• Thursday, June 13, 2024


Planned Meena Kumari biopic mired in controversy

By: Eastern Eye

FASHION designer Manish Malhotra confirmed that he would make his directorial debut with a Meena Kumari biopic with Kriti Sanon in the lead role.

Meanwhile, late filmmaker Kamal Amrohi’s son Tajdar Amrohi was reportedly threatening to sue because he believes the rights to her story belong to him. That is because his dad was once married to Kumari. There is a lot to unpack here. 

Firstly, a biopic on the late actress would make for incredible cinema because of how much drama there was in her life. From being a child star to becoming arguably the most technically gifted actress in Bollywood history to her alcoholism, abusive marriage, failed relationships and high profile liaisons, her story has everything, including an amazing body of work. 

She also died penniless at just 38 years of age and has become a much loved icon since then. 

A biopic based on her would also expose the dark side of Hindi cinema and how a great actress was brought to her knees by an unforgiving industry, and ultimately driven towards a deadly drinking habit. The actress nicknamed ‘Tragedy Queen’ also encountered abusive men and endured the kind of real life pain her onscreen characters became famous for. But looking at Bollywood biopics of celebrities that have been made, none have really delved deeply into a dark side and that likely wouldn’t happen with her story. 

Legendary stories of Kumari being ‘disciplined’ with violence while her husband watched, or men in the movie industry stealing all her money would unlikely make it into any story about her, which would make it less impactful. Male celebrities she allegedly had affairs with would also likely be omitted from any story. 

Telling her story would require a great director, which fashion designer Manish Malhotra definitely isn’t. He hasn’t directed a movie before, so starting with a challenging subject like this would be a recipe for disaster.

Kumari’s career was defined by phenomenal performances in movies like Baiju Bawra, Dil Apna Preet Parai, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Phool Aur Patthar and Pakeezah, so it would require a technically brilliant actress to portray the onscreen brilliance, and behind the scenes pain. Although an accomplished performer, Kriti Sanon doesn’t really have the range or gravitas to take on the role of such a beloved icon.

Speaking of those who are not equipped to make this movie, then failed filmmaker Tajdar Amrohi certainly falls into that category. Despite his many protestations, Meena Kumari was not biologically related to him, and divorced his dad after a difficult marriage. A major part of her story is the widely reported abuse she suffered at the hands of her much older husband Kamal Amrohi. Tajdar would likely make a poor movie and whitewash what his dad did to her. He has already said any version Malhotra makes would be based on lies. 

 All of this is why I am not expecting any of these people to make a movie based on Meena Kumari’s life. And if they do it would likely be terrible or whitewashed. A film based on her would require a big budget to capture the period setting and I don’t think any financier would be silly enough to back a project helmed by a fashion designer or a failed filmmaker. 

 An illustration of why this project won’t come to fruition, even though it should, is planned biopics of legends like Madhubala and Guru Dutt not seeing the light of day. Bollywood has rich stories in its history but doesn’t really have the talent today to bring them to life. 

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