Remembering the tragedy queen - Meena Kumari

Sorry for the long disappearances which are becoming a bit of a pattern. Have recently shifted to a new home and getting things running there was taking a while. I still need to get myself a camera.  An easy to carry basic one, not the SLR varieties before I can put up pictures again.

However moving on to today's post. Today morning they were showing a Meena Kumari special on DD Rangoli (its a must watch if you are a film buff and miss getting your dose of retro songs). A lot of things they said , about Kamaal Amrohi and her, her drinking, her subsequent death and the work of her life , Pakeezah, was something most of us already know. But watching songs from lesser known movies and seeing how she evolved , the way she wore her hair was a revelation of sorts.

In Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam , one of her most acclaimed works, she starts off as a prim and proper wife of a rich landlord, who is willing to do anything to get her husband's attentions, including hitting the bottle. This is her in all her finery as a newly married thakurain. Perfectly done hair, all the jewellery of the era, neat and tidy saree and kohl rimmed eyes.

And here she is , after she hits the bottle and becomes disgusting to both herself and her husband. Notice that not only is her hair undone, but looking so much more sensuous and seductive.

In one of her early films, Baiju Bawara, where she was still a teenager she looks every bit like a  girl woman, though i personally think she came into her own and looked gorgeous once she grew older.  Of course, unfortunately she had hit the bottle too early in the career and her face showed the ravages of it.

Here she is, looking like the self sacrificing young girl in love with a mad musician. 

By the 1960s Meena Kumari, though looking gorgeous had a face that showed signs of excessive drinking, yet her acting skills more than made up for it. This cult song, hummed to by everyone (at least everyone I know) regardless of age shows a face that was beginning to show the signs of drinking only too clearly.
And since  I love the song so , I am attaching a link to its video, please do take a look. 

However this woman single handedly made crying on screen look dignified, no screaming (save a few dramatic films she did, but i completely blame the director),  her career and the fame she had as a tragedy queen was well deserved. If the film involved crying, it made sense to cast Meena Kumari, who being a sort of a poetess herself , had perfect diction and knowledge of hindi and urdu both.

In her later career, she played the old woman in Mere Apne, while also  playing the  gorgeous tawaif  with a heart of gold. But Pakeezah is a full post in itself so will get to it, when I do.

Back in the era of red lip, which is a personal weakness for me, Meena Kumari almost always wore heavy liner and nude lips. Talk about going mod and how.

 Also notice that she didnt wear rouge on the apples of her cheeks, again a trend at the time. Her cheeks may have a light dusting of colour, but largely it was some basic contouring under the cheekbone that accentuated her already gorgeous cheekbones.(however this is a  bit uncharacteristic of her look in the films as she is given pink cheeks, which she rarely sported in her films if at all)

And though Pakeezah is a separate post, I couldnt help but share this image I found while searching for these ones.

Images courtesy


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