Meena Kumari in Kohinoor (1960)
1 August 1933
Meetawala Chawl, Dadar East, Bombay, British India (present-day Mumbai, India)
|Died||31 March 1972
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Occupation||Actress, Singer, Poetess, Costume Designer.|
|Spouse(s)||Kamal Amrohi (1952–1972; her death)|
|Relatives||Mehmood Ali (brother-in-law)|
Meena Kumari (1 August 1933 – 31 March 1972), born Mahjabeen Bano, was an Indian film actress, singer and poet under the pseudonym "Naaz", also known as The Tragedy Queen and often called the Cinderella of the Indian films.
Indian film critics regarded Meena Kumari as a "historically incomparable" actress of Hindi cinema. During a career spanning 33 years, she starred in about 92 films such as Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Pakeezah, Mere Apne, Aarti, Baiju Bawra, Parineeta, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Foot Path, Dil Ek Mandir and Kaajal. Kumari was also a playback singer, as a child artist till 1945 and later as a heroine in Duniya Ek Sarai, Piya Ghar Aaja and Bichchade Balam.
Vinod Mehta (writer of Meena Kumari – The Classic Biography) was told by a director: "Even Dilip Kumar (the tragedy king) found it difficult to keep his calm in front of her". Raaj Kumar would often forget his dialogues while working with Meena Kumari on set. Madhubala was also a fan of Meena Kumari and said: "She has the most unique voice. No other heroine has it." Satyajit Ray described Kumari as "undoubtedly an actress of the highest calibre". Amitabh Bachchan said " No one, not any one, ever spoke dialogues the way Meena Kumari did .. no one .. not anyone to date.. and perhaps never will". Music Director Naushad said "Hindi film industry may produce great actresses but there would never be another Meena Kumari". Meena Kumari empathized greatly with Marilyn Monroe, the fact that Marilyn's husband, Arthur Miller, had some passing similarities to Meena's husband Kamal Amrohi, made the identification closer. It is said that throughout her life, Meena Kumari had a love–hate relationship with the movies.
Meena Kumari won four Filmfare Awards in the Best Actress category and was the recipient of the inaugural Filmfare Awards (1954) Best Actress Award for Baiju Bawra and had a consecutive win in the second Filmfare Awards (1955) for Parineeta. Kumari made history at the 10th Filmfare (1963), by receiving all of the nominations for Best Actress and won for her performance in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. In the 13th Filmfare (1966), Kumari won her last Best Actress Filmfare award for Kaajal.
The greatest hallmark of Meena Kumari laid in her ability to depict the struggle of Indian women existing especially in the 50s and 60s. Kumari's onscreen persona is described as a perfect example of a traditional Bharatiya Nari by the Indian film fraternity, such as Mohammed Zahur Khayyam and Javed Akhtar. Her portrayal of "Sahibjaan", a nautch girl with a golden heart in Pakeezah under Kamal Amrohi's direction became a historical document.
- 1 Family background
- 2 Connection with Tagore family
- 3 Birth and childhood
- 4 Career and life
- 4.1 Early work as Baby Meena (1939–45)
- 4.2 Early career (1946–52)
- 4.3 Marriage to Kamal Amrohi (1952)
- 4.4 Rising star (1952–56)
- 4.5 Tragedy Queen of Indian Cinema (1957)
- 4.6 Critical acclaim (1962)
- 4.7 Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
- 4.8 Separation from husband and addiction to alcohol (1964)
- 4.9 Deteriorating health and treatment in London (1968)
- 4.10 Completion of Pakeezah (1956–72)
- 5 Death
- 6 The Poetess Naaz
- 7 Legacy
- 8 Filmography
- 9 Awards and accolades
- 10 Biography
- 11 Documentary
- 12 In film
- 13 References
- 14 Bibliography
- 15 External links
Meena Kumari's father was a Sunni Muslim named Master Ali Bux who had migrated from Bhera (now in Punjab provience of Pakistan). He was a veteran of Parsi theater, played harmonium, taught music, wrote Urdu poetry, played small roles in films such as Eid Ka Chand and composed music for films like Shahi Lutere. Meena Kumari's mother Iqbal Begum, whose original name was Prabhawati Devi, was a Bengali Christian converted to Islam. Iqbal Begum was the second wife of Ali Bux. Before meeting and then marrying Ali Bux, she was a stage actress and dancer under the stage name "Kamini" and was related to the well known Tagore family of Bengal.
Connection with Tagore family
Meena Kumari's grandmother, Hem Sundari Thakur (Tagore) was the daughter of Rabindranath Tagore's younger brother. After her husband died, she left for Meerut, became a nurse, married a Christian named Pyare Lal Shankar Meeruti, who was an Urdu journalist and embraced Christianity. Hem Sundari had two daughters; one of these was Prabhawati, Meena Kumari's mother.
