The personification of excellent talent and good appearance. Meena Kumari is a Bollywood actress unlike anyone other since all of this came together to form a single personality. Meena Kumari, who was dubbed the “Tragedy Queen” of Hindi cinema, was unparalleled and unsurpassed. She appeared in more than ninety movies during the course of a thirty-three-year career, many of which are now considered cult classics.
Like her on-screen characters, she experienced disappointments and upheavals in real life as well. We present to you some little-known facts and anecdotes about this great actress that few people are aware of.
You’ll be amazed by these unknown facts about Meena Kumari:
1. Meena Kumari was born in a poor family
Mahjabeen Bano was born on August 1st, 1933, into a family of struggling theatre performers.
2. Meena Kumari’s grandmother was a relative of Rabindranath Tagore
Her father, Master Ali Bux, was a seasoned Parsi actor who also penned Urdu poetry and played bit parts in movies. Iqbal Begum, her mother, was a Christian Bengali who later embraced Islam. Prabhawati Devi was her birth name. Hem Sundari Tagore, Meena Kumari’s maternal grandmother, was Rabindranath Tagore’s brother’s daughter.
3. She was left at an orphanage by her father, who again took her back
Meena’s father abandoned her at an orphanage’s door because he could not afford to pay the doctor to deliver her. He returned to fetch his newborn girl after changing his mind, but when he did, he was shocked to see ants crawling all over her body.
4. Baby Meena’s first role as a child artist
When she was just four years old, her parents began touring movie studios and trying to sell her apart. She played the protagonist’s daughter in the costume drama Leatherface (1939), which was directed by Vijay Bhatt. Additionally, he gave her the online alias “Baby Meena”. On her first day, she received Rs. 25.
5. Baby Meena became Meena Kumari at 13
Between 1939 and 1944, she worked as a kid artist on numerous films. At the age of 13, Baby Meena started playing adult parts as a heroine in the 1946 movie Bachchon Ka Khel. At that point, she changed her name to Meena Kumari. She acted in numerous films of the legendary and fantastical genres. Success, nevertheless, eluded her nonetheless.
6. She won the Best Actress Award at the First Filmfare Award
The movie Baiju Bawara (1952), directed by her instructor Vijay Bhatt, is credited with making her a star in the audience. She portrayed the female lead in the film, and in 1954, she took home the Best Actress prize at the inaugural Filmfare Awards.
7. Meena Kumari’s Husband was 15 years older than her
She married filmmaker Kamal Amrohi, who was 15 years her senior and had already been married, in a covert nikah in 1952. Just 18 years old, she was.
8. How Kamal Amorhi met Meena for the first time
It’s interesting to note that a young Kamal Amorhi paid Ali Bux a visit in 1938 while he was looking for a girl to play a little part in a movie. A 5-year-old child who had mashed banana all over her face greeted him there. The youngster’s name was Meena Kumari. Despite not getting the job, fate had something else in store for her.
9. Best Actress Award for her performance in Parineeta – 1953
For her performance in Parineeta, Meena Kumari also won the Best Actress Award at the Second Filmfare Awards (1953). She gave a standout performance, making this picture the most accurate rendition of the same-named Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay Bengali novel. Between 1952 and 1972, she co-starred in 17 films with Ashok Kumar.
10. Even after becoming famous, she felt at ease eating stale rotis.
Meena Kumari was accustomed to eating stale rotis as a child and continued to do so, even after becoming a major star. She would even eat them with raw onion.
11. She had a tough marriage and went into depression
She had a difficult marriage that was full of tension and pain. Amrohi had her spied on because he thought she was having an affair. She was subjected to too many restrictions by him to continue working, and he even treated her badly. She developed depression as a result of everything.
12. She has portrayed strong but frail characters.
Her on-screen personality amply portrayed the struggle and tragedy of her real life. She represented resilient, strong women who made their own way in the world despite missing out on true love. It was difficult to believe she was just in her 20s and 30s because of her talent for capturing such profound melancholy in her characters.
13. Meena Kumari earned the title of “Tragedy Queen” for her masterful depiction of grief and her true-life tale.
Meena Kumari didn’t need glycerine to cry while playing her roles. The “Tragedy Queen” was her nickname. Her portrayals of grief and poignancy in classics like Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Pakeezha, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, and Mere Apne are now regarded as models of excellence.
14. She became addicted to drinking after her divorce
After 11 years of a contentious marriage, she and Amrohi were ultimately divorced by triple talaq in 1964. Depression had already possessed her by that point. Her doctor advised her to occasionally drink a tiny amount of brandy to improve her sleep. She started to drink a lot more heavily though as it became an addiction.
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15. Rumors surfaced about Meena Kumari and Dharmendra
Her name was connected to a number of influential people in the Hindi film business, most notably Dharmendra, a young and promising newcomer at the time.
16. When she received all of the Best Actress nominations in her name at the 10th Filmfare Awards in 1963, she made history.
The extraordinary feat Meena Kumari accomplished at the 10th Filmfare Awards serves as a good indicator of her histrionic skills (1963). By receiving every Best Actress nomination, she made history. She received the honour as a result of her outstanding performance in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. No actress has been able to come close to matching this record as of yet.
17. As a result of her heavy drinking, Meena Kumari was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis.
Her health suffered greatly as a result of binge drinking. Her illness had significantly worsened by 1968. She travelled to Switzerland and London for medical care. After receiving a diagnosis of liver cirrhosis, she was unable to fully recover.
18. India’s first colour film in Cinemascope, Pakeezah was her last film
Her final movie was the renowned and critically praised Pakeezah, which was helmed by Kamal Amrohi. Although the film’s production started in 1956, it was abandoned in the middle of the process because of its 1964 divorce. Even though she was in severe condition, she agreed to begin filming for the movie in 1969 since it had such a particular place in her heart.
Pakeezah was ultimately released on February 4, 1972, after an almost 15-year development period. It was the country’s first colour Cinemascope film.
19. Four Filmfare Awards for Best Actress are on her resume.
In her career, Meena Kumari took home four Filmfare Awards for Best Actress, setting a record that stood for 13 years before being surpassed by Nutan at the 26th Filmfare Awards in 1979. She also held the record for the Best Actress nominations (12), which Madhuri Dixit surpassed in 2008 at the 53rd Filmfare Awards after 35 years.
20. Meena Kumari died when she was just 38 years old
Unfortunately, Meena Kumari did not have long enough to live to witness Pakeezah, her favourite movie, become a huge hit. Less than two months after the movie’s debut, on March 31, 1972, she died. She had just turned 38. Meena Kumari saw the movie as Kamal Amrohi paying her homage.
21. Many prominent actors including Madhubala and Amitabh Bachchan were fans of Meena Kumari
Meena Kumari was praised by Madhubala, who claimed that “no other actress has a voice like her.” She was referred to as “an actress of the highest level” by Satyajit Ray, and according to Amitabh Bachchan, “no one has ever spoken dialogues as Meena Kumari did..and possibly never will.”