31st March marks the death anniversary of Mahjabeen Bano aka Meena Kumari aka the Tragedy Queen of Hindi Film Industry, who not only portrayed tragic roles in movies, but led a tragic life in real as well. With very fond memories, here is a list of songs through which she flirts, romances and cries—just, generally, keeps me glued to the screen admiring her but wondering about her fate at the same time.
1. Ajeeb daastaan hai yeh (Dil Apna Preet Parai, 1960) : This must be one of the most popular songs even till this day. The picture of Meena Kumari singing this lovely number when she realizes that the man she loves is committed to someone else, is forever etched into my memory. And it has gorgeous Nadira in it too
2. Koi pyaar ki dekhe jaadugari (Kohinoor, 1960) : A romantic duet filled with excitement, thrill and magic of being in love where she lip-syncs with her Knight in Shining armour after he rescues her from the clutch of wicked Jeevan.
3. O raat ke musafir (Miss Mary, 1957) : I saw her in a light-hearted role for the first time ever in this movie. For a change she’s showing attitude and not crying her heart out…and I personally feel that she’s enchanting in this avataar. Wish she had done more roles like this.
4. Koi bata de dil hai jahan (Main Chup Rahungi, 1962) : This is such a sweet, innocent and romantic song. As the name of the movie suggests, it’s weepy Meena again, but it had some wonderful songs – Koi bata de, Chaand jaane kahan kho gaya, Ae dil kabhi toh koi aayega. Apart from the story, which gets highly melo-dramatic at one point of time - but thankfully doesn’t get boring because of the child, this movie had such a strikingly good looking couple, amazing performance and like I said before, very melodious songs.
5. Chalte chalte yunhi koi (Pakeezah, 1972) : Though I like Yeh mausam hai aashiquana better, this song finds its place in this list because this is one of Meena’s signature songs. And apart from the songs and Meena’s performance in this movie, there’s one more thing that became very popular with this movie- Aap ke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hai. Inhe zameen par mat utariyega maile ho jayenge
In 1952, on the sets of one of her films, Meena Kumari fell in love with and married film director, Kamal Amrohi. Soon after marriage, Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari produced a film called Daera (1953), which was based on their love story. They also planned another film, Pakeezah. However, it took sixteen years (1956 to 1972) before Pakeezah reached the silver screen. (The scenes in Pakeezah’s popular song, Inhi logon ne, were originally filmed in black and white, and were later reshot in color.)
Initially, after its release in February 1972, Pakeezah opened to a lukewarm response from the public; however, after Meena Kumari’s death less than two months later, people flocked to see it, making it a major box-office success.
6. Na jao saiyaan (Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, 1962) : This is another signature song of hers. There’s actually a tie between this and Piya aiso jiya mein. The role of Chhoti Bahu, an alcoholic wife, is one of her best performances ever.
Upperstall wrote about her performance in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam :
While each of the performances are spot on, if there is one person who is the heart and soul of the film, it is Meena Kumari. Her portrayal of Chhoti Bahu is perhaps the greatest performance ever seen on the Indian Screen. The sequence where Chhoti Bahu dresses for her husband singing Piya Aiso Jiya Main is a poignant exploration of a woman’s expectations and sexual desire. And later on when she has become a desperate alcoholic, you cannot help but cry with her in the sequence where she pleads with her husband to stay with her and then angrily turns on him to tell him how she has prostituted her basic values and morals to please him. However the common factors between the actress’s life and Chhoti Bahu are too dramatic to be merely coincidental – The estranged marital relationship, the taking of alcohol, turning towards younger male company, the craving to be understood and loved – all elements evident in Meena Kumari’s own life
7. Kabhi toh milegi (Aarti, 1962) : Its such a haunting melody! Lovely composition, inspiring lyrics, great voice and Meena’s screen presence - it has such a lingering effect, it just keeps playing in my mind over and over again long after I listen to it.
This song always reminds me of Rahe na rahe hum from Mamta and vice versa…saw somebody else’s comment on youtube stating the same. I’m feeling good to know that I have a company here.
8. O chaand jahan woh jaye (Sharada, 1957) : One of my favourite Lata-Aasha duets picturized on serious Meena and playful Shyama. Love their expressions…I find Shyama more dominating here, her lines and expressions are better. But since this also features Meena, I just needed an excuse to put this song here
9. Tu ganga ki mauj main jamna ka dhara (Baiju Bawra, 1952) : Though she had done few movies as a child artist followed by some mythological movies, it was this film that gained her fame and established her as an actor. When I had first seen this song during my school days, I almost couldn’t recognize her, she looked so young!
10. Rang aur noor ki baaraat (Gazal, 1964) : I couldn’t possibly end this post with everything happy and romantic and sweet…I had to include a number that had the sorrow factor and this tops my list! Though the song is in a male voice, Meena remains the primary focus throughout…one look at her – those eyes brimming with tears, all my heart goes out to her.
When Meena Kumari was born her family was going through a financial crisis. She was forced to act in movies at the age of 7 to support the family due to which she lost out on her carefree childhood days. Later in life she fell in love and got married to Kamal Amrohi, but that didn’t last for long and they got divorced which led her into a depression. She craved for love and care all her life and this is very evident in her poetry. She found solace in heavy drinking. Her health began deteriorating and at the age of 40 she died of liver cirrhosis.
May her soul rest in peace!!!!
I just realized that I have 2 songs referring to Chaand (O raat ke musafir, O chaand jahan woh jaaye) in my list already….and the other two with Meena-Chaand combo that come to my mind are : Chaand jaane kahan kho gaya, Ruk jaa raat theher jaa re chanda….any other songs you can think of?
Tags: Aarti (1962), Aasha Bhosle, Ajeeb daastan hai yeh, Baiju Bawra (1952), Bharat Bhushan, C. Ramchandra, Chalte chalte yunhi koi, Dil Apna Preet Parai (1960), Dlip Kumar, Gazal (1964), Geeta Dutt, Gemini Ganesan, Guru Dutt, Jeevan, Kabhi toh milegi, Kohinoor 1960, Koi bata de dil hai jahan, Koi pyaar ki dekhe jaadugari, Lata Mangeshkar, Main Chup Rahungi (1962), Meena Kumari, Miss Mary (1957), Na joa sainyaan, Nadira, O chaand jahan woh jaye, O raat ke musafir, Pakeezah (1972), Pradeep Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Raj Kumar, Rang aur noor ki baarat, Rehman, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962), Sahir Ludhianvi, Sharada (1957), Shyama, Sunil Dutt, Tu ganga ki mauj main jamna ka dhara