Birth and childhood
Meena Kumari was born with the name Mahjabeen in a family of poor theatre artists, Ali Bux and Iqbal Begum on 1 August 1933. This was a great disappointment to Ali Bux because he wanted a son. Meena Kumari was the second daughter of Ali Bux and Iqbal Begum. Khursheed Bano (also an actress) was her elder sister and Mahliqa (also known as Madhu, first married to actor Mehmood Ali) was her younger sister. At home, Mahjabeen's family called her by the name "Munna". Her family could not afford to pay the doctor for her delivery, so her father decided to leave her at an orphanage. He changed his mind a few hours later and fetched her home.  Mahjabeen said as a child that she wasn't interested in a film career, and would rather attend school. In spite of this, her parents started peddling four-year-old Mahjabeen to film studios for work opportunities. Director Vijay Bhatt cast her in the film Leatherface and on her first day she was paid Rs. 25.
Leatherface was released in 1939. At the age of four she became the bread earner in the Bux family. In an interview in 1962, Meena Kumari explained that the fact she had been supporting her parents from the age of four gave her immense satisfaction. Mahjabeen was admitted into a regular school, but that was not for long, because the demands of work frequently interrupted her curricula. She never went to school in any meaningful sense, and her education was the result of private tuition, and more significantly the result of individual interest; in every sense she was self-educated. Kumari concentrated most on Urdu although she could get by in English and Hindi. She was nicknamed "Reading Mahjabeen", as she brought books onto the sets and when working on location.
Career and life
Early work as Baby Meena (1939–45)
She began acting when she was four. She initally worked mostly in Vijay Bhatt productions; Leatherface (1939), Adhuri Kahani (1939), Pooja (1940) and Ek Hi Bhool (1940). Vijay Bhatt rechristened Mahjabeen as "Baby Meena" during the filming of Ek Hi Bhool (1940).
Early career (1946–52)
Meena was cast under the name Meena Kumari in Ramnik Production's Bachchon Ka Khel (1946). One of the major blows in Kumari's life was the death of her mother, Iqbal Begum, merely 18 months after the family's arrival at their new house in Bandra. She had lung cancer and died on March 25, 1947. In an interview given to Filmfare magazine in 1958, Meena Kumari remembers her mother's last days and her untimely death. Films like Duniya Ek Sarai (1946), Piya Ghar Aaja (1947) and Bichchade Balam (1948) Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950), Lakshmi Narayan (1951), Hanuman Patal Vijay (1951) and Aladdin Aur Jadui Chirag (1952). Films such as Magroor (1950), Hamara Ghar (1950), Sanam (1951), Madhosh (1951), and Tamasha (1952) either saw her in multi-starrers or in lead roles which unfortunately failed to leave a lasting impact on the audience. Meena Kumari desperately needed a film which would transform her into a sensation among the audience and she soon got one – it was her mentor Vijay Bhatt's musical, Baiju Bawra (1952).
Marriage to Kamal Amrohi (1952)
On the sets of Tamasha, Ashok Kumar introduced filmmaker Kamal Amrohi to Meena Kumari. Later, Kamal Amrohi offered Meena Kumari a lead role in his upcoming film Anarkali and the contract was signed on March 13, 1951. On May 21, 1951 Meena Kumari was involved in a motor car accident while returning from Mahabaleshwar to Bombay. She was admitted to Sasoon hospital in Poona, injured around the left hand. Kumari went through bouts of depression, and Kamal Amrohi visited her regularly during her days in the hospital. When they were not scheduled to meet, both Kumari and Amrohi would write letters to each other.
For four months this hospital affair continued and love blossomed. This accident left Meena Kumari with a banded left pinky which remained banded throughout her life, and she used to cover her left hand with a dupatta or saree during shoots. After Kumari was discharged from hospital, a telephoning marathon between her and Amrohi began during nights. Soon shooting of the film Anarkali commenced but the producer Makhanlaljee, suffered a financial disaster and the film was abandoned. On 14 February 1952 Meena Kumari, 18, and Kamal Amrohi, 34, secretly got married in a simple "Niqah" ceremony in the presence of a Qadi and Kumari's younger sister, Mahliqa (Madhu). The Niqah paper was witnessed by Baqar Ali (Kamal Amrohi's friend and assistant) and Qadi's two sons, and signed in the name of Mahjabeen Bano (Meena Kumari's real name) and Syed Ameen Haider (Kamal Amrohi's real name). After the ceremony, the newlyweds parted. Amrohi left for Sion and Meena and Madhu returned home. The marriage was kept secret from the family and media, although Kamal Amrohi was already married and had three children from his former wife. After some months, the matrimony news was leaked to Kumari's father, Ali Bux, by a cook who overheard their midnight phone conversations. The father recommended a divorce. Meena Kumari remained adamant on her decision, but stayed in her father's house. Meanwhile, Kamal Amrohi planned a film called Daera in 1953 and decided to cast Kumari, now his wife, in it. Kumari asked her father's permission for working in the film, but Ali Bux refused on the basis that the dates were given to Mehboob Khan for the film Amar. She protested, but he warned his daughter that if she went to shoot for Daera the doors of his house would be permanently shut for her. Reluctantly, Meena Kumari agreed, but after shooting for five days, she instigated a disagreement with Mehboob Khan and left the studios. On August 14, 1953, Meena Kumari drove to Bombay Talkies and worked in front of her husband's camera for the film Daera. Ali Bux somehow came to know this by some external sources and at night, on her return, he refused to open the door. Meena Kumari turned her car around and left for her husband's residence at Sion.
