, where she portrayed characters having similar intense personal dilemmas and tragedies.


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