Meena Kumari: An enigma

August 1, 2017

A tribute to Meena Kumari on her 85th birth anniversary (1 August 1932 – 31 March 1972) by guest author DP Rangan

(SoY readers are now familiar with DP Rangan’s prolific guest posts. So far, he has focused on themes. He now forays into film personalities. Several readers have suggested that I write on songs picturised on specific heroes or heroines. I have been generally hesitant, because my primary classifications are music directors and singers, and any new category becomes overlapping. Our 70-year-old-going-on-17 Mr Rangan is not deterred by such challenges. The tinsel town is full of stars who were at the height of name and fame, but who had a most unhappy personal life, finally dying in penury. Meena Kumari is the foremost example of such tragic figures. It is befitting that Mr Rangan chooses her to pay tribute on her 85th birth anniversary. He also introduces us to her less known singing talent; and true to SoY’s tradition, he presents a good number of her vintage and unknown songs. Thank you Mr Rangan for another excellent article. – AK)

Meena KumariIt was about a year ago that my ‘writing’ was first published, thanks to the generosity of AK in accepting it for this august blog. It was a wonderful moment for me, and enthused by this success I wrote a number of posts on different themes. Emboldened by my new-found confidence, I decided to foray into areas other than themes and plunge into the field of biography, even though I knew it to be a minefield.

Among the many personalities I mulled over, it struck me that my favourite actress of great histrionic talent, Meena Kumari, would be eminently suitable for study. I would hereafter call her ‘The Lady’. I thought it would be an easy job, but juggling through the enormous material available on the Internet required calisthenics workout on my part. There were many grey areas on several aspects of her life with no authoritative pronouncements on them. For a contemporary artist, who lived in the current times, this was quite unexpected.

At the outset, it is essential to go back in time and probe the ancestral links of ‘The Lady’. The story begins from Calcutta. Sukumar Thakur Tagore, younger brother of the legendary Rabindranath Tagore had the misfortune to be burdened with a young widow daughter by name Hem Sundari. This is the start of the tragedy which continued without a break further down the generations. Young widows of those times had to lead of a life of misery shunned by the society and kept in seclusion to waste away their life. Hem Sundari was made of sterner stuff and refused to be buried in misery, and left the house in search of her destiny, least bothered that she was guilty of lèse-majesté.

There are two versions of what happened next. According to the programme ‘Virasat’ aired by Rajya Sabha TV, she landed in Meerut and met a journalist Pyare Lal, a Christian by faith. They got married and had two children and one of them was a girl named Prabhavati. However, Javed Akhtar’s presentation on the actress in another programme differed in some details. According to this story, Hem Sundari landed in Lucknow and started working in a hospital. There she met one Pyare Lal Shakir Meerati, a Christian by faith and an Urdu journalist by avocation. After embracing Christianity, she married him. They had two boys and four girls. Pyare Lal’s death left a widow with heavy responsibilities. Because of sheer inadequacy of carrying on with her meagre remuneration in the hospital, she returned to the stage in Calcutta, a calling very familiar to her. One of the girls was Prabhavati who inherited the artistic temperament of the mother and became a good dancer.

An adult Prabhavati drifted to Bombay, lodestar of attraction for aspiring artists who wanted to climb up the ladder of success and fame. She became a stage dancer of repute known as Kamini. Ali Bux, a Sunni Muslim, and native of Bhera, Punjab, but now a part of Pakistan came to Bombay for better prospects. He was a good harmonium player and was a part of the orchestra at Parsi Theatre during the era of silent movies and wrote Urdu poetry. He composed music for small films like Shahi Lutere and did occasional bit roles in films like Eid Ka Chand.

Ali Bux and Prabhavati ran into each other while pursuing their profession and got attracted towards each other leading to their union in holy matrimony. As per custom, Prabhavati embraced Islam and changed her name to Iqbal Banoo. She was his second wife. Ali Bux was already married and separated and brought his daughter Khursheed aged around 13 to the new home at Meetawala Chawl, Dadar East, Bombay which can by no stretch of imagination dubbed a bijou residence. Their married life was not exactly a bed of roses. Ali Bux did not rise in his profession. His aspiration to garner an actor’s role in nearby Rooptara Studios never fructified. With the arrival of talkies starting with Alam Ara (1931), his role as harmonium player became insignificant and it was a virtual struggle for both from thereon.

A baby was on the way and Ali Bux eagerly waited for the arrival of a boy, a common wish among the Indian and Chinese parents from time immemorial. The momentous event took place on 1st August 1932. To Ali Bux’s disappointment it was a girl that came into this world in Dr. Gadre’s clinic. He did not have the wherewithal to defray delivery expenses and left the new born in a Muslim orphanage. Unable to meet the reproachful eyes of the mother, he went back and retrieved the baby girl, which was a stark tragedy for her as subsequent events in her life was to prove. They christened her Mahjabeen. Her pet name was Munna. In due course another girl made her entry into the family and she was named Mahliqa alias Madhu. Poor Ali Bux’s dream of playing with a bonny boy was never realized.

The budding family of five was going through trying times. Both the parents had to work hard to sustain themselves. The mother had no time to prepare food in a proper manner and it had to last for more than a day. Thus, Munna from her childhood days had only crude chapatis and she developed a liking for it for the rest of her life. By the age of six years, she had grown up into a lovely girl. Ali Bux was reluctant to act on the suggestion of his wife to expose little Munna to films. Mahjabeen did not have a normal childhood. She was very keen to study and go to school like other children. But the mother took her to Vijay Bhatt of Prakash Studios tanquam ovis and requested a role for the child. Impressed with her looks, he concurred. Thus, at the tender age of seven, she was introduced as a child artist in the film Farzand-e-Watan or Leather Face (1939), directed by him. She was awarded a remuneration of Rs. 25, which came in very handy for the impoverished family. The poor child was denied her wish to study in school and instead had to act as a breadwinner for the family. On the sets of Ek Hi Bhool (1940), her mentor Vijay Bhatt christened her ‘Baby Meena’. Over the next four years, she acted as a child artist in films likes Adhuri Kahani (1939), Pooja (1940), Nai Roshni, Bahen and Kasauti in 1941 and Garib (1942), all under the banner of Vijay Bhatt Productions. Next in line were Pratigya (1943) and Lal Haveli (1944).

The domestic situation was turning tense. There were frequent quarrels between her parents. She felt very neglected and started to sleep with stones as her companion and marked them ‘M’. On a query by a visitor, she seems to have said that she found them better company as they were in full harmony with her emotions and accepted her rebukes without retaliating. Financial security, thanks to the earnings from her acting career, did not bring any peace or happiness in the house. She had to live amidst turbulent atmosphere. Suddenly her mother passed away on 25th March 1947 rendering her lonelier, with a father who always neglected her since infancy. Kamal Amrohi was in search of a little girl for a role in the film Jailor produced by Sohrab Modi and called on her father Ali Bux to have a look at Munna. She came in his presence with ‘kela’ plastered around her lips. The first meeting between them was not fruitful in landing a role for Munna. She was an avid reader and used to carry books while on film shooting. Her school life got terminated due to frequent interruptions on acting commitments and she studied under a private tutor. She had a natural talent for writing Urdu poetry and became a noted writer afterwards. Her father was grooming her for greater roles to ensure a constant flow of lucre to sustain the family in comfort.

Throughout forties, she had a steady stream of films to exhibit her talent. In the film Bahen (1941), the 9-year-old Baby Meena joined Beena Kumari to sing this beautiful song.

1. Tore kajra lagaaun mori Rani by Baby Meena and Beena Kumari from Bahen (1941), lyrics Safdar Aah Sitapuri, music Anil Biswas .

She donned the role as a heroine in the film Bachhon Ka Khel (1946) under the name Meena Kumari at 14 years of age and got a good review from filmindia which predicted a bright future for her. Further films she acted in added to her lustre and steady rise. In the film Piya Ghar Aa Ja (1947), she sang six solos and two duets with Karan Dewan.

2.  Ankhiyaan taras rahin un bin by Meena Kumari from Piya Ghar Aa Ja (1947), lyrics Pandit Indra, music Bulo C. Rani

I am presenting a song from the film Bichhade Balam (1948) sung in her own voice.

3. Aata hai dil pe pyar kyon by Meena Kumari from Bichhade Balam (1948), lyrics Narendra Sharma, music Bulo C Rani

As a sweet sixteen Meena Kumari looks petite and alluring with youthful innocence.

She acted in a few mythological films, such as Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950), Lakshmi Narayan (1951) and then in the Arabian Nights fantasy Alauddin Aur Jaadui Chirag (1952), produced under the banner of Homi Wadia. It is said she received Rs. 10,000 for the last film and bought a second-hand Plymouth car. Here are a few songs from her mythological stream. The first three are from the film Veer Ghatotkach (1949).

4. Aao sakhi mangal gaao by Saroj and Shanti Sharma from Veer Ghatotkach (1949), lyrics Ramesh Joshi, music SN Tripathi

Meena Kumari is bedecked as an expectant bride. She looks very coy and shy.

5. Sandesh mera paake by Mohantara Talpade and Mohammad Rafi from Veer Ghatotkach (1949), lyrics Anjum Rehmani, music SN Triptahi

This is one of the earliest long-distance duets of separation with the lovelorn couple not in sight of each other. AK has brought out a post on such type of songs (My list of LDDS contains several songs of very early vintage, several years prior to 1949 – AK)

6. Kahan chali O Brij ki bala by Rohini Roy and Mohantara Talpade brom Veer Ghatotkach (1949), lyrics Moti, music SN Triptahi

A music opera on Radha and Krishna of Vrindavan. If you listen to the song you will see a trace of Mera piya gaye Rangoon of Patanga.

This song from the film Laxmi Narayan (1951) portrays her in a jubilant mode picking flowers from the garden.

7. Gayi birha ki raat aya hai naya prabhat by Geeta Dutt from Laxmi Narayan (1951), lyrics Ramesh Pandey, music SN Tripathi

Her mastery over pathos at such an young age is revealed from the following song from the same film.

8. Kaun bool mujhse hui…O bhool jaanewale by Geeta Dutt from Laxmi Narayan (1951), lyrics BD Mishra, music SN Tripathi

I will round off this genre with the following song from the film Shri Ganesh Mahima.

9. Sakhi ri mera mann nache mera tann naache by Geeta Dutt from Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950), lyrics Anjum Jaipuri, music SN Tripathi

Her career would now upsurge in 1952, annus mirabilis for her. Once again Vijay Bhatt was her godfather. He cast her in the role of Gauri, a village belle in the film Baiju Bawra, ignoring the criticism that a girl who was acting in mythological films would fail. His confidence in her was upheld by ‘The Lady’ by her splendid performance in her role as an entity prepared to sacrifice her life to ensure her hero Baiju emerged as a singer of repute. It was full of soulful and haunting songs composed by the redoubtable Naushad/Shakeel Badauni pair. Here is an example from the film, where she invites a bite from a venomous snake at the end of the song, Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya.

10. Jo main aisa jaanati….Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya by Lata Mangeshkar from Baiju Baawra (1952), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad

She began her journey into fame with a film which ended in a tragedy. Her out of the world performance got her the inaugural Filmfare Award for the Best Actress in 1953. In hindsight, we may conclude that fate had already mapped out her future life path of pathos.

In the role of Lalita, a poor orphan married secretly to her rich neighbour’s son portrayed by Ashok Kumar, her performance in Parineeta (1953) as a silent sufferer was superb. She demonstrated her inaugural 1953 Filmfare award was not merely a flash in the pan by again capturing it in the year 1954 for the second consecutive time, a feat not achieved by anyone thereafter till now. Parineeta had many great songs under the music direction of Arun Kumar Mukherjee and lyrics by Bharat Vyas. Mirror and reality embraced each other, i.e., in real life she was secretly married just then. Such twists were to be a regular occurrence in her subsequent life.

Coming back from her reel to real life, by 1950 she was 18 years old, a vivacious and literate lady with experience of more than ten years of film life, but frustrated with the living conditions in her home. Fate decided to intervene; alas, not in her best interest. It is said that she saw a picture of Kamal Amrohi in a magazine and started dreaming about him like Madhubhala in Mahal. Thereafter, there are some discrepancies with regard to chronology. It is stated that she saw Kamal Amrohi in the flesh after introduction by Ashok Kumar on the sets of the film Tamasha (1952), in which she was working. Impressed with ‘The Lady’, Kamal suggested the role of heroine for the film ‘Anarkali’ to be produced by Makhanlal. He rejected her, but after threats and persuasion by Kamal, agreed to her acting and a contract was signed on 13th May 1951. Kamal proceeded to Delhi to scout for locations. Meena Kumari’s family went to Mahabaleshwar to celebrate, but on the way back on 21st May 1951, the car with a tyre burst met with an accident. Meena Kumari was the worst affected. She convalesced in Sassoon Hospital, Pune for four months. Kamal reading about the accident from a paper rushed to the hospital to console her. Their mutual love flourished steadily as ‘Chandan’ (Kamal) and ‘Manju’ (Meena Kumari). Meena Kumari’s left hand was severely damaged and she had to live with a banded left pinky for the rest of her life and she concealed it effectively thereafter in her films. After return to Mumbai, it was billet doux and telephonic talks of love galore between them. She shared this with her sister Madhu and declared she will marry him only. She reflects it in a delightful manner in the film Ardhangini (1959) in the song Tera khat le ke sanam.

11. Tera khat le ke sanam by Lata Mangeshkar from Ardhangini (1959), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Vasant Desai

The love affair could not be protracted further. The die was cast. A wedding conspiracy was hatched between the two and on 15th February 1952, Meena and her younger sister Madhu dropped her father late in the evening for his yogic exercises and rushed to the assigned locale where both of them were picked up by Baqar, Man Friday of Kamal Amrohi. The marriage was performed by the Kazi following Shiite tradition and, thereafter, Sunni tradition. No doubt it was a harum scarum act on her part. As planned, the affair was kept under wraps and Meena Kumari continued to live with her father. She wrote about Kamal after the marriage which had an element of presentiment.

Dil sa saathi jab paya
Bechaini bhi saath mili

In due course Ali Bux came to know of this, thanks to a maid informing him after eavesdropping on Meena’s tete-a-tete over phone with Kamal. An infuriated parent demanded immediate dissolution of the marriage, but for once Madam Meena stood firm with her commitment. Thereafter, an uneasy truce prevailed. The next crisis was in the offing. Kamal wanted Meena to act in his film Daaera. Ali Bux forced Meena to act in Mehboob Khan’s Amar. Meena went for shooting for 5 days and then declined. Despite father’s threat to bar her from the house if she attended the sets of Daaera, she did so. When she returned to the house in the evening of 14th August 1953, she was refused admittance. She straightaway proceeded to Kamal’s house and started living there from then onwards. Now Chandan and Manju started their married life openly. She did write to her father a passionate letter not to reject her. Daaera dealt with the frustrations and travails of a young girl married to a man much older than her and was a tragedy. It was a reflection of her own eventual real life. A film far ahead of its time, it ended as a damp squib despite Jamal Sen’s great musical score. Meantime, she was gushing happiness in the company of Kamal without realizing it was to be a short-lived one. Her aspirations to motherhood were snuffed out by Kamal allegedly on the ground of her being a Sunni Muslim.

After her path breaking role in Baiju Bawara, she acted in around 35 films during the rest of the 1950s. Some of the notable films were Aazad, Naya Andaaz, Mem Sahib, Miss Mary, Shararat, Sahara, Sharda and Yahudi. She exhibited great talent in portraying light roles as well as serious ones. She had just started on a path to acquire the sobriquet as ‘Tragedienne of Bollywood’ through films, such as Sahara, Sharda and Yahudi in which she played stellar roles. Her ability to play light roles with perfection, ‘joie de vivre’ can be gleaned from a few songs.

This duet from Azaad (1955) and the scene with thespian Dilip Kumar to keep her company shows how well she shines as a happy go lucky girl.

12. Kitna haseen hai mausam by Chitalkar and Lata Mangeshkar from Aazaad (1955), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramchandra

Miss Mary (1956), an outright comedy from start to finish, was a roaring success and Meena Kumari played her role as a pseudo wife of Gemini Ganesan to perfection.

Equally at home in serious roles, this song from the film Sahara (1958) is a true example of what Indian womanhood is about, i.e. the bulwark of family, self-effacement and subservient to male interests.

13. Har dukhda sahnewali by Bela Mukherjee and Hemant Kumar from Sahara (1958), lyrics Bharat Vyas, music Hemant Kumar

She was at the crest of her career with still more peaks to conquer. Relations at home started to sour around 1960. Kamal with his monstrous ego and feudalistic ideas about how Meena should blindly obey his dictates was creating trouble. He did not have any significant film assignments as a writer or director. Meena continued to be a milch cow for him. This probably galled him. Meena, equally adamant and with a strong will of her own, was not so easily to be cowed down in pursuit of her acting career. She compromised with the harsh conditions he imposed like returning by evening daily in her own car alone and allowing none in the makeup room during shooting. Baqar was constantly watching her and she felt hemmed in. In the 1960s, she acted in 28 films and there was a sharp contrast with her 1950s films. Fewer of them were lighter ones and majority had type cast her as an actor who excelled in tragedies. In Kohinoor (1960), she played the role of a fun-loving princess to perfection in the company of Dilip Kumar and Naushad created wonderful songs. As a silent suffering nurse in love with the doctor (Raaj Kumar), she lifted the film Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi to epic heights. Her one perfect song in boat cruise, Ajeeb dastan hai ye will live forever in the minds of listeners.