Rising star (1952–56)
- 1952: Baiju Bawra – Kumari played the female lead in Baiju Bawra. A series of incidents ranging from Hindustan Lever securing rising star Meena Kumari as a model for their products to being featured on the calender of a popular franchise took place after the success of Baiju Bawra.
- 1953: Parineeta – Directed by Bimal Roy, (starring Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari as leads) won Kumari the second Filmfare Best Actress Award. The film was based upon the 1914 Bengali novel by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. This version of the film is considered to be the most faithful adaptation of the novella, particularly due to Meena Kumari's interpretation of the role of Lalita. After the success of Parineeta, Bimal Roy was very much keen to cast Kumari in his next venture titled Devdas in the role of 'Paaro'. However, things with Kamal Amrohi never materialised and the audience lost the golden opportunity to see Kumari essaying the iconic role of 'Paaro' in the film. Do Bigha Zamin – directed by Bimal Roy, won the International Prize at Cannes in 1954, the first Indian film to do so. This film also marks the maiden guest appearance of Meena Kumari in a career spanning 33 years. Foot Path – directed by Zia Sarhadi, was Meena's first film with Dilip Kumar. This movie was featured in Avijit Ghosh's book, 40 Retakes: Bollywood Classics You May Have Missed. Daera – was written and directed by Kamal Amrohi, starring Meena Kumari, Nasir Khan and Nana Palsikar in lead roles. Other films included Naulakha Haar and Dana Paani.
- 1954: Baadbaan- directed by Phani Majumdar, had a star cast of Meena Kumari, Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar and Usha Kiran. Chandni Chowk – directed by B. R. Chopra in 1954, a classic Muslim social drama film, was Chopra's second directorial venture and another success at the box office. Ilzaam - directed by R C Talwar and Rafiq Anwar, starring Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar, also premiered.
- 1955: In Azaad – directed by Sriramulu Naidu S.M. It was the top grossing Hindi film that year. Hit songs from the movie include "Aplam Chaplam" sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Mangeshkar, and "Na Bole Na Bole" sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Adl-e-Jehangir – was a Hindi language historical drama film directed by G.P. Sippy, and it became a commercial success at the box office.Bandish - directed by Satyen Bose starring Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar, and Daisy Irani was a box office hit. Ruksana - was directed by R.C. Talwar and starred Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar.
- 1956: Ek Hi Raasta – was a family-drama Indian Hindi film directed and produced by B. R. Chopra. It starred Meena Kumari with newcomer Sunil Dutt, Ashok Kumar and Daisy Irani. The film proved to be successful at the box office and was screened for more than 25 weeks, which was a "Jubilee Hit". Bandhan - directed by Hemchandra Chunder, based on the popular Bengali novel Mantra Shakti, starred Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar as leads and was awarded with a Certificate of Merit in National Film Awards. Mem Sahib – directed by R.C. Talwar, featured Meena Kumari for the first time with Shammi Kapoor. The modern avatar of Meena Kumari was well received by audiences and the film became a box office hit. Naya Andaz – directed by K. Amarnath, starring Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar in lead roles, was a musical hit. Halaku – a historical Hindi movie directed by D.D. Kashyap included Meena Kumari, Pran, Minoo Mumtaz, Raj Mehra and Helen. It was one of the box office hits and celebrated a silver jubilee. A famous incident involving Kumari and Pran comes from the sets of Halaku. It was for the first time when both of them were appearing in a film. When Meena Kumari came to know about Pran playing the titular role, she was not very much convinced by the choice of director. It was so, because during those days, Pran was more popular for potraying a suave villain which made Kumari doubtful. But when she saw Pran on the first day of shooting, she was left awestruck and highly praised him for his acting skills and his huge transformation as the capricious tyrant Halaku.
Tragedy Queen of Indian Cinema (1957)
- 1957: Sharada – directed by L.V. Prasad, was Meena Kumari's first venture with Raj Kapoor. A difficult role to essay, it was refused by all leading actresses of the day until Meena Kumari finally agreed. She won best actress at Bengal Film Journalists' Association Award for her work. The film gained great critical success. The film was the ninth highest grossing film at the Indian Box Office in 1957 and was noted as one of her best performances. Miss Mary – a comedy film directed by L.V. Prasad, starred Meena Kumari and Gemini Ganesan. The film was one of the biggest hits of that year.
