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Meena Kumari Biography Meena Kumari or Mahjabeen Bano (1 August 1932 - 31 March 1972), was an Indian movie actress and poetess. She is regarded as one of the most prominent actresses to have appeared on the screens of Hindi Cinema. During a career spanning 30 years from her childhood to her death, she starred in more than ninety films, many of which have achieved classic and cult status today.
Mahjabeen Bano was the third daughter of Ali Baksh and Iqbal Begum; Khursheed and Madhu were her two elder sisters. At the time of her birth, her parents were unable to pay the fees of Dr. Gadre, who had delivered her, so her father left her at a Muslim orphanage, however, he picked her up after a few hours.
Her father, a Shia Muslim, was a veteran of Parsi theater, played harmonium, taught music, and wrote Urdu poetry. He played small roles in films like Id Ka Chand and composed music for films like Shahi Lutere.
Her mother, Prabhwati Devi, was the second wife of Ali Baksh. Before meeting and then marrying Ali Baksh, she was a stage actress and dancer, under the stage name, Kamini. After marriage, she converted from Hinduism to Islam, and changed her name to Iqbal Begum.
(It is said that Prabhwati Devi's mother, Hem Sundari, had been married into the Tagore family, but she was disowned by that family after being widowed.)
When Mahjabeen was born, Ali Bakhsh aspired to get roles as an actor in Rooptara Studios. At the urging of his wife, he got Mahjabeen too into movies despite her protestations of wanting to go to school. Young Mahjabeen is said to have said, "I do not want to work in movies; I want to go to school, and learn like other children."
As Mahjabeen embarked on her acting career at the age of 7, she was renamed Baby Meena. Farzand-e-Watan or Leatherface (1939) was her first movie, which was directed for Prakash Studios by Vijay Bhatt. She became practically the sole breadwinner of her family during the 1940s. Her early adult acting, under the name Meena Kumari, was mainly in mythological movies like Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950), and fantasy movies like Alladin and The Wonderful Lamp (1952).
With Meena Kumari, came the grievance and pain into Hindi cinema. She was an epitome of these and a blend of talent and beauty. What she did not get in real life, she tried to achieve from her movies. She was a dreamer, a poet who found solace in loneliness and pain.
The beautiful Mehejabeen, stepped into the world of grease and glamour from the tender age of six. Her first film as a child artist was Vijay Bhatt's 'Leather Face' (1939). She then metamorphasised into a beautiful heroine and did some heartrenching movies like 'Baiju Bawra' (1954), 'Parineeta' (1955), 'Ek Hi Raasta', 'Sharda' (1957), 'Aarti' (1963) and 'Kaajal' (1966). Her other movies include 'Bahu Begam' with Pradeep Kumar and Rehman and Guru Dutt's 'Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam'. But she also did character roles as in 'Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan', 'Mere Apne' and 'Dushman'. There came movies like 'Dil Apna Preet Parai' and 'Dil Ek Mandir' which saw a totally new Meena Kumari. But one film which did well only because of her and that too after her death is Kamal Amrohi's 'Pakeezah' (1971). This film with Raj Kumar, though took 17 years to complete, did wonders for her but she was not alive to take any of the love, appreciation and applause showered on her. She was someone who had to take refuge from her loneliness by writing poetry and alcohol. Meena Kumari had to pay a lot for her fame and fortune.
Meena Kumari will always be remembered as the tremendous actress as she was and the load of pain she had to undergo. Some of her leading actors were Dilip Kumar, Raj Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Dharmendra, Pradeep Kumar, Rehmaan and Guru Dutt. She still remains fresh in all her co-stars' memories. She still has some die-hard and loyal admirers left.
Three weeks after the release of Pakeezah, Meena Kumari became seriously ill, and died on 31 March 1972 of cirrhosis of the liver. At her death, she was in more or less the same financial circumstance as her parents at the time of her birth: It is said that when she died in a nursing home, there was no money to pay her hospital bills.