14. Ajeeb daastan hai ye by Lata Mangeshkar from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan

Her vexed domestic life made her insomniac and Dr. Saeed Timurza prescribed a peg of brandy at night to induce sleep. What started as a medication grew into addiction by and by as her misery overwhelmed her and had bad consequences. Her role as Chhoti Bahu in the Guru Dutt film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam catapulted her to great heights. When she portrayed her role as a lady addicted to drinks to win her dissolute husband’s affection, it was nothing more than a mirror of her actual condition in real life. She had the unique distinction of being nominated for Filmfare best actress award in 1962 for her role in three films, a feat never achieved by anyone so far, and took her third award for this film. I do not want to delve into too many films, to describe her kaleidoscopic skills of portrayal, whether it be grief or joy, which she brought into her roles. She acted as a composer of ghazals in the film Ghazal (1964). Listen to the song Naghma-o-sher ki saugat wherein Madan Mohan weaves his magic wand and creates a wonder to last forever.

15. Naghma-o-sher ki saugat kise pesh karun by Lata Mangeshkar from Ghazal (1964), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanavi, music Madan Mohan

On 5th March 1964 at the muhurat of the film Pinjre Ke Panchi, she was probably conversing with the upcoming artist Gulzar for a long time. The ubiquitous Baqar forced himself inside when initially refused admittance. What transpired is not clear. It is alleged he slapped her and she in tears told him she would not return to the house and went to Mehmood’s residence. He was married to her sister Madhu at that time. A completely upset Kamal visited her late at night and urged her to return home. She refused to comply with it. The rift was now complete and they never lived together again.

We now enter into another grey area, i.e. her alleged divorce. Many sources mention that Kamal in a fit of frenzy, uttered the fatal words of ‘talaq’ and immediately regretted thereon. Meena, the poetess, is supposed to have told him as follows:

Talaaq de to rahe ho ghazab-o-qahar ke sath
Mera shabab bhi lauta do mere mehar ka saath

Actress Tabassum in her programme ‘Talkies” says Meena Kumari herself confessed to being divorced by Kamal. The YouTube link is given below.

Till date it continues to be one of the great unsolved mysteries of Bollywood. She had a habit of keeping diaries and her entire collection is with Khayyam and could contain the key to this.

Her life now was in total disarray. Drinking was her sole refuge and she started quaffing more and more. She shifted to her house – Janaki Kutir – and led a lonely existence amidst her shooting engagements. She was looking for new relations and in stepped a youth from Punjab looking for a career in acting – Dharmendra. They cottoned on to each other. Meena recommended him for roles and Purnima (1965) was their first film together. Kaajal (1965) with Raaj Kumar and Dharmendra as co-actors had a strong story line and her excellent portrayal as Madhavi garnered her a fourth Filmfare Award for best actress. Phool Aur Patthar (1966) with Dharmendra was a blockbuster. But, her drinking habit never wavered and her health and looks started to deteriorate. Crisis arrived in 1968 when she was flown to London first and then to Switzerland for rehabilitation. She returned to India with the advice that drinks were taboo. Dharmendra, now well established, abandoned her. She was shattered mentally and took to drinks again.

She was no longer the centre of attraction having lost her looks, and acted in character roles in Jawab, Dushman, Mere Apne. Gomti Ke Kinare was her last film.

Making of Pakeezah would be a post by itself. It was her magnum opus which was conceived in 1958 but completed in 1972 when she was in terminal illness. She saw its premiere with Kamal Amrohi at Maratha Mandir on 4th February 1972. It was released on 20th February 1972 and was poorly received by the public much to the consternation of the producer and financiers. After Meena Kumari’s demise, it got a new lease of life and became a huge hit. Thus, even in her death she refurbished the image of Kamal among cine goers.

A summary of her achievements is awe-inspiring and the Olympian heights she reached in all her endeavours in a film career spanning from 1939 to 1972 will remain unmatched in Bollywood.

No. of films acted                                                    –    94
Filmfare Award as Best Actress Won                 –     4
Filmfare award as Best Actress Nominated      –     8
Bengal Film Journalists’ Association Award    –     4
Sole nomination for Filmfare Best Actress from 3 films in 1962

Her liver, already damaged by liquor abuse, gave up on her and she was admitted to St. Elizabeth Nursing Home on 28th March 1972. She passed away due to liver cirrhosis at 3.25 pm on 31st March 1972. She was born in poverty in 1932 and departed in 1972 in the same status. She had left no resources to pay for the medical bill. As per Kamal’s wish she was buried at Rahemetabad Kabristan located at Narialwadi, Mazgaon, Mumbai.

She was an accomplished writer of Urdu poetry. Gulzar published a collection of her poems under the title Tanha Chand (Lonely Moon) in 1972 after her demise. Eight poems composed and sung by her under music direction of Khayyam were released as a disc in 1970 entitled ‘I Write, I Recite’. Please listen to one of them, Poochte ho to suno.  How much pain she must be suffering that even her tears have dried: Saans bharne ko to jeena nahi kahte ya rab/ Dil hi dukhta hai na ab aasteen tar hoti hai! This poem of hers sums up the tragedy that was Meena Kumari.

Poochate ho to suno kaise basar hoti hai
Raat khairat ki sadqe ki sahar hoti hai

Saans bharne ko to jeena nahin kahte ya rab
Dil hi dukhta hai na ab aasteen tar hoti hai

Jaise jaagi hui aankhon main chubhen kanch ke khwab
Raat is tarah diwanon ki basar hoti hai

Gham hi dushman hai mera gham hi ko dil dhoondata hai
Ek lamhe ki judai bhi agar hoti hai

Ek markaz ki talash ek bhatakti khushbu
Kabhi manzil kabhi tamhid-e-safar hoti hai

This post is my humble tribute to one of the greatest actresses of our films. I profusely thank ‘Virasat’ of Raj Sabha TV, Javed Akhtar’s talk on Meena Kumari and numerous other sources from the Internet for this brief sketch.

P.S. DP Rangan acknowledges the assistance of the human encyclopaedia Arunkumar Deshmukh in preparing this article.  Please see comment #9.

{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mehfil mein meri August 1, 2017 at 10:21 am

A well written, informative and enjoyable post.
I must congratulate and thank you both for this post on Meena kumari
Though I couldn’t read it completely, i herad the songs of meena kumari in 1940s.
All were unknown to me and i liked them.
I am still to read the article completely……… but i couldn’t control myself from commenting on this wonderful post as early as i could!
Meena kumari’s private life was never said to be happy, but as far as her acting skills are concerned, i like her roles from late 50s and early 60s films.
Sahib Biwi aur ghulam is one such example.
I adore and love the songs from Pakeezah.
I will reply again after i finish the article completely.

2 KB August 1, 2017 at 2:24 pm

One good thing was she could do all types of roles including comedy.One song at least from KInare Kinare should have been included in this .

3 Dprangan August 1, 2017 at 3:11 pm

I am slightly down in health and not able to concentrate just now. Will respond by tomorrow.

4 Mehfil Mein Meri August 1, 2017 at 3:17 pm

i read it completely.
Its in detail, I didn’t know many of the things. Mainly about her parents and in late 1960s.
Really a wonderful article.
I congratulate you again, both of you, AK ji and Rangan Ji.
to add to the songs………
Raat Mohe Meetha Meetha from Tamasha by Geeta Dutt is my favorite.

5 Dinesh K Jain August 1, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Most interesting, informative and engrossing; thank you Mr Rangan for a well-researched piece.

6 R. Vasudevan August 1, 2017 at 7:32 pm

A very well written short essay on Meena kumari by Mr Rangan. reading it reminds me of another fine actress of South Savithri whose end was also similar to Meena. Both of them were let down by the people who Savithri and Meena Kumari loved and both took up to drinking which eventually spoiled their health leading to death. Hindi filmdom lost a very fine actress who could have easily worked in more films had she not died so young and and same with Savithri.

7 RSR August 1, 2017 at 8:26 pm

My familiarity with Meena Kumari films was confined to 1957-1963 only. I had seen Baiju Bawra Ardhangini, Dil Apna, Pakeeza, Sahib Bibi aur Gulam, . Of course, heard all the nice songs from Yahudhi, Dil Ek Mandir, Shararath, Azad. She was a great actress and beautiful . Her performance in SAHIB BIBI was very moving. I dont think, any other actress in India could have done that role so well. From youtube, I saw Sarath’s Parineetha with Ashok Kumar. I think, both Savithri and MeenaKumari were born in 1933… Thanks for a Good article.

