Meena Kumari

Meena Kumari[1] (born Mahjabeen Bano; 1 August 1933[2] – 31 March 1972) was an Indian actress and poet, who worked in Hindi films. Popularly known as The Tragedy Queen,[3][4] she was active between 1939 and 1972.[5] Kumari is widely considered one of the greatest actresses of Indian cinema.[6] In a career spanning 33 years, from child actress to adult, she starred in over 90 films before dying, at 38, from cirrhosis of the liver associated with her alcoholism.

Meena Kumari
Meena Kumari.jpg
Meena Kumari c. 1957
Mahjabeen Bano

(1933-08-01)1 August 1933
Died31 March 1972(1972-03-31) (aged 38)
Burial placeRahmatabad cemetery, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Other namesTragedy Queen
Years active1939–1972
WorksFull list
(m. 1952; sep. 1964)
RelativesSee Ali-Amrohi family
AwardsSee List
Musical career
Writing career
Pen nameNaaz
Meena Kumari Autograph.jpg

Meena Kumari won four Filmfare Awards in the Best Actress category. She was the recipient of the inaugural Filmfare Best Actress Award for Baiju Bawra in 1954 and had a consecutive win in the second Filmfare Awards (1955) for Parineeta. Kumari made history at the 10th Filmfare Awards (1963), by receiving all three of the Best Actress nominations, and won for her performance in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.[7] In the 13th Filmfare Awards (1966), she won her last Best Actress award for Kaajal. Critics often note that her character in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was similar to the story of her life.

Family background

Meena Kumari's father was a Sunni Muslim named Master Ali Bux who had migrated from Bhera (now in Pakistan).[8] He was a veteran of Parsi theater, played harmonium, wrote Urdu poetry, composed music and also played small roles in a few films.[8] Meena Kumari's mother Iqbal Begum, whose original name was Prabhavati Devi, was a Christian who later converted to Islam upon her marriage. Iqbal Begum was the second wife of Ali Bux.[8] Before meeting and then marrying Ali Bux, she was a stage actress and was said to be related to the Tagore family of Bengal.[8]

Connection with Tagore family

It is said that Meena Kumari's grandmother, Hem Sundari Tagore was either the daughter or a widow of Rabindranath Tagore's distant cousin.[9][10] After the death of her husband, being forced by his family, she left for Meerut, became a nurse, married a Christian named Pyare Lal Shakir Meeruti (1880–1956) who was an Urdu journalist and embraced Christianity.[11] Hem Sundari had two daughters; one of them was Prabhavati, Meena Kumari's mother.[12]

Birth and childhood

Meena Kumari, aged eight

Meena Kumari was born with the name Mahjabeen to Ali Bux and Iqbal Begum on 1 August 1933. This was a great disappointment to Ali Bux as he wanted a son.[12] Meena Kumari was the second daughter and had two sisters; the elder named Khursheed Jr. (not Khursheed Bano) and the younger Mahliqa (aka Madhu, a former child artist married to actor Mehmood)[12] Her family could not afford to pay the doctor for her delivery, so her father decided to leave her at an orphanage. He changed his mind a few hours later and fetched her home.[13][14] Mahjabeen said as a child that she was not keen on a film career, and would rather attend school.[15] Despite this, her parents started peddling her to film studios for work opportunities. Director Vijay Bhatt cast Mahjabeen in the film Leatherface and on her first day she was paid Rs. 25.

Leatherface was released in 1939.[16] She became the breadwinner in the Bux family at a very young age. In an interview given in 1962, Meena Kumari explained that the fact she had been supporting her parents from the age of four gave her immense satisfaction.[12] Mahjabeen was admitted into a regular school, but that was not for long, because the demands of work frequently interrupted her curriculum. She never went to school in any meaningful sense, and her education was the result of private tuition, and more significantly the result of individual interest; in every sense she was self-educated.


Early work as Baby Meena (1939–45)

Meena Kumari (extreme right) as a child artist in 1940.

Meena Kumari began acting when she was four. She initially worked mostly in Vijay Bhatt productions; Leather Face (1939), Adhuri Kahani (1939), Pooja (1940) and Ek Hi Bhool (1940). Vijay Bhatt rechristened Mahjabeen as "Baby Meena" during the filming of Ek Hi Bhool (1940).[17]

More films followed for Baby Meena, namely Nai Roshni (1941), Bahen (1941), Kasauti (1941), Vijay (1942), Garib (1942), Pratiggya (1943) and Lal Haveli (1944).

