The 'tragedy Queen' of Bollywood Meena Kumari is relevant even today. The actress who has delivered iconic performances with Baiju Bawra (1952) to Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) and Pakeezah (1972) and the world remembering the maverick actress on her 86th birth anniversary.
From being a neglected child to a surviving troubled marriage, Meena Kumari was also one of the most unfortunate actresses whose grief did not end when the shooting was done.
Baby Meena was nearly abandoned at birth by her father (before a twinge of conscience made him return). Stuck by poverty, her parents’ demanded that she work to support the family.
The actress attented several schools at various times but had to leave mid-way due to work commitments. Kumari was supporting her family since she was 4. However, she had a great love for reading and would bring her books to the sets. This habit led her to be nicknamed Reading Mahjabeen.
After a stint as a child artiste, director Vikram Bhatt made her a household name by casting her in Baiju Bawra, for which she won a Filmfare Award.
The same year, she married filmmaker Kamal Amrohi, 15 years her senior, but the marriage soon went on the rocks as he tried to set rules for her film career and even allegedly mistreated her, and they eventually separated.
A fairytale romance soon soured too, and she was starved of genuine love and support. This led to a habit of heavy drinking that ultimately proved fatal when she was in her prime. The actress was diagnosed by liver cirrhosis. She was so ill during the shoot that after every shot, a unit hand would rush to her with a chair.
In a saddening turn of events, Meena Kumari passed away on March 31, 1972, shortly after the film's release.