Madhubala: Anarkali of Qissa Khawani

Syed Saqib Hussain

A walk in the narrow alleys behind Qissa Khawani Bazaar is indeed a walk through history, where in every street you breathe not only air but an era. Among its various periods, a memorable one is the pre partition migration of future’s celebrated artists to Bombay and Delhi through legendary Frontier Mail; and a little Peshawar still lives in the heart of Bombay’s film Industry.

Madhubala was one of those super stars who left lasting impressions on the hearts and minds of the glamour world in Indian subcontinent. Born on Valentine’s day of 1933 as Mumtaz Jehan, she opened her eyes in the house of Ataullah Khan who had migrated to Delhi from the streets of Qissa Khawani Bazaar. She made her way to silver screen as a heroin of film Neel Kamal, at the tender age of 14.

Overnight, she rose to stardom and earned the titles like Venus of Indian cinema, referred to Greek goddess of love and beauty and Marilyn Monroe of the east. She was declared as the biggest star in the international film industry by “Life magazine”.

 From 1947 to 1960 she played lead roles in over 70 films till she reached the climax of her talent in Mughal e Azam as Anarkali. She played tragic role of the royal servant in Mughal palace who gave her life as atonement for unforgiveable sin of falling in love with the crown prince.  Dalip Kumar (another legend from Qissa Khawani Bazaar) played as Shahzada Saleem and both together made the film an unforgettable reminiscence for viewers of subcontinent’s cinema. By that time, the love affair of Madhubal and Dalip Kumar had become public and the couple was seen as icon of love among the youth of 1950s. But then the events took wrong course when Dalip Kumar appeared as a witness in a civil suit against the father of Madhubala, who in response refused to give hand of his daughter to Dalip Kumar.  From there onwards, tragedy of her real life started and soon she was diagnosed with a chronic heart disease which confined her to bed for nine years of her remaining life, spitting blood from her mouth. On February 23, 1969 she said goodbye to this mortal world and left behind Dalip Kumar to smolder in her love for rest of his life, which he has admitted in various interviews and his autobiography.

Half a century after her death, she is perhaps among the few actors in the world who stayed for such a long time on the public memory. Neighborhood love of Qissa Khawani Bazaar ended in a sorrowful tragedy but memories of the sweet couple is nostalgia for the youth of 50s and 60s. This added another story to the bazaar of storytellers.

In the narrow streets of Qissa Khawani Bazaar, during the quiet hours, one can still fancy the illusions of everlasting melody of Mughal e Azam; Hame kash tum se muhabbat na hoti….. Kahani hamari haqeeqat na hoti,