Early career (1946–52)

Meena was cast under the name Meena Kumari in Ramnik Production's Bachchon Ka Khel (1946). One of the major blows in Kumari's life was the death of her mother who died on 25 March 1947. Duniya Ek Sarai (1946), Piya Ghar Aaja (earlier titled Jalan) (1948) and Bichchade Balam (1948) were some of her early films in which she not only acted but also sang songs. By the late 1940s, she shifted her focus to films belonging to either mythology or fantasy genres. Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950), Laxmi Narayan (1951), Hanuman Patal Vijay (1951) and Aladdin Aur Jadui Chirag (1952) performed with credit. Other films such as Magroor (1950), Hamara Ghar (1950), Sanam (1951), Madhosh (1951), and Tamasha (1952) mostly had an ensemble cast. Meena Kumari's rise came with her mentor Vijay Bhatt's musical, Baiju Bawra (1952).

Rising star (1952–56)

Meena Kumari in Baiju Bawra
  • 1952: Baiju Bawra – Kumari played the female lead in the film. A series of incidents ranging from Hindustan Lever securing rising star Meena Kumari as a model for their products to being featured on the calendar of a popular beauty soap happened after the success of Baiju Bawra.
  • 1953: Parineeta – Directed by Bimal Roy, (featuring Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari in lead) the film won Kumari her second Filmfare Best Actress Award. It was based on the 1914 Bengali novel by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Do Bigha Zamin – directed by Bimal Roy, won the International Prize at Cannes in 1954, the first Indian film to do so. This film also marks the maiden guest appearance of Meena Kumari. Foot Path – directed by Zia Sarhadi, was Meena's first film with Dilip Kumar. This movie was featured in Avijit Ghosh's book, 40 Retakes: Bollywood Classics You May Have Missed. Daaera – was written and directed by Kamal Amrohi, starring Meena Kumari, Nasir Khan and Nana Palsikar in lead roles.[18] Other films included Naulakha Haar and Daana Paani.
With Kishore Kumar in Naya Andaz(1956)
  • 1956: Mem Sahib – directed by R.C. Talwar, featured Meena Kumari for the first time with Shammi Kapoor. The modern avatar of Meena Kumari was well received by audiences and the film became a box office hit. Ek Hi Raasta – was a film based on the issue of widow remarriage, directed and produced by B. R. Chopra. It starred Meena Kumari with newcomer Sunil Dutt, Ashok Kumar and Daisy Irani. The film proved to be successful at the box office and was screened for more than 25 weeks, which was a "Jubilee Hit".[23] Bandhan - directed by Hemchandra Chunder, based on the popular Bengali novel Mantra Shakti, starred Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar as leads and was awarded with a Certificate of Merit in National Film Awards. Naya Andaz – directed by K. Amarnath, starring Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar in lead roles, was a musical hit. Halaku – a historical, was directed by D.D. Kashyap which included Meena Kumari, Pran, Minoo Mumtaz, Raj Mehra and Helen. It was one of the box office hits and celebrated a silver jubilee.

Tragedy Queen of Indian Cinema (1957)

Meena Kumari in Sharada

Critical acclaim (1962)

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
Meena Kumari as "Chhoti Bahu" in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam

Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, a film produced by Guru Dutt and directed by Abrar Alvi featured Meena Kumari in the role of Chhoti Bahu. It is based on the Bengali novel "Saheb Bibi Golam" by Bimal Mitra. The film stars Meena Kumari, Guru Dutt, Rehman and Waheeda Rehman.[28] Its music is by Hemant Kumar and the lyrics are by Shakeel Badayuni. The film is also noted for its brilliant cinematography by V. K. Murthy and the famous songs "Na Jao Saiyaan Chhuda Ke Baiyan" and "Piya Aiso Jiya Mein", both sung by Geeta Dutt.

For Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, to support a drooping heavy look which is associated with immoderate consumption of liquor, she used to apply concentrated Eau de Cologne under her nose. The irritation caused by such action helped her in achieving the perfect look for the role of an alcoholic.

