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April 4, 1997


Dilip Kumar was determined to end all ties between
father and daughter once he married her

The scenario was bizarre. With feelings for each other just as strong, with no other individuals creeping into either of their lies, they persisted in proceeding to destroy their relationship almost as if compelled by forces beyond them. In the space of about five to six years, the near perfect romance had succumbed to the dictates of its destiny.

While Dilip Kumar appeared to emerge relatively unscathed, for Madhubala it was the beginning of the end; the festering wounds she carried never really healed.

Emotional to a fault, guileless in the bargain, she was simply not equipped to deal with the shock of the break-up. Speaking of her, Nadira once remarked: "She had not a strain of pettiness, of anything small. That girl did not know anything about hate. She was in love with love exuberantly, overflowing with love. She had so much to give."

A change began to come over Madhubala, imperceptible at first but quite apparent to those who knew her. A friend described it thus: "In 1951, when I first knew her, she was always smiling, always gay. I envied her peace of mind. By 1958, the beauty was still there but the peace of mind had vanished."

The same year, Filmfare observed: 'Her laughter is a becoming quality, not only because she comes to life as it were when she laughs but because a smile is the most charming cloak for a sob... Madhubala has had her share of struggle, suffering, disillusionment and emotional shock but no matter what lies beneath the surface she cloaks it with a graceful smile.'

Family, or more precisely paternal opposition and interference, was the undoing of this romance. Ataullah Khan did not look kindly on the affair and was determined to break it up. The burden of support of her entire family still rested on her shoulders and it seemed to have escaped everyone's attention, including her own, that at some point she was entitled to a life of her own.

Her father's was a stern and dominating personality and Madhubala had been in awe of him all her life. When it came to the crunch, despite the depth of her feelings for Dilip Kumar, she did not have the courage to defy and over-ride her father and marry without his approval. Her happiness hinged on both Dilip Kumar's love, and her father's acceptance of it; that kind of emotional dependence is no longer seen or even understood.

To her father was rendered unquestioning obedience, love and respect. In fact, it is said that when Dilip Kumar started his own production Ganga Jamuna, he even decided to give the entire profits of the film to Ataullah Khan so that he and Madhubala could get married and she could stop working.

According to Dilip Kumar: "She was a very, very obedient daughter." "I cannot think of marriage," she would say, "Till I have fulfilled my responsibilities to my family". This inability to leave her family was her greatest drawback, believes Shammi Kapoor, for it had to be done at some time: "She did not know when to break away. Geeta (Bali, Shammi Kapoor's wife) too was supporting her entire family, who similarly lived off her, but at one point she decided to leave. She left everything she had with them, broke away and married me. Madhubala could not leave her family."

An yet, by the mid-fifties, there were clear indications that she was nearing a decision. In 1955, she made a bold declaration in a Filmfare interview: 'Nobody in the world has any right to interfere with one's choice of a husband. I would marry only the man with whom I am very much in love.'

The very next year, it was all over. In the clash of two strong Pathan egos, in the consequent tensions and unpleasantness, the relationship floundered and could not survive. "Her overambitious father," Devika Rani once said, "ruined her life."

The fierce and unrelenting antipathy to Dilip could not have made Ataullah Khan an attractive proposition as a future father-in-law. What went on behind the scenes between the two, and Madhubala, can only be surmised. Certainly all was not placid smooth-sailing. Though Dilip Kumar's love for her and his intention to marry her did not change, he was determined to end all ties between father and daughter once he married her.

Excerpted from Madhubala, her Life, Her Times, by Khatija Akbar, UBS Publishers Distributors, 1997, Rs 160, with the publisher's permission.


Madhubala, continued