Thursday, March 3, 2016


MEENA KUMARI  (1933-1972) … THE LAST DAYS...

When she went to the hospital for her treatment , she  had a hundred rupee note in her house. She was critical. Advanced liver cirrhosis had set in. The Gorkha guard and the watchman wept on seeing madam on a stretcher. Madam  would pass on some currency   notes to  them    when she left her house  for shooting . Before her death she had donated seventy five thousands to a trust for Installation of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s Statue In Mumbai .

Many people took  advantage of her littlle education. Although she never attended a school, she was quite comfortable with Hindi and Urdu. As a child artist, she had to work to earn a living for her family.School and education were no priority when she had  to feed many mouths. She could neither plan financial investments nor deal with people professnally. Her nears and dears   dealt with her on emotional plank with an eye on her earnings. All this added to her suffering.

To her brother and sisters , she was both ,  a father and a mother . They lived on her income only. To some others, she was a provider .

 While leaving for hospital , she handed over her purse that had some gold jewellery to her Safaiwali woman. It was her last journey.

 Dr Shah, her physician had painfully said " It is a story of few days more. She is hurrying"

After so many requests from  Khayyam, Jagjeet Kaur , Sunil Datt and Nargis, she  had finally  agreed to rejoin shooting of Pakeezah that had almost brought Kamaal Amrohi  to bankruptcy .Inspite of her ailment,  she had completed Pakeezah for Kamaal . She had accepted a token one ruppe from Kamaal for Pakeezah. During the shooting of Pakeezah,  she felt as if she had been misguided to seek a divorce from Kamaal.With this patch up,  she had started loving her Kamaal once more.

Pakeezah shooting schedules were  adjusted according to her state of health. She was unwell all along. The puffiness and the  disease was visible on her face inspite of heavy make up. Kamaal Amrohi avoided many  direct facial shots. She collapsed while the song 'Teer e nazar dekhenge ' was being picturised.  She couldn't dance. Many dance scenes in long  shots were picturised on Padma Khanna  who wore  Meena Ji's dress hiding her face under an opaque Chunni.

     ( Ye chirag bujh rahe hain, meray saath jalte jalte)

 A producer owed her ten thousand rupees and he rushed with the money to the hospital. Kamaal gave a bundle of ten thousand rupees to her sister in the hospital .He wanted his Manju saved at all costs. Beguma Para also paid some bills secretly. O P Ralhan telephoned his relative who brought some Injection from England by next available flight .
Alas she could not be saved . She died in the hospital.

In her real life , Meena Kumari tried  to  live the character of  Chhoti Bahu that she portrayed  in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962).
As Chhoti Bahu, Meena  Kumari beautifully evoked the image of a long suffering wife, who took to alcohol to please her philandering husband.
In Kaajal ,  She acted on Sahir's  song 'Chhu Lene do nazuk honthon ko' while bringing the underlying message to her real life.   Ironically, Geeta Dutt and Meena Kumari passed away in the same year (1972) within a gap of few months. Both had cirrhosis of the liver due to excessive abuse of alcohol.

After her death , PAKEEFAH , that had almost failed at the box offfice , did a roaring business. It broke all records. Manju had paid back her debt to Kamaal.

Meena Kumari lived in bits and pieces  searching elusive love  and empathy. This search brought her close to  Dharmendrdra . In his book ,  ' Dharmendra: A Biography, Not Just A He-Man '  Rajiv M. Vijayakar  writes:

'.She would instill confidence in Dharmendra by correcting him, making him practice his shots, explaining things so that he could understand his work better and overcome his weaknesses - and all this especially in her spare time, even for films in which she was not his heroine. This way, she would get to spend time with him, without making her real intentions known to anyone, including him. Almost a daily visitor at her house at Juhu's Janki Kutir, they would open a bottle and spend hours together.But, contrary to popular perception, Dharmendra managed to restrict her alcohol consumption when he was there with her. He was everything she needed and wanted - loving, honest, caring and reliable. But when he would leave, she would go berserk with the bottle."

 In her own poetic words , she expressed her lonesome  living like this:

 ' Zindagi kyā issī ko kehtay haiñ ,
Jism tanhā hai aur jaañ tanhā.
Raah  dekha karega sadiyon tak,
Chhorr jayenge yeh Jahaan tanha'

(Avtar Mota)

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