Post Baiju Bawra
Saheb Biwi aur Ghulam
Dil apna aur Preet Parayee
Dil ek mandir
and flashlights - that is where little Mahjabeen learned ABCs
of life at the age of six in 1939 when she worked in the film called
Leatherface as Baby Meena. Films, therefore, was not her choice career
and she had to work for the family which had financial problems.
Hence film world was where she learnt her the
ABCs of life - with Mahesh Bhatt's Leatherface in 1939. The fortune and
future of this star was not known - not even to Meena Kumari herself.
However, she was again offered role by Mahesh Bhatt again in Baiju
Bawra. This time the role was that of a grown up beautiful
lover called Gauri. The film was a super hit and she - a super star
Meena Kumari was born. Baiju Bawra also brought her the maiden best actress
filmfare award of India.
She repeated her performance in Baiju Bawra and kept her promise to the
viewers in all her films which followed. And soon Meena Kumari was a
superstar who always turned in good films.
Baiju Bawra onwards, her contributions to the Indian cinema are very
important. After release of Baiju Bawra, she witnessed major changes in
post 1947 Indian cinema and she existed at the time when the indian
system saw major changes. It was the time when cinema was changing
drastically. Baiju Bawra was perhaps one of the turning points in the
Indian cinema and the film that brought her the first of the four
filmfare awards she received.
Her roles included roles of many types which included light hearted to
serious ones. And she could perform some outstanding roles which is
admired even today which include Parineeta and the extraordinary role
as Raj Kapur's lover turned mother in Shaarda.
She, however, later on concentrated on serious roles and performaned
excellent feats. Films saw her peak perhaps in Saheb. Biwi aur Ghulam
where she has performed perhaps one of the greatest performances of
And, most important, her films reflected her personal life where
tragedy had found a new home in Meena Kumari. So striking was this
phenomenon that some of her films reflect her own life. She herself has
stated that she felt like the chhoti bahu of Saheb , Biwi aur Ghulam in
Though she has projected tragedy like no one else
this does not mean that she was not good at light hearted roles and
fact is that she was excellent in her lighter movies as well and there
are several examples of it. She could smile equally well and her
smiles, though rare in her later films, are a sunshine. She is really
radiant even her smiles. And even one smile in a film was sufficient
for the viewer. Perhaps we can classify roughly half her movies as sad
and that is what gave her more fame and recognition and she slowly and
steadily changed into the famous "tragedy queen". So famous that today
the name Meena Kumari and tragedy are synonymous in the Indian heart
The magic of Meena Kumari has been such that today every star wants to
become Meena Kumari in her performances though she has been unique in
her own style.
Probably the synonym tragedy queen is not fully justified on her but
one would rather say that she was excellent at tragedy roles and she was good at many many
roles. That is what is Meena Kumari. That she did and chose tragedy
roles gives us no right to give a new name to her and she would rather
be the beautiful Meena Kumari who was a beautiful actress.
Though the relationship with films was a love hate one, it is very
difficult to separate the real life of Meena Kumari due to the same
fact as films have apparently "followed her" till her death and since she started to just
speak properly. Her later life saw mixing the personal life with her
tragic performances - a danerous feat and that
is what makes Meena Kumari immortal and immortalized in films as she
herself was her films.