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Google Doodle celebrates Meena Kumari, the Queen of Tragedy, on her 85th birthday

Tanvi Dubey
1st Aug 2018
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The latest Google Doogle is dedicated to legendary actress Meena Kumari and celebrates her beautiful face and expressive eyes.  

On her 85th birthday, Google Doodle is celebrating an icon, a woman who earned the love and respect of generations and left an indelible impact on Hindi cinema. Popularly known as Tragedy Queen and the female Guru Dutt of Hindi films, Meena Kumari was born Mehjabeen Bano. During a career spanning 38 years, she starred in about 92 films, including Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Pakeezah, Mere Apne, Aarti, Baiju Bawra, Parineeta, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Foot Path, Dil Ek Mandir, and Kaajal.

The Google Doodle highlights Meena’s expressive eyes, her acting skills, her simplicity, and beauty. “As shown in the doodle, Meena Kumari captivated audiences with her beautiful, expressive eyes,” the official Google Doodle page said.

From “Baby Meen” to “Tragedy Queen”, Meena Kumari’s journey was phenomenal. Born on August 1, 1933, Meena started her career when she was four years old. Her father, Ali Bux, was a Muslim and her mother, Prabhawati Devi (known as Iqbal Begum), was a Bengali Christian who converted to Islam. Both were into arts, music, and cinema. Meena's father left her at an orphanage soon after she was born; he changed his mind a few hours later and went back for her.

An actor par excellence

Meena's parents pushed her to work and she began acting in the movies when she was four. Her education suffered and private tutors didn’t add much value. But she was self-taught and used to read in between shoots. In a career spanning over 38 years, she acted in about 92 movies.

She continued to inspire generations with her acting ability and skills. During her career, her male leads were in awe of her acting skill and ability. She became legendary because of her ability to portray multiple roles with finesse, and evoke powerful emotions through her portrayal of women characters with grit, determination, and a romantic streak.

As a child artist, Meena gave her voice to several songs; she continued to do it later in her career as well.  She was also an accomplished Urdu poet, and wrote under the pseudonym Naaz. She recorded an album of her compositions in Urdu titled I Write, I Recite. A collection of her poems - titled Tanha Chand (Lonely Moon) - was published in 1972 after her death.

She was married to director Kamal Amrohi, who directed the last movie she acted in before her demise. Pakeezah had her playing the role of a prostitute, and went on to become an iconic film.

Highest paid actress

Meena Kumari lived in a male-dominated world but was the highest paid actress during her time. Both her father and her husband tried to control and manage her, but she never let it impact her or her career. She had a lot of influence in the industry and also supported other leading ladies and actors.

Vinod Mehta, the writer of Meena Kumari – The Classic Biography, was reportedly told by a director that “even Dilip Kumar found it difficult to keep his calm in front of her”. Raaj Kumar is said to have often forgotten his dialogues while working with her while Amitabh Bachchan maintains that no one, “not any one, ever spoke dialogues the way Meena Kumari did .. no one .. not anyone to date.. and perhaps never will”.

She was also seen in many advertisements and endorsed brands along with gracing multiple magazine covers. In 2011, India Post issued a stamp of face value 500 paise in her honour.

'Not a single regret'

In 1951, Meena was severely injured in an accident which left her left pinky damaged; she had it banded all her life and used sarees or dupattas to cover her hand during shoots. However, a tough marriage led to depression and excessive drinking. She was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. Meena knew that she did not have much time as her health was deteriorating, and managed to complete her last movie Pakeezah (directed by her husband, Kamal Amrohi).

In February 1972, Pakeezah premiered at Maratha Mandir. Meena Kumari passed away three weeks later; she was only 38 years old. She was buried at Rehmatabad Cemetery in Mumbai, and received awards for her performance posthumously. 

Her tombstone reads: “She ended life with a broken fiddle, with a broken song, with a broken heart, but not a single regret.”

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