Madhubala: Tormented Goddess of Indian Cinema

It would be futile to write about this extraordinary lady’s life-events, awards, movies, and much more as billions of words must already be in print. What needs to be highlighted is the singular life of extreme pain for a person of such divine beauty and great talent. Madhubala had the most painful childhood, heartbreaking adolescence, and a tragic and quick end to the most promising adulthood.

All this in spite of being gifted with the beauty of a full moon- soft, hypnotising and magical, and the sex appeal of a love goddess. Her coquettish, slightly lopsided smile, revealing a perfect set of teeth, could seduce the staunchest celibate. Her eyes reflected the sparkle of her brilliant mind, the expression of a genius actor and the pain of her torment. Inconceivable that a woman of such lush talent and mesmerising beauty would die heart-broken.

She carried the pain and burden of an impoverished family. That agony ignited the fire that lit up the world. Even though it did not matter too much to her inner self, her stardom soon broke all glass ceilings, and in its August 1952 issue, the USA Magazine ‘Theatre Arts’ printed a full-page photo of her under the title ‘The biggest star in the world, and she is not in Hollywood’. Famous directors like Frank Capra came to offer her roles in Hollywood movies, but unfortunately for Indian Cinema, her conservative father did not allow that.

Madhubala was a meteor tearing across the film world, only to burn out at the young age of 36 after dominating Indian cinema from the age of 14 as a heroine opposite Raj Kapoor in his first movie as a hero.

During the long shooting period of one of Indian cinema’s most iconic movies, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1953-60), Madhubala not only suffered the heartbreaking end to her long courtship with Dilip Kumar but also great ill-health. And yet, she completely dominated the movie with her brilliantly powerful portrayal against iconic actors like Dilip Kumar and Prithviraj Kapoor. She died of a hole in the heart, literally and figuratively. An obedient and responsible daughter had sacrificed the love of her life and her Hollywood career- a woman of true character.

It was the vicious irony of fate that she was born on February 14, Valentine’s Day. The full moon shone bright till the very end, until the shadow of death eclipsed it fully on February 23, 1969, leaving millions of her fans to bask in the eternal glow.