The film won four Filmfare Awards, including the Best Actress award. This movie was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival, where Meena Kumari was selected as a delegate. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was chosen as India's official entry to the Oscars.[29]

Kumari with Ashok Kumar. Both of them appeared together in 17 films.

Career slump and final works

By the early 70s, Meena Kumari eventually shifted her focus on more 'acting oriented' or character roles.

Completion of Pakeezah (1956–72)

Kumari during the shooting of Pakeezah, 1958

The idea of Pakeezah came into existence in 1954, followed by its muhrat in 1956. Meena Kumari was determined to complete the film and, well aware of the limited time left for her to live, went out of her way to complete it at the earliest. Despite her rapidly deteriorating health, she gave the finishing touches to her performance.

Pakeezah had a grand premiere on 3 February 1972, at Maratha Mandir theatre, in central Bombay, and the prints being carried on a decked-up palanquin.[12][38] The film was finally released on the following day, 4 February 1972. Pakeezah enjoyed a successful run of 33 weeks and even celebrated its silver jubilee. She posthumously received her twelfth and last Filmfare nomination for Pakeezah. Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards bestowed the Special award to Meena Kumari for Pakeezah in 1973.[citation needed]

Career as a Playback Singer

Meena Kumari was also a playback singer. She sang as a child artist for films like Bahen until 1945. As a heroine, she rendered her voice to songs from films like Duniya Ek Sarai (1946), Piya Ghar Aaja (1948), Bichchade Balam (1948)[39] and Pinjre Ke Panchhi (1966). She also sang for Pakeezah (1972), however, the song was not used in the film and was later released in the album Pakeezah-Rang Ba Rang (1977).

Personal life

Marriage to Kamal Amrohi (1952)

Kamal Amrohi met Meena Kumari in 1938, while searching a child artist for the film Jailor. Years later, on the sets of Tamasha, Ashok Kumar introduced filmmaker Kamal Amrohi to Meena Kumari,[12] who later, offered her a lead role in his upcoming film Anarkali. The contract was signed on 13 March 1951 but on 21 May 1951, Meena Kumari was involved in a motor car accident while returning from Mahabaleshwar to Bombay.[12] She was admitted to Sassoon Hospital in Poona, injured around the left hand where Amrohi visited her regularly.[12]

For four months this hospital affair continued and love blossomed. This accident left Meena Kumari with a banded left pinky which remained so throughout her life, and she used to cover her left hand with a dupatta or saree during shoots. The film Anarkali was eventually shelved.[12] On 14 February 1952, Meena Kumari and Kamal Amrohi secretly got married in a simple "Niqah" ceremony in the presence of a Qadi and Kumari's younger sister, Mahliqa (Madhu).[12] After the ceremony, the newlyweds parted. Amrohi left for Sion and Meena and Madhu returned home.[12] The marriage was kept secret from the family and media, although Kamal Amrohi was already married and had three children from his previous wife. After some months, the matrimony news was leaked and Ali Bux recommended a divorce.[12] Meena Kumari remained adamant on her decision, but stayed in her father's house. Meanwhile, Kamal Amrohi planned a film called Daaera in 1953 and decided to cast Kumari, now his wife, in it.[12] Kumari asked her father's permission, who disagreed after which Meena Kumari left for her husband's residence at Sion.[12]

Separation from husband and addiction to alcohol (1964)

After their marriage, Kamal Amrohi allowed Meena Kumari to continue her acting career on certain conditions. Meena Kumari agreed with them, but with passing time she kept breaking them.[40] Abrar Alvi, director of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, recounts how Kamal Amrohi would have his spy and right-hand man Baqar Ali present even in the makeup room while Meena's makeup was being done.

