1951 : Reliving the magical moments of Hindi Movie Actress ' Madhubala'

Photos By -  James Burke

Hindi Movie Actress Madhubala in Her Room - Photographed by James Burke in 1951 Madhubala (1933 - 1969) was one of the great and talented Hindi movie actresses of 1950's-60's. She acted in many successful and classic Hindi movies like Mahal (1949), Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955), Howrah Bridge (1958), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Half Ticket (1962).

These personal and rare photographs were taken by James Burke for Life Magazine. The Life archive hosted by Google wrongly documented the date of these photographs as 1941, but probably these photos were taken in 1951. 



Madhubala (14 February 1933 – 23 February 1969), was an Indian Bollywood actress who appeared in classic films of Hindi Cinema. She was active between 1942 and 1960. Along with her contemporaries Nargis and Meena Kumari, she is regarded as one of the most influential personalities of Hindi movies.

Madhubala received wide recognition for her performances in films like Mahal (1949), Amar (1954), Mr. & Mrs. '55 (1955), Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Mughal-e-Azam (1960) and Barsaat Ki Raat (1960). Madhubala's 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 died on 23 February 1969 after a prolonged illness.

 Madhubala was born Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi,  on 14 February 1933 to parents of Afghan origin, Ataullah Khan and Begum Ayeesha,  and was the fifth of eleven children. Madhubala's orthodox middle-class family  lived in Delhi. After her father lost his job at the Imperial Tobacco Company in Delhi,  he relocated his family to Mumbai. 

 Madhubala's first movie, Basant (1942), was a box-office success.She acted as the daughter to a mother played by actress Mumtaz Shanti. As a child actress she went on to play in several movies. Actress Devika Rani was impressed by her performance and potential, and advised her to assume the screen name 'Madhubala'
 In the early 1950s, as Madhubala became one of the most sought-after actresses in India, she attracted interest from Hollywood. 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"

Madhubala's co-stars Ashok Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Rehman, Pradeep Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Dev Anand were the most popular of the period. She also appeared with Kamini Kaushal, Suraiya, Geeta Bali, Nalini Jaywant, Shyama and Nimmi, notable leading ladies. 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 with the film Naata (1955), in which she also acted

 During the 1950s, Madhubala took starring roles in almost every genre of film being made at the 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.[12] She was the archetypal fair lady in the swashbuckler Badal (1951), and following this, an uninhibited village beauty in Tarana (1951).



 Madhubala acted in as many as seventy films from 1947 to 1964, and only fifteen of which were box office successes. Dilip Kumar regrets that "(h)ad 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.


 It was the film Mughal-e-Azam that marked what many consider to be Madhubala's greatest and definitive characterization, as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. Although the film took nine years to complete, it was not until 1953 when Madhubala was finally chosen to play 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 dream of playing as Nimmi acknowledges that "(a)s an actress one gets a lot of roles, there is no shortage of them, but there isn’t always a 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 fast, 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 are consistently seen as overlapping, it is 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 became the biggest grossing film at that time, a record that went unbroken for 15 years until the release of the film Sholay in 1975. It still ranks second in the list of all time box-office hits of Indian cinema. Madhubhala was nominated for a Filmfare Award for her performance in Mughal-e-Azam.

 In 1960 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, like Jhumroo (1961), Half Ticket (1962) and Sharabi (1964), performed above average at the box-office. 

 However, most of her other films released during this time were marred by her absence and subsequent lack of completion due to her prolonged illness. 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 issued until 1971

Madhubala had ventricular septal defect (hole in her heart) which was detected while she was shooting for Bahut Din Huwe in Madras in 1954. By 1960, her condition aggravated, and her sister explains that "due to her ailment, her body would produce extra blood. So it would spill out from the nose and mouth. The doctor would come home and extract bottles of blood. She also suffered from pulmonary pressure of the lungs. She coughed all the time. Every four to five hours she had to be given oxygen or else would get breathless. She was confined to bed for nine years and was reduced to just bones and skin.

 

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Sensor is the photography blog of Evening Mail, presenting the finest and most interesting visual and multimedia reporting . Blog aims to covers wide range of photographic subjects ( News Photography, Culture, Daily Life ) and mainly focuses on Photo Essays.