Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi (born 14 February 1933 – 23 February 1969), better known by her stage name Madhubala, was an Indian film actress who appeared in Hindi films. She was active between 1942 and 1964. Known for her beauty, personality, and sensitive portrayals of tragic women, she was also known as The Beauty With Tragedy and The Venus Queen of Indian Cinema. Her comparison with Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe earned her the name Marilyn Monroe of Bollywood.
Madhubala made her screen debut as a child artist at the age of nine with the film Basant (1942). However, her acting career as a heroine actually began in 1947, when she appeared in Neel Kamal with Raj Kapoor at the age of 14. During the career span of 22 years, she appeared in around 73 Hindi films. She received her only nomination for a Filmfare Award for Best Actress for her performance in Mughal-e-Azam (1960).
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 international film industry. She was photographed extensively for this feature by James Burke. Madhubala had been compared to Marilyn Monroe: the smoldering looks, the short career, the tragic end. "There was a remarkable similarity in the soft vulnerability of their faces", writes Khatija Akbar in her biography of Madhubala. "The same abandoned to their laughter, head thrown back, that same incandescent glow". She was an avid fan of Hollywood, and while visiting Bombay, Frank Capra was keen in giving her a break in Hollywood but her father refused.
Madhubala received wide recognition for her performances in films such as Mahal (1949), Amar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Barsaat Ki Raat (1960). Her performance in Mughal-e-Azam established her as an iconic actress of Hindi Cinema. Her last film Jwala, although shot in the 1950s, was released in 1971.
Madhubala's private life received much attention. Madhubala had a long relationship with actor Dilip Kumar, but chose to marry her Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi co-star Kishore Kumar in 1960. Together they had worked in films such as Dhake Ki Malmal (1956), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Jhumroo (1961) and Half Ticket (1962). Madhubala's life and career was cut short when she died in 1969 from a prolonged illness at the age of 36.
Early life and education
Madhubala was born on 14 February 1933 as Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi, the fifth of eleven children in Delhi, British India (present day in India). Her parents were Ataullah Khan and Aayesha Begum. She had ten siblings out of whom only four survived to adulthood. Her father, Ataullah Khan belonged to the Yousafzai tribe of Pashtuns, and lived in Peshawar valley which includes the present-day regions of Mardan and Swabi, now in Pakistan, with his family. After losing his job at the Imperial Tobacco Company in Peshawar, he relocated the family to Delhi and then Bombay. The family endured many hardships. Madhubala's three sisters and two brothers died at the ages of five and six. The dock explosion and fire of 14 April 1944 wiped out their small home. The family survived only because they had gone to see a film at a local theatre.
With his six remaining daughters to provide for, Khan, and the young Madhubala began to pay frequent visits to Bombay film studios to look for work. At the age of 9, this was Madhubala's introduction to the movie industry, which would provide financial help to her family. Madhubala spoke her native language Pashto at home and was proficient in Urdu and Hindi. She couldn't speak a word of English but yearned to learn the language. Madhubala learned driving at the age of twelve and sometimes enjoyed long drives.
I am not a spendthrift for the simple reason that I do not know what to spend money on. I do not have a passion for jewellery and clothes. I do not travel. I do not go out much. By God's grace I have all necessities of life and I am happy— Madhubala
1942–49: Early career
Madhubala's first film Basant (1942), was a box office success. She acted as the daughter to the character played by actress Mumtaz Shanti and was credited as Baby Mumtaz in the film. Basant became the highest-grossing Indian film of that year.
A nine-year old Madhubala, then a child artist often tottered around various studios of Bombay in search of work and made several friends there. Around the same time, another child artist Baby Mahjabeen also visited these studios and was known to Madhubala. This Baby Mahjabeen later on, became one of the most sought after stars and her contemporary – Meena Kumari. Madhubala was a fan of Meena Kumari and said: "She has the most unique voice. No other heroine has it".
After starring in the film Basant, Madhubala starred in director Kidar Sharma's 1945 film Dhanna Bhagat. More films of Baby Mumtaz followed in 1946 such as Pujari, Phoolwari and Rajputani. Phoolwari was the third highest grossing film of that year and starred Motilal and Khursheed Bano in lead roles.
Her first lead role, at the age of 14, was opposite Raj Kapoor in Kidar Sharma's Neel Kamal (1947). Actress Devika Rani was impressed by her performance and potential, and advised her to assume the screen name "Madhubala", literally meaning "honey belle". Neel Kamal was the last film in which she was credited as Mumtaz before assuming her screen name "Madhubala". Raj Kapoor and Madhubala again paired up for Dil Ki Rani (1947), a comedy film directed by Mohan Sinha (Grandfather of Vidya Sinha).
Madhubala is said to be the first Indian woman in Hollywood. In the early 1950s, as Madhubala became popular, she caught the interest of Hollywood when ace photographer James Burke visited India and photographed her for the Life magazine. In their feature of her, Life called her "the biggest star" in the international industry. She was photographed extensively for this feature by photographer James Burke. She appeared in the American magazine Theatre Arts where, in its August 1952 issue, she was featured in an article with a full page photograph under the title: "The Biggest Star in the World – and she's not in Beverly Hills". The article described Madhubala's immense popularity in India, and explored her wide appeal and large fan base. It also speculated on her potential for international success. Academy Award winner American director Frank Capra, while visiting Bombay for International Film Festival of India, was keen to give her a break in Hollywood, but her father Ataullah Khan declined this offer.
1949–57: Career setbacks
Bombay Talkies's Mahal (1949) transformed Madhubala to an overnight superstar. Though it was a role intended for well-known star Suraiya, eventually went to Madhubala after being screen-tested among many leading ladies of that time. She was selected by the film's director Kamal Amrohi, who was also making his directorial debut with this film. This film also established Lata Mangeshkar as a leading playback singer. Its songs, particularly "Aayega Aanewala", are perennial favourites. The film was India's first reincarnation thriller film. It became one of the biggest box office hits of the year in India and paved way for Indian gothic fiction.
After Mahal, Dulari was released in the same year and had Madhubala with Geeta Bali, Shyam, Jayant and Suresh. The film has the hit song "Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki" sung by Mohammed Rafi and featuring Suresh. Dulari was the year's eighth-highest-grossing film and was remade in Telugu as Sobha (1958).
Madhubala's co-stars Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Rehman, Pradeep Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Dev Anand were the most popular actors of that period. She also appeared with notable leading ladies such as Kamini Kaushal, Suraiya, Geeta Bali, Nalini Jaywant, Shyama and Nimmi. The directors she worked with, Mehboob Khan (Amar), Guru Dutt (Mr. & Mrs. '55), Kamal Amrohi (Mahal) and K. Asif (Mughal-e-Azam), were amongst the most prolific and respected. Madhubala also became a producer and produced films like Naata (1955) and Mahlon Ke Khwab (1960) and acted in both the films.
During the 1950s, Madhubala took starring roles in almost every genre of film being made at that time. Her 1950 film Hanste Aansoo was the first ever Hindi film to get an "A" – adults only – rating from the Central Board of Film Certification. Badal (1951) starred Madhubala and Premnath in lead roles. The film has the hit song "Do Din Ke Liye" sung by Lata Mangeshkar. She was the archetypal fair lady in the swashbuckler Badal, and following this, an uninhibited village beauty in Tarana (1951). Tarana was the first film that started Dilip Kumar and Madhubala together. The duet "Seene Mein Sulagte Hain Armaan" became popular and was sung by Talat Mehmood and Lata Mangeshkar for Dilip Kumar and Madhubala respectively. Madhubala played the traditional ideal of Indian womanhood in Sangdil (1952). The film stars Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in lead roles and was an adaption of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. It became the seventh highest-grossing film of that year. Rail Ka Dibba (1953) had Shammi Kapoor and Madhubala in lead roles. The film failed at the box office. Armaan starring Dev Anand and Madhubala in lead roles also stars Shakila and K.N. Singh.
Bahut Din Huwe was directed by S.S. Vasan and was produced by Gemini Studios. Apart from Madhubala, the film had Savitri and Lalita Pawar. All the songs of the film were sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The shooting of the film took place in Madras. During the shooting of this film, it was discovered that Madhubala was suffering from a congenital heart defect. Amar was directed and produced by Mehboob Khan and starred Dilip Kumar, Madhubala, Nimmi and Jayant. The film is a psychological drama, exploring a violent act between the main characters and the crisis of conscience that rocks them. It is the story of a prosperous lawyer Amar (Dilip Kumar), who is in love and engaged to a young woman Anju (Madhubala) but rapes a poor local village woman, Sonia (Nimmi). The rest of the story deals with the aftermath of this tragic event, will all the inevitable undercurrents of guilt, penitence and pervasive heart break that stems from it.Amar failed to perform well at box office.
Madhubala gave a flamboyant performance in Guru Dutt's satire Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955). The film revolves around Anita, a wealthy heiress, and a struggling cartoonist, Pritam (Guru Dutt). Mr. & Mrs. '55 has hit songs, "Jaane Kahan Mera Jigar Gaya Jee" (a duet sung by Geeta Dutt and Mohammed Rafi) and "Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata" (sung by Geeta Dutt). Mr. & Mrs. 55 was the fifth highest-grossing film of that year. She also acted in costume dramas such as Shirin-Farhad (1956), Raj-Hath (1956) (both with Pradeep Kumar). Dhake Ki Malmal was a romantic musical comedy directed by J.K. Nanda and produced under the Nanda Film banners. The film starred Madhubala and Kishore Kumar together for the first time. Both of them later acted in several popular "musical comedies" such as Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Jhumroo (1961) and Half Ticket (1962).
1958–60: Breakthrough years
In Kala Pani, Madhubala starred opposite Dev Anand. The film was produced by Dev Anand for Navketan Films and was directed by Raj Khosla. The film was the remake of the 1955 Bengali film Sabar Uparey and which itself was based on A.J. Cronin's 1953 novel Beyond This Place. The film has the hit song "Achchha Jee Main Hari" sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle. In the film, Howrah Bridge, she starred with her future brother-in-law Ashok Kumar and played an Anglo-Indian Cabaret singer involved in Calcutta's Chinatown underworld. In the song "Aaiye Meherebaan" from this film, she lip-synced a torch song dubbed by Asha Bhosle which has remained popular to this day. Howrah Bridge performed above average at box office. Its name is a reference to Howrah Bridge, which connects Howrah to Kolkata over the Hooghly River. It features the well known Hindi song Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu sung by Geeta Dutt which was re-used in the film Salaam Bombay!. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi features Madhubala and her future husband Kishore Kumar in lead roles and Kumar's two brothers Anoop Kumar and Ashok Kumar. It was the second highest grossing film of the year. The film has hit songs such as "Babu Samjho Ishaare", "Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si", "Haal Kaisa Hai Janab Ka" and "Main Sitaaron Ka Taraana". The film Phagun was directed by Bibhuti Mitra and was the sixth-highest-grossing film of that year. The film stars Madhubala and Bharat Bhushan in lead roles and has the song "Ek Pardesi Mera Dil Le Gaya" sung by Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle. Insaan Jaag Utha was produced and directed by Shakti Samanta. The film stars Madhubala and Sunil Dutt in lead roles and has the noted duet "Jaanu Jaanu Ri" by Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. The film didn't performed well at box office. Do Ustad stars Raj Kapoor and Madhubala in lead roles. The film also stars Raj Kapoor's eldest son Randhir Kapoor who was very young at that time.
Barsaat Ki Raat stars Bharat Bhushan and Madhubala and became particularly popular for its qawwali songs and was one of the biggest hits at the box office of 1960. Barsaat ki Raat was one of the highest-grossing Indian films of that year. In the same year she appeared in the magnum opus of K. Asif Mughal-e-Azam. Mughal-e-Azam was the last film that stars both Dilip Kumar and Madhubala together, and among the last films of Madhubala. The film has the hit song"Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya". It became one of the best songs of Lata Mangeshkar. Madhubala performs a dance as Anarkali in this song and in many lines, taunts the emperor, Akbar, by repeatedly declaring her refusal to hide her true feelings even in the face of likely death.
