The name Meena Kumari is synonymous with sorrow, melancholy and desperation and why not? A verse from her poem ‘Zindagi Yeh Hai’ captures the core of her life. A tattered childhood, wrecked in marriage, letdown in love and betrayed by close relatives made Meena Kumari’s life so gloomy that she sought respite in alcohol and poetry.
Dard ke saye, udasi ka dhuan, dukh ki ghata
Shadows of grief, the smoke of misery, clouds of sorrow
Zindagi yeh hai to phir maut kise kahte hain ?
If this is life, what is it that they call death?
What is paradoxical is that Meena Kumari, not only became a victim of depression in ‘Real life’ but incidentally even on ‘Reel life’ Bollywood exploited her tragic avatar. With movies like SAHIB BIBI AUR GHULAM, AARTI, DIL APNA AUR PREET PARAYI, DIL EK MANDIR, CHIRAG KAHAN ROSHNI KAHAN, BHABHI KI CHUDIYAAN, KAAJAL etc. Meena Kumari became an epitome of melancholy so much so that the media coined her with the tag of ‘Tragedy Queen’!
To add salt to injury, the media later wrote spicy tales of her painful break-up with her husband filmmaker Kamal Amrohi; how she was exploited by multiple stars and how she dumped her agonies in alcohol thus labeling her condition with a novel tagline – The Meena Kumari Syndrome or Meena Kumari Complex; referring to people, who like Meena Kumari, found solace in solitude and gulped their grief in alcohol.
Though Meena Kumari went to London to treat her psychology disorder and even conquered her syndrome but it’s believed after she was jolted with a series of letdown in love from young actors like Pradeep Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and in-particular Dharmendra, she took to extreme alcoholism and poetry to burst out her emotions.
Her poem ….
Mer'e hi khwab mer'e liye zahr ban gaye
(My own dreams turned into poison)
Mer'e tasuwara't ne hi das lia mujhe
(My own imaginings stung me to death.)
This verse from her poem ‘Khali Hain Mer'e Ha'th’ depicts how she was ruined by her own dreams that could never be fulfilled.
The only silver lining in her career was the completion of her film PAKEEZHA, which was shelved after the wrecking of her marriage with film maker Kamal Amrohi, in the mid 50’s. However few know that it was actor Sanjay Dutt’s parents, Sunil Dutt and Mrs Nargis Dutt, who played a pivotal role in the completion of the film.
Sunil Dutt in an interview once revealed, “In the early 60’s Kamal Sahab invited me and my wife to see few footages of his under-production film PAKEEZHA. Watching the footage I and wife were left flabbergasted and urged Kamal Sahab to complete the film but he expressed his dismay as Meena Kumari had abandoned not only him but the film as well.”
“Hence he pleaded us to cajole Meena Kumari. We tried and Meena Kumari completed the film,” informed Sunil Dutt.
When Meena Kumari saw the film at the premier, she was overwhelmed and in utter ecstasy she hugged Kamal Amrohi! However the little happiness that she received at the fag-end of her life was short lived because though critics raved PAKEEZHA but the movie failed to click at the box office thus disappointing Meena Kumari.
PAKEEZHA was released on February 4, 1972 and was soon discarded by the masses in its initial weeks but it was strange that when Meena Kumari breathe her last on March 31, 1972, suddenly there was a wave of sympathy and within weeks the movie turned into a gold mine at the box office and went on to celebrate Golden Jubilee at movie’s Maratha Mandir theatre.
In one of her couplets Meena Kumari had written….
Tum kya karoge sunkar mujhse meri kahani
(Why do you want to listen to my story)
Belutf zindagi ke kisse hain pheeke pheeke
(Tales of my life are Colorless and tasteless)
But incidentally her colorless and tasteless life continues to interest readers so much a movie is even planned.
Glamsham.Com pays a humble tribute on Meena Kumari’s 44th death anniversary! May her soul rest in peace.