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Meena Kumari & Kamal Amrohi

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Meena Kumari with Kamal Amrohi

Three days after Meena Kumari’s death we met Kamal Amrohi at his house, “Rembrandt,” on Pali Hill. The place wore a gloomy look. Kamal Amrohi sat engrossed, listening to the tape-recorded voice of Meena Kumari.

It was an old sponsored program, broadcast over Radio Ceylon in 1958, where Meena Kumari talked enthusiastically on her first ever visit to her husband’s home town Amroha in 1956, four years after her marriage to Amrohi. She was all praise for his household and his people, recalled visiting the shrine of saint Shah Sharifuddin Shah Valayat, and wished she too would be among the fortunate ones to find a place near the shrine after her death.

Meena Kumari spoke of Kamal Amrohi with such respect and love, nobody would have suspected they would be separated in their lifetime. Yet six years later she walked out of his house, never to return. What could be the provocation for her to take such a step? Was it true, as is generally believed, that her marriage to Amrohi was a failure? Did he ill-treat her any time, as alleged by some people?

Amrohi claimed it was a conspiracy by some people to wreck their home and then exploit the star for their own advantage. For 12 years after their marriage there had never been any trouble or differences between them. But once Meena Kumari became a top star commanding a high price, he said, some people became jealous. They apparently wanted a share in her earnings.

There were the producers who wanted Meena Kumari to act in their films. They knew they could not have their way as long as Meena Kumari was with Kamal Amrohi. Together with some of Meena Kumari’s relatives, they hatched a plot to create differences between the couple.

For two years, Amrohi says, these “sympathizers” brainwashed Meena Kumari so thoroughly that she began to believe her husband was an obstacle in her career. They started spreading rumors that he was ill-treating her. It was true, Kamal Amrohi said, that he used to advise Meena against accepting assignments which would harm her reputation. He used to be a little harsh sometimes, he admitted, but it was all in her interest.

Amrohi didn’t want us to mention the names of people who had “conspired” against him.

Within a few months, Kamal Amrohi says, the actress too realized she had been misled. Those days, she lived with the family of one of the “sympathizers”.

When she realized she had been let down, she tried to get Kamal Amrohi over the phone but he wasn’t in town. The friend who picked up the phone later told him that she was sobbing and appeared terribly disturbed. He had tried to locate her and had failed. Meena Kumari finally went away from the house. Some time after this, she moved to a house at Janaki Kutir, Juhu.

Although she lived away from him, Kamal Amrohi said, she always remembered him when she needed help or when she fell ill. In 1967 she called him to her house and pleaded him to re-start “Pakeezah.” They were meeting after three long years. They had dinner together and she gave him her diary to read.

For the next two years Amrohi and Meena Kumari continued to meet frequently. But she never talked of the sad past, neither did her husband. But the actress used to tell close friends – among them the composer Khayyam and a Delhi distributor SayeedBhai and his wife – that God would never forgive those who had wrecked her home.

The resumption of “Pakeezah” almost brought about a reunion. And now the only man in whom Meena Kumari had implicit faith was Kamal Amrohi. After seeing “Pakeezah” at a special show she was all excitement. She regarded the film as his tribute to her.

After the film’s release some common friends had suggested that Kamal Amrohi bring Meena back to his house. But Amrohi felt it would remind her of the past and that would have affected her health. In any case they used to be together most of the day and she seemed content with the arrangement.

Amrohi recalls his first meeting with Meena Kumari. The year was 1938. He was a budding film writer. Sohrab Modi was making “Jailor,” written by Amrohi. They wanted a 7 year old girl for one of the roles. He was asked to meet a Master Ali Bux to see if his daughter would suit the role. One evening he went to meet Ali Bux at his house at Dadar. Bux sent for his daughter, and the little girl came running into the room with mashed banana smeared all over her lips and hands.

Ali Bux scolded the girl and asked her to wash and come. That was Mahjabeen, who years later became Meena Kumari.

Amrohi had liked her but the role finally went to some other girl. Whenever Amrohi passed by Dadar he used to point out the house of his friend and remark that a future heroine lived there.

Years later Amrohi wanted a new girl to play the female lead in “Mahal,” which he was directing for Bombay Talkies. Somebody suggested Meena Kumari’s name. Amrohi didn’t know who the girl was and he summarily rejected the suggestion. Madhubala was eventually selected for the role.

Soon after, on the sets of “Tamasha” at Filmistan, Amrohi was introduced to Meena Kumari by Ashok Kumar. He liked her performance on the sets, but didn’t know it was the little girl Mahjabeen, now grown up.

Then Amrohi was assigned to make “Anarkali”, for Filmkar. Madhubala had been assigned the title role. Due to differences between the producer and the actress’s father, Ataullah Khan, Madhubala refused to act in the film. Amrohi suggested that they sign up Meena Kumari for the role.

Before the shooting began she was involved in a car accident. She was in hospital in Poona for five months. Amrohi used to visit her at week ends. Meena was doubtful if he would still consider her for the role. To reassure her Amrohi wrote on her wrist: “Meri Anarkali” and signed his name below. The film was finally never made.

On February 15, 1952 they were married.

Kamal Amrohi recalled Meena Kumari’s last words before she went into a coma at the nursing home on the evening of Wednesday, March 29. She said “Chandan, I will not live much longer now. My last wish is to die in your arms.” She always addressed Amrohi as Chandan, the name by which his mother called him. And Amrohi called Meena Kumari “Manju”.