- 1958: For Sahara – directed by Lekhraj Bhakri, Meena Kumari received a Filmfare Best Actress nomination.Yahudi – directed by Bimal Roy starred Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar, Sohrab Modi, Nazir Hussain and Nigar Sultana. It was based on the play Yahudi Ki Ladki by Agha Hashar Kashmiri, a classic in Parsi – Urdu theatre, about persecution of Jews in the Roman Empire. The film was a box office hit with the famous song "Yeh Mera Diwanapan Hai" sung by Mukesh. Farishta - starred Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari as lead protagonist. The film was rated as above average. Savera – was directed by Satyen Bose, with Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar in lead roles.
- 1959: Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan – directed and produced by Devendra Goel, stars Meena Kumari with newcomer Rajendra Kumar and Honey Irani. The film was a huge hit in the box office and Meena Kumari received a Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for her performance. Char Dil Char Rahen – was directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, with star cast Meena Kumari, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Kumkum and Nimmi. The film received warm reviews from critics. Shararat – was a 1959 romantic drama film written and directed by Harnam Singh Rawail, starring Meena Kumari, Kishore Kumar, Raaj Kumar and Kumkum in lead roles, with the memorable song "Hum Matwaley Naujawan" sung by Kishore Kumar.
- 1960: Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai – was a Hindi romantic drama written and directed by Kishore Sahu. The film starred Meena Kumari, Raaj Kumar and Nadira as leads. The film tells the story of a surgeon who is obligated to marry the daughter of a family friend, while he is in love with a colleague nurse, played by Meena Kumari. It is one of the noted acting performances of lead actress Meena Kumari's career. The film's music is by Shankar Jaikishan, and features a hit song, the Hawaiian-themed "Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh" sung by Lata Mangeshkar. At the 1961 Filmfare Awards it created an upset by beating the popular musical epic Mughal-e-Azam of Naushad for the Best Music Director category.Bahaana – directed by Kumar, had a star cast inclusive of Meena Kumari, Sajjan, Anwar, Kumar, Pramila, Azurie and Sheela Vaz. Kohinoor – directed by S. U. Sunny featured Meena Kumari, Dilip Kumar, Leela Chitnis and Kumkum. A film of lighter tone, it lacked the intense characterisations of earlier films of both Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari, who are otherwise known as the Tragedy King and Tragedy Queen respectively.
- 1961: Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan – was a family drama directed by Sadashiv J. Row Kavi with Meena Kumari and Balraj Sahni in the lead roles. It is one of the noted acting performances by Meena Kumari. The film was one of the highest-grossing films of the year at the Indian box office with the famous song "Jyoti Kalash Chhalke" by Lata Mangeshkar. Zindagi Aur Khwab – directed S. Bannerjee, starring Meena Kumari and Rajendra Kumar, was a hit at the Indian box office. Pyaar Ka Saagar – was directed by Devendra Goel with Meena Kumari and Rajendra Kumar.
Critical acclaim (1962)
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962)
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was a film produced by Guru Dutt and directed by Abrar Alvi featured Meena Kumari as the iconic Chhoti Bahu. It is based on the Bengali novel "Shaheb Bibi Golam" by Bimal Mitra. The film stars Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt, Rehman, Waheeda Rehman and Nazir Hussain. The film's music is by Hemant Kumar and the lyrics were by Shakeel Badayuni. The film is also noted for its brilliant cinematography by V. K. Murthy and the famous songs "Na Jao Saiyaan Chhuda Ke Baiyan" and "Piya Aiso Jiya Mein" sung by Geeta Dutt.
In Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam Kumari played the character of Chhoti Bahu. For Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, in order to support a drooping heavy look which is associated with immoderate consumption of liquor, she used to apply concentrated Eau de Cologne under her nose. The irritation caused by such action helped her in achieving the perfect look for the role of an alcoholic.
The film won four Filmfare Awards, including the Best Actress award. This movie was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival, where Meena Kumari was selected as a delegate. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars.
- 1962: Aarti – directed by Phani Majumdar, stars Meena Kumari in the title role of Aarti, with Ashok Kumar, Pradeep Kumar and Shashikala appearing in pivotal roles. Kumari won a Best Actress award for this film from the Bengal Film Journalists' Association. Main Chup Rahungi – directed by A. Bhimsingh with Meena Kumari and Sunil Dutt in lead roles was one of the biggest hits of the year and Meena Kumari received a Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for her performance.
- 1963: Dil Ek Mandir, directed by C. V. Sridhar, stars Meena Kumari, Rajendra Kumar, Raaj Kumar and Mehmood. The film's music is by Shankar Jaikishan. The film was a big hit in the box office and so was the film's music with the famous songs "Ruk Jaa Raat" and "Hum Tere Pyar Mein Sara Alam", sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Akeli Mat Jaiyo – directed by Nandlal Jaswantlal, was a romantic comedy with Meena Kumari and Rajendra Kumar in leads. Kinare Kinare – was directed by Chetan Anand with Meena Kumari, Dev Anand and Chetan Anand.