According to Vinod Mehta, writer of her biography, Meena Kumari was subjected to physical abuse in her marriage. He points out that although Amrohi, repeatedly denied any such allegations, he learnt it from six different sources that she actually suffered.[12] Instances shared by actress Nargis pointed out the same.[41] Such rumours found their base on the mahurat of Pinjre Ke Panchhi where Kamal Amrohi's assistant, Baqar Ali had a violent argument with Kumari.[42] Kumari immediately called for Amrohi who instead insisted her to return home.[41] An enraged Kumari went straightaway to her sister, Madhu's home and never returned to Amrohi's.[12]

Meena Kumari was a patient of chronic insomnia. Upon her physician's advice, she started taking a small peg of brandy as a sleeping pill alternative.[12] This prescribed peg of brandy turned into heavy drinking after her separation from her husband in 1964.[43] After that, Kumari's name was associated with Gulzar, Dharmendra and Sawan Kumar Tak.[12]

Deteriorating health and treatment in London (1968)

In 1968, Kumari was diagnosed with cirrhosis of liver and received treatments in London and Switzerland in June 1968.

Upon recovery, Kumari returned to India in September 1968 and resumed work.[12] Suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, although Meena Kumari temporarily recovered but was now much weak and thin. After returning from London, Kumari for the first time, purchased her own home, which was on the eleventh floor of a building called "Landmark", situated at Carter Road, Bandra.

Final days and death

Meena Kumari's grave

Three weeks after the release of Pakeezah, Meena Kumari became seriously ill. On 28 March 1972, she was admitted to St Elizabeth's Nursing Home.[42]

She went into a coma two days later and died shortly afterwards on 31 March 1972. She was 38 years old. The cause of her death was determined to be liver cirrhosis. As per her husband's wish, she was buried at Rehmatabad Cemetery, located at Narialwadi, Mazagaon, Bombay.[42] Kumari requested the following prose for her tombstone: "She ended life with a broken fiddle, with a broken song, with a broken heart, but not a single regret."[42] As per his wish, upon his death on 11 February 1993 in Bombay, her husband was buried next to her.

The poet Naaz

Kumari in Chandni Chowk (1954)

Meena Kumari was an Urdu poet under the pseudonym Naaz.[44] Historian critic Philip Bounds and researcher Daisy Hasan write regarding Meena Kumari's poetry: "Poetry was the medium through which Kumari distanced herself from her public image and criticized the industry that had brought her to public attention in the first place. In that sense, her poems tell us as much about Bollywood as they do about herself."[45]

  • I write, I recite – an album consisting of Meena Kumari's poems under the label of LP Vinyl Record was released in 1971, for which Mohammed Zahur Khayyam gave music.[46] The poetry in the album (nazms) has been written, recited and sung by the poet herself.[47] The album was re-released on 19 September 2006.
  • Tanha Chand (Lonely Moon), a collection of Meena Kumari's poems, was compiled by Gulzar and published after her death in 1972.[48]
  • Meena Kumari, the Poet: A Life Beyond Cinema consisting of the late actress's poems and nazms was also published in 2014.


"Had she lived, it is possible she could have inspired the more intelligent of our writers and directors to put together a film worthy of her talents. Now she is gone, that source of inspiration is gone."[12]

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas on Meena Kumari (Meena Kumari The Classic Biography)

Meena Kumari was credited for never using products like glycerin to shed tears, but always shed her genuine ones while acting.[12] At the peak of her career, Meena Kumari was the highest-paid actress of her generation, and was the first to buy an Impala car.[49] Indian Film Critic Bhawana Somaaya says: "There was a time when top heroes were not willing to work with Meena Kumari, because she played the powerful roles". Vinod Mehta shares: "Meena Kumari became so powerful that she would make or break stars, Kumari adopted an attitude of guardian, artistic mentor towards the newcomers who worked opposite her like Rajendra Kumar in Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan and with Sunil Dutt in Ek Hi Raasta."[12] Another critic Afeefa Banu described her as "an object of fantasy and a motif of melancholy".[50] Meena Kumari helped Dharmendra enormously in the initial stages of his career, and established Dharmendra's acting career in Indian Cinema.[12] The legendary Kathak master Pandit Lachhu Maharaj praised Meena Kumari's dancing skills and remarked on the unique way in which she would take a turn. He said, "The way in which she would turn, the angles of her shoulders, come naturally to her and cannot be taught."[51] Ashok Kumar said: "Meena was a natural actress. She was very choosy, but once she accepted a role, she put her heart into it and it's not surprising that she's still remembered for her sensitive portrayals. Sometimes when saying a dialogue I'd add a line not in the script and even as I worried about how Meena would react, she'd surprise me with just the right response."[52] In 1953, soon after the success of Baiju Bawra, Kumari appeared in Dream House, an advertisement by Dunlopillo UK along with Ashok Kumar.[53] According to Indian Film Critic Bhawana Somaaya: "Pakeezah is just like poetry on celluloid, I cannot imagine anybody else in this movie except Meena Kumari."[54]

