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Madhubala-Queen of the Fifties in Mumbai Cinema

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler well as an amateur astrologer who loves to visit and explore new places.



When the British ruled India for some reason that cannot be fathomed, the Hindi Film industry took roots in Bombay and developed to a great extent. This resulted in Bombay becoming the epicenter of the Asian film Industry. It grew so rapidly that it soon rivaled Hollywood and also produced a range of stars that lit the screen all over Asia and the Middle East.

The first feature film in India was made in 1913 which was the silent era. By the 1930s, the industry was producing over 200 films per year.

Just after 1947 when India became free the Industry continued to spiral upwards and stars on the pattern of Hollywood began to traverse the screen. One of these stars was Madhubala (1933-69). She has left an incandescent mark on the celluloid world.

Just for the record India today produces the largest number of films in the world much more than Hollywood and it is also having a global clientele. Hindi cinema took a firm grip from 1940 onwards.

Madhubala as a Star

Madhubala was born a Muslim in Delhi. Her real name was Mumtaz Begum Jehan Dehlavi. She came to Mumbai in 1944 and remained there till her death in 1969. The partition riots did not affect her and her family and she opted to remain in India, against going to the newly formed state of Pakistan. She was not the only one and many other Muslim stars also decided to continue to stay in India, where they felt safe and their talent could flower.

It is a strange dichotomy that in a country where the population is 80% Hindu, the topmost heroines of the 50s were all Muslim. Madhubala during the fifties formed a triumvirate with Nargis and Meenakumar (All Muslims). All these three stars lit the screen and have remained icons of Indian cinema. One reason these Muslim stars opted to stay on in India was because of the rigid religious atmosphere in the newly formed country and they felt free in India. Out of the three stars Madhubala and to a lesser extent Nargis stand out as the heroines who wore western clothes and attire and portrayed the roles of a modern and westernized woman on the screen. This at a time when most other female stars portrayed roles of the long-suffering wife and woman in traditional roles.

Madhubala was often compared to Marilyn Monroe and she certainly was one of the most beautiful actresses to hit the Hindi screen.


The legacy of Madhubala

Madhubala acted in over 50 films during her sojourn in Mumbai films. In fact, she produced hit after hit and was paired with all the top heroes of the Hindi screen. Thus the period when stars like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Raj Kapoor, and Ashok Kumar all paired with her. Her hits include Mr. and Mrs. 55(1955), Phagun (1958) Howrah Bridge (1958) ‘Mughal e Azam’ (1960), Barsaat ki Raat (1960), Sharabi (1964), and a host of other films.

The popularity and the hold of Madhubala on the psyche of the Indian film goers can be gauged from the fact that in 1990, decades after her death in a poll conducted by Movie magazine, she was voted the most popular vintage Hindi actress of all time. She amassed 58% of the votes and outranked her contemporary actresses like Meena Kumari, Nargis, and Nutan.
Unfortunately, Madhubala had what is popularly called a’ hole in the heart’ and she died young at the age of 36 in 1969.



It can now be disclosed that Madhubala never found love in her life. This was because of the combination of circumstances and the overbearing conduct of her father who was dead set against her marriage as she was the lawn breadwinner of the family.

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Madhubala was romantically linked with Dilip Kumar the reigning star of that period. It is rumored that Dilip proposed marriage. The chemistry between the two was evident during the love scene's shot during the film Mughal e Azam. Dilipkumar's real name was Yousef Khan and he was the number one star of the Bombay cinema at the time. He was known as the 'tragedy king' because of the various roles of a tragic hero he played. The affair between the two had a tragic ending because of the headstrong nature of Madhubala and her father. The relationship did not culminate into marriage

Tragedy continued to dog her and the film star Kishore Kumar who loved her immensely proposed marriage. She and Kishore finally had a civil marriage(1960), as she was a Muslim and he was a Hindu. Most members of Madhubala's family were dead set against this marriage including her father and it was always on the cards and the marriage would collapse. The marriage soured and Madhubala was back in her house after only a month. This was the time when her heart problem was also aggravated and despite a visit to England for medical treatment the latest advances in heart surgery were not available at that time. In 1969 she passed away. She remains the wife of Kishore Kumar till her death.


Last word

Madhubala carved a niche for herself in the History of Indian cinema. She will forever be remembered for her incandescent beauty, a commodity that is with a very few. Not many people know that she was offered a role even in Hollywood by the filmmaker Frank Capra but her father made her decline it. Somehow Madhubala could not break out the shackles of her family and father and that proved her nemesis.
But though 50 years have elapsed after her death, we can remember her as the most beautiful and versatile actress to hit the Bombay screen in the last century.

If anybody's interested to know more about Madhubala the books given below are a good introduction.
Madhubala: Her Life, Her Films (English). Akbar Khatija New Delhi: UBS Publishers and Distributors, 1997.
Madhubala: Mystery and Mystique, Mohan Deep, Magna Publishing Co. Ltd.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 16, 2021:

Thank you, Chitra, for commenting. Madhubala will remain like an ever-fresh rose for all time to come.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 16, 2021:

Great article about Madhubala. She is one of my all time favourite, and she was quite ahead of her times.

Thank you for sharing her brief description.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 16, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, you have given quite a detailed account in one paragraph. At least in the 50s and 60s the Pathans from the Northwest frontier dominated Bombay films. I watched some of her old movies on YouTube and she was absolutely fabulous I wish she had accepted the offer to act in Hollywood. Another heroine of Bombay films had a tragic life was Suriaya whom Dev Anand loved

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 15, 2021:

Thank you Mehra. She was a great actress.

R Mehra on January 15, 2021:

Wonderful article and a great tribute to a very beautiful actress.

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