- 1964: Sanjh Aur Savera – was a romantic drama film directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, starring Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt and Mehmood. This marked the final film appearance of Guru Dutt, who died later in the year of the film's release. Benazir - was a Muslim social film directed by S. Khalil, starring Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar, Shashi Kapoor and Tanuja. Chitralekha directed by Kidar Sharma, starring Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar and Pradeep Kumar, was based on the 1934 Hindi novel by the same name by Bhagwati Charan Verma, about Bijgupta serving under the Maurya Empire, and king Chandragupta Maurya (340 BCE–298 BCE) and his love for courtesan Chitralekha. the film's music and lyrics were by Roshan and Sahir Ludhianvi and noted for songs such as "Sansaar Se Bhaage Phirte Ho" and "Mann Re Tu Kaahe". Ghazal directed by Ved-Madan, starring Meena Kumari and Sunil Dutt, was a Muslim social film about the right of the young generation to the marriage of their choice. It had music by Madan Mohan with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi, featuring notable filmi-ghazals such as "Rang Aur Noor Ki Baraat", performed by Mohammed Rafi and "Naghma O Sher Ki Saugaat" performed by Lata Mangeshkar. Main Bhi Ladki Hoon was directed by A. C. Tirulokchandar. The film stars Meena Kumari with newcomer Dharmendra.
Separation from husband and addiction to alcohol (1964)
After their marriage, Kamal Amrohi allowed Meena Kumari to continue her acting career, but on the conditions that she should not remit anyone in her makeup room but her makeup artist and return home in her own car by 6:30 every evening. Meena Kumari agreed to all terms, but with passing time she kept breaking them. Abrar Alvi, director of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, recounts how Kamal Amrohi would have his spy and right-hand man Baqar Ali present even in the makeup room while Meena's makeup was being done, and one evening, when working beyond schedule to complete a shot, he had to face his heroine dissolving in tears.
In 1963, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was selected as the Indian entry to the Berlin Film Festival and Meena Kumari was selected as a delegate. The then Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Satya Narayan Sinha, arranged for two tickets, one for Meena Kumari and one for her husband, but Kamal Amrohi refused to accompany his wife. The Berlin trip never materialized. During a premiere at Eros cinema, Sohrab Modi introduced Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi to the governor of Maharashtra. Sohrab Modi said "This is the renowned actress Meena Kumari, and this is her husband Kamal Amrohi". Whereupon before greetings were exchanged, Kamal Amrohi interjected: "No, I am Kamal Amrohi and this is my wife, the renowned actress Meena Kumari". Saying this, Kamal Amrohi left the auditorium. Meena Kumari saw the premiere alone.
Meena Kumari was a patient of chronic insomnia and was on sleeping pills for a long time since the days of the telephoning conversations with Kamal Amrohi. During 1963, Dr. Saeed Timurza, her physician, then prescribed a small peg of brandy as a sleeping pill alternative and this was officially how she came into contact with the habit that was to kill her. Somehow this prescribed peg of brandy turned into heavy drinking after her separation from her husband in 1964. After that, Kumari's name was associated with Rahul, Gulzar, Dharmendra and Sawan Kumar Tak.
- 1965: Kaajal directed by Ram Maheshwari, stars Meena Kumari, Dharmendra, Raaj Kumar, Padmini, Helen, Mehmood and Mumtaz. The film was listed in the Top 20 films of 1965. Meena Kumari won her fourth and last Filmfare award for Kaajal. The film was originally based on the novel "Maadhavi" by Gulshan Nanda. Bheegi Raat, directed by Kalidas, with Meena Kumari, Ashok Kumar and Pradeep Kumar in lead roles was one of the biggest hits of the year with the famous song "Dil Jo Na Ke Saka" sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi. The film Purnima, directed by Narendra Suri, featured Meena Kumari and Dharmendra in lead roles.
- 1966: Phool Aur Patthar, directed by O. P. Ralhan, starred Meena Kumari and Dharmendra in lead roles. This movie went on to become a golden jubilee hit, catapulting Dharmendra to stardom and was the highest-grossing movie for the year 1966. Meena Kumari's performance in the film ensured her a nomination in the Best Actress category in the Filmfare awards for that year. The film Pinjre Ke Panchhi was directed by Salil Choudhury, with Meena Kumari, Balraj Sahni and Mehmood in main roles.
- 1967: Majhli Didi was directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee and stars Meena Kumari along with Dharmendra. The film was India's entry to the 41st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. The film Bahu Begum was directed by M. Sadiq, starring Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar and Ashok Kumar. The film has music by Roshan and lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi and is known for the songs "Hum Intezaar Karenge Tera Qayamat Tak", sung by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle and "Duniya Kare Sawal To Hum" by Lata Mangeshkar. Noorjehan, directed by Mohammed Sadiq, was a historical film starring Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar, with Helen and Johnny Walker in minor roles. It dramatised the epic love story of Empress Nur Jehan and her husband, the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. The film Chandan Ka Palna was directed by Ismail Memon, starring Meena Kumari and Dharmendra. After the Eclipse, a 37 minutes color documentary directed by S. Sukhdev and shot in the suburbs of Varanasi featured Meena Kumari's voice along with the voice of actor Shashi Kapoor.
