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Published on 01 Aug 2012 | over 4 years ago

Meena Kumari born on 1 August 1932 as Mahjabeen Bano. She was the third daughter of Ali Baksh and Iqbal Begum. Khursheed and Madhu were her two elder sisters. At the time of her birth, her parents were unable to pay the fees to who had delivered her, so her father left her at a Muslim orphanage, however, he picked her up after a few hours. When Mahjabeen was born, Ali Bakhsh aspired to get roles as an actor in Rooptara Studios. At the urging of his wife, he got Mahjabeen too into movies despite her protestations of wanting to go to school. She said, "I do not want to work in movies; I want to go to school, and learn like other children." As Mahjabeen embarked on her acting career at the age of 7, she was renamed Baby Meena. Farzand-e-Watan or Leatherface (1939) was her first movie, which was directed for Prakash Studios by Vijay Bhatt. She became practically the sole breadwinner of her family during the 1940s. Her early adult acting, under the name Meena Kumari, was mainly in mythological movies like Veer Ghatotkach (1949), Shri Ganesh Mahima (1950), and fantasy movies like Alladin and The Wonderful Lamp (1952).

Meena Kumari gained fame with her role as a heroine in Vijay Bhatt's Baiju Bawra (1952). She became the first actress to win the Filmfare Best Actress Award in 1953 for this performance. Meena Kumari highly successfully played the roles of a suffering woman in Parineeta (1953), Daera (1953), Ek Hi Raasta (1956), Sharda (1957), and Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960). Though she cultivated the image of a tragedienne, she also performed commendably in a few light-hearted movies like Azaad (1955), Miss Mary (1957), Shararat (1959), and Kohinoor (1960). One of her best-known roles was in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), which was produced by Guru Dutt. she made history by getting all the three nominations for Filmfare Best Actress Award, for her roles in Aarti, Main Chup Rahungi, and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam. She won the award for Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.

For four more years, Kumari performed successfully in Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Kaajal (1965), and Phool Aur Patthar (1966), all of which earned her Filmfare nominations, with Kaajal garnering her a fourth and last win of the Best Actress award. Pakeezah, starring Kumari and directed by her ex-husband Kamal Amrohi, took 14 years to reach the silver screen.

Three weeks after the release of Pakeezah, Meena Kumari became seriously ill, and died on 31 March 1972 of liver cirrhosis. At her death, she was in more or less the same financial circumstance as her parents at the time of her birth: It is said that when she died in a nursing home, there was no money to pay her hospital bills. She was buried at Rahematabad Qabristan located at Narialwadi, Mazgaon, Mumbai.

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