Last of the great singing stars: The Lahore born singer and actress wowed the Indian film industry in the late 40’s and early 50’s with such hits as ‘Pyaar Ki Jeet’, ‘Badi Bahen’ and ