The month of February brings us memories of one of the most beautiful actresses in the world – Madhubala – who was born as well as died in this month decades ago. Once dubbed as the ‘Biggest Star in the World’ by an American magazine, Madhubala’s life and times were always a mystery because she was a very private person and hardly ventured out. Khatija Akbar’s aptly-titled biography I Want to Live gives insight to the legendary actress who mesmerized the audience during her career and continues to pop up in debates on natural beauty and talent.
The author starts the book with Madhubala’s early career where at the age of 16 she became a lead actress after performing as a child star; she became famous in the late 40s after which she adapted the name Madhubala and instantly became the fantasy of every film fan in India. The author rightly praises her beauty that was unmatched and won her many admirers – both at home and abroad – and she even stood out when compared to her colleagues, something she also knew.
Known as Venus of Indian cinema, Madhubala had an ideal career till 1960 after which she sort of lost it, mainly due to her domineering father Ataullah Khan’s backward thinking, her heart ailment and failure in finding love. She not only lost the lead role in Naya Daur because her father didn’t let her leave the city but also broke up with Dilip Kumar who testified against her when the matter was taken to court. There is a lot more that you can learn about the actress from this book as it gives you insight into what Madhubala was, behind the screen.
This book has an edge over the abundant reading material available on the actress – the writer has spoken to many people who had the chance of working with Madhubala and that includes known personalities including Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Naushad, Anil Biswas and even Begum Para who gave their insights about the dazzling beauty. Through their accounts as well as that of some renowned journalists, you find out that Madhubala began acting in order to support her family and although she was diagnosed with an illness in 1949, her father kept pushing her as she was an overwhelming success.
The book also tells us that Madhubala was way ahead of her times; she learned driving when she was not even a teenager (at the age of 12). She also had a reclusive, flip side because of which she had a phobia of strangers; maybe that’s why she hardly attended premieres and parties. Her father had an overbearing presence in her life and maybe that’s why she didn’t get married to Dilip Kumar, whom she was madly in love with. The pictures in the book don’t do justice to the beauty of Madhubala and had there been some colour pictures, the book might have looked even more beautiful. On the whole, this book pays tribute to Madhubala who lived the ideal life of a fairy tale princess but failed to meet her Prince Charming as her life was cut short.
7 things you didn’t know about Madhubala
u Her real name was Mumtaz Jehan Dehlavi and she was credited as either Baby Mumtaz or Mumtaz, till Neel Kamal (1947).
u Madhubala was madly in love with Dilip Kumar, her co-star of the 50s with whom she acted in countless hits of the era.
u Dilip Kumar and Madhubala were not on speaking terms (due to Naya Daur court case) during the most romantic scenes of Mughal-e-Azam (1960).
u She married Kishore Kumar in 1960 after he converted to Islam (temporarily) and they remained married till her death in 1969.
u Hollywood director Frank Capra wanted to cast Madhubala but her father rejected the idea as she ‘can’t eat with forks and spoons’.
u Madhubala wasn’t the first choice for her most famous role Anarkali; Nutan was first announced as the leading lady of Mughal-e-Azam before backing out.
u Madhubala had a hole in her heart and she fainted for the first time on sets in 1949; twenty years later, she succumbed to the ailment.