8 Anu Warrier August 2, 2017 at 7:22 am

A well-timed post on my favourite actress – it’s a shame that we lost such a great actress so early on.

Thanks for the interesting read, Mr Rangan.

9 D P Rangan August 2, 2017 at 12:42 pm

At the outset let me rectify a major blunder committed by me. This was my maiden venture in this field and there were enough controversies emanating from various posts in the internet. It was difficult to sift through and present a coherent article. I knew the answer for it. The one and only Bheeshmapitha of our blog Arunkumarji was the ultimate authority so far as I am concerned. I sent the article to him for vetting. He was patient to go through and suggest some important amendments. He concluded with the remark, it may be verbose and AK may wield his censor knife like the present Film Censor Board. I know I cannot undo my failing. I hope Arunkumarji will understand and forgive me. I took nearly a year in collecting details and penning this article and this fact totally slipped from my mind. I can only say mea culpa and admit to my neglect coute qui coute.

10 D P Rangan August 2, 2017 at 12:45 pm

As usual a masterly preface and the addition of her poem almost at the end of the post has uplifted it to greater heights than what I was aiming for.

11 Ashok M Vaishnav August 2, 2017 at 1:33 pm

At the present times, career-bio of a film artist has great potential to revisit the songs, particularly the ones which are on the fringe of the memory.
Of course, D P Rangan has been able to a good justice to the personal life of Meena Kumari, too, while presenting son=me vintage songs.

With that a new direction has opened at SoY.

12 AK August 2, 2017 at 2:02 pm

DP Rangan,
Let me repeat that you have written a beautiful article. If my editorial touches have improved the presentation, it is a routine part of my job.

13 Arunkumar Deshmukh August 2, 2017 at 4:36 pm

D.P.Rangan ji,
I am overwhelmed !
There is no need to be so apologetic. Such things do happen inadvertently. Let us forget it now.
I must record my deepest appreciation for the excellent English that Mr. Rangan writes. I find it difficult to read anything from him unless I keep the Dictionary handy ! I wish I had that skill.
I am always available to anyone and everyone who feels that I am worth seeking help of any type in this field. I assure to do my best to
assist, with whatever knowledge I have . I honestly feel that one gains knowledge by sharing it.

14 Subodh Agrawal August 2, 2017 at 5:56 pm

Dear Mr Rangan, once again you have given us a post worthy of a permanent reference. I had no idea of her family history and early life – though I knew something about her issues with Kamal Amrohi and Dharmendra. I was completely unfamiliar with her own songs and I must say her voice is beautiful. She should have continued singing in her later career too.

Much as one regrets the tragedy that overtook her life, one wonders if it was tragedy that made her such a great actress.

15 Manoj August 3, 2017 at 7:48 am

Thank you Mr. Rangan for your article and many songs.
Article ” Meena Kumari” in WIKIPEDIA is also interesting.

16 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 12:24 pm

1 and 4
En effective camouflage to conceal your identity. You have certainly the better of me. I was pleased to observe your assessment of the article was the same on a scant scan and a thorough reading. Thanks for your observations.

17 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 12:29 pm

I consider this post has passed the acid test of authenticity. Even if it has failed in many aspects, it was still strong enough to drag you out of isolation you have been maintaining all along. Presume you will be a regular visitor hereafter.

18 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm

I do not know how to respond. Every follower will have his preference and I am not gifted with prescience to anticipate. I have seen this movie. Chetan Anand, Dev Anand and Meena Kumari are the leaders. Chetan Anand sacrifices his love in favour of his sibling Dev Anand. Today people will not sit through the entire movie. It had eleven songs, three by Lata, one duet, and rest shared by leading singers of the day. Since you have requested I am posting a few songs.
Music by Jaidev and lyrics by Nyay Sharma.

Most famous song of all Dekhli teri kudai by Talat Mahmood
Har Aas Asqbar (Lata Mangeshkar)
Jab ghame Ishq by Mukesh
Chale Ja Raha hai kinare by Manna Dey
Hope this meets your expectations.

19 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 12:59 pm


Very apt observation If you see their profile you will see lot of similarity between the two actresses.

Thanks for the concluding observation. In fact people are yet to realise she was born with a talent for acting. Her domestic life till adolescence determined her future career and life.

At 8
Anuji thanks for your acknowledging the article had some merit.

20 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Despite big boss reluctance to open new windows in his blog, we should persuade him to be more encouraging. Biographies of famous film personalities had always something it for one and all.

21 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Thanks for the over generous compliments on the article. I am happy AK has partially rectified my negligence with a nice addendum. Knowing his abilities which is overflowing in all directions this addition has brought relief to me.
I would gladly exchange my English writing for your boundless knowledge. Let me digress.

Vivekanandji had a tiff with a English lecturer in England. He bested him on many occasions. He thought he had our hero in a cleft. He asked him while travelling down the road if you are offered riches or a bag of knowledge, what will you prefer. Vivekanandji replied he would go after the money bag. A guffawing lecturer told he would prefer knowledge. Vivekanandji with a smile states that each will choose he does not have. I leave the rest

22 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I am happy I was able to life the veil partially from her early part of life. The trials and tribulations she faced from her family despite being the milch cow, does not speak well of the traits of her near ones.

23 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 1:17 pm


Thanks for your views. Wikipedia is a general site where anyone can contribute and very often lacks authenticity. There can be only one Encyclopaedian and we already have him.

24 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 1:20 pm

At 21
A bad slip. Add the word ‘what’ after choose. That will make the meaning crystal clear. Still not fully recovered from my fever bout.

25 D P Rangan August 3, 2017 at 6:21 pm


There was a controversy with regard to Meena’s brush with Kamal on the sets of Tamasha. Tamasha was released in 1952 but its production could have started in 1951 itself. If you watch the video mentioned at 4, you will see that Meena had not concealed her left hand at all, placing the song take sometime before May 1951 when she was involved in an accident and thereafter always concealed her left hand in pallu. So I think this issue is now settled. Will await your opinion.

26 Arunkumar Deshmukh August 3, 2017 at 10:36 pm

D P Rangan ji,
Amrohi first met MK in 1938, when he had gone to Ali Bux’s house to hunt for a 7 yr old girl for a role in Minerva’s ‘Jailor”. He liked her, but the role went to some other girl.
After that there was no contact between them. Amrohi was introduced to MK on the sets of Tamasha at Filmistan, by Ashok kumar. Amrohi liked her instantly but did not recognise her that she was the same girl he had met in 1938.
I am not aware of any tiff between them at this time.
They were married on 15-2-1952,
Incidentally, MK always called Amrohi as ‘ Chandan’ and he called her always as ‘ Manju ‘.
(based on an interview in Filmfare- from Cineplot)
The accident had taken place after release of Tamasha and marriage of

27 RSR August 3, 2017 at 11:01 pm

I noticed that many of Meena Kumari films were remake of famous tamil/telugu films. and generally, the tamil originals were of superior quality.
1) Sharada is a 1957 Indian Bollywood film directed by L.V. Prasad. The film stars Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari in lead role,
The movie was a remake of 1954 Tamil movie Edhir Paradhathu.
with stellar performance from Sivaji Ganesan and lovely ‘ Padhmini’ who due to bad fate had married ‘Sivaji’s’ father! .
2) Babhi ki chudiyan ..Meena Kumari and Balraj Sahni was a remake of the Thmaizh film Mangaiyar Thilakam ( again a Sivaji -Padhmini starrer) in which Padhmini is Sivaji Ganesan’s elder brother (breath-taking loveliness. and angelic). S.V.Subbiah played the role of Sivaji’s elder brother. I saw the Hindi version in tube and it was not at all impressive. S.V.Subbiah was a great character actor full of Dignity. A nice song in Darbari Kanada sung by Sivaji in the final scene when he recollects the olden days of his childhood in the loving care of Padhmini. From the video , you can see that there was no actress in India who can match Padmini in her earlier years.
(raking up controversy? no. As I said in an earlier comment , neither Padmini nor Savithri could have done Meena Kumari’s role as in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. The story (Bimal Mitra) and Direction
and acting by Guru Dutt also added to the merit.

28 RSR August 3, 2017 at 11:03 pm

kindly read as ‘ Padhmini is Sivaji Ganesan’s elder brother’s wife’ in the post just made

29 Gaddeswarup August 4, 2017 at 3:12 am

I did not realise that Meena Kumari sang. Following up the links in the article, I came across a song by her in Duniya Ek Sarai (1947) which seemed to have inspired a Telugu and Tamil song according to the comments in the link
The corresponding Telugu song in Missamma( and there is one in the Tamil version Missamma)

30 R Vasudevan August 4, 2017 at 8:56 am

On RSR posting No 27.