Vinod Mehta (writer of Meena Kumari – The Classic Biography) was told by a director: "Even Dilip Kumar (the tragedy king) found it difficult to keep his calm in front of her".[55] Raaj Kumar would often forget his dialogues while working with Meena Kumari on set.[56] Madhubala was also a fan of Meena Kumari and said: "She has the most unique voice. No other heroine has it."[57] Satyajit Ray described Kumari as "undoubtedly an actress of the highest calibre".[12] Amitabh Bachchan said "No one, not any one, ever spoke dialogues the way Meena Kumari did .. no one .. not anyone to date.. and perhaps never will".[58] Music Director Naushad said "Hindi film industry may produce great actresses but there would never be another Meena Kumari".[59] During the casting of Heeramandi, a webseries which chronicles around the life of courtesans of Lahore, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali clearly stated Meena Kumari's Pakeezah as his inspiration.[60] Actress Alia Bhatt also mentioned watching Meena Kumari's films for preparing for the role of a brothel madame in Gangubai Kathiawadi.[61] Meena Kumari empathized greatly with Marilyn Monroe, the fact that Marilyn's husband, Arthur Miller, had some passing similarities to Meena's husband Kamal Amrohi, made the identification closer. [12] It is said that throughout her life, Meena Kumari had a love–hate relationship with the movies.[citation needed]

Image and Artistry

Kumari in a Kanjeevaram sari, a quintessential example of her fashion trend.

Meena Kumari was among the front-runners in terms of setting fashion trends which are still in high demand.[62] Javed Akhtar points out that women in the 50s used to follow her sober and dignified fashion trends ranging from the hair bun to the traditional bindi.[63] Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has often gone on record to appreciate the aesthetics of Pakeezah and the way Meena Kumari played the role with grace and beauty. Her floral or traditional Banarasi silk and Kanjeevaram saris can never go out of fashion and continue to be a favourite of ace designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee.[64][65] Tajdar Amrohi shares: "When the shooting of Pakeezah started again in 1969, the first song shot was "Mausam Hai Ashiqaana". With this song, Meena Kumari set a new fashion trend of girls wearing Lungi.[54]

On 24 February 2016, Meena Kumari's original publicity material and memorabilia, including paintings and portraits of her films, were displayed at the Womanhood Festival at Osianama Liberty, Mumbai, India.[66]

Meena Kumari in Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai. Being one of the most distinctive feature of her personality, many of her films including Pakeezah and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam featured several close up shots of her eyes.

"In her youth, her eyes emitted fire. She was stunning. Her complexion had a sensuous quality to it. When you saw her, you felt like grabbing her in your arms."[67]

Dev Anand on Meena Kumari (Filmfare, 1989)

Due to the contrast between her stardom and troubled private life, Kumari is closely linked to broader discussions about modern phenomena such as mass media, fame, and consumer culture.[68] Every year, on Meena Kumari's birthday, numerous articles are printed and television programmes aired to commemorate her, and modern magazines continue to publish stories on her personal life and career.[69]

The greatest hallmark of Meena Kumari laid in her ability to depict the struggle of Indian women existing especially in the 50s and 60s. Kumari's onscreen persona is described as a perfect example of a traditional Bharatiya Naari by the Indian film fraternity, such as Mohammed Zahur Khayyam and Javed Akhtar.[63] Her portrayal of "Sahibjaan", a nautch girl with a golden heart in Pakeezah under Kamal Amrohi's direction became a historical document.[70]

