B.H.Harsh wrote on 11 Aug 2008
Meena Kumari (real name Mahzabeen Bano) was born on August 1, 1932. She was the third daughter of her parents Ali Baksh and Iqbal Begum. When Meena was 7, She was forced to leave school and work in films.
Meena Kumari’s first film as a child artiste was Leatherface (1939) directed by Vijay Bhatt. She did a few other films like Pooja (1940), Kasauti (1940) and Behen (1941). Gradually, Meena became the bread-winner of her house. By the time Meena grew up, she started working in mythological films like Veer Ghatotkach (1949) and Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950). She also did a few other films like Anmol Ratan (1950) and Madhosh (1951).
Meena Kumari’s turning point was blockbuster musical Baiju Bawra (1952), directed by Vijay Bhatt. She co-starred with Bharat Bhushan in this film. Baiju Bawra was the most popular film that year. Her next big film was Bimal Roy’s Parineeta (1953). Meena Kumari played the role of the protagonist, and won rave reviews for her performance.
Meena Kumari became popular for her portrayal of a suffering woman. Some of her other similar films in that era were Daera (1953), Ek Hi Raasta (1956) and Sharda (1957). But Meena Kumari proved her versitality by doing light-hearted films like Miss Mary (1957), Shararat (1959) and Kohinoor (1960). However, Meena Kumari’s best came out when she did serious roles. Her landmark performance came in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), where she simply stunned everyone with her in-your-face portrayl of a lonely wife who takes to drinking after a lot of suffering. Same year, Meena Kumari also did Main Chup Rahungi and Aarti, which were also successful. Meena Kumari’s other notable films are Dil ek Mandir (1963), Kaajal (1965) and Phool aur Paththar (1966). Meanwhile, Meena Kumari hit the bottle in real life, and decreased her work in frustration due to divorce with his husband Kamal Amrohi. She began having striking similarities with her character in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam by relying on Dharmendra for emotional support. In 1971, She delivered a fabulous performance in Gulzar’s Mere Apne (1971). Same year, She resumed working on Pakeezah (1972) with estranged husband Kamal Amrohi. Pakeezah finally released an year later, but to lukewarm response. On March 31, 1972, with in two months of Pakeezah’s release, Meena Kumari passed away due to liver problems. Pakeezah suddenly picked up collections, and went on to be a huge success at the box-office.
Meena Kumari won Filmfare award on 4 occasions – Baiju Bawra (1952), Parineeta (1953), Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) and Kaajal (1965)
Meena Kumari also wrote poetry, some of which was published by Gulzar years after her death. She also recorded a disc of her poems, I write, I recite with music by Khayyam. She was penniless when she died.