Opinion sometimes differ. Though some Tamil remakes in Hindi in which Meena Kumari played a lead role failed but some of her films that were remade in Tamil did not fare that much well. For example Phool Aur Pathar Tamil version Oli vilakku was a hit but in my view Meena Kumari was way ahead in acting than her Tamil counterpart. Main chup Rahungi was made in Tamil (nanum oru pen) again Meena was better in acting than vijaya kumari. In Dil Ek Mandir Tamil version Nenjil Oru aalayam both Meena kumari and Devika both played their part equally well.

To sum it up Meena kumari films that were made from Tamil all were not unsuccessful and vice veersa. This is my view. but

31 Arunkumar Deshmukh August 4, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Ref comment by RSR No 27.

The film Bhabhi ki Choodiyan-61 was NOT a remake of the Tamil film, but it was a remake of a Marathi iconic film Vahininchya Bangdya-53. Both Hindi and Marathi versions were directed by the same Director.
In fact the Tamil film Mangiyar Thilakam-55 and the Telugu film Vadina Gajulu-55 were both remakes of the original iconic film Vahininchya Bangdya – 53.
This is to set the records right.

32 Ravindra Kelkar August 4, 2017 at 12:30 pm

DP Rangan Ji,
Thanks for this wonderful and very informative article. I had no knowledge about her family background. It’s very sad that she suffered so much throughout her short life.
The songs selection is also quite good, though some of the earlier songs, I had never heard before.
She was a fantastic actress and was very good in enacting light roles as well.
I think Dilip Kumar was the only male lead who could truly match her acting abilities and they had two super hits in Azad and Kohinoor. Interestingly, in both these films they had fun-filled, light roles to play, nothing to due with tragedy (for which they are mainly remembered).
I think the numerous Filmfare awards which both of them won truly reflect their great acting abilities.
Once again thanks for this superb article.

33 Arunkumar Deshmukh August 4, 2017 at 1:17 pm

RSR No 27…
Mangaiyar Thilakam (English: Crown Among Women) is a 1955 Indian Tamil-language drama film directed by L. V. Prasad. The film was produced by Sripadhashankar under Vaidya films and stars Sivaji Ganesan and Padmini in the lead roles, while M. N. Rajam, S. V. Subbiah, K. A. Thangavelu and K. Sarangapani play pivotal roles. The film’s soundtrack and background score were composed by S. Dakshinamurthi, while the lyrics for the songs were written by Kannadasan, Puratchidasan and Maruthakasi.

P. L. Rai and N. M. Shankar handled cinematography and editing respectively. The film was a remake of Marathi film Vahinichya Bangdiya.

34 RSR August 4, 2017 at 8:33 pm

@31, @33, Sri.Deshmukh , Thank you for the information…I missed that last line in wiki.
@30 ->Sri.Vasudevan, What you say is true . But generally I consider the early 1950’s of Tamil Film world as the golden period. graced by Banumathi, Savithri, Padhmini along with Nageswar Rao, Sivaji, Gemini Ganesan…. I am having in mind Savithri in Missiyamma and Meena Kumari in Miss Mary. Savithri scores better. .. And Amara Dheepam .. compared to Amardheep.MK, Savithri is more impressive. ( CRamachandra music in Hindi versions ( Sharadha, Amardheep) was outstanding. )
(The Hamsadhvani duet by Lata and Asha in Sharadha)
and Mere Man ka bawra panchi in Amardeeep ( though sung by Lata not for Meena but for Padmini)

35 Anu Warrier August 5, 2017 at 8:48 am

Mr Deshmukh, thank you for setting the record straight. (I was just going to comment on the same thing.)

@RSR, Amar Deep had Vyjayanthimala and Padmini, not Meena Kumari, and frankly, both films were an utter bore. 🙂

Besides, as Mr Vasudevan said, opinions differ and in my opinion (having grown up with a father who introduced me to the Tamil and Hindi cinema of the 50s and 60s), Meena Kumari was a far, far better actress than Savitri – with all due respect to the latter’s prodigious talent. Again, only an opinion – not an objective fact. As far as possible, it might help to not compare one against the other – to the detriment of both.

Also, since this is my particular soapbox, the success of a film has nothing to do with the quality of the content or the talent of the actors in it.

36 R Vasudevan August 5, 2017 at 11:25 am

Ref No 35 of Anu Warrier.

Yes opinion differ. Agreed Meena Kumari (MK) was a very talented actress and she excelled in tragic roles but Savithri is equally good and comparisons is better avoided. An actor’s best talent is brought out mostly by the Director hence in the remakes if both versions (Hindi and Tamil) are directed by same director comparison can be made.

There are certain roles which are born to be played by certain actress
for example MK in Sahib Bibi aur Gulam, Pakeeza, Dil Apna aur Preet Paraya etc to name some and in the case of Nutan (Bhandini, Seema etc), Sadana (woh Kaun thi, Mera saya), Mala Sinha (Hariyali aur Raastha) and for Savithri one can not imagine another actress than her for the film Palum Pazhamum. So again I say opinion differes.

I end saying both MK and Savithri were born actress and pity they died very early

37 R Vasudevan August 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm

In my last posting I admit having made a mistake. Savithiri film “Palum Pazhamum” is incorrect and should read as “Paasa Malar”.

38 KB August 5, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Shri DPR,
Thanks for the elaborate response and also for a good post.

39 RSR August 5, 2017 at 8:22 pm

@35-> yes. I erred wrt amardheep film. Contrary to the opinion expressed by madam , it was a very nice film with excellent acting by Sivaji, Padmini and Savithri. . ( any way, as this thread is about MK,it becomes irrelevant) . One more film , the tamil original of Azad also can be noted. MGR and Banumathi excel. I cannot visualize Dilip Kumar in that role. and Banumathi was extremely talented actress and personality. .
I do not subscribe to ‘tastes differ’ theory. There ARE ‘Good, Bad and Ugly’ things and one’s tastes reflect the personality.’ Exquisite taste’ in all matters of life.. be it sense of values, literature,music ( classical and light classical) , science and technology , historical perspective.. ultimately , is what matters in retrospect. Factual errors are readily admitted but not critical evaluation.
Sri.Vasudevan @ 36…..Ditto. Thank you. I can cite many tamil films of Savithri for top class performance. Pennin Perumai, Annaiyin Aanai, Enga Veettu Mahalakshmi ( Sarath’s novel), maathar kula maanikam, Pasamalar, Paava Mannippu, Padithal mattum pothuma, Navarathri …Though MK and Savithri looked alike and were of same age , MK may would not fit in such roles. Sivaji in anti-hero roles in some of these films! Virtual competition in acting between Sivaji and Savithri !

40 Anu Warrier August 5, 2017 at 10:30 pm

@ 39 – ‘… but not critical evaluation.’

Ah, but whose critical evaluation? What makes you think that your evaluation of the relative merits of Savitri and Meena Kumari is somehow superior to my critical thinking? If we are having a competition of citations, I can as well throw out several Meena Kumari films where I not only cannot visualise Savitri, but where Meena turned in excellent performances.

You seem to conflate your opinion with fact; ‘the best’ is always subjective. Because your ‘best’ need not necessarily be someone else’s best. And vice versa. And ‘exquisite taste’ is also subjective beyond certain parameters. It is like beauty – once societal parametres of beauty are set, each person has his or her own idea of who or what is beautiful.

That said, if preferring Meena (and not thinking that Amaradeepam was a ‘nice film’) reflects my personality, I’m perfectly content in my lack of the ‘exquisite taste’ that you seemingly possess.

@36 – I mean no disrespect to Savitri; I have enjoyed her performances in many films of her time; my preference for Meena as an actress is a very personal one. Which is why I specifically said, in my opinion Meena Kumari was a far, far better actress than Savitri – with all due respect to the latter’s prodigious talent. Again, only an opinion – not an objective fact.>

What bothers me about RSR’s comments, I think, is the naked parochialism he exhibits – whether it is here, or even in a previous post where he felt the need to disparage the actors in Hindi films while praising the actors from the Tamil film industry to the hilt. With all due respect, as a lover of cinema, no matter what language it is in, and as an appreciative audience of many, many talented actors in many, many languages, it irks me to play the comparison game. Anyway, I have no wish to drag this on further, so I will withdraw from the field.

41 RSR August 5, 2017 at 10:41 pm

@40. Bye

42 Gaddeswarup August 6, 2017 at 5:43 am

“Songs Of Yore – Old Hindi film songs
A tribute to old Hindi film music. Songs of the 30s through the 60s.”
iswhat the site says. But various posts about the commonalities of the songs in various parts of India has brought other themes and contests in to the picture. Just as people are parochial about various personalities Lata vs Noor Jehan, Ravi vs Kishore Kumar… North -South divide ( which people like Emmanuel Todd say exists based on different family systems) has crept in to the discussion. There were agitations against the imposition of Hindi in which Tamils probably took the most active part. Despite that most of us seem to be fond of Hindi songs as well as those from our own languages. Some parochialism is inevitable but I hope that it will get less strident.