It was the film Mughal-e-Azam that marked what many consider to be Madhubala's greatest and definitive characterisation, as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. Although the film took nine years to complete, it was not until 1953 that Madhubala was finally chosen for the role. Bunny Reuben in his book Dilip Kumar: Star Legend of Indian Cinema claimed that Dilip Kumar's role was instrumental behind this selection. Mughal-e-Azam gave Madhubala the opportunity of fulfilling herself totally as an actress, for it was a role that all actresses dreamt of playing, as Nimmi acknowledges that "as an actress, one gets a lot of roles, there is no shortage of them, but there isn't always good scope for acting. With Mughal-e-Azam, Madhubala showed the world just what she could do."
However, by the late 1950s, her health was deteriorating rapidly, and director K. Asif, probably unaware of the extent of Madhubala's illness, required long shooting schedules that made physical demands on her, whether it was posing as a veiled statue in suffocating make-up for hours under the studio lights or being shackled with heavy chains. It was also a time when Madhubala's relationship with Dilip Kumar was fading out, and the lives of Madhubala and her screen character were consistently seen as overlapping because of the overwhelming sense of loss and tragedy and the unrelenting diktat of destiny that clung to both and which neither could escape".
Mughal-e-Azam was released on 5 August 1960, and broke box office records in India and became the highest-grossing film at that time, a record that went unbroken for 15 years until the release of the Sholay in 1975. Madhubhala was nominated for a Filmfare Award for her performance in Mughal-e-Azam.
1960–64: Later career
In 1960s, Madhubala was at the peak of her career and popularity with the release of Mughal-e-Azam and Barsaat Ki Raat. She did have intermittent releases in the early 1960s. Some of these, such as Jhumroo (1961), Half Ticket (1962) and Sharabi (1964), performed above average at the box office.
Jhumroo is a romantic comedy film starring Madhubala and Kishore Kumar. The film is about Jhumroo, a tribal, who falls in love with Anjana, a wealthy woman whose father disapproves of the match. It turns out that Jhumroo's foster mother is Anjana's real mother, and her real father is her father's best friend. Half Ticket is a musical comedy film again starring Madhubala and Kishore Kumar. The film is based on the Hollywood film You're Never Too Young. The film has hit songs such as "Chand Raat Tum Jo Saath" and "Aake Seedhi Lagi". Vijay (Kishore Kumar) is the good-for-nothing son of a rich industrialist, who becomes bored of his father's constant railing and the efforts to marry him off. Vijay leaves for Bombay to start life afresh. However, he doesn't have enough money for a ticket, so he decides to pass himself off as a child in order to get the eponymous half ticket. Now disguised as Munna, Vijay is used as a mule for a diamond smuggler (Pran) without his knowledge. On the train, Vijay also meets Rajnidevi (Madhubala) and falls in love with her. Suhana Geet, directed by Phani Majumdar featured Madhubala with her husband Kishore Kumar and brother-in-law Ashok Kumar. The film never saw the light of the day and remained incomplete.
Most of her other films released during this time were marred by her absence due to illness during filming and subsequent lack of completion. These films suffer from compromised editing, and in some cases the use of "doubles" in an attempt to patch-in scenes that Madhubala was unable to shoot. Her last released film Jwala, although filmed in the late 1950s, was not released until 1971. It was released two years after her death.
In his biography, The Mystery and Mystique of Madhubala, freelance journalist and author, Mohan Deep wrote:
She was a woman possessed. Haunted by her own insecurities until the very end. She loved men. And lost them. Latif, Mohan Sinha, Kamal Amrohi, Premnath, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Dilip Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan, Kishore Kumar.— Mohan Deep
When Madhubala was a child, she had a friend called Latif. Before leaving for Mumbai, Madhubala gave him a red rose and an indication for their love. After she left, he became depressed. He kept the rose with himself and later became an IAS officer. When Madhubala died, he placed that red rose on her grave. Now he is retired and keeps a red rose in her grave on 23 February every year.