Filmography and Accolades

Filmfare Award for Best Actress

Year Film Role Result
1954 Baiju Bawra Gauri Won
1955 Parineeta Lalita Won
1956 Azaad Shobha Nominated
1959 Sahara Leela Nominated
1960 Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan Ratna Nominated
1963 Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam Chhoti Bahu Won
Aarti Aarti Gupta Nominated
Main Chup Rahungi Gayetri Nominated
1964 Dil Ek Mandir Sita Nominated
1966 Kaajal Madhvi Won
1967 Phool Aur Patthar Shanti Nominated
1973 Pakeezah Nargis / Sahibjaan Nominated
  • Records
  1. In 67 editions of the Filmfare Awards, Meena Kumari's unusual feat of garnering all nominations in the Best Actress category remains unaccomplished by any other actress and is unique until this day. She reached this pinnacle 59 years, 239 days ago at the 10th Filmfare Awards in 1963.[12]
  2. Meena Kumari's record for the highest number of Filmfare Award for Best Actress remained unbroken for 13 years (1966–1979) until it was finally broken by Nutan at the 26th Filmfare Awards, 1979.[citation needed]
  3. Her record for the highest number of nominations in the Best Actress category (12) was eventually broken after 35 years by Madhuri Dixit at the 53rd Filmfare Awards, 2008.[citation needed]
  4. She is also the only actress to be nominated posthumously. Meena Kumari got a posthumous nomination for Pakeezah at the 20th Filmfare Awards, 1973.[citation needed]

Meena Kumari not winning an award for her performance in Pakeezah stirred controversy at the 20th Filmfare Awards. Filmfare, however, defended their decision by stating according to their rules, posthumous awards were not allowed then;[71] Filmfare's editor B. K. Karanjia said both Ghulam Mohammad (the music director of Pakeezah) and Josef Wirsching (cinematographer) lost for the same reason.[72]

Bengal Film Journalists' Association Awards

Year Film Role Category Result
1958 Sharada Sharada Ram Sharan Best Actress (Hindi) Won
1963 Aarti Aarti Gupta Won
1965 Dil Ek Mandir Sita Won[a]
1973 Pakeezah Nargis/ Sahibjaan Special Award [b]

Shama-Sushma Film Awards

Year Film Role Category Result Ref(s)
1973 Pakeezah Nargis/Sahibjaan Best Actress Won [73]

Honors and tributes

Kumari on 2011 stamp of India

The day Meena Kumari died, her 1952 film Baiju Bawra was re-released at Bombay's Super cinema, drawing house full audiences, which wept copiously remembering the actress.[5]

Shortly after her death, fellow actress Nargis wrote a personal essay in an Urdu magazine – Shama, titled "Meena – Maut Mubarak Ho" (English: Congratulations on your death Meena).[74] In October 1973, she also established the Meena Kumari Memorial for the Blind in her memory and was the chairman of this trust.[75]

In 1979, Meena Kumari Ki Amar Kahaani (English: The immortal story of Meena Kumari), a film dedicated to the late actress was released. It was directed by Sohrab Modi and featured exclusive interviews of various film personalities such as Raj Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar. The music for the film was composed by Khayyam. The following year, Shaira (alternatively titled Sahira) (English: Poetess) was released. It was a short documentary on Meena Kumari and was directed by S Sukh Dev along with Gulzar. This documentary was produced by Kanta Sukhdev.

A postal stamp of face value 500 paise was issued in her honour on 13 February 2011 by India Post.[76]

In 2010, Filmfare included Kumari's performances in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and Pakeezah in its list of Bollywood's "80 Iconic Performances".[77] Two of her films namely Baiju Bawra and Do Bigha Zameen have been considered among the greatest films in a poll by British Film Institute.[78] On the occasion of centenary of Indian cinema, in a poll conducted by News18 her films, Pakeezah, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and Do Bigha Zameen featured in the list of 100 best films ever made.[79] Various publications including Hindustan Times mentioned her among the topmost sex symbols of Bollywood. [80]

Meena Kumari's autograph at Walk of the Stars (c. 2013)

In 2012, Walk of the Stars, a section of the Bandstand Promenade in Bandra, Mumbai was opened to honour film artists from Hindi film industry. Meena Kumari's autograph was also featured along with statues, handprints and autographs of other artists. Walk of the Stars was however, dissolved in 2014.[81]

Meena Kumari commemorated with a doodle

In May 2018, Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh, a play depicting the life of Meena Kumari was staged at Rangayan auditorium of Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur.[82]

