Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Bollywood star who nearly became Pakistan's First Lady



From: Wikipedia entry

Madhubala (Hindi: मधुबाला, Urdu: مدھو بالا) (February 14, 1933 - February 23, 1969), born Mumtaz Begum Jehan Dehlavi, was a popular Hindi film actress who starred in several successful films in the 1950s and early 1960s, many of which have achieved classic and cult status today. With her contemporaries, Nargis and Meena Kumari, she is widely regarded as one of the most talented and influential actresses to have appeared on the screens of Hindi Cinema.

Mumtaz Begum Jehan Dehlavi, famously known as Madhubala, was born in Delhi, India on February 14, 1933. She was Muslim and an ethnic Pathan, the fifth child of a conservative family of eleven children.
After Madhubala's father, Ataullah Khan lost his job at the Imperial Tobacco Company, the family endured many hardships including the deaths of four of Madhubala's sisters and her two brothers. Madhubala and four other sisters remained. In search of a better life for his impoverished family, her father relocated them to Bombay. There they struggled for over a year and often frequented the Bombay film studios in search of work. Young Mumtaz entered films at the age of nine.

[...]

In the early 1950s as Madhubala became one of the most sought-after actresses in India, she also attracted interest from Hollywood. She appeared in many American magazines such as Theatre Arts. In their August 1952 issue, Madhubala was featured in an extensive article with a full page photo. The piece was entitled: The Biggest Star in the World (And She's Not in Beverly Hills). It presented the actress as a mysterious and ethereal woman of mythical beauty with a legion of fans.

During this period, on a trip to Bombay and its film studios, the American filmmaker Frank Capra was pampered and hosted by the elite of the Hindi movie industry. However the one star he really wanted to meet was conspicuous by her absence, Madhubala. A meeting to discuss an opening for Madhubala in Hollywood was proposed by Capra. Madhubala's father declined and put an emphatic end to her potential Hollywood film career.

[...]

In 2008 a commemorative postage stamp featuring Madhubala was issued. The stamp was produced by India Post in a limited edition presentation pack which featured images of the actress. It was launched by veteran actor Manoj Kumar in a glittering ceremony attended by friends and surviving members of Madhubala's family. The only other Indian film actress to be honoured in this manner is Nargis Dutt.




Madhubala was an unforgettable Anarkali. And her portrayal of Radha in "mohe panghat pe nandala chhed gayo re" continues to mesmerise movie-goers. Surprisingly, the song was almost edited out. "It's bakwas.. it'll ruin the film," thundered noted director Vijay Bhatt after the recording. "Why show Akbar celebrating Lord Krishna's birth?"

Music director Naushad argued that with Jodhabai present in the Mughal court, it wasn't all that illogical. After discussions with the panel of script writers, a line was incorporated in Anarkali's introduction scene to Prince Salim. A courtier was made to say "Aaj Krishna janmashtami hai aur Radha ke liye Anarkali theek rahegi." The song went on to become piece-de-resistance.

K. Asif wanted the best choreographer for the song. Naushad suggested Lachchu Maharaj. And the great Kathak exponent burst into tears the minute he heard the song. Asif was baffled. "Why is he crying," he asked Naushad. "Tell him to start dancing."

Naushad took the dancer aside and asked him why he was weeping. Lachchu Maharaj confided that his father, Alkaji Bindadin, had been Nawab Wajid Ali Shah's darbari dancer. And "mohe panghat pe nandalal" with nawab playing Krishna, was his favourite composition. "Hearing the number after all these years, I was overwhelmed. It reminded me of baba".

It took Lachchu Maharaj five days to choreograph the number. His Radha was lovely... but she was no classical dancer. So the camera would zoom in on Madhubala for the close-ups. And one of Lachhu Maharaj's boys doubled for the actress in the long shots. On every one of those five days, there was an important visitor from across the border on the sets - Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He would drive down from Worli to Mohan Studio and spend the day there raptly watching the song being picturised.



Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto: Very few Indians know that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto lived both in India and Pakistan until late 1950s. Bhutto was a very rich man and owned lots of real estate in Mumbai at that time. He also owned a sprawling Mansion named as My Nest at Bandra, Mumbai which was later confiscated by Indian Government during 1965 Indo-Pak War along with his other assets in Mumbai.

In 1950s, Bhutto used to visit the sets of Mughal-e-Azam in Mumbai studios just to see Madhubala. Especially, on the sets when the song Mohe Panghat Pe Nandlal Ched Gayo Re was being picturized, Bhutto was present and he was completely mesmerizedby the song composition and the picturization. Maestro Music Director Naushad was also present at the time of this picturization and Bhutto complimented Naushad Saab for composing such a melodious song based on RagaPilu. Bhutto was considered a special guest of Madhubala.
Madhubala liked Bhuttos charm. Sometimes they used to have lunch together and Bhutto used to make her laugh with his wit. In those days Bhutto used to live at Worli, Mumbai and used to practice law as a barrister in Mumbai High Court. However, Bhutto was not part of Mumbais film world.
Bhutto was obsessed with Madhubalas beauty. He used to come to the sets of Mughal-e-Azam and used to sit in the studio for hours watching Madhubala. But Bhutto had already wedded Shirin Begum, daughter of a rich landlord of Larkana, Sind and he was also married to Nusrat, an attractive young Irani girl (mother of Benazir Bhutto). As a result Bhutto used to shuttle between Larkana and Karachi. And now with Madhubala in mind, he started three-way shuttle to Larkana, Karachi and Mumbai. But Bhutto had different plans.
In the meantime, he had decided to plunge in Pakistani politics and left Mumbai for good to settle down permanently in Sind, Pakistan. Thus Anarkali Madhubala could not become the first lady of Pakistan (Note: Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1972). Exact relationship between Madhubala and Bhutto remains shrouded in mystery. Only Madhubalas diary could have thrown some light on this subject. However, her diary was buried by her father with Madhubala in her grave.

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