After Kamal Amrohi's directed film Mahal became a super hit, they both began a relationship. Her father Ataullah Khan was aware of their relationship but he was in awe with Amrohi's great personality and said: "Aage chalke inn dono ki shaadi ho jaye toh mujhe koi aitraaz nahi hai". (I have no objection if they both get married in future.) However, Amrohi was already married but still loved and wanted to marry Madhubala who refused to share with Amrohi's wife. Madhubala didn't want to share with Amrohi's second wife, Mehmoodi, and insisted that Amrohi divorce his wife. Amrohi was not willing to do so. He insisted that Madhubala must learn to share and said "Baatne se pyaar badta hai". (When you share your love, it expands its boundaries) But Madhubala didn't agree. It was also said that Madhubala put forward an outrageous deal where she offered to pay Amrohi, a sum amount of Rs. 900,000 to marry. However, he refused and they both ended their relationship. Her sister, Madhur Bhushan, refuted all such rumours and said: "Kamal Amrohi was a married man and given our economic conditions how could she, the sole earning member of our family, offer him Rs. 900,000".
Dilip Kumar and Madhubala met each other on the sets of Tarana which starred them in lead roles. Her father stood between her and Dilip Kumar as he was worried that if Madhubala would get married to Dilip Kumar, he would lose the financial cushion that Madhubala had offered to her entire family as she was the sole breadwinner. Ataullah Khan was against the relationship as Madhubala had just started her career and earning huge amount of money for her roles. It has been said that Dilip Kumar insisted that if they were to marry, Madhubala would have to severe all ties with her family. The authenticity of this statement is questionable. Ataullah Khan allowed his daughter to interact with Dilip Kumar only on the sets. Both Kumar and Madhubala had to keep extreme care to their rendezvous hidden from the watchful eyes of Ataullah Khan. Kumar had felt it like a huge imposition.
Commenting on her choice of films, Dilip Kumar regrets that "had she lived, and had she selected her films with more care, she would have been far superior to her contemporaries..." Kumar also points out that "actresses those days faced a lot of difficulties and constraints in their career. Unable to assert themselves too much, they fell back on their families who became their caretakers and defined everything for them."
Marriage to Kishore Kumar (1960)
Madhubala met Kishore Kumar during the shooting of Dhake Ki Malmal (1956). In 1960, Madhubala married him when she was 27 years old. When Madhubala was ill in the late 1950s with the congenital heart disease, Kishore Kumar proposed to her and she decided to marry him after realising that Dilip Kumar was not going to marry her. Kishore Kumar's family never accepted her in their family because Kishore Kumar married Madhubala as per his own wish. The couple had a Hindu ceremony to please Kumar's family but Madhubala was never truly accepted as his wife. Reportedly, Kishore Kumar converted himself into Islam and changed his legal name to "Karim Abdul" to marry her. However, in an interview given to Filmfare, he said that neither he nor Madhubala ever changed their religion to marry each other. They went to London soon after their marriage for their honeymoon where the doctor told her that she had only two years to live. According to Madhubala's sister, Madhur Bhushan, after returning India, Kishore Kumar bought a flat for Madhubala at Quarter Deck, Carter's Road, Bandra, where they stayed for a while and then, he left her there with a nurse and a driver. He would visit Madhubala once in two months and said he couldn't look after her. But he never abused her as was reported and bore her medical expenses. She added "Often Kishore bhaiya's phone was disconnected. He'd visit her once in two to three months. He'd say, 'If I come, you'll cry and it'll not be good for your heart. You'll go into depression. You should rest'. She was young and jealousy was natural. Perhaps, a feeling of being abandoned killed her". Their marriage lasted for nine years. After Madhubala died in 1969 at the age of 36, Kishore Kumar married actress Yogeeta Bali in 1975.
