Google on Wednesday celebrated the 85th birth anniversary of Bollywood actor Meena Kumari with a doodle. Popularly known as the “tragedy queen”, Kumari captivated audiences with more than 90 films during her 38-year career.
Meena Kumari, whose real name was Mahajabeen Ara Begum, was born on August 1, 1933. She began her career at the age of six under the name Baby Meena in Vijay Bhatt’s Leatherface (1939). In a career spanning nearly four decades, Meena Kumari acted in over 90 films, and her best-known roles included Gauri in Baiju Bawra (1952), the iconic Chhoti Bahu in Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962) and the courtesan Sahibjaan with a heart of gold in Pakeezah (1972).
She died at the age of 38 on March 31, 1972 due to liver problems after a prolonged battle with alcoholism. When not acting, Meena Kumari wrote Urdu poetry under the pen name Naaz. Though she reportedly harboured a deep desire to be recognised as a poet, it was only after her death that her poetry began to surface.
Born on this day in 1933, “Meena Kumari grew up on camera, lighting up the silver screen from the age of four when she was known as ‘Baby Meena’,” Google said in its blog describing the doodle. “Over time, she emerged as one of Indian cinema’s foremost actors.”
“As shown in today’s Doodle, Kumari captivated audiences with her beautiful, expressive eyes,” Google said. “She portrayed strong yet vulnerable women who made their own way through life, although they were often devastated by romance.”
“Leading men were so bedazzled by Meena’s presence that Bollywood star Raj Kumar admitted to flubbing his lines when shooting scenes with her,” it added. “Today, her screen appearances are studied for flawless moments and the complex emotions she could evoke without uttering a word.”
The legacy of Kumari, who is considered one of the most enigmatic stars to grace the silver screen, is unrivalled in Bollywood history. In 1963, she was the only nominee in the best actress category at the Filmfare Awards.
She was nominated for her performances in Abrar Alvi’s Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Phani Majumdar’s Aarti and A Bhimsingh’s Main Chup Rahungi. The choice was between three fine performances, each one defined by Meena Kumari’s ability to depict deeply felt emotions and convey the pathos as well as the strength of her characters. The winner was Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Abrar Alvi’s masterpiece about the long-suffering wife of a decadent aristocrat in pre-independent Bengal.