On 1 August 2018, search engine Google commemorated Meena Kumari with a Doodle on her 85th birth anniversary.[83] Google commented: "Kumari captivated audiences with her beautiful, expressive eyes and portrayed strong yet vulnerable women who made their own way through life, often devastated by romance. Today, her screen appearances are studied for flawless moments and the complex emotions she could evoke without uttering a word".[84]


  • One of the first biographies of Meena Kumari was written just after her death by Vinod Mehta in October 1972. The official biography of Kumari, it was titled Meena Kumari: The Classic Biography. The biography was re-published in May 2013.
  • Simply Scandalous authored by Mohan Deep was an unofficial biography published in 1998. It was serialized in Mumbai's Hindi daily Dopahar Ka Saamna.
  • Another biography of Meena Kumari, Aakhri Adhai Din was written in Hindi by Madhup Sharma. The book was published in 2006.

In film

Meena Kumari has always been a subject of interest among present day filmmakers. In 2004, a modern-day adaption of her classic film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam was to be made by Pritish Nandy Communications in which Aishwarya Rai and later Priyanka Chopra[85] was to portray her role of Chhoti Bahu. However, the film got shelved and paved way for a TV series helmed by director Rituparno Ghosh in which actress Raveena Tandon essayed this role.[86]

In 2015, it was reported that Tigmanshu Dhulia was to make a film on Hindi cinema's Tragedy Queen, which was to be a screen adaptation of Vinod Mehta's book, "Meena Kumari – The Classic Biography".[87] Actress Kangana Ranaut was approached to portray Kumari but the film was shelved yet again due to lack of authentic facts and after strong protestion of Meena Kumari's stepson Tajdar Amrohi.

In 2017, director Karan Razdan also decided to direct an official biopic on her. For this, he approached Madhuri Dixit and Vidya Balan to play the Great Tragedienne but due to variety of reasons, both of them declined the offer. He later turned to actress Sunny Leone who showed great interest to essay her onscreen.[88] Various other actresses including Richa Chadha,[89] Jaya Prada,[90] Janhvi Kapoor,[91] Karishma Sharma,[92] Anupriya Goenka,[93] Bhumi Pednekar,[94] Divya Dutta,[95] Kriti Sanon[96] and Nithya Menon[97] have also expressed their wish to portray Meena Kumari onscreen.

In 2018, Producer and former child artist Kutty Padmini announced to make a biopic on Meena Kumari in the form of a web series along with singer Mohammed Rafi and actor-director J.P. Chandrababu. Padmini has worked with Meena Kumari in the film Dil Ek Mandir and wishes to honour the late actress with this biopic.[98]

In 2019, Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced the remake of Kumari's 1952 classic Baiju Bawra with Alia Bhatt reprising Gauri's character, a role which was originally played by Kumari.[99] Actress Deepika Padukone also expressed her desire to essay Kumari's role in the same film.[100] The shooting of the film which was supposed to commence from October 2021,[101] has not yet started.

In 2020, Almighty Motion Pictures announced a web series on Meena Kumari's life which is to be based on the book Starring..Mahjabeen as Meena Kumari written by journalist Ashwini Bhatnagar.[102] This was followed by Tajdar Amrohi's objection who accused the journalist of not only writing the late actress' biography without his consent but also portraying Kamal Amrohi as a tormentor.[103] Bhatnagar later clarified that the book never had Amrohi in a negative light and primarily focused on Meena Kumari's professional life. He later argued that Kumari was a public figure and none can claim their right of giving a permission for creating a work of art.[104] The series which will be followed by a feature film will be helmed by producer Prabhleen Kaur Sandhu.[102]

In February 2022, Music label Saregama and actor Bilal Amrohi (grandson of Kamal Amrohi) announced a web series on the love story of Kumari and her filmmaker husband Kamal Amrohi against the backdrop of making of the film Pakeezah. The series which will be helmed by Yoodlee films is expected to go on floors in 2023.[105] The following month, it was reported that Kriti Sanon has been approached to play Kumari in a biopic planned by T–Series.[106] By April 2022, the makers zeroed down on Hansal Mehta to be the director of the film.[107]


  1. ^ Tied with Mala Sinha for Jahan Ara.
  2. ^ Meena Kumari was awarded with a Special Award, while Zeenat Aman won the award Best Actress (Hindi) for Haré Rama Haré Krishna.


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External links