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Star of the week: Madhubala
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
The collective gasp that went up in theatres this week as Madhubala unveiled her magnetic beauty to an entirely new generation of moviegoers can be heard all over the country.
The Madhubala magic has reawakened, thanks to the enchantment created by the newly coloured version of K. Asif's timeless "Mughal-e-Azam" which opened this week.
The magic of Madhubala in "Mughal-e-Azam" is the magic of Hindi cinema. She epitomises all the grace and feminine beauty that make those flickering images on screen come alive as a collective emblem of the life force.
And to think that she died so young. Thirty-six is no age to die. Not for one of the most beautiful women god ever created... or maybe he needed to have her up there to beautify heaven.
Madhubala is as much synonymous with beauty as Lata Mangeshkar is with melody.
Short-lived as her stardom was, Madhubala's reign at the top was swift and splendid.
Born in a conservative Muslim family, Madhubala started her career in 1942 at the age of nine in "Basant". Her first hit as a grown-up leading lady was Kidar Sharma's "Neel Kamal" where both she and Raj Kapoor were introduced.
It was Kamal Amrohi's "Mahal" in 1949 which gave Madhubala the image of an ethereal, unattainable yet warm and gregarious beauty who could be diva and she-devil at the same time. Lata Mangeshkar's haunting melody "Ayega aanewala" added immense allure to Madhubala's screen persona. The actress and the singer remained associated throughout Madhubala's life and career.
Lata Mangeshkar recalls meeting Madhubala socially. "She was always warm and friendly. Though everyone stressed on her breathtaking beauty, Madhubala never took her looks seriously."
Her looks were so overpowering that most people refused to see her as a brilliant actress with impeccable poignant and comic timing. If she could do the timeless romance so accurately in Mehboob Khan's "Amar" and "Mughal-e-Azam", she was also the perfect comedienne in her films with Kishore Kumar like "Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi", "Half Ticket" and "Jhumroo".
Some of these comedies were done at a time when Madhubala knew she was dying. She had been detected with a hole in the heart. The doctors gave her just a few years to live. She dragged on living, with no one but her husband Kishore Kumar to tend to her in her final days.
Before his death, Kishore Kumar remembered her screams of pain as she died slowly. The chiselled beauty, who won not only Prince Salim's heart but thousands of hearts in "Mughal-e-Azam", always had a problem with her heart.
She had fallen in love with the thespian Dilip Kumar. They were signed together for B.R. Chopra's rustic romance "Naya Daur". But when Madhubala refused to shoot outdoors due to her failing health, she was dragged to court where Dilip Kumar made a public declaration of his love for her.
Why are the world's most beautiful women doomed to destruction at a shockingly young? Whether it was Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood or Meena Kumari and Madhubala in Mumbai, they all died before reaching the age of 40.
Madhubala has remained embedded in public memory as the timeless beauty who enthralled audiences in "Mahal", "Mr & Mrs 55", "Howrah Bridge" and, of course, "Mughal-e-Azam" where she had to wear heavy iron chains in spite of doctors warning her against such strain due to her heart condition.
Madhubala's last released film was "Jwala" with Sunil Dutt in 1970. By then she was already gone. The legend, of course, lives on, as do stories of her impish personality and incessant giggles from those who had the privilege of knowing her personally.
Yash Chopra had the opportunity to direct Madhubala for his brother B.R. Chopra's film "Naya Daur" before she was replaced by Vyjanthimala. He can't forget that brief interlude with her.
"She was there for a while... and then she was gone!" he says, aptly summing up Madhubala's brief romance with fame and life.