“Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men,” writes the The New York Times. In honor of Women’s Day and for a series thereafter, the newspaper is attempting to correct past wrongs by honoring 15 remarkable women. They are releasing obituaries in a series titled “Overlooked” focusing on talented women, especially women of color. Most recently, they included Bollywood legend Madhubala!
Born Mumtaz Begum, Madhubala was a child actress who released 70 films in her short career. She grew up around the Bombay Talkies film studio, and owner Devika Rani took notice to the actress when she was only 9-years-old. Rani is the one who gave her the name Madhubala. She began acting at 9 but she became an overnight star at the age of 16 with success of her film “Mahal.”
Madhubala was known to be bolder than her peers, flirtatious, a versatile actress and one of the most beautiful stars in the industry. Her star power wasn’t just limited to India. She had calls from Hollywood as well looking to cast her in roles, but her father, who managed her career, turned down such offers.
“She has been compared to Marilyn Monroe: the smoldering looks, the short career, the tragic end,” writes Aisha Khan, the author of Madhubala’s obituary in the NYT.
Madhubala never garnered any awards but she was still known as a talented actress with versatile skills. She could play anything from a spoiled heiress to an investigative reporter. She took on roles that broke away from tradition and was known for her serious social dramas like “Amar” just as much as she was known for comedies like “Chalthi Ka Naam Gaadi.”
In her piece, Khan portrays the tragedies of this legendary actress’s life. Khan even covered Madhubala’s tumultuous love life which included an intense love affair with legendary actor Dillip Kumar. When the on-screen couple wanted to marry, Madhubala’s father placed an ultimatum leading the actress to choose family over love. She later married co-star Kishore Kumar but they were estranged soon after their nuptials.
Madhubala had a hole in her heart, a ventricular septal defect and sadly, there was no cure or treatment. She passed right after her 36th birthday, but the story of her struggles, her love, and her beauty live on.