In treating actors as stars, we often forget, that it’s not just a glamorous life off-screen. Meena Kumari, or as they called her, the Tragedy Queen of Hindi Cinema had an incomparable career. The actor did exceptional work in her films like – Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Pakeezah, Mere Apne, Aarti, Baiju Bawra, Parineeta, Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, Foot Path, Dil Ek Mandir, and Kaajal. But there was more to her life than stellar performances, and that led to a personal low.


On her death, Nargis Dutt, who was a close friend of the actor penned a letter that appeared in the Urdu film magazine Shama, in June 1972. The letter is now a part of – Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai: Urdu Memoirs of Cinema Legends. Nargis starts with writing 

Meena, Maut Mubarak Ho. This place is not meant for people like you.

-Nargis Dutt

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In this letter, she writes how the world was not very good to Meena Kumari. While her films were all about tragedy and melodrama, there were many incidents in her life that affected her health. Nargis pens about their friendship and how she was drawn closer to Meena Kumari because of who she was as a person. Nargis was able to ponder on the many difficulties that Meena Kumari had been dealing with.


What we know about the actor may barely scratch the surface of who she was as a person. Meena Kumar also battled alcoholism, and not many are aware of the issues that led her to it.

Meena Kumari had started working as a child actor and she passed away, at the young age of thirty-eight. Her life wasn’t perfect but she had always been true to work.  

As per the letter, Meena Kumari had a relationship with Kamal Amrohi that grew toxic before it ended. In later years, Nargis mentions, that Meena grew closer to Dharmendra and she had achieved a sense of happiness. It was something that she had been longing for. But after it didn’t work, her health saw a deterioration, both physical and mental.  


When we talk about Meena Kumari, we cannot let go of the beauty that her career brought – there was a definition of perfection that she brought to the Hindi Cinema. 


We constantly focus on the glamour that follows the lives of actors and people in the industry but there can be more of it, more than the gossip and the buzz. This account of Meena Kumari’s life is something we missed out on – from a person who saw her as another human being first, and not just an actor.