Portrait of an actress as a sensitive woman

Enthralling , engrossing, enticing . Unsurprising for a book whose subject is the supremely beautiful Madhubala.

This biography is a good read for those who know little about this gifted actress. Written in an easy, fluid style, with captivating black and white photographs, “I Want to Live” is almost plaintive in its title.

It is deliberate . Madhubala’s translucent beauty , sparkling eyes and crooked smile were there for all to see. But her vivaciousness hid deep emotional and physical pain – a domineering father controlled every aspect of her life; she had an acrimonious parting of ways with Dilip Kumar, the only man she ever loved; she followed this with a disastrous marriage to the eccentric Kishore Kumar and she had a congenital heart problem that claimed her life at 36. But she remained guileless, sensitive and warm.

Madhubala’s beauty was so breathtaking many didn’t realize she was a consummate actress too. She was especially good at comedy. Shashi Kapoor says, “Inner, rather than outward beauty attracts me, just a good body is very, very boring . The sexiest woman I have ever seen was Madhubala…I saw Mughale-Azam … and it’s a fatal attraction …her eyes speak volumes.” Shammi Kapoor was so in love with her that he went home crying to his mother, “I must marry her.”

Despite numerous hits such as “Mahal” , “Tarana” , “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi” and “Kala Pani” , it was “Mughal-e-Azam” , which took nine torturous years to make, that catapulted her to great fame. The emotional trauma caused by her schism with Dilip Kumar mirrored that of Anarkali.

Born on Valentine’s Day in 1933, Madhubala’s reflections before she died sum up her life, “I am very emotional . I have always lived with my heart. For that I have suffered more than is necessary. I have been hurt.”

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