Tributes To The “Chhoti Bahu” Of The Silver Screen, On Her Birthday

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From passion, romance, love, success to tragedy – she witnessed all of these in her real life too. Her life was nothing less than a roller coaster ride. Her seductive voice and charismatic screen presence captured millions of hearts.

Meena Kumari was born on 1st August, 1932. Her father, Master Ali Baksh had migrated from Bhera. Her mother, Iqbal Begum, was a Bengali Christian who converted to Islam. Meena Kumari’s original name was Mehajabeen Bano. The director of ‘Farzande Watan’, Vijay Bhatt, changed her name to Baby Meena for his movie. She grew up & became popular as Meena Kumari. Meena Kumari had no formal education, but she was quite well versed in Urdu and Hindi. She was an ardent reader. She also used to write poems in Urdu, many of which even got published under the pen name ‘Naaz’. In an industry where wedlock is seen as suicidal for an actress, she thrived professionally all her life despite marrying early. Meena Kumari went on to act in a total of 94 movies, in a career that spanned from 1939 to 1972. She become a household name after her performances in ‘Baiju Bawra’, ‘Parineeta’, ‘Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam’, ‘Kaajal’ as well as received ‘Best Actress’ awards for these titles. She excelled at tragedy and was often shown in a white sari carrying the film with her acting & came to be known as the ‘Tragedy Queen’. She was also thought to be the only actress who could sell a film on the strength of her name alone. Pakeezah, her swan song, too opened poorly but ended up being a blockbuster when the news of her death became public. Everybody wanted to see her one last time, Pakeezah was just an excuse.

At the Filmfare Awards 1963, she was the only one nominated in the category Best Actress in a Leading Role. She was nominated for three of her performances in three different films – an achievement still not accomplished by any other actress at the Filmfare Awards.
As she had conceded in her diary, she began to see herself as an extension of ‘Chhoti Bahu’ in Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam, wherein she played a suffering wife who took to alcohol to please her philandering husband. And, like her reel avatar, she became alcoholic -to the extent that the bottles of Dettol in her bathroom would contain brandy, and not antiseptic! No wonder, she died of cirrhosis of the liver, caused by excessive drinking, at the age of 39.

Her studied reserve, chaste diction and — most of all — extraordinary voice, that struck the right balance, ensured her place in the hearts of the Indian movie-goers.

TheSongpedia pays tribute to this legendary actress on her birthday!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan

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