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Remembering Meena Kumari: An Ajeeb Dastaan That We Understand Little of but Marvel At Nevertheless

On the legendary actor’s birthday, here’s a playlist of songs that show she was more than just the Tragedy Queen
Remembering Meena Kumari: An Ajeeb Dastaan That We Understand Little of but Marvel At Nevertheless
  • Team FC

  • Film Companion

Last Updated: 09.43 AM, Aug 02, 2022

meena kumari
meena kumari

When we talk of the golden age of Bollywood, one of the actors who exemplifies the elegance of that era is Meena Kumari. Born Mahjabeen Bano, Meena Kumari was a woman of many talents. She was one of the few child actors who was able to transition into becoming a heroine. She wrote poetry under the pseudonym Naaz. She would also earn the moniker “Tragedy Queen”, for her poignant portrayals of women who faced heartbreak and social censure. Among her most celebrated performances is her role as Chhoti Bahu in Abrar Alvi’s Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), which was India’s official entry to the Oscars, won four Filmfare Awards and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival. However, her most famous performance was possibly in Pakeezah (1972), in which she had a double role. It is said that Meena Kumari, who took the salary of Rs. 1 for the film, felt both characters were reflections of her real self in many ways. 

As famous as she was for her portrayals of melancholic women, on her birthday, we’d like to remember a different side of Meena Kumari. So here are some of our favourite happy songs featuring Meena Kumari.  

With this film, Meena Kumari became the first ever actress to have won a Filmfare. The film’s soundtrack was legendary with songs like ‘Aaj Gawaat Mann Mora’ by Ustad Amir Khan and Pandit D.V. Paluskar (it’s the first time the two greats collaborated on a song). 

Azaad, starring Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar, was the top-grossing Hindi film in 1955 and one of the biggest hits of the decade. It was a remake of Naidu’s Tamil film Malaikkallan (1954).

This film saw Meena Kumari paired with Sunil Dutt. Not only was this a successful pairing in its time, but Kumari was also a close friend of the legendary actor Nargis, who was married to Dutt. 

The film’s screenplay was adapted by Aluri Chakrapani from Rabindranath Maitra’s Manmoyee Girls School (1932) and Saradindu Bandyopadhyay’s story Satyanweshi (1932). L.V. Prasad directed three versions of the film — the Telugu original called Missamma (1955), followed by Missiamma (1955) in Tamil, and Miss Mary in Hindi. You can watch the song here

Directed by Bimal Roy and starring Meena Kumari and Dilip Kumar, the film is based on Agha Hashar Kashmiri’s play Yahudi Ki Ladki (The Daughter of a Jew), originally published in 1913. The film’s soundtrack included the song ‘Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hain’ by Mukesh, which was later covered by Susheela Raman in 2003 for Mira Nair’s The Namesake.  

Aside from Meena Kumari, the cast of this film included Rajendra Kumar (who was known as Jubilee Kumar because of his films’ box office success) and Ruby Myers, better known as Sulochana. Myers started her own studio called Rubi Pics and was awarded the 1973 Dada Saheb Phalke Award. 

Kaajal is based on Gulshan Nanda’s novel, Maadhavi. The Telugu remake of the film Maa Inti Devatha (1980) was directed by Padmanabham.