The thespian world is a tough nut to crack, and it also isn’t always sustainable. There are actors who have seen dizzying highs and the peaks of stardom and wealth, only to have it all come crashing down. There are countless horror stories about Bollywood actors who went from riches to tags – here’s a few.

1. AK Hangal

Known for his iconic role in Sholay, apart from a slew of other films spanning decades, Hangal was a cinema legend. He had also participated in the Indian Freedom movement, and had even been jailed for it. Despite all these accolades, he was pretty much penniless by the time he hit old age, as none of his family members were making any money either. Tragically, he died in 2012, destitute and unable to pay his medical bills.

Amar Ujala

2. Meena Kumari

Active between 1939 and 1972, Meena Kumari was popularly known as The Tragedy Queen due to the characters she played, and was regarded as one of the finest actors of her times. As with her on screen roles, real life imitated tragedy, and she suffered from depression, insomnia, alcoholism, and rising debt. When she passed away, she left behind scores of bills

Outlook India

3. Nalini Jayawant

Jaywant acted in several Hindi films and was a common face during the 40s and the 50s. She might best be remembered for the film Bahen from 1941. She also played the leading roles in many films through the 1950s, even bagging a Filmfare award. However, she retired in the late 60s, and passed away in 2010, alone and in financial trouble.

Daily Bhaskar

4. Achala Sachdev

Achala acted in over 120 movies going from the 40s all the way to the 90s. She featured in several Yash Raj films including Mera Naam Joker and DDLJ. When she passed away in 2012, she was blind, paralysed and penniless from years living alone. 


5. Cuckoo Moray

An actor and dancer who was active during the 40s and the 50s, Cuckoo was also known as the Dancing Queen of her time. She would apparently charge Rs 6000 for a single dance number, which was a massive sum in those days. She also owned a bevy of vehicles. However, she disappeared from the film industry in the 60s, and passed away from cancer at the age of 52, completely broke


6. Sulochana

Sulochana’s real name was Ruby Myers, and she was arguably the highest paid silent movie star of Indian cinema. She was of Jewish ancestry, hailing from the community of Baghdadi Jews in India. At one point, she was apparently earning more than the Governor of Bombay. However, with the advent of talkies, work dried up and she went bankrupt. She died in 1983, impoverished and unable to even pay rent.


7. Bharat Bhushan

Bharat Bhushan was a legend of his time, debuting in the film Chitralekha and going on to act in cult classics like Baiju Bawra. He even starred opposites the likes of Madhubala and Nutan. While he was one of the highest paid actors at one point, he suffered massive losses after going into production with his brother and was never able to recover from the blow. He went bankrupt, and passed away in 1992, penniless. 

The Print

8. Bhagwan Dada

Born Bhagwan Abhaji Palav, he popularly came to be known as Bhagwan Dada and he is perhaps most famous for his film Albela and the song ‘Shola Jo Bhadke’. His signature dance steps and comedic style were even copied by the likes of Amitabh and Mithun. At one point, Bhagwan Dada owned a 25-room house in Juhu and 7 cars, but after a string of flops, he went bankrupt and ended up living in a chawl in Mumbai. He passed away impoverished.

Bollywood Life

9. Vimmi

Vimmi gained national fame and fortune with the BR Chopra film Humraaz. She starred opposite Sunil Dutt, and went on to act in several other films as well. However, most of these films ended up being flops, and the industry stopped offering her roles. At the same time, her textile business also failed and she fell into depression and alcoholism. She died of liver disease at the age of 34 in abject poverty, and her body was taken to the crematorium on a chaiwallah’s thela


It’s tragic to see how fickle the acting industry is, and how it can give you everything, just to take it all away.