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Dhara Joshi
1 Aug 2018 . 1 min read

Meena Kumari: The Tragedy Queen on Screen & Unstoppable Offscreen


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abla-pa koi is dasht me aayahoga

varna andhi men diya kis ne jalaya hoga?

zarrezarre pe jade hongesajde

ik ik but ko ḳhuda us ne banaya hoga

- Meena Kumari "Naaz"

(Approx Transcription: Someone must have come with blisters in her feet who else has lit the light here? At every stop, she must have thanked the Almighty. At each step she must have taken an inspiration)

Indian film critics regarded her as a historically incomparable actress of Hindi cinema. Meena Kumari, popularly known as the “Tragedy Queen” of Indian Cinema, was born on 1st August 1933.

Today on her 85th birth Anniversary, let us know how she was a tragedy queen and led her life as an incomparable woman. What made her a true SHERO of the mid 20th Century.

Her father, Ali Bux, was a Muslim and her mother, Prabhawati Devi (known as Iqbal Begum), was a Bengali Christian who converted to Islam. Both were into arts, music, and cinema. Probably she got her acting genes from her parents itself.

But sadly, Meena's father left her at an orphanage soon after she was born as he desperately expected a son.

He changed his mind a few hours later and went back for her. As a child, she wasn’t much interested in acting but the poor condition of her family pushed her to work in films just as her parents.

Meena Kumari's first role was in Leatherface, released 1939 (Vijay Bhatt’s film).

Later during an interview, she mentioned that she felt the utmost satisfaction of becoming the bread earner and supporter of her family at a tender age.

She was well versed in Urdu and she had an interest in Poetry. She wrote her poems "shayari" under the pen name - Naaz. However, her poems were published after her death in 1972 at the age of 39, when poet Gulzar arranged for Hind Pocket Books to publish her poems.

What some of the Top Celebrities mentioned about her

"No one, not anyone, ever spoke dialogues the way Meena Kumari did... no one .. not anyone to date.. and perhaps never will".

- Amitabh Bachchan

"She has the most unique voice. No other heroine has it." escribed Kumari as "undoubtedly an actress of the highest calibre".

- Madhubala, she was also a fan of Meena Kumari.

Naushad Ali (Music Director) one of the greatest music directors of the Hindi film industry, said,

"Hindi film industry may produce great actresses but there would never be another Meena Kumari".

Vinod Mehta (writer of Meena Kumari’s biography) mentioned, what he was told by a director -

“Even Dilip Kumar found it difficult to keep his calm in front of her.”

The same way actors like Raaj Kumar and several other male co-stars felt it difficult to act her side due to her enormous presence. This was something very unique for an era when the Indian Cinema was mostly male-dominated.

Four Meena Kumari movies telling the story of transformation of a tragedy queen to a legend

1) Parineeta (1953) (Her role - Orphan Niece)

Plot - Lalita (Meena Kumari) is a stranded niece of a bankrupt clerk named Gurucharan (Nazir Hussain). Shekhar (Ashok Kumar), is the child of their rich landlord neighbor. Shekhar had an attraction towards Lalita. Gurucharan needs to contract his home to Shekhar's dad with a specific end goal to get one of his girls wedded as he is vigorously obligation ridden. Shekhar's dad frequently criticizes him about his past due to advance and eventually there comes a day when totally pushed on all sides, Gurucharan is compelled to exploit the unselfish offer of an intrigue free credit made by a rich young fellow named Girin. This offers to ascend to a monstrous misconception that Lalita has been "sold" to Girin. What happens from that point frames the grasping finish of this extraordinary story of flawless love.

2) Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) (Her role - Choti Bahu/Younger daughter-in-law)

Plot - One night, the house helper, Bansi (Dhumal), takes Bhoothnath to meet the more youthful zamindar's (Rehman) spouse who beseeches him to bring her Mohini Sindoor, trusting it will keep her unfaithful husband home. Bhoothnath is struck by her excellence and misery and coincidentally progresses toward becoming Chhoti Bahu's mystery friend. A bomb detonates in the commercial centre and Bhoothnath is harmed in the resulting crossfire between flexibility contenders and British officers. Jaba cares for him. Chhoti Bahu's rehashed endeavours to mollify her significant other come up short until the point when she turns into his drinking buddy to keep him close by. Jaba's marriage is concluded with Supavitra (an individual from Bramho Samaj), however, after her dad's demise, she decays the marriage.

Individuals thought Chhoti Bahu is taking part in an extramarital entanglement with Bhootnath (however really it was not the situation). He arranges his cohorts to pursue them. As Bhoothnath and Chhoti Bahu travel in the carriage, it is halted by the associates. Bhoothnath is thumped oblivious and Chhoti Bahu is kidnapped. When he awakens in doctor's facility, Bhoothnath is informed that Chhoti Bahu has vanished and the more youthful zamindar is dead. The flashback closes.

