Madhubala – The nation’s Valentine.
Born on Valentine’s Day in 1933, Madhubala was bequeathed with beauty but survived on borrowed bliss. Cultivated as a cash cow by her slave driving father, she craved to feel the affection which smoothly slid by her.
Here she recounts, in first person, three acts of unforgettable kindness of a now defunct humane time in the film industry.
With ‘pay it forward’ philosophy currently trending, we share this straight from the heart confession. It was recorded in August 1957.
Happy Valentine’s day dear friends of filmkailm.
Over to the Indian Venus…
Life has given me innumerable sorrows and few joys but there are people and events that I will never forget.
In ‘Talkhiyaan’ (she didn’t know it was by Sahir) the Urdu poet narrated his own bitter experiences. My life is like that book because the sum total of my life is bitter experience which is coiled tight like a spring within my heart and when released, hurts excruciatingly. It is true that one learns something from every experience but when the experience is evil, the shock does not let us recover.
I am very emotional. I have always lived my life with my heart. For that I have suffered more than is necessary. I have been hurt. In the sacred books like Koran and the Bible, it is said that if you do good, good will be done unto you. But with me, whenever I did good, nothing but evil was done unto me. Therefore, the memory of the kindness I have received and the good done to me is unforgettable.
Years ago, I was a little girl struggling towards stardom. I was employed at the Ranjit Studio on three hundred rupees a month playing child roles. Those were hard days and we were living in Malad, leading a hand-to-mouth existence.
My mother was expecting and father had made whatever arrangements he could. Then she took ill as something went wrong suddenly. Her condition became serious. We were told to transfer her to a good hospital in Bombay, if her life was to be saved. This required two thousand rupees. All of us were frantic with worry. What to do with no one to turn too? Where a girl earning three hundred rupees could get two thousand?
We went to the studio, hoping desperately that some miracle would happen. Ratibhai Seth, nephew of owner Chandulal Shah gave us the money – two thousand rupees in cash! He thrust the notes into our trembling hands without a question, and did not even give us time to say thank you. He merely said, “Hurry now! I hope it will help.”
The baby was still-born, but the doctors saved mother’s life. A helping hand was stretched out to me in my hour of need. “I will never forget,” I vowed. “Nor will I hold back a helping hand, if it is similarly sought by someone in need.”
Some years later that call came. It meant turning down a couple of starring roles, even returning the advance paid to me on one of them. It was my turn to stretch out a helping hand and I did so when I even gave my name – Madhubala (’50) to the film.
Kidar Sharma always did what his conscience dictated. He’s only man in our money grabbing industry who never compromised with his art for the sake of wealth and importance. He made outstanding pictures like Chitralekha, Neel Kamal, Suhag Raat, Bawre Nain and Jogan and discovered Raj Kapoor, Geeta Bali, Bharat Bhushan, Ramola, Roshan and me.
He is my Guru and I am proud to be his disciple. Sharmaji was making one of his own pictures titled ‘Bichare Bhagwan’ at Ranjit Studio starring Kamla Chatterjee, his wife and Jairaj and I had the role of a young girl in it.
The mahurat day became a day of mourning for him. The ceremony was just over and the guests began to congratulate Sharmaji and bless his venture when a servant came from his house, yelling, “Something has happened to Kamlaji!”
Kidar Sharma’s happiness died with Kamla. The months passed and nothing remained for him but memories of her. Then one morning he suddenly decided, “I’ll make this picture. He took Kamla away but God must be answered. I must bear my loss and continue making pictures.”
In that mood he went to Chandulal Shah and informed him of the decision.
“Yes?” said Sethji, “but who will be the heroine?”
“Mumtaz!” replied Sharmaji.
“Mumtaz Shanti?” asked Sethji.
“No,” answered Sharmaji, “Our Mumtaz who plays child roles at our studio.”
Sethji, who was relaxing, sat up, “You don’t seem to have recovered from the shock of Kamla’s death,” he said, “That girl? You want to make her the heroine? Who’ll buy the picture?”
So Sethji refused to finance the picture but Sharmaji was determined to go ahead with his plans and he did. For the first time he took two young people in starring roles; Raj Kapoor and myself. The picture was re-titled ‘Neel Kamal’. To this day I remember vividly the entire period of filming. It gave me my Guru.
The only kindness which matters is that which you receive when you need it most, when hope is at a low ebb, when the morrow seems little better than foolish optimism.
Accompanied by my father, I went to Madras for the first time to shoot for (Gemini Studios founder) S S Vasan’s ‘Bahut Din Huwe’ (’54). We stayed at the Connemara Hotel.
After two days of work, I suddenly took very ill. At the time I was not in good health. I had a hacking cough and lived only on malted milk. At night I slept with a handkerchief in my mouth to suppress the spasms not wanting my father to hear me coughing.
That morning we were to see the Tamil film from which ‘Bahut Din Huwe’ was being made.
My father was saying his prayers. I went into the bathroom for a wash. Suddenly I brought up blood. “Come now”, I gasped to my father. Dad helped me immediately and Mr. Vasan came over at once with the best doctors. They said I was dangerously ill. I was propped, very uncomfortably, so that more blood might not come up. Mr. Vasan spent money freely on my treatment. Day and night he and his wife were at my bedside.
Mr. Vasan could have easily scrapped my brief spell of two days in the film and gone ahead without me. “For your sake I’ll abandon the picture if necessary,” he said. His wife and I did not know each other’s language yet we managed to understand each other. She meticulously carried out the doctor’s instructions and brought me soup, fruit juice and other nourishment. They lavished love and affection, the care of a father and mother and nursed me to recovery.
Meanwhile the trunk calls from my mother, as I could no talk her were answered by my father saying, “She’s very busy, shooting day and night.”
When she died, the doctors blamed the hole in her heart. I believe it was the beauty serenaded lonely vacuum of her life that eventually claimed her.