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Madhubala; the Beautiful Actress of Bollywood During 1940-1960

Updated on August 18, 2017
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Radhika likes watching movies. She admires the beauty of actresses when they deserve it.

Madhubala | Source

The pristine charm that could enact the Nava Rasas (nine expressions) easily with an exasperatingly beautiful face”!

There is little chance that one would ever forget her extremely adorable and lovable face once seen. This VenusQueenof Indian cinema, Madhubala had skyrocketed Bollywood beyond seas during the period 1940-1960. Her sweet face bestowed her with the name ‘Madhubala’ as she joined the Hindi film industry meaning ‘woman of honey’. With her contemporaries Meenakumari and Nargis, she is regarded as one of the most influential actresses of Hindi movie world, Bollywood.

Early Life of Madhubala

Madhubala’s real name was Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehlavi, born on 14th February 1933 in New Delhi. Belonging to a Muslim family of Pathan descent, she was the fifth of eleven children. Being born as a blue baby, Madhubala suffered from heart disease during her golden period in Bollywood.

The family had to relocate to Mumbai after her father Ataullah Khan lost his job. Due to financial insecurities, three of her sisters and two brothers died at the age of five and six. Enduring hardships made Khan to visit film studios in Mumbai frequently taking young Madhubala to get into the movie industry. She was barely nine years old then.


Madhubala’s first screenshot was for the movie Basant that was a box-office success. She was a child actress then in the name of Mumtaz. She got several child roles thereafter and seeing her skill and potential, actress Devika Rani changed her screen name to Madhubala. As she grew up, Madhubala was groomed to act for lead roles and it was at the age of 14 that she was selected by producer Kidar Sharma to act as a heroine in the movie Neelkamal with Raj Kapoor in 1947. Though the film was a flop, Madhubala’s performance was well received.

Madhubala in the movie Mahal
Madhubala in the movie Mahal | Source

Madhubala in lead roles

Mahal was the first super hit movie of Madhubala in lead roles at the age of 16 in the year 1949. Kamal Amrohi, the director of this film screen tested many female faces and the fledgling Madhubala got selected for the much coveted role. It is said that Madhubala's fascinating appearance and act had upstaged the experienced co-star Ashok Kumar. The dizzying success of this film brought her stardom and popularity.

Following this, movies Dulari, Beqasoor, Tarana and Badal were super hit that turned Madhubala into the most bankable and prolific actress of the early 1950s alongside established contemporaries Kamini Kaushal, Suraiyya and Nargis. Her widest popularity attracted interest from Hollywood too and got featured in an article in the American magazine Theatre Arts with a full page photograph under the heading “The Biggest Star in the World – and she’s not in Beverly Hills”.

Madhubala's photo snaps for publishing in the magazine
Madhubala's photo snaps for publishing in the magazine | Source

Love affair with Dileep Kumar

In the film sets of Tarana directed by Ram Daryani in 1951, Madhubala expressed her love towards Dileep for the first time even though they had seen many times before. It is said that Madhubala sent a note accompanied by a rose with her hairdresser to his room in the film sets. Amused by the love request, Dileep Kumar soon acknowledged her love.

Madhubala with Dileep Kumar
Madhubala with Dileep Kumar | Source

Afterwards, though movies Sangdil and Bahut Din Huwe were successful, she had a series of flops in the box office. Except for the super hit movie Mr. & Mrs. 55 in 1955, she really had bad times following both in her love life and career.

In 1957, her years long deep love with Dileep Kumar ended during the film shooting of Naya Daur. The director of the movie B.R.Chopra wanted the unit to travel to Bhopal for outdoor takes that was objected by her orthodox father. Madhubala had to obey her father and the film’s director sued her for the cash she accepted as advance. Dileep Kumar who was the co-star did not like her withdrawal from that movie and he testified against Madhubala and her father in the court. He asked her to leave her family and marry him. She doomed with a weary heart and confined herself to her father and family.

The pain that arose from the failure in love also may have worsened her heart condition. They were the best pair virtually, not really.

