"Allah, main marna nahin chahti... (God, I don't want to die...)" was the plaintive cry of a bewitching beauty whose acting abilities in the Hindi cinema, be it a comedy, tragedy or romantic interlude, coupled with her tragic life story cut short by an incurable heart defect, established her as one of the most sought-after actresses in India. Her presence in public memory to this day becomes apparent when in a recent poll, she scored the maximum number of points for beauty and acting among all the actresses of Indian cinema - past and present. Her posters are still in demand and she is mentioned as one of the most beautiful faces of the Indian silver screen but whose "beauty attracted more attention than her talent." In 2004, nearly thirty-five years after her death, a digitally-coloured version of her film was released, in 2008 followed by a commemorative postage stamp, produced by India Post in a limited-edition presentation pack. The only other Indian actress to be so honoured was Nargis Dutt, who, not only a seasoned actress and a social worker too, passed away at a rather young age due to affliction with cancer.
Have you been able to identify about whom we are talking? It was none other than the beautiful and versa-tile actress of Hindi cinema - MADHUBALA, whose real life, marked by fame, wealth, drama, love, sorrow and heartbreak, ran hand in hand with the 'unrelenting diktat of destiny' till she breathed her last on 23 February 1969, shortly after her thirty-sixth birthday in that same month. The mere mention of her name conjures up an image of a stunning beauty with a mischievous, crooked smile and one who has left behind her memory in films for the posterity to relish her beauty and histrionics. As she led a very secluded life, partly due to her own liking but mostly in compliance with her father's wishes, very little is known about her except for what was written when she was alive and what has been narrated by those who had seen or known her from close quarters.
Madhubala's life cannot be viewed in isolation; mention must be made of her co-stars, directors, producers, singers, etc. with whom she interacted and whose contributions, apart from her own, went in to make some of her films all-time favourites. Hence, the period 1947 to 1960, when she was a formidable name in the Hindi film industry, was the golden age of Indian cinema - it was the era of film directors like Kedar Sharma, Mehboob Khan, Amiya Chakravorty, K.A. Abbas, Raj Kapoor, K. Asif and Bimal Roy; it was the period of musicians like Anil Biswas, Ghulam Haider, S.D. Burman, Sajjad Husain, Hemant Kumar, O.P. Nayyar, Khayyam, C. Ramchandra, Shankar-Jaikishen and Salil Choudhry; it was the time of magical voices like Shamshad Begum, Noor Jehan, Rajkumari, Amirbai Karnataki, Suraiya, Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mehmood and Geeta Dutt; it was the season of poets like Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni, Kaifi Azmi, Rajinder Kishen, Raja Mehdi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Qamar Jalal-abadi; and it saw the presence of a veritable galaxy of female heroines like Kamini Kaushal, Nalini Jayawant, Bina Rai, Nargis, Nimmi, and Nutan and their male counterparts like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Balraj Sahni, Motilal and others whose contributions are mentioned in glowing terms even today.
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