I Want to Live- The Story of Madhubala
Born on Valentine’s Day in 1933, the Venus of the Indian screen who captured the hearts of millions had a congenital heart problem ironically. The woman who had it all, or rather could have it all, was left with nothing towards the end of her short life. She died at the age of 36, failed by her heart, heartbroken, disappointed by the person she gave her heart to.
Madhubala started her career at the age of 8 as Baby Mumtaz. Her father had lost his job from the Imperial Tobacco Company, and had a huge family to support. Ultimately he pushed baby Mumtaz towards movies and until the end of her life he chaperoned her and managed her career, negotiating contracts, laying down the most ideal conditions for her work atmosphere and maintaining strict rules by which Madhubala abided- no journalists on the sets, no parties, no late night shoots, no location shoots, pack up at 6.30 pm.
Her heart condition did not permit her to stay too far from medical help or even take the strain of dancing- yet she danced- she learnt kathak from maestros like Sitara Devi, Lachhoji Maharaj & Gopi Kishan.
The book covers her entire short life in 6 chapters starting from her early years to her Golden Era, her co-stars, her Swan Song- Mughal-e-Azam and her last years.
Her co-stars recall about her fondly. Everyone loved Madhubala or rather, was in love with Madhubala but she had eyes for only one.
In the words of Ashok Kumar- to be an artist is an achievement but to be an artist and not get a swollen head is an even greater achievement.
“I was immensely struck by her singular beauty which I discovered afterwards was more radiant in real life than could ever be on the screen…Dev Anand”
There is a lot of detail on Mughal–e-azam- K Asif spared no expenses in the making of the movie. The movie took 9 years to complete, the technicians were on the rolls throughout, designing and constructing and dis-assembling and re assembling the sets, perfecting the costumes, the Akbar era props etc. It is said Prithviraj Kapoor would look at himself in a full length mirror long and hard before the shoot to get into the skin of the character and before the shoot would recite a verse from Koran.
K Asif had short the best love scenes in the beginning itself- the famous scene where Dilip Kumar caresses Madhubala and Bade Ghulam Ali’s song Prem Jogan ban… wafts in the background. The chemistry between the two is evident. Towards the end of the making of the movie, relationships had changed. Madhubala’s personal life was in a mess, Dilip Kumar & Madhubala’s relationship was in shambles post the court case during the making of Maya Daur and the tension between the two was palpable during the shoot.
Madhubala wanted very little from life.
“I want to do everything by myself. I want to have just a small home which I can keep and look after by myself”
Not a great deal to ask for but it remained unfulfilled.
The critics could never go beyond her beauty and appreciate her talent- she never got an ward, She was not voted the most beautiful face in a poll. She never could take the bold decision to leave her home and marry Dilip Kumar. She had a bad marriage to Kishore Kumar. And above all, her heat failed her.
Towards the end of her life she reflects bitterly- I am very emotional. I have always lived my life with my heart. For that I have suffered more than is necessary.
She prayed fervently- God, I want to Live….
The book left me with mixed emotions. I started with a greedy turning of pages lapping up every detail of her life, living in star studded black and white world the few days I was reading the book. I am left with a strong yearning, a need, a want to watch her movies, each and everyone of them. I have wished at many junctures while reading the book- wish she was alive. Wish she could have continued for ever doing what she loved most, wish she would have given love a chance.
Towards the end, I was in tears. Tears for the injustice to her life, her unrequited love, her unfulfilled dreams.
Never has any story moved me as much as this one.
Yet, the fact remains that Madhubala lives on in the hearts of millions, in the movies and in the book written on her, and in my review- even as I write it!
The book comes with a VCD collection of her songs