Turning point

Madhubala made a dazzling comeback in the year 1958 when she hit blockbusters back to back consecutively. She was cast as the co-star against Ashok Kumar in Howra Bridge, Bharat Bhushan in Phagun, Dev Anand in Kala Pani and Kishore Kumar in Chalti ka naam gaadi.

Madhubala’s life had another turning point during the film shooting of Chalti ka naam gaadi. She met with the actor and playback singer Kishor Kumar who became her husband until death. In 1960, they got married, but experienced religious tensions as Madhubala was a Muslim and Kishore, a HIndu. He had to leave her back in her bungalow in Bandra and often visited her when he got a break from his work. This was another strain that got counted for her health decline. But he remained her husband until death.

Madhubala with Kishore Kumar in Chalti ka naam gadi
Madhubala with Kishore Kumar in Chalti ka naam gadi | Source

Masterpiece Mughal-e-Azam movie

This big-budgeted epic movie by K Asif raised Madhubala to the peak of her acting career in Bollywood. It was during that time when she craved for doing a strong character to prove her acting talent. Madhubala’s beautiful face got selected in the screen test for the role of Anarkali from a number of actresses who had applied for that role.

Madhubala endured heavy acting scenes during the shooting of Mughal-e-Azam. But she was more cared about it and gave much dedication for each detail. This can be seen from each of the sequence in the movie where Madhubala appears. She was featured as a court dancer whose attire was heavy with many ornaments to adorn. Standing poses for a longer time in heavy make-ups, shackling of strong prison chains and other lengthy dancing scenes posed physical strain upon her. Also, acting with her ex-lover Dileep Kumar in romantic love scenes is said to have made her emotionally dull after the movie shoot.

The movie Mughal-e-Azam was a blockbuster hit that had a sound number of audience all the time. Madhubala's acting got noticed and was nominated for Filmware Awards.

Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam
Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam | Source

Last days of her life

Movie Barsaat ki raat was the last blockbuster of her lifetime. Then she appeared in semi hit movie Half Ticket with her husband Kishore Kumar in 1962. Her last movie was Jwala that was released in 1971 even though it was filmed in the early 1950s. By this time her heart condition had deteriorated and was taken to London for further treatment. The doctors did not find any chances of her survival and predicted that she would live for one more year only. She lived for 9 more years, started film direction, but died at the age of 36 after some days of her birthday.

It was the end of the Venus Queen of Indian Cinema. She still lives in the minds of her fans with all the charms she possessed. All her co-stars had the same opinion about her; robust, cheerful, emotional and beautiful. This is quite evident as is seen from her acting in her super hit movies.

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Mughal-e-Azam-----Jab pyar kiya to darna kya song

© 2013 Radhika Sreekanth


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    • radhikasree profile imageAUTHOR

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      6 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Hi Ahdilarum,

      This Madhubala is the old actress of Bollywood. Madhubala who acted in Roja movie is a South Indian actress of this decade.

    • Ahdilarum profile image


      6 years ago

      I have never seen the movies of Madhubala, but liked the movies of recent Madhubala from The. Live Roja onwards.

    • radhikasree profile imageAUTHOR

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      7 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks MG Singh for reading and for stopping by.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      7 years ago from UAE

      Madhubala as a beauty, but she died unhappy and young

    • radhikasree profile imageAUTHOR

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      7 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks bat115 for commenting. Madhubala was really a talented actress.

    • bat115 profile image


      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Sounds like an amazing talented actress! I am not too familiar with her having only gotten into Bollywood film recently.

    • radhikasree profile imageAUTHOR

      Radhika Sreekanth 

      7 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Dear srsddn sir,

      Yes, Madhubala had a pristine charm that made her acting glow. Thank you very much for the nice comment and for the votes! Have a nice day!!

    • srsddn profile image

      Sukhdev Shukla 

      7 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      radhikasree, the songs of Mughal-e-Azam still reverberate in my mind. Every song was so hit and the performance of Madhu Bala was virtually intoxicating. I have not seen her very old movies but whatever I know about her makes me to say that it would be difficult to get another Madhu Bala in film industry. The first college I attended was D. M. College and students had named it Dev Anand Madhubala College. Thank you very much for this detailed description about her. Voted up and interesting. Have a nice time!


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