Controversies on Madhubala's life
In their 1962 book Self-Portrait, Harish Booch and Karing Doyle commented that "Unlike other stars, Madhubala prefers a veiled secrecy around her and is seldom seen in social gatherings or public functions." (p. 76), and went on to say that "Contrary to general belief, Madhubala is rather simple and unassuming" (p. 78). This is echoed in her sister's interview with Filmfare: "(Madhubala) became a craze because she was never seen in public. She wasn't allowed to attend any function, any premiere. She had no friends. But she never resisted, she was obedient. Being protective, my father earned the reputation of being domineering". Dilip Kumar added: "She was extremely popular... and I think the only star for whom people thronged outside the gates. Very often when shooting was over, there'd be a vast crowd standing at the gates just to have a look at Madhu... It wasn't so for anyone else. That was her personal effect on fans. Her personality was vivacious." But, "She was aware of her beauty," reminisces B. K. Karanjia, former Filmfare editor and a close friend of both Madhubala and her father, "and because there were so many in love with her, she used to play one against the other. But it was out of innocence rather than shrewd calculation." Dev Anand recalled in a similar way: "She liked to flirt innocently and was great fun." However, with Dilip Kumar she had a long association.
Dilip Kumar and Madhubala first met on the set of Jwar Bhata when she was 11 years of age, and worked together again on the film Har Singaar (1949), which was shelved. Their relationship began two years later during the filming of Tarana (1951). But she had to give the courtship with Dilip due to her father's opposition to him. They became a romantic pair appearing in a total of four films together. Actor Shammi Kapoor recalled that "Dilip Kumar would drive down from Bombay to meet Madhubala... he even flew to Bombay to spend Eid with her, taking time off from his shooting stint..." But, Madhubala's father Ataullah Khan initially did not give them permission to marry. Dilip Kumar said: "She was a very, very obedient daughter", and who, in spite of the success, fame and wealth, submitted to the domination of her father and more often than not paid for his mistakes. "This inability to leave her family was her greatest drawback", believed Shammi Kapoor, "for it had to be done at some time."
Kumar later revealed that her father eventually gave them permission to marry and was "glad to have two stars under the same roof." However, her father, who owned his own production company, wanted to make "a business venture out of their proposed marriage" according to Kumar, which he did not approve of, after which the relationship began turning sour. The Naya Daur court case happened in 1956 when Dilip Kumar testified against Madhubala and her father in favour of director B.R. Chopra in open court. This struck a fatal blow to the Dilip-Madhubala relationship as it ended any chance of reconciliation between Dilip Kumar and Madhubala's father. Reflecting on this, while Dilip Kumar said he was "trapped", Shammi Kapoor felt "this was something which went beyond him (Dilip) and he couldn't control the whole situation..."
Madhubala married Kishore Kumar in 1960. According to Leena Chandavarkar (Kishore's fourth wife): "When she realized Dilip was not going to marry her, on the rebound and just to prove to him that she could get whomsoever she wanted, she went and married a man she did not even know properly." B. K. Karanjia assumed that "Madhubala may have felt that perhaps this was her best chance" because by this time she became seriously ill, and was about to stop working completely; however, he added that "it was a most unlikely union, and not a happy one either."
Madhubala's illness was known to Kishore, but like all the others, he did not realise its gravity; Ataullah Khan did not approve of his son-in-law at all, but he had lost the courage to disapprove. Ashok Kumar reminisced in a Filmfare interview: "She suffered a lot and her illness made her very bad-tempered. She often fought with Kishore, and would take off to her father's house where she spent most of her time."
However, Madhubala's love-life continued to be the subject of media speculation. Mohan Deep wrote an unofficial biography of Madhubala titled Mystery and Mystique of Madhubala, published in 1996, where he claims that Kishore Kumar regularly whipped Madhubala, who would show her lashes to Shakti Samanta. He also claimed that the versions about Madhubala's sickness and death provided by her family members did not match with those provided by Kishore Kumar's family members and the fact that Madhubala was forced to wear heavy shackles and whipped mercilessly in real life in the secret version of Mughal-e-Azam is proved by the fact that only a minor part of the total number of reels shot were released for public. However, the secret version of the film earned Kishore Kumar a lot of money that he earned forcing Madhubala to work as a sex slave in the secret version of the movie. Mohan Deep also questions whether Madhubala was really ill or whether her ailing was a fiction. The book was heavily criticised on its release by industry veterans such as Shammi Kapoor, Shakti Samanta and Paidi Jairaj.