43 Gaddeswarup August 6, 2017 at 5:58 am

P.S. My own favourites: Savitri and Dilip Kumar.

44 AK August 6, 2017 at 9:39 am

There is no sin in being a partisan, as long as one is aware of it and respects different viewpoints. The problem arises if we start questioning the intellect and good taste of the other person. I have always maintained that I expect from the mature readers that when they disagree, they don’t become disagreeable.

45 Gaddeswarup August 6, 2017 at 10:31 am

AKJi at 44, I was in to cliches and as usual you are precise and to the point.

46 D P Rangan August 6, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Kelkarji at 32

I fully agree with you. Am happy you got some insights into her earlier life which is still wrapped in mists of time. God gave her everything except a strong mind to see through Kamal and readjust her life. He was certainly not worth all the tears that he caused her. Thanks for the appreciation.

47 Giri August 6, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Another excellent article.
Your painstaking research shows MK’s life in all its hues. Although I have earlier read about her life, I did not know she could sing well. Thanks for posting some of her songs from the very early phase of her career.

I also believe that taste differs from person to person depending on so many factors. I am a huge fan of Savitri and it is my opinion that she was a far superior actress than many from her era. She was very versatile in the choice of roles and her dialogue delivery in Telugu or Tamil were equally good. That in no way reduces the stature of actresses like Meena Kumari. Comparing them is like comparing apples against oranges.
By the way Savitri was 4 years younger than MK.

“Naanum oru penn” was remade in Hindi as “Main bhi ladki hoon” whereas “Main chup rahoongi” was the Hindi version of “Kalaththur Kannamma”
–Just to set the record straight.

48 RSR August 6, 2017 at 10:02 pm

Sri.Giri @47. .. Thank you for the correction Sir. ( Savithri 1936- MK 1933). In appearance , MK is almost the twin of Savithri. and I am just comparing the films of Savithri and MK of same theme. Miss Mary, especially. .
Swaroopji, -> I do not know much Hindi or Urdu. So, the lyrics do not divert me. It is the tune and singing that I care for. ( as if listening to Instrument playing). As this is a site for fine old hindi film SONGS, i had ventured the suggestion to the site admin, that the mp4 of the songs alone can be given or even mp3 links. without the video from the films. The page will load very fast.
An example is my own site
Sometimes , the links get broken and so I have given the mp3 files also for download. Images can be there but videos are a drag.
There is no ‘cliche’ . Art criticism is always a matter of acrimonious debate. Cannot be avoided. .. It is not just our liking.. there are yardsticks and one must be prepared to defend one’s likes and dislikes. There is a wonderful thread going on in by Vaesha.
I think, our forum members may like it . and may be educative

49 RSR August 6, 2017 at 10:04 pm
50 Anu Warrier August 7, 2017 at 8:00 am

Mr. Rangan, that was a nice article. I have read a great deal about Meena Kumari (am in possession of her autobiography and of CDs of her songs) and followed much trivia about her, so details about her were familiar to me. Interestingly the book I possess about her also says that while she was capable of the odd trantrum she was one of those actresses who took great care of the extras who acted with her. In one incident the author details how a certain reporter had come to interview the heroine of the film and could not find her in her assigned place. When he asked where she was somebody pointed out a a lady sitting on her haunches with the rest of the extras and eating and carrying on a conversation with them. “There that’s your heroine “, he was told. The reporter was quite shocked. He had not expected a film star in the dust.:-)

Mr.Gaddeswarup, what is the paper by Emmanuel Todd that you mention? With so many of my nieces and nephews marrying boys and girls from the north we are seeing interesting customs and dichotomies.

51 Anu Warrier August 7, 2017 at 8:07 am

I just realized that the comment @50 is attributed to my wife since I am using her computer. So that post is not by Anu Warrier, it is by SSW. 🙂
Our personalities are very distinct but she does let me use her laptop once in a while.

52 D P Rangan August 7, 2017 at 10:26 am

Thanks for the appreciation.

Thanks for the liberal sentiments expressed. It was a virtual struggle for me to gather authentic material over a long time. I am happy I could get it off the chest. She had such a towering personality, in most of the films heroes opposite her used to struggle in delivering dialogues. This was particularly true for raw youth Dharmendra.

53 Gaddeswarup August 7, 2017 at 11:31 am

SSW at # 50. He has two books on the topic, do not seem to be easily available. I have written about him a few times in my blog. A relevant table appears in page 180 of the second book,

54 SSW August 8, 2017 at 4:53 am

Thanks Mr. Gaddeswarup @53. I shall look up your blog.

@50, I meant “biography” actually. It was written by Vinod Mehta in 1972 as a young journalist before he began his climb to fame.

55 Gaddeswarup August 8, 2017 at 6:49 am

SSW at #54. I have copied the books. If you want some of the pages, please let me know at
I can copy and send them to you. Todd is famous for two predictions 1) the collapse of the Soviet Union based on demographic studies and 2) prediction of French elections at one stage based on family system differences. So there may be some substance to his methods.

56 Shalan Lal August 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Answering the comment I made on Mr Ravindra Kelkar’s post OP Nayyar-Geeta Dutt: A peerless combination”, Mr Ravindra K said,” Shalan ji, #29 You most surely have a unique view of looking at things. Still, some of your points are worth countering.”

So like an Academy Award I am going to exhibit my “Unique View” proudly and express the renegade points of view. I am going to see the Elephant in the room and going to point it out to the readers of the post.

At first what is the Enigma of Meenakumari? Is it that Meena K had mystic roots in the Tagore household as “the Upper Crust” noting the phrase “she was guilty of “lèse-majesté” Rangan has used ? Or she started acting as a child actor and also sang songs?

But there are many like her started as child actors e.g. Great RK, Shashi K, Mehmood, Vasanti of the Prabhat, Suraiya, Nurjehan and many more etc.

Do these two areas amounts to the word Enigma? The enigma would be with the Tagore House as they are supposed to be associated to the reformed Hindu religion as they converted to the sect Brahmo Samaj started by Raja Ram Mohan Roy whose widowed mother told him that as a great learned man he should do something about the plight and day today misery, woes, wretchedness etc. of the Hindu Widows. Not only had the Raja presented the British rulers the reformation law he created a new sect based on the Vedic religion. Sadly Mr Rangan did not do any digging in this aspect and used the word Enigma in vain and spent his time telling the elaborated story of Meena K, her grandmother and mother and Kamal Amrohi .

But in reality there is no authenticity of the story. How and why it started is the actual enigma!

Some thirty years ago the story of Meenakumari’s roots in the Tagore family appeared in the Hindi weekly “Dharmayug” published regularly by the “Times of India” along with other weeklies like “Illustrated Weekly” etc. Then that story now and then was recycled and regurgitated by the filmy gossip writers. But it remained as a gossip and nobody dared to go into the Tagore’s estate to find more about it.

If the story is true and as Rangan says Meenakumari’s tragedy starts there then that could be the Enigma. But then that story could be the area of Sharatchandra. But Rangan does not do any exploration and gets some Tagore spokesperson to comment on it.

The Dutt family employed the writer “Sadanand” of the India Express to write the biography of Nargis. He mentioned similar kind of episode occurred in the roots of her life as well and Nargis has now origin in both Punjabi Hindu and Rajasthani Hindu communities.

If these two stories are right then there could be more stories like these as well. So the enigma is not enigma and there is not much juice in these kinds of stories! Young girls running away leaving their solid roots and accepting shaky and shady world of tinsel town is nothing new or making a post about it.

Somehow the tragedy of Meenakumari is highlighted by the Hindi film buffs! Over the last thirty years I attended many programmes on the Hindi films festivals and the Meenakumari’s story is told with all the sugar and spices and sobs by the male and female narrators. And I get world-weary about it.

Only interesting point about the present post is that she sang as a child actor and her songs in the films like Veer Ghatotkach etc had some focus given by Mr Rangan without making their significance then or now.

What is lacking is that she as an accomplished actor acted out her songs and gave memorable performances and the author Mr Rangan has not done any eulogy on them and wasted his ink on the puerile matters.

And as the tribute to her 85th birth day the positive achievement of a person is needed to be mentioned was not done. Her tragic dark costume created a Hamlet out of her without a grand conspirer theme.

I very much liked her performance of the song in the film “Dil Ek Mandir” “रुक जा रात ठहर जा रे चंदा बीते न मिलन की बेला” the melody, the lyric, the situation, her decking of marriage garb and Lata’s incredible intensity of the emotions in singings all go together and also similar effects she created in songs in many other films.

As someone said her acting contributions could be compared only with those of Dilip Kumar.

Yes indeed and in the performing of the songs as well!

Mr Rangan started enumerating her songs from the film “Bahen” produced, written and directed by Mehboob. Mehboob handled the theme extremely complex as a slow growth of domination in a man of his kid sister which has hidden and suppressed sexual intentions. And Meenakumari had to do the complex acting. Both Sheikha Mukhtiyar and Meena K did their work extremely well under the direction of Mehboob. All were praised in the press. Sadly the complexity of the role of Sheikh Mukhtiyar was not mentioned by Mr Rangan as Meena Kumari had to become mature to know her role. There is a shade of Kamal Amrohi as he was three times older than her.

Mr Rangan had more palaver about trivial and trifling matters than the tributary praises.

However I very much appreciate Mr Rangan in his comment number 46 “…God gave her everything except a strong mind to see through Kamal and readjust her life. He was certainly not worth all the tears that he caused her. Thanks for the appreciation.”

Except I have objection to the words “God gave her everything “etc. No Sir she earned them hard way in her long acting business from childhood to the old age..”

Shalan Lal

57 SSW August 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm

@Shalan Lal, there are some points in your excellent comment that I disagree with, but on the whole, I like your vim and your verve and your unabashed potshots at the patriarchy.

Rock on! 🙂

58 Anu Warrier August 9, 2017 at 3:14 pm

@57 – that comment was by me; my silly husband had not signed out after mistakenly publishing a comment as me – I seem to be returning the favour.

-Anu Warrier

59 ksbhatia August 9, 2017 at 4:34 pm

D P Rangan ji;

Coming back after a certain lapse of time due to computer fault . Enjoying reading your very comprehensive article and subsequent contributions , observations and comments . Will come back again ; meanwhile a song that I like the most……its music , rhythm , lyrics, acting , cinematography [ …and what not ] . A lesson for Dholak players too. Every stanza words carry different melody beats .

Aansoo ki aag leke teri yaad aayee….Lata…Yahudi….SJ

60 R Vasudevan August 9, 2017 at 5:28 pm

The word enigma as per Oxford dictionary means mysterious person or thing. This description does not fit in Meena Kumari but incidents of her life especially in the early period with varying versions in the articles that are available in the net and in print media does fits in the word. Let us stop with it.

Coming to her acting ability, there can be no two opinion that MK was a very fine actress especially in tragic roles that she did in many films. Her early life events may have a say emotionally to her when she acted in those tragic roles. She excelled in such films which in my opinion – repeat in my opinion – other actress would not have acted better than her.

This blog is about famous films personalities of Hindi cinema past and present who were before and behind the camera. Fine articles back up by very good comments by way of postings of members keep coming in or pouring in that give the author of articles a pep and encouragement if not motivation. The authors of articles topic of which are chosen by a good homework and research they do On reading them we the members offer our comments. Opinion always differs, likes and dislikes are all part and parcel of our life.

Most of the members of SOY I assume or believe are senior citizens and we enjoying going through the articles almost daily which not only bring back memories of gone by era when we were young and enjoyed the songs that are mentioned in the various postings and topics. Let us continue.

Once againI say the article of Rangan has been well written and Meena Kumari was born to act in films..

61 Gaddeswarup August 9, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Shalanlal Lal at #56, About ” Young girls running away leaving their solid roots and accepting shaky and shady world of tinsel town is nothing new or making a post about it.” I did not get that impression. That was Hem Sundari. By Meena Kumari time, it seems to be a more familiar story of young girls and women helping their families and sometimes exploited by them. Nargis, Madhubala, Baby Naaz and many others too seem in this category.Possibly what you describe is a later phenomenon.
I enjoyed the freshness of your comments but expecting to go to a Tagore spokesperson to comment may be too high an expectation.It seems to me that many of us are somewhat old non-professional persons without connections to the film world let alone Tagore spokespersons,though you seem to have some connections with film personalities. I saw only two persons from Hindi films Jaikshen in a restaurant near Flora Fountain and Rajendra Kumar in a takeaway restaurant near a British Highway. You seem to be really expecting research articles from somewhat amateur enthusiasts. Anyway, there are new things for me in the article. I did not know the Tagore connection. I did not know Meena Kumari sang and one of her songs I found was copied in Telugu film.
But I liked your comment since it may lead to fresh direction in comments and topics.

62 RSR August 9, 2017 at 9:04 pm

I did not know so far that MK had sung in films. .Banumathi to most of us was known only as an actress and singer in films. But it appears that she was a great vocalist in carnatic music as well. I am not sure if she gave records or concerts. Her rendering of Thyagaraja kruthi ‘Nagumomu’ in Aaberi ragam is considered to be authentic . ( being a native Telugu , though a film song. .).
Savithri also might have sung in films in her own voice?
Generally, this being a site devoted to hindi film songs, I would venture to suggest that we need not talk about the personal lives and anecdotes. but concentrate on the songs only. If at all, we talk about any artiste in the article, we can mention the good points and ignore the supposed blemishes if any, in their personal life. ..Excuse me for the digression… I find that the Hindi music directors and singers were extremely good looking! Talat, Rafi, Mukesh, among singers and Madan Mohan and C.Ramachandra among music directors. . And Lataji had large expressive eyes and a homely , girlish loveliness in her early years. She might have been a great success in roles suited for her. ( many of the lighter films of MK ?). ..MK’s ‘ dance’ in Dil Apna and the song were very good.( I hope that it was MK and not a look alike ‘dupe’).
No song by MK in Shararath?
And Lataji had large expressive eyes and a homely , girlish loveliness in her early years. She might have been a great success in roles suited for her
(kum kum?)=
Meena Kumari’s Ghazal in her own voice.wmv
I would not have searched and found this but for Ranganji’s article. . I request esteemed experts to give more links of Lata songs for MK from her films. in the best period 1954-1964
Over to experts

63 RSR August 9, 2017 at 9:27 pm

@29-> Swaroopji, you mean , the tune of ‘Maayame Naan Ariyen’ was from an earlier MK song? or the lyrics? If it is the tune, it is incredible. There is an unmistakable tamil ragam pattern in that best song in missiyamma. Clarification please!

64 Gaddeswarup August 10, 2017 at 2:42 am

RSR, I posted the link in #29. In a quick search I could not find the Tamil version.
Above when I said we are all amateurs, I forgot the name of Shri Arunkumar Deshmukh. My apologies.

65 D P Rangan August 10, 2017 at 9:43 am

Shalan Lal
You seem to have taken a new avtar. The tone of your comments almost border on the absurd. At present I am down with an acute attack of typhoid and in bed rest. I am unable now to answer your criticisms which I will do after I recover. I have absolutely no rancour against you. Each is free to express his/her comments. That is all for now.

66 D P Rangan August 10, 2017 at 9:45 am

I thank other commentators who had offered comments to Shalans views. Will come later on when I am fully recovered from my present ailment.

67 R Vasudevan August 10, 2017 at 11:05 am

I wish Shri DP Rangan a good and fast recovery from his ailment

68 RSR August 10, 2017 at 12:58 pm

D.P.Ranagan ji, Typhoid attack is not to be taken lightly. Glad to learn that you recovered and are now taking bed rest. ..May I request you not to think about adverse comments or answer them. ? A happy frame of mind aids in quick recovery. Wishing you speedy recovery and another good article on (say) Dilip Kumar , perhaps?
Best Regards.

69 Shalan Lal August 10, 2017 at 2:34 pm

DP Ranganji

As RSR said above @68 Typhoid should not be taken lightly. Please look after yourself well. “Sar Salamat to Pagadi Pachaas” so says the Hindi idiom.

You have done some solid contribution to the songs of yore blog and all should be grateful to you that includes me as well.

If my comments may look somewhat neurotic then ignore about them. If you feel they are offensive then I am very sorry.

All my comments are for seeing the view from many sides. To see from a different angle is in Jain philosophy called “Saptabhagni Nay”. A view should be seen at least from seven angles as they claim could take you to right path-“Samyak Dyaan”.
So think in those terms.

Take very good rest. You have done your job and let the readers talk what they want to talk.

Wish you very good health. “Delhi in summer time is always dangerous. I hope Delhi government should do something about it. They waste so much time in political wrangling s and create uncertainty.


70 Shalan Lal August 10, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Gaddeswarup 61

Hemsundari ran away leaving for more exciting life than wasting as widow in a huge household was aimed by me in my comment and not Meena K.

But I have doubts about the whole story. Ravindranath loved his daughter very much. His art, literature and plays and music all are extremely humanistic and modernity. He was chosen as the leader of the expanding House of Tagore. When Hemsundari is supposed to have been “ran away” Tagore was in the height of his greatness, publicity, and virtually held as domineering father figure of new India in the cultural reforms. So an incident like “Hemsundari” would not have happened.

That is my argument.

Shalan Lal

71 RSR August 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm

@64 ->Swaroopji, here is the song under discussion, as I said, the sweetest in that film. ( visually too!).

72 Shalan Lal August 10, 2017 at 3:16 pm

SSW @57
You see everything so straight. My art of hiding something is useless before you. Have you got those quartz or Tiger eyes?

Shalan La

73 SSW August 11, 2017 at 6:52 am

Ms.Lal @72, that comment was by my wife Anu Warrier. Yes, she was probably a marauding cat in her previous incarnation. Even today she has 20/15 vision.

74 Shalan Lal August 12, 2017 at 3:14 pm

SSW @73 & Anu Warrier @57 & 50 or other now I am really confused.

But then when it is the matter of “Husband and Wife” who are usually one and the same and Hamlet makes fun about the relationship of his newly married mother and uncle as following,”

“but my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived.
Guil. In what, my dear lord ?
Ham. I am but mad north-north-west ; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw”

Confused about who is mother and who is aunt and who is uncle and who is (step) father!

However the remarks of both of you are very interesting, amusing and wise as well.

I add on as “Tyger, Tyger burning bright in the forest of “SoY” !
and there is not a single “mew” around!

That will teach SSW not to mess with Anu’s computer.

All’s well that ends well!

Shalan La

75 Shalan Lal August 14, 2017 at 4:32 pm

R.Vasidevan @60

With ref. to your thinking in paragraph 4 “Most of the members of SOY I assume or believe are senior citizens and we enjoying going through the articles ………” etc

I think you assume too much if I may be presumptuous!
As for me I am very young and occasionally naïve!
Here is a song from the film Afasaanaa 1951 music by Husnlal Bhagatrm and in the voice of Lata M. The song is classical and a very long poem in the original one and made popular by many old singers.

Kushiyo.n ke din manaye jaa … abhii to mai.n jawaan huu.N

Lyric by Gaafil Harnalvi

ख़ुशियों के दिन मनये जा
दिल के तराने गाये जा
तुझ को जवानि की क़सम
दिल की लगी बुझाये जा
दुनिया मेरी बसाये जा
आजा पिया आजा पिया
अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ -३
अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ -३
ज़ाहिद यूँही बद्नाम है
ग़म से तुझे क्या काम है
यह मुस्कुराती ज़िन्दगी
ज़िन्दादिली का नाम है
दिल दिल से मुस्कुराये जा
कुछ गाये जा बल खाये जा
अभी तो मैं जवान हूँ -३

If you need translation I shall do it but boring to include. I suggest you see the film Afsasaana on the YT
Shalan lal

76 R Vasudevan August 14, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Apropos to 75 I would like to state that my presumption that many of the members are sr.citizens may be right or wrong. S0 neither I want to go into details nor I wish to add any more points on this aspect. I am 60 plus.

I started seeing Hindi films at Delhi where I grew up and the first film I remember to have seen was Ek ke baadh ek followed by Manzil incidentally both Dev Anand films. But I started hearing songs much earlier . Rafi’s “suhani raath dal chuki hai na jano thum kab avoge” from the film Dulari released in 1949 was my first favorite song.. The song was composed by Naushad Ali and the Mandolin interlude is its plus point.Rafi’s rendering is simply out of the world.

I am not young physically but to hear music there is no age.

My neighbor is a 93 yrs old man who goes to bed daily after hearing chaaya geeth in vivid bharathi at 10 PM

77 SSW August 19, 2017 at 6:53 am

Mr.Vasudevan @76 if I may interject, there is no solo mandolin in “Suhani raat dhal chuki”. The first interlude is played on two guitars probably one of the arch-top acoustics favoured by the jazz guitar players . It has a cutting tone that the softer more rounded regular guitar does not have. There could be a mandolin providing accompaniment but I cannot hear it. I have another version of the song that has some interesting flute pieces not present in the screen version and there too there is scarcely a hiint of the mandolin. The screen picturisation has the hero strumming a mandolin but acoustic accuracy was not a strong point then.
For what an arch top guitar can look like see this live clip of Rafi singing the song on Bombay Doordarshan. This live program has the flute piece I am talking out. Only here the initial flute piece in the screen version is played on the muted trumpet. I saw this live as a little boy long ago one night in Bombay.
Rafi’s voice is older and he seems tired but there are occasions where he caresses the notes so tenderly it is gorgeous.

78 R Vasudevan August 19, 2017 at 6:49 pm

With ref. to 77.
I agree with your points on music instruments used in the song of
Dulari. But I still retain my view that mandolin was used in the song.

Visit the website – chose the article Introduction to Indian classical instruments in Hindi films and in that list Mandolin is
also mentioned and therein a few songs are listed and one of them is
suhani raath dal chuk hai from Dulari.

Shankar jaikishan have used this instrument in many films – just two
ye raath beegi from the film chori chori
ye chaand ye sitare from the film Halaku.

This is my last posting on this topic

79 ksbhatia August 20, 2017 at 12:28 am

R Vasudevan ;

Like you I am also bowled out by excellent interludes in songs wherein mandolin is used as a highlighter . Yes ; Shankar Jaikishan had many melodies to his credit where mandolin was used . The theme title songs of Awara , Yahudi and many others are listeners delight . I think at one moment of time Laxikant used to play Mandolin in SJ orchestra besides many other stalwerts playing this instrument . Boot Polish songs did carried beautiful mandolin pieces ….Chali kaun se desh , raat gayi jab din aata hai ….etc.

As a samplers here are two title musics ; one from Awara and second from Yahudi .

Awara… Awara hun

Yahudi……Yeh duniya yeh duniya

80 SSW August 21, 2017 at 5:36 am

Mr.Vasudevan you are welcome to your view. I do not hear a mandolin in the interlude that you allude to. Furthermore I do not consider the mandolin to be a classical instrument nor do I consider mrandmrs55 to be any authority on musical instruments. Lastly I know what a mandolin sounds like, I have played different types.

81 mumbaikar8 August 23, 2017 at 3:51 am

D P Ranjan.
I was pleasantly surprised by your article on Meena Kumari, thanks for giving us a brief insight on her personal as well as her professional life. She is one of my favorite too. Some of the songs you have presented are rare. Her voice is so sweet and pleasing hope she had insisted on singing her songs.
These two songs represent her range, one of her song from I write I recite signifies her loneliness and the other song from pinjre ke panchhi song bursts into uncontrollable laughter.
Epitome of loneliness !

82 mumbaikar8 August 23, 2017 at 4:40 am

Shalan Lal @56
In your comment on Mehboob Khan’s Bahen, I did not understand what you meant by “Meenakumari had to do the complex acting.” I have seen this movie lately and I felt that, she was and acted like a sweet innocent 6 to 8 year old girl, all the complexity comes in later with Nalini Jayant, she in her teens have done a good job.
“There is a shade of Kamal Amrohi as he was three times older than her”. Do you mean that Kamal Amrohi was three times older than her when they got married? He would have been three times older than when she was seven as he was fifteen years older to her but not when they got married.

83 D P Rangan August 25, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Thanks for your appreciation, a maiden venture in the field of biography. I am happy the blog master agreed to open a new field, i.e. covering film personalities in addition to mds and singers. I now to expect others to do a better post than mine on other yesteryear actors like Balraj Sahni. MK was my favourite and I am glad I could bring to light her tragic life. If somebody could unearth more interesting incidents from her life, it would be worthwhile. MK had that rare attribute je ne sais quoi.

I think the second song uploaded by Mumbaikar8 @ 81 fulfils all the parameters of your post on Assymetric Duets which is the current rage.

84 Ashok Kumar Tyagi September 6, 2017 at 7:51 pm

SSW with ref to comment no. 77
Just asking out of curiosity, Sir if you feel like playing tune of a Hindi film song, do you pick up a guitar or try a keyboard/piano?, in your leisure time.

85 SSW September 6, 2017 at 8:51 pm

Mr.Tyagi, a guitar usually, I have a 3 quarter size classical guitar that is easy to carry around . I have full size classical guitars too. Also have an old EP-90 Roland keyboard with 88 keys. Use that sometimes.

@77 my teacher has mandolins, lutes, ukeleles and a collection of electric and acoustic guitars. As you know there are different types of mandolins and their timbre differs depending on the construction.

86 Ashok Kumar Tyagi September 7, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Thanks. Some queries are on mind reg composition methodology. Will request your kind response some other time.

87 Kaleem Sheikh September 10, 2017 at 4:39 am

the Sarangi in the poetry album was played by my Guru- Ustad Sultan Khan,

88 AK September 10, 2017 at 7:29 am

Kaleem Khan,
Welcome to SoY. Nice to know that you learnt from Ustad Sultan Khan. We would be very happy if you could write more on the Ustad and his music, including his association with film music.

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