Bhoothnath's laborers educate him a skeleton is discovered covered in the remains of the haveli. From the adornments on the carcass, Bhoothnath acknowledges it is the remaining parts of Chhoti Bahu.

3) Kaajal (1965) (Her role - Madhavi the Young Orphan, Accused of affairs and Struggle after marriage)

Plot - The Munim (Clerk) in Ranimaa's family lives with his child, Kaushal and girl, Madhavi. After his death, Ranimaa raises the two kids as her own, alongside her solitary child, Rajesh. A long time later, Rajesh has grown up and is of eligible age. He meets with wonderful Bhanu Saxena and both experience passionate feelings for each other. Kaushal kicks the bucket in a sculling mischance not long after this, deserting a crushed Madhavi. Rajesh points the finger at himself and Ranimaa for his passing. A couple of months after the fact, Rajesh gets hitched to Bhanu and she moves in with them. Bhanu hates Madhavi and might want her off the beaten path, she goes to the degree of blaming her for having an unsanctioned romance with her better half. Under strain, Madhavi goes to murder herself and is protected by a young fellow named Moti. Rajesh likes Moti and might want him to wed Madhavi, to which he concurs. After the marriage, Madhavi says goodbye to Ranimaa, and Rajesh, and moves in with Moti. What Madhavi does not realize that Moti had a motivation and an ulterior thought process in wedding her, and it appears as if she moves from a bad situation to a worse one.

4) Paakezah (1972) (Her role - Played double role the First prostitute - Nargis, later she died. Again as her daughter - Sahibjaan as a prostitute, her Struggle and facing Humiliation of society)

This was Meena Kumari’s last movie, which took a whopping 14 years to complete. She was battling with Cirrhosis (a condition in which the liver does not function properly due to long-term damage.) and was ill throughout the making of this film. She died a few weeks after it was released.

Plot - Set in Muslim Lucknow when the new century rolled over, the motion picture fixates on the psychological situation of a tawaif (concubine and artist) and their aching to be cherished, acknowledged and regarded by society.

In the eponymous part, Nargis (Meena Kumari), discovers love and dreams of the wedding the man she adores, Shahabuddin (Ashok Kumar). In any case, the patriarch of Shahabuddin's family, Hakim Saab (D.K. Sapru) rejects this partnership, as he thinks that its unsuitable to welcome a tawaif in his regarded family. Blue, Nargis escape to an adjacent burial ground and lives there, eventually bringing forth a little girl before passing endlessly. On her deathbed, she composes Shahabuddin a letter approaching him to want his infant little girl. Nargis' sister, Nawabjaan (Veena), a whorehouse madam, finds the girl(daughter) first and takes her back to the kotha. At the point when Nargis' assets are sold quite a long while later, a book sweetheart finds the letter in her book and posts it. Shahabuddin comes to gather his now grown-up little girl, Sahibjaan (additionally played by Meena Kumari).

Be that as it may, Nawabjaan takes her niece and escapes via prepare to another town.   While going via prepare, a dashing young fellow enters Sahibjaan's compartment by chance. He is struck by her magnificence and leaves her a note with the well known lines: "Aapke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hain. Inhein zameen standard tangle utariyega... maile ho jaayenge [I saw your feet - they are exceptionally delightful. Kindly don't venture on the ground, as they will get dirty]. Sahibjaan experiences passionate feelings for this baffling outsider and longs to meet him. The note gives Sahibjaan trust even as she evades unwelcome consideration from her supporters while engaging them.

One specific supporter, the forceful Nawab Zafar Ali Khan (Kamal Kapoor), wishes to claim Sahibjaan and takes her to his pontoon for the night. The vessel is assaulted by elephants and Sahibjaan is diverted by the quick streaming waterway in a broken watercraft. As destiny would have it, she is taken to the riverside tent of a timberland officer, Salim Ahmed Khan (Raaj Kumar). Alone with his journal, she peruses how he was a similar man who had before left her a note on her feet, and left for her to peruse it while going in a similar compartment.

Sahibjaan at long last meets the outsider, however, pretends amnesia to abstain from revealing to him her actual character. Before dusk, Nawabjaan tracks Sahibjaan and takes her back to the kotha.

Few other movies with her powerful roles were -

  • Mere Apne - (Released 1971) (Her role - Old Widow, treated as a maid by her distant relatives)
  • Phool aur Pathar- (Released 1966)  (Her role - Young widowed, domestic violence saved by a dacoit, struggles alone)
  • Benazir - (Released 1964) (Her role - Dancer, Insulted & Compelled to leave her town)

Meena Kumari is such a legend, the India Cinema would always cherish and an inspiration for generations of an actress to come.


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Dhara Joshi

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  • S*****
    There can never be anyone like a her a true legend
  • S*****
    Good n emotional actress
  • N*****
    Nice
  • A*****
    Nice
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