Madhubala had a long affair with actor and frequent co-star Dilip Kumar. They first met on the sets of Jwar Bhata (1944), and worked together again in the film Har Singaar (1949) which was never completed or released. It was two years later during the filming of Tarana (1951) that their off-screen relationship began. They also became a popular romantic screen team appearing in a total of four films together.
Madhubala was known for keeping a low profile, never making public appearances (with the exception of the premiere for the film Bahut Din Huwe in 1954) and she rarely gave interviews. Film media often speculated over her personal life and romantic liaisons and Dilip Kumar was repeatedly mentioned. These rumours were confirmed with a bold and rare public appearance during their courtship in 1955. Madhubala was escorted by Dilip Kumar for the premier of his film Insaniyat (1955), a film with which she had no other association. Though this may have been another gesture of gratitude to the producer and director S. S. Vasan, who had cared for her earlier when she had taken ill during the filming of Bahut Din Huwe (1954), this appearance was significant for another reason. By attending the premiere officially escorted by Dilip Kumar they publicly acknowledged their relationship.
Madhubala’s romance with Kumar lasted five years, between 1951 and 1956. Their association was ended following a highly controversial and widely publicized court case B.R. Chopra, the director of the film Madhubala and Dilip Kumar were currently starring in, Naya Daur (1957) wanted the unit to travel to Bhopal for an extended outdoor shooting. Ataullah Khan objected and even claimed that the entire Bhopal schedule was a ruse to give Dilip Kumar the opportunity to romance his daughter. Finally, Chopra sued Madhubala for the cash advance she received from him for a film she now had no intention of completing. He also replaced her with South Indian actress Vyjayanthimala. Madhubala obediently supported her father despite her commitment to Dilip Kumar. Kumar testified against Madhubala and Ataullah Khan in favor of the director B.R. Chopra in open court. The case was lost by Madhubala and her father amid much negative publicity. Up until that point Madhubala had worked hard to gain a reputation as a reliable and professional performer with much good will in the industry. Her image was badly damaged after this episode. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar were effectively separated from that point on
When rediff news spoke to her sister Madhur Bhushan, her account of the story was:[The reason Madhubala broke up with Dilip Kumar was B R Chopra’s film Naya Daur, not my father. Madhubala had shot a part of the film when the makers decided to go for an outdoor shoot to Gwalior. The place was known for dacoits, so my father asked them to change the location. They disagreed because they wanted a hilly terrain. So my father asked her to quit the film. He was ready to pay the deficit. Chopra asked Dilip Kumar for help. Dilipsaab and Madhubala were engaged then. Dilipsaab tried to mediate but Madhubala refused to disobey her father. Chopra’s production filed a case against her, which went on for a year. But this did not spoil their relationship. Dilipsaab told her to forget movies and get married to him. She said she would marry him, provided he apologised to her father. He refused, so Madhubala left him. That one sorry’ could have changed her life She loved Dilipsaab till the day she died
She met her husband, actor and playback singer, Kishore Kumar during the filming of Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958) and Jhumroo (1961) At the time he was married to the Bengali singer and actress Ruma Guha Thakurta After his divorce, because Kishore Kumar was Hindu and Madhubala Muslim, they had a civil wedding ceremony in 1960. His parents refused to attend. The couple also had a Hindu ceremony to please Kumars parents but Madhubala was never truly accepted as his wife. Within a month of her wedding she moved back to her bungalow in Bandra because of tension in the Kumar household. They remained married but under great strain for the remainder of Madhubalas life
It was the film Mughal-e-Azam that marked what many consider to be her greatest and definitive characterization as the doomed courtesan Anarkali. Director K. Asif, unaware of the extent of Madhubalas illness, required long and grueling shooting schedules that made heavy physical demands on her, whether it was posing as a veiled statue in suffocating make-up for hours under the sweltering studio lights or being shackled with heavy chains. From 1951 through to 1959 Madhubala invested her best efforts into Mughal-e-Azam. Post 1956 and her separation from Dilip Kumar, the film’s remaining intimate romantic scenes were filmed under much tension and strain between Madhubala and her now estranged co-star. This emotionally and physically taxing experience is widely perceived as a major factor in her subsequent decline in health and premature death
On 5 August 1960, Mughal-e-Azam released and became the biggest grossing film at that time, a record that went unbroken for 15 years until the release of the film Sholay in 1975 It still ranks second in the list of all time box-office hits of Indian cinema (inflation adjusted). Despite performing alongside the most respected acting talent of the industry Prithviraj Kapoor, Durga Khote, and Dilip Kumar, critics recognised and appreciated Madhubalas intelligent and multi layered performance. She received some recognition as a serious actress when she was nominated for a Filmfare Award. However she did not win, losing out to Bina Rai for her performance in the film Ghunghat (1960). In Khatija Akbar’s biography on Madhubala (see reference section) Dilip Kumar paid tribute to her talent: “Had she lived, and had she selected her films with more care, she would have been far superior to her contemporaries. Apart from being very versatile and an excellent artiste, she had a warm and cheerful nature. God had gifted her with so many things.
