November 08, 2011

Ego destroyed their love

Swas born on February 14, Valentine’s Day, known to be a celebration of all things heart and love. And it was a failed heart which cut short superstar Madhubala’s life. Her youngest sister Madhur recalls the meteoric rise and fadeout of Hindi cinema’s Venus, who lived only for 36 years to become a star forever...

“Right through my childhood, Apa (as she addressed Madhubala aka Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehalvi) remained busy shooting. Coming from a conservative Muslim family of Pathans, my father (Ataullah Khan) wasn’t keen that we study. But fortunately, I was sent to St. Joseph’s Convent, Bandra. Yes, she was the only earning member. My father worked with the Imperial Tobacco Company in Peshawar with the British. But being a Pathan, he was hot-headed.

He couldn’t bear being badly treated and lost a 15-year-old job in seconds. He brought all of us to Mumbai. Apa, who was just seven, had talent; she could sing and dance. So she did her first film Basant as a child actor. She remained the earning member till the last. Abba (father) was a disciplinarian. He was not difficult as is believed. He was disciplined and insisted on punctuality.  That was what she imbibed too.

What do I say of her beauty? The fact that she’s spoken about even 42 years after she passed away is proof enough. She loved eating chaat — ragda pattice, pani puri — and kulfi. She’d drive all of us to Chowpatty in her imported cars, Hillman, Buick and Station Wagon. But she’d wear a burqa to hide her identity. When she’d be pulled up by the traffic police for that, she’d plead, ‘Please let me wear it or else I’ll get mobbed’. She even went to watch movies in a burqa.

Apa became a craze because she was never seen in public. She wasn’t allowed to attend any function, any premiere. Being protective, my father earned the reputation of being domineering. He was asked why he’d made her join films in the first place. He’d say, ‘I had 12 children. We would’ve starved to death. I’ve lost my sons who could’ve been my support’.”

 ‘‘Apa first fell in love with Premnath. The relationship lasted six months. It broke on grounds of religion. He asked her to convert and she refused. The next relationship was with Dilip Kumar. She met Bhaijaan (Dilip Kumar) on the sets of Tarana. They later worked in Sangdil, Amar and Mughal-e-Azam. It was a nine-year-long affair. They even got engaged. Unki apa aayee thi, chunni lekar (his sister had come with a chunni as is the custom). Bhaijaan was also a Pathan. Contrary to reports, my father never stopped her from getting married. We already had enough money by then and were financially secure. Apa and Bhaijaan looked made for each other. He’d often come home. He has even seen me in my school uniform.

He was respectful towards us children and addressed us with ‘aap’. The two would go for a drive or sit in the room and talk. The break-up with Dilip Kumar happened due to the court case during Naya Daur in the mid ’50s. The unit was to shoot somewhere in Gwalior. During the shooting of another film Jabeen Jaleel, at the same location, a mob had attacked the women and even torn their clothes off. My father was wary and just asked that the locale be changed. It’s not that he didn’t let her go outdoors. Apa had shot in Mahableshwar, Hyderabad and other places before. Bhaijaan called my father ‘a dictator’ in court and sided with the Chopras (late BR Chopra was the director). Darare padh gayee, rishtey toot gaye (relationships were broken).

We love and respect Bhaijaan but I have just one question, ‘Aapki mohabbat yahan thi, aapki chahat yahan thi, phir aapne aisa kyun kiya (why didn’t you side with your love)?’ Bhaijaan could’ve simply said let’s change the location. Or remained neutral. Apa used to cry a lot those days. They had conversations on the phone trying to patch up. He kept saying, ‘Leave your father and I’ll marry you’. She’d say, ‘I’ll marry you but just come home, say sorry and hug him’. It was zid (ego) which destroyed their love. But my father never asked her to break the engagement or ever demanded an apology from him.

On the rebound Apa got involved with Kishore Kumar, who was going through a divorce with Ruma Devi Guha Thakurta (actor-singer). What attracted her to Kishore? Maybe it was his singing or maybe his ability to make her laugh. Their love affair went on for three years through Chalti Ka Naam Gadi and Half Ticket.

They got married in 1960, when she was 27. After marriage, they flew to London, where the doctor told her she had only two years to live. After that Kishore left her at our house saying, ‘I can’t look after her. I’m on outdoors often’. But she wanted to be with him. He’d visit her once in two months. Maybe he wanted to detach himself from her so that the final separation wouldn’t hurt. But he never abused her as was reported. He bore her medical expenses. They remained married for nine years.”

‘‘The hole in her heart (ventricular septal defect) was detected when she was shooting for SS Vasan’s Chalak in Madras 1954. She had vomited blood. She was advised bed rest for three months but continued working. While shooting for Mughal-e-Azam, she was tied with chains and had to walk around with them. That was stressful. By the end of the day, her hands would turn blue. She’d even refuse food saying that she had to look anguished and weary for the jail scenes. The ‘feather scene’ between her and Bhaijaan (considered the most romantic in Hindi cinema) was shot after the break-up. Due to her ailment, her body would produce extra blood. So it would spill out from the nose and mouth. The doctor would come home and extract bottles of blood. She also suffered from pulmonary pressure of the lungs. She coughed all the time. Every four to five hours she had to be given oxygen or else she would get breathless. She was confined to bed for nine years and was reduced to just bones and skin.

She’d keep crying, ‘Mujhe zinda rehna hai, mujhe marna nahin hai, doctor kab ilaaj nikalenge (I want to live, I don’t want to die, wonder when the doctor will find a cure)’. During her last days, I was suffering from chicken pox and so was advised to stay away from her. But when the doctor said that she was sinking, I rushed up to see her. But she had passed away (February 23, 1969). She was only 36 to my 19. Though Bhaijaan never visited her when she was unwell, he flew down from Madras to pay his last respects at the kabrastan (cemetery). Food was sent from his home to ours for three days (as is the custom). I remember when Bhaijaan married Saira Banu, Apa was sad because she loved him. She’d say, ‘Unke naseeb mein woh (Saira Banu) thi, main nahin’. But she’d also say, ‘He’s got married to a very pretty girl. She’s so devoted. I’m very happy for him’. But a vacuum remained in her heart. A few years back her tomb was demolished, as it was in a Wahabi (a Muslim sect that doesn’t allow building of tombs) cemetery. They wiped away the last memories of a legend.’’

-Farhana Farook 

Source: Times Internet Limited/Idiva

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  1. Amazing article , Madhubala was without doubt the most beautiful bollywood actress ever

  2. a vry sad story of a legend.

  3. Speechless Thank you so much :)

  4. I'm speechless after reading this.....

  5. Very sad indeed, but in spite all these sufferings the way she laughed n smile, her love for the life will always inspire me, they may have demolished her tomb but she will forever be alive in my heart


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