Remembering Madhubala, the ‘Venus of Indian cinema’ who still remains the template of beauty and art

Samikhsya Bureau

It is difficult to say if the iconic film “Mughal-E- Aazam’ glorified the legendary actor and queen of beauty Madhubala or she had remained the template of the cinema of  that era was always in debate. Fondly known as the ‘Venus of Indian cinema’ Madhubala would have been 86 on this day.  In her life spanning 36 years, Madhubala was no less than a living legend. Her divine beauty made her a recognised face all across the globe.
The Doodle remembers Madhubala in her classic pose from the iconic film Mughal-E-Azam starring her and Dileep Kumar in the lead role.
Today’s Doodle by Bangalore-based artist Muhammed Sajid celebrates Madhubala, an icon of Indian cinema who was also widely known as “The Marilyn Monroe of Bollywood.”

Raised in the slums of Bombay, she supported her family as a child star and soon became a leading lady known for her elegance on screen and considerable acting abilities.
Born in Delhi on this day in 1933, Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi was raised in a town located near the Bombay Talkies film studio.

She appeared in her first film at the age of 9, billed as Baby Mumtaz.
In 1947 she landed the lead role in Neel Kamal at the age of 14, taking the name Madhubala. As the family’s main breadwinner, she worked tirelessly to support her parents and four sisters.

Madhubala appeared in nine films during 1949, including a spellbinding breakout performance in the box office hit Mahal.

While her breathtaking appearance earned comparisons to Venus, Madhubala was a gifted actor with an understated style well suited for comedies, dramas, and romantic roles alike.

She fell in love with Dilip Kumar, her costar in the 1951 romance Tarana, but her father, who managed her career, interfered.

The actors’ chemistry in the epic historical drama Mughal-e-Azam—one of the most popular and expensive movies in Bollywood history—was undeniable and unforgettable.

During the career span of 22 years, Madhubala was known for her roles of variety of genres such as Mahal (1949), Dulari (1949), Beqasoor (1950), Tarana(1951), Amar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. ’55(1955), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958),Howrah Bridge (1958) and Mughal-e-Azam (1960) with actors such as Dilip Kumar, Guru Dutt, Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Kishore Kumar and many more as her co-stars.

Despite the fact that she was a very popular actress, Madhubala never received any award unlike her contemporaries, Meena Kumari, Nutan,Waheeda Rehman, Suraiya,Vyjanthimala and Nargis.

Madhubala was nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 1961 for her performance in Mughal-e-Azam (1960). However, the award went to actress Bina Rai who won it for her performance in Ghunghat

In 1951, she also caught the interest of Hollywood when ace photographer James Burke visited India and photographed her for Life Magazine. In their feature of her, Life, called her “the biggest star” in the inter-national film industry. She was photographed extensively for this feature by James Burke.

Her last film Jwala, although shot in the 1950s, was released in 1971.

Appearing in over 70 films over the course of a tragically brief career, Madhubala—was called “The Biggest Star in the World” in 1952 by Theatre Arts magazine.

Madhubala’s life and career was cut short when she died on February 23, 1969 from a prolonged illness.

In 2004, a digitally-colourized version of the original Mughal-e-Azamwas released, 35 years after her death.

On March 18, 2008, a commemorative postage stamp featuring Madhubala was issued The stamp was produced by India Post in a limited edition presentation pack. It was launched by veteran actors Nimmi and Manoj Kumar in a ceremony attended by colleagues, friends and surviving members of Madhubala’s family.

The only other Indian film actress that was honoured in this manner was Nargis Dutt, at that point of time.

In 2012, her 1962 release Half Ticket was also remastered, digitally coloured and re-released after 50 years of its original release.

On August 10, 2017, the New Delhi center of Madame Tussauds unveiled a statue of Madhubala, as the famous courtesan Anarkali (of Mughal-E-Azamfame) as a tribute to the legendary actress. The Madame Tussauds opened in New Delhi on December 1, 2017.

In 2018 the New York Times published a belated obituary for her.

(With agency inputs)