In 1960, Madhubala hit the peak of her career and popularity with the release of back-to-back blockbusters Mughale-Azam and Barsaat Ki Raat. She was offered strong, author-backed roles, but her deteriorating health did not permit her to enjoy this period and develop as an actress. At this point Madhubala became so ill that she could not accept any new films or even complete her existing assignments. In the biography by Khatija Akbar, her frequent co-star Dev Anand recalled: “She was so robust and full of life and energy. She was always laughing and enjoyed her work. One could never conceive she was seriouslyll Then one day out of the blue she just disappeared
She did have intermittent releases in the early 60s. Some of these, like Jhumroo (1961) Half Ticket (1962) and Sharabi (1964), even performed above average at the box-office. However, most of her other films issued in this period were marred by her absence in later portions when her illness prevented her from completing them. They suffer from compromised editing and in some cases the use of doubles” in an attempt to patch in scenes that Madhubala was unable to shoot. Her last released film Jwala although filmed in the late 1950s was not issued until 1971, two years after her death. Incidentally, apart from some Technicolor sequences in Mughale-Azam, Jwala is the only time Madhubala appeared in a colour film.
Final years and death
In 1960, Madhubala sought treatment in London as her condition deteriorated.Complicated heart surgery was in its infancy and offered her some hope of a cure. After an examination the doctors there refused to operate, convinced her chances of surviving the procedure were minimal Their advice was that she should rest and avoid overexertion, and predicted that she could live for another year. Knowing her death was imminent, Madhubala returned to India, but defied the predictions by living for another 9 years
In 1966 with a slight improvement in her health, Madhubala tried working again opposite Raj Kapoor in the film Chalak. Film media heralded her comeback with much fanfare and publicity Stills from this time showed a still beautiful but pale and wan-looking Madhubala However, within a few days of filming, her frail health caused her to collapse and the film remained incomplete and unreleased
When acting was clearly no longer an option, Madhubala turned her attention to film making In 1969 she was set to make her directorial debut with a film named Farz aur Ishq. However the film was never made, as during the pre production stages, Madhubala finally succumbed to her illness and died on 23 February 1969, shortly after her 36th birthday. She was buried at Santa Cruz cemetery with her diary by her family and husband Kishore Kumar Madhubala’s tomb at the Juhu/Santa Cruz Muslim cemetery was carved in pure marble and aayats from the Quran as well as verses dedicated to her Controversially her tomb was demolished in 2010 to make space for new graves.
In her short life Madhubala made over 70 films. In all three biographies and numerous articles published on her she has been compared with Marilyn Monroe and has a similarly iconic position in Indian film history. Perhaps because she died before being relegated to supporting or character roles, to this day Madhubala remains one of the most enduring and celebrated legends of Indian cinema. Her continuing appeal to film fans was underlined in a 1990 poll conducted by Movie magazine. Madhubala was voted the most popular vintage Hindi actress of all time, garnering 58% of the votes, and out ranking contemporary legendary actresses Meena Kumari, Nargis and Nutan. More recently in rediff.com’s International Womens Day 2007 special (see external links), Madhubala was ranked second in their top ten list of “Bollywood’s best actresses. Ever According to the feature the actresses that made the final list were ranked on acting skills glamour box office appeal versatility and icon status and the fact that each of them became a figurehead for Bollywood, ushering in a new wave of cinema
In 2004 a digitally colorized version of Mughal-e-Azam was released and 35 years after her death, the film and Madhubala became a success with cinema audiences all over again.
In the past decade, several biographies and magazine articles have been issued on Madhubala revealing previously unknown details of her private life and career. Consequently in 2007, a Hindi film Khoya Khoya Chand was produced starring Shiney Ahuja and Soha Ali Khan the plot included some events loosely based on the life of Madhubala and other vintage film personalities
In 2008 a commemorative postage stamp featuring Madhubala was issued. The stamp was produced by India Post in a limited edition presentation pack which featured images of the actress. It was launched by veteran actors Nimmi and Manoj Kumar in a glittering ceremony attended by colleagues friends and surviving members of Madhubalas family The only other Indian film actress to be honoured in this manner is Nargis Dutt