- 1968: Baharon Ki Manzil a Suspense Thriller, directed by Yakub Hassan Rizvi, stars Meena Kumari, Dharmendra, Rehman and Farida Jalal. The film was one of the major hits of the year. The film Abhilasha was directed by Amit Bose. The cast includes Meena Kumari, Sanjay Khan and Nanda.
Deteriorating health and treatment in London (1968)
In 1968, she was diagnosed with cirrhosis of liver. The medical advice was that Kumari needed more advanced and permanent cure. She received treatments in London and Switzerland in June 1968. From the months of June to August, Meena Kumari was in the hands of Dr. Sheila Sherlock.
Upon recovery, Kumari returned to India in September 1968 and on the fifth day after her arrival, Meena Kumari, contrary to doctors' instructions resumed work. Suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, although Meena Kumari temporarily recovered but was now much weak and thin. She eventually shifted her focus on more 'acting oriented' or character roles. Out of her last six releases namely Jawab, Saat Phere, Mere Apne, Dushman, Pakeezah & Gomti Ke Kinare, she only had a lead role in Pakeezah. Director Sawan Kumar Tak said "Not only did she not drink, she would not let me drink either. she did not touch a drop after London". After returning from London, Kumari for the first time, purchased her own home, which was on the eleventh floor of a building called "Landmark", situated at Carter Road, Bandra.
- 1970: Jawab was directed by Ramanna, starring Meena Kumari, Jeetendra, Leena Chandavarkar and Ashok Kumar. Saat Phere was directed by Sudhir Sen, with Meena Kumari, Pradeep Kumar and Mukri in pivotal roles.
- 1971: Mere Apne written and directed by Gulzar, was his first directorial venture. The film stars Meena Kumari, Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha in lead roles along with Deven Verma, Paintal, Asit Sen, Asrani, Danny Denzongpa, Keshto Mukherjee, A. K. Hangal, Dinesh Thakur, Mehmood and Yogeeta Bali.
- 1972: Dushman, directed by Dulal Guha, stars Meena Kumari, Rehman and Rajesh Khanna with Mumtaz in lead roles. The film became a "super-hit" at the box office. Gomti Ke Kinare directed by Saawan Kumar Tak, in his directorial debut, stars Meena Kumari, Sanjay Khan and Mumtaz. Gomti Ke Kinare released on 22nd November 1972, after Meena Kumari's demise and was touted as a tribute to the legendary actress.
Completion of Pakeezah (1956–72)
In 1954, during the shooting of Azaad (1955 film), Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi were in South India, and here Kamal Amrohi began outlining the plot of his next film with his wife and decided to call it Pakeezah. Meena Kumari was determined to complete the film and, well aware of the limited time left for her to live, went out of her way to complete it at the earliest. Despite her rapidly deteriorating health, she gave the finishing touches to her performance.
Pakeezah had a grand premiere on 3 February 1972, at Maratha Mandir theatre, in central Mumbai, and the prints being carried on a decked-up palanquin. Meena Kumari sat next to Kamal Amrohi during the premiere. When Mohammed Zahur Khayyam complimented Meena Kumari with "Shahkar ban gaya" (it's priceless), she cried. After watching the whole film, Kumari told a friend that she was convinced that her husband was the finest film-maker in India. The film finally released the following day, 4 February 1972. Pakeezah enjoyed a successful run of 33 weeks and even celebrated its silver jubilee. She posthumously received her twelfth and last Filmfare nomination for Pakeezah. Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards bestowed the Special award to Meena Kumari for Pakeezah in 1973.
Meena Kumari died at age 38 at 3:25pm on Good Friday, 31 March 1972 due to liver cirrhosis. As per husband Kamal Amrohi's wish, she was buried at Rahematabad Qabristan, located at Narialwadi, Mazgaon, Mumbai. Kumari requested the following prose for her tombstone: " She ended life with a broken fiddle, with a broken song, with a broken heart, but not a single regret." Kamal Amrohi died February 11, 1993 in Mumbai, and as per his wish was buried next to Meena Kumari's grave.
The Poetess Naaz
Meena Kumari was a talented Urdu poetess under the pseudonym Naaz. Historian critic Philip Bounds and researcher Daisy Hasan write regarding Meena Kumari's poetry: "Poetry was the medium through which Kumari distanced herself from her public image and criticized the industry that had brought her to public attention in the first place. In that sense, her poems tell us as much about Bollywood as they do about herself."
- I write, I recite – an album consisting of Meena Kumari's poems under the label of LP Vinyl Record was released in 1971, for which Mohammed Zahur Khayyam gave music. The poetry in the album (nazms) has been written, recited and sung by the poet herself. The album was re-released on 19 September 2006.
- Tanha Chand (Lonely Moon), a collection of Meena Kumari's poems, was compiled by Gulzar and published after her death in 1972.