Final years and death
Madhubala had a ventricular septal defect (a hole in her heart) which was detected while she was shooting for Bahut Din Huwe in Madras in 1954. This was in the era before open heart surgeries were possible. The natural history of an unrepaired ventricular septal defect leads to pulmonary hypertension and Eisenmenger's syndrome. At this stage the hole cannot be repaired. Hence, she could never undergo a heart surgery later in life, when open heart surgeries were possible in some Western countries like the United States. By 1960, her condition had become aggravated, and as her sister explains that due to her ailment, her body would produce extra blood, so it would spill out from her nose and mouth. The doctor would come home and extract bottles of blood. As a result of the ventricular septal defect, blood would bypass her lungs leading to low oxygen levels and giving her a blue discoloration. As a compensatory mechanism, the body produced more red blood cells making the blood too thick. Hence, the doctors had to extract the excess blood to prevent complications. She was confined to bed for nine years and was reduced to just bones and skin. Unfortunately, there was no surgery or medicine available at that time to treat her.
In 1966, with a slight improvement in her health, she made a valiant attempt to complete her work in Chalak opposite Raj Kapoor, which needed only a short spell of shooting, but she could not even survive that strain. When acting was no longer an option, Madhubala turned her attention to film direction. In 1969, she was set to make her directorial debut with the film Farz aur Ishq. However, the film was never made, as during pre-production, she died on 23 February 1969, shortly after her 36th birthday. The cause of death was determined to be the prolonged lung and heart illness. Madhubala's funeral was not attended by Dilip Kumar and it is not known if he was invited. Madhubala was buried at Juhu Muslim Cemetery in Santacruz, Mumbai. Her tomb was built with marbles and inscriptions include aayats from Qur'an and verse dedications. In 2010, Madhubala's tomb along with those of Mohammed Rafi, Parveen Babi, Talat Mahmood, Naushad Ali and Sahir Ludhianvi, was demolished to make way for newer graves. Her remains were placed at an unknown location.
Legacy and honours
Madhubala's strong presence in the public memory has been evidenced by all recent polls about top actresses or beauties of the Indian cinema. Every year, numerous articles are printed and television programmes aired to commemorate her birthday. Her posters are still in demand and sold alongside contemporary actresses such as Meena Kumari, Nargis, Waheeda Rehman and Nutan. Modern magazines continue to publish stories on her personal life and career, often promoting her name heavily on the covers to attract sales. In Rediff.com's International Women's Day 2007 special, Madhubala was ranked second in its top ten list of "Bollywood's best actresses". Many believe, however, that Madhubala remains one of the most under-rated actresses as "Her beauty attracted more attention than her talent."
In 2004, a digitally-colorized version of the original Mughal-e-Azam was released, 35 years after her death.
On 18 March 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 10 August 2017, the New Delhi center of Madame Tussauds unveiled a statue of Madhubala inspired by her look in the film Mughal-E-Azam as a tribute to her.
In 2018 the New York Times published a belated obituary for her.
On 14 February 2019, search engine Google commemorated Madhubala with a Doodle on her 86th birth anniversary. Google commented: "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. Appearing in over 70 films over the course of a tragically brief career, Madhubala—who would have turned 86 today—was called "The Biggest Star in the World" in 1952 by Theatre Arts Magazine."
Fashion icon and diva
Madhubala was known as a trendsetter and creator of iconic fashion styles, followed by many celebrities, even after her death.
Awards and nominations
Madhubala was nominated for a Filmfare Award for Best Actress in 1961 for her performance in Mughal-e-Azam (1960). However, the award was won by Bina Rai for her performance in Ghunghat.
In July 2018, Madhubala's sister, Madhur Bhushan, announced that she was planning to make a biopic on her sister. She will not be directing the film but has urged other filmmakers not to plan any biopics on the same subject. Actress Janhvi Kapoor has expressed her wish to play Madhubala. However as of now, the project remains at the initial stages.
In November 2019, it was reported that filmmaker Imtiaz Ali is planning to make a biopic of Madhubala. He has also managed to acquire the rights of the late actress’ life from her family.