The doctors had given up all hopes. They were merely ticking off time. Amorhi sat at her bedside, sobbing. On Friday afternoon around 3-20 he gently touched her forehead, then ran his fingers through her hair. The next moment her heart stopped beating… An Interview with Kamal Amrohi by A.A. Khatib (Source – Filmfare Magazine)

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18 Comments

  1. The extract from your concerned source seems to be very authentic.I had always been on search for some more details of the “Tragedy Queen” of our bollywood.This is one of the most authentic document I have ever gone through while trying to know about Late. Meena Kumari.

    Gud Job !!
    Keep posting such important documents.

  2. The extract from your concerned source seems to be very authentic.I had always been on search for some more details of the “Tragedy Queen” of our bollywood.This is one of the most authentic document I have ever gone through while trying to know about Late. Meena Kumari.
    Gud Job !!
    Kindly keep posting such important documents.

  3. if her husband was so good with her how was it as some stories claim that she died penniless and could not even afford to pay hospital bills.It is more probable that her last moments were also cunningly encashed by her so called close ones.They knew she was so close to death and decided to turn a shelved ptoject into a goldmine.

  4. Admn.,
    This an interview of Kamal Amrohi,so naturally he would project himself innocent of making Meena Kumari sad.
    The fact was,Meena Kumari being his second wife and he having his children and the first wife alive,he was pressurised not to have any children from Meenakumari to avoid any future property conflict.Hence he always denied her that happiness for which she pined her whole life.
    This was the main cause of their differences.Additionally,when she got involved with Dharmendra and when he left her for Hema Malini,it was a double tragedy for her.
    All this sadness and unhappiness was reflected in the shayari which she used to write and was later(I believe)published.
    To say that K.Amrohi was not the cause of her unhappiness is a travesty of truth.
    Of course there is no denying that some selfish ‘sympathisers’took advantage of the situation and fleeced her money.
    -AD

    • Her husband Kamal Amrohi may have been guilty of causing her much emotional trauma and suffering as many others too (read Dharmendra) but the real culprits as is always are her parents who exploited her as a child and violated a child’s ( a very intelligent and a sensitve one at that) innocence forever. Its that emotional void she must have been pining to fill in the form of numerous affairs and a much older man for a husband. Her story reads like a greater tragedy than all the films she did.There is something about her which leaves one feeling eternally sad (and craving for more!).

  5. This is all lie. My aunt was a Neighbour of meena kumari in bombay and she recalls her screaming of pain and agony while kamal amrohi hit her. My aunt recalls a lot more stuff and that’s all seen and heard by her own eyes and ears. Till today, the hospital records show an unpaid bill and if he really loved her so much, why would he not even offer to pay the bills.
    Kamal Amrohi was an evil and pathetic man.

  6. A strange twist of birth and death (and unpaid bills):At the time of her birth,Meena Kumari’s parents were unable to pay the fees of Dr. Gadre, who had delivered her.And even on her deathbed,the hospital bills were unpaid…

  7. The fact is that even when she needed money for treatment abroad it was Sunil Dutt and Nargis who stepped forward and financed the whole thing and not Kamal Amrohi.
    The hospital bill remaining unpaid at the time of her death is also a known fact..the guy didn`t even come forward to save her flat from being auctioned by the I Tax fellows after her death even for the sake of old times and nostalgia although he made pots of money from Pakeezah and the sole reason for its success was her death at the time of its release.
    And how many know that he later took a third wife young enough to be his grand daughter..i met her at a social function at Juhu Bombay.His affections were hollow.

  8. meena was one of my most loving actress,n her life was very much like mine,sadly she went through lots of pain n tragedy,allah give her jannat,PG

  9. Ishq o Ashiqi hai kya zamane wale kya jane,
    wo kabhi laila ko kabhi majnu ko Sangsar karte hain

    Whenever outsiders and sympathizers involved in the matters of husband and wife, homes wrecked. I am not concerned to Kamal Amrohi And Meena Kumarai only, it is a fact that there is not a single home without quarrel, differences, love and affection.It does not mean outsiders got a right to intervene. Where were those sympathizers at the time of her death, why they did not pay the hospital bills.If Kamal Amrohi was so cruel and harsh to her why she agreed to come on the sets of Pakizah.Kamal’s version seems to be right, these words contain emotions of a true lover. All these respondents have never done true love so they can never understand the feelings of true love (Ishq o Ashiqi hai kya zamane wale kya jane, wo kabhi laila ko kabhi majnu ko Sangsar karte hain)

  10. Acting from Meena never seemed acting, but real, coming from the heart, nay, the very soul. In life, she was perhaps too innocent to be capable of judging men, or too gracious to forgive their faults and still respect them. I have always thought the only man matched to her innocence, love, grace, charm, gentleness, finesse, perfection, loyalty, humanism, would have been Ashok Kumar. AS an aside, in the 60s and 70s I used to hear that Amrohi used to swear at her and call names right on the sets, in public. She searched for a man in Dharmendra, a terrible misfit for her.

  11. Sorry, correction: instead of “or too gracious to forgive their faults and still respect them. ” please read “or so gracious as to forgive their faults and still respect them. “

  12. It is true that Pakeezah was a huge hit only after Meena Kumari’s death. It was running to a lukewarm response i n 7th or 8th week at Only Maratha Mandir, Mumbai when she died..
    After her death, many of her old movies like Yahudi were also running packed houses .

  13. It is plain male ego that was the cause of their separation. Mr. Amrohi could not live to the fact that His wife had become so famous. For him she was always this weak little girl who he had met at the hospital in Pune. Yes sure,her sisters and relatives added fuel to the fire and used her for their needs. She was helpless and defence less and hence took to the bottle. All said and done Meenaji will always be remembered for her great contribution to Hindi cinema. Not a single actress before and after her could match her beauty and talent. You are greatly missed Meena Ji !!

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