Meena Kumari herself once said that people picked strands of her hair to make a taweez (talisman) out of it. She never used products like glycerin in order to shed tears, but always shed her genuine ones while acting. Indian Film Critic Bhawana Somaaya says: "There was a time when top heros were not willing to work with Meena Kumari, because she played the powerful roles". Vinod Mehta shares: "Meena Kumari become so powerful that she would make or break stars, Kumari adopted an attitude of guardian, artistic mentor towards the newcomers who worked opposite her like Rajendra Kumar in Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan and with Sunil Dutt in Ek Hi Raasta." Meena Kumari helped Dharmendra enormously in the initial stages of his career, and established Dharmendra's acting career in Indian Cinema. The legendary Kathak master Pandit Lachhu Maharaj’s praise for Meena Kumari’s dance when he remarked on the unique way in which she would take a turn. "The way in which she would turn, the angles of her shoulders, come naturally to her and cannot be taught." Ashok Kumar said: "Meena was a natural actress. She was very choosy, but once she accepted a role, she put her heart into it and it’s not surprising that she’s still remembered for her sensitive portrayals. Sometimes when saying a dialogue I'd add a line not in the script and even as I worried about how Meena would react, she’d surprise me with just the right response."
In 1953, soon after the success of Baiju Bawra, Kumari appeared in Dream House, an advertisement by Dunlopillo UK along with Ashok Kumar. Kumari was a regular face to be featured on various film magazines and beauty soaps throughout her career. The makers of film Jahan Ara (1964) had approached Kumari to play the role of Jahan Ara Begum. It was the time when Kumari was doing films which were commercially successful and critically acclaimed. Meena Kumari passed on this role to her friend, actress Mala Sinha. This film not only helmed her appreciation from critics but also resulted in a nomination in the Best Actress Category at the 12th Filmfare Awards.
Meena Kumari's most awaited film Pakeezah was released on 4 February 1972. Tajdar Amrohi shares: "When the shooting of Pakeezah started again in 1969, the first song shot was "Mausam Hai Ashiqaana". With this song, Meena Kumari set a new fashion trend of girls wearing Lunghi. Indian Film Critic Bhawana Somaaya says: "Pakeezah is just like poetry on celluloid, I can not imagine anybody else in this movie except Meena Kumari."
On 24 February 2016 Meena Kumari's original publicity material and memorabilia, including paintings and portraits of her films, were displayed at the Womanhood Festival at Osianama Liberty Mumbai India.
Due to the contrast between her stardom and troubled private life, Kumari is closely linked to broader discussions about modern phenomena such as mass media, fame, and consumer culture. Every year, on Meena Kumari's birthday, numerous articles are printed and television programmes aired to commemorate her, and modern magazines continue to publish stories on her personal life and career.
|Adhuri Kahani||Baby Mahjabeen|
|Ek Hi Bhool||Baby Meena||rechristened Mahjabeen as Baby Meena|
|1946||Bachchon Ka Khel||Anuradha||At 13, Baby Meena made her debut as Meena Kumari|
|Duniya Ek Sarai||Tara|
|1947||Piya Ghar Aaja|
|1950||Shri Ganesh Mahima||Satyabhama|
|Lakshmi Narayan||Goddess Lakshmi|
|Hanuman Patal Vijay||Makari|
|1952||Aladdin Aur Jadui Chirag||Princess Badar|
|Baiju Bawra||Gauri||Won – Filmfare Best Actress Award|
|1953||Parineeta||Lalita||Won – Filmfare Best Actress Award|
|Dream House||Herself||Meena Kumari along with Ashok Kumar appeared in international Dunlopillo UK Advertisement.|
|Foot Path||Mala||This movie featured in Avijit Ghosh's book, 40 Retakes: Bollywood Classics You May Have Missed.|
|Do Bigha Zamin||Thakurain||The first Indian film to win the International Prize at Cannes in 1954.
The film also marks Meena Kumari's maiden guest appearance.
