23 February 1969: Madhubala, Indian actress, passed away

Adored for her mesmerising beauty by millions of fans and still known to be the most graceful face to appear on the Indian silver screen, Mumtaz Jahan Begum Dehlavi aka Madhubala is still the idol for many leading actresses of Bollywood. Born on the 14 February, the day when the whole world celebrates Valentine’s Day, Madhubala elevated herself to a pedestal few can aspire to. Her beauty, acting skills, and instant charm keep her alive in millions of hearts, even after four decades of her premature and unfortunate death.

Family and early career

Madhubala was born in 1933 in a conservative Muslim family in Delhi, to Ataullah Khan and Ayesha, who had 11 children altogether, she being the fifth. A Muslim saint had once predicted on Madhubala’s birth that this lady would rise to the zenith of fame and wealth but will never get the inner peace of mind in her short life. Her father used to work in the ITC but soon lost his job and the entire family relocated to Mumbai to earn livelihood. Her two brothers and three sisters died when she was very young. At the young age of seven she could dance and sing well, and her talent was only to be discovered and nurtured. A severe accident wiped away their home in Mumbai, which they could avoid only by being luckily not present there. Post that incident, she and her father used to visit film studios all across the city in order to earn money. She soon managed to capture small roles as a child artist as baby Mumtaz, in movies like Besant (1942), Mumtaz Mahal (1944), Pujari (1946) and many more. She got her screen name Madhubala ("honey belle") from the veteran Devika Rani.

Rise to fame

After showing her potential as a talented child artist for five years, Madhubala got her first big role as a leading lady due to her mentor Kidar Sharma. It was in his film Neel Kamal (1947) opposite the iconic Raj Kapoor and since then there was no looking back. She became a star within a few days with the release of Mahal (1949) opposite Ashok Kumar, followed by few movies like Dulari and Daulat releasing in the same year. With the advent of the 50s she blossomed and was considered to be the “Venus” of Indian cinema, with hits like Beqasoor (1950), Tarana (1951), Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955). Owing to her alluring beauty, she was perfect for romantic roles and did a few in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958) and Half Ticket (1962). During her career she has worked with all the leading male stars of her time, like Pradeep Kumar, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Rehman and others. She rose to the pinnacle of glory when she featured in the grand Mughal-e-Azam (1960) opposite the superstar Dilip Kumar. The movie is still remembered as a cult movie in the romantic genre. Her stardom transcended the borders and an article was written on her success in the Theatre Arts in August 1962. Frank Kapra, the American director, also offered her prominent roles in Hollywood, which he declined because of her father’s unwillingness.

Marriage and controversies

Madhubala’s father was a strict man and constantly monitored her life, even though she was a superstar by then. She fell in love with Premnath, but they could not last long because they were from different religions. Her next link-up was with Dilip Kumar that continued for nine years, and during that period they appeared in several movies together. If rumours are to be believed, the relationship breathed its last when during the shooting of Naya Daur (1956) there came up a court case related to change of location, demanded by Attaullah for the safety of his daughter. Dilip Kumar, however, stood against the motion, which was not accepted by her. Madhubala was obedient to her domineering father and sacrificed the relationship. To come out of the agony, she got involved with Kishore Kumar and after three years of affair, married him in 1960. The marriage wasn’t very successful as the two were often in news for wrong reasons.

Prolonged illness

According to close sources, Madhubala was born with ventricular septal disease (a disorder of the heart) but the effects were only seen in 1954 on the sets of Bahut Dinn Huey. After marriage, she was even taken to London and was given only two years of survival left. Further, due to long hours of shooting and the demand of the role, she used to neglect treatment routine, which caused her health to deteriorate. She spent her last nine years on bed, but still managed to finish her work. Kishore Kumar wasn’t ready to take her responsibilities due to his work pressure. In 1969, she also set out to direct a movie Farz aur Ishq, which was never made. According to doctors, critical heart surgeries also could not save her live.


The breathtaking beauty breathed her last on 23 February 1969 at a premature age of 36. She was buried at the Santa Cruz cemetery along with her diary, but the last remnant of the beauty, her grave, was wiped away due to religious reasons in 2010.

Even after 80 years of her death, this beautiful actress is liked by many. In 2004 and 2012, her cult movies like Mughal-e-Azam and Half Ticket were released again with digital modifications. In 2008, a postage stamp was released in her honour.


Also on this day

1965 – Ashok Kamte, Indian police officer, was born

1982 – Karan Singh Grover, Indian actor, was born

2004 – Vijay Anand, Indian director and screenwriter, died

2004 – Sikander Bakht, Indian politician, died

2011 – Nirmala Srivastava, Indian religious leader, founded Sahaja Yoga

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