|Chandni Chowk||Zareena Begum|
|Azaad||Shobha||Nominated – Filmfare Best Actress Award|
|Ek Hi Raasta||Malti|
|Bandhan||Bani||This film was awarded with a Certificate of Merit in National Film Awards.|
|1957||Sharada||Sharda Ram Sharan||Won – Best Actress Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards|
|Miss Mary||Miss Mary / Laxmi||The film was one of the biggest hits of that year.|
|Sahara||Leela||Nominated – Filmfare Best Actress|
|Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan||Ratna||Nominated – Filmfare Best Actress Award|
|Char Dil Char Rahen||Chavli|
|1960||Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai||Karuna||It is one of the noted acting performances of Meena Kumari's career.|
|1961||Zindagi aur Khwab||Shanti|
|Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan||Geeta||The film was one of the highest-grossing films of the year at the Indian Box Office.|
|Pyaar Ka Saagar||Radha / Rani B Gupta|
|1962||Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam||Chhoti Bahu / Sati Lakshmi||Won – Filmfare Best Actress Award/ Nominated in 13th Berlin International Film Festival & Meena Kumari was selected as a delegate.|
|Main Chup Rahungi||Gayetri||Nominated – Filmfare Best Actress|
|Aarti||Aarti Gupta||Won – Best Actress Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards
Nominated Filmfare Best Actress
|Dil Ek Mandir||Sita||Won – Best Actress Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards
Nominated-Filmfare Best Actress
|Akeli Mat Jaiyo||Seema|
|1964||Sanjh Aur Savera||Gauri|
|Ghazal||Naaz Ara Beghum|
|Chitralekha||Chitralekha||Meena Kumari's first colour feature film.|
|Main Bhi Ladki Hoon||Rajni|
|Purnima||Purnima V. Lal|
|Kaajal||Madhvi||Won – Filmfare Best Actress Award|
|1966||Pinjre Ke Panchhi||Heena Sharma|
|Phool Aur Patthar||Shanti||Nominated – Filmfare Best Actress Award|
|1967||Majhli Didi||Hema||The film was India's entry to the 41st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.|
|Noorjehan||Mehr-un-Nisa / Noorjehan|
|Chandan Ka Palna||Shobha Rai|
|Bahu Begum||Zeenat Jahan Begum|
|After The Eclipse||Herself (only voice)||Documentary produced by S.Sukhdev featured Meena Kumari's voice.|
|1968||Baharon Ki Manzil||Nanda Roy / Radha Shukla|
|1971||Mere Apne||Anandi Devi|
|Pakeezah||Nargis / Sahibjaan||Won special Bengal Film Journalists' Association Award and posthumously received her twelfth and last Filmfare nomination.
Also credited as the Costume Designer of the film.
|Gomti Ke Kinare||Ganga||Meena Kumari's last film.|
Awards and accolades
Filmfare Awards-Best Actress
|1960||Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan||Ratna||Nominated|
|1963||Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam||Chhoti Bahu||Won|
|Main Chup Rahungi||Gayetri||Nominated|
|1964||Dil Ek Mandir||Sita||Nominated|
|1967||Phool Aur Patthar||Shanti||Nominated|
|1973||Pakeezah||Nargis / Sahibjaan||Nominated|
- Nominated & Won
- Nominated & Not Won
- Azaad (1956)
- Sahara (1959)
- Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan (1960)
- Aarti (1963)
- Main Chup Rahungi (1963)
- Dil Ek Mandir (1964)
- Phool Aur Patthar (1967)
- Pakeezah (1973)
- In 65 years and 63 editions of the Filmfare Awards, Meena Kumari's unusual feat of garnering all three nominations in the Best Actress category remains unaccomplished by any other actress and is unique till this day. She reached this pinnacle in the 10th Filmfare Awards in 1963.
- Meena Kumari's record for the highest number of Filmfare Award for Best Actress remained unbroken for 13 years (1966–1979) until it was finally broken by Nutan in the 26th Filmfare Awards, 1979.
- Her record for the highest number of nominations in the Best Actress category (12) was eventually broken after 35 years by Madhuri Dixit in the 53rd Filmfare Awards, 2008.
Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards
Meena Kumari has won several awards at the Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards (BFJA)
|1958||Sharada||Sharada Ram Sharan||Won-Best Actress in a Hindi Feature Film|
|1963||Aarti||Aarti Gupta||Won-Best Actress in a Hindi Feature Film|
|1965||Dil Ek Mandir||Sita||Won-Best Actress in a Hindi Feature Film|
|1973||Pakeezah||Nargis/ Sahibjaan||Special Award|
One of the first biographies of Meena Kumari was written just after her death by Vinod Mehta in October 1972. It was titled Meena Kumari – The Classic Biography. The biography was re-published in May 2013.
Shaira (alternative title Sahira) means "Poetess" a short documentary on Meena Kumari directed by S Sukh Dev and Gulzar produced by Kanta Sukhdev was released in 1980.
Meena Kumari has always been a subject of interest anong present day filmmakers, thanks to her massive star appeal. In 2005, a modern day adaption of her classic film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was to be made in which Priyanka Chopra was to portray her role of Chhoti Bahu. However, the film got shelved and paved way for a TV series helmed by director Rituparno Ghosh in which actress Raveena Tandon essayed this role.
In 2015, it was reported that Tigmanshu Dhulia was to make a film on Hindi cinema's Tragedy Queen, which was to be a screen adaptation of Vinod Mehta's book, "Meena Kumari – The Classic Biography". Actress Kangana Ranaut was approached to portray Kumari but the film was shelved yet again due to lack of authentic facts and after strong protestion of Meena Kumari's stepson Tajdar Amrohi. Actress Vidya Balan and actress Madhuri Dixit were also approached to play the Great Tragedienne but due to lack of a powerful script, both of them declined the offer. As of recent updates, director Karan Razdan has decided to direct an official biopic on Meenaji and actress Sunny Leone has shown keen interest to play the legendary icon. However, the project, as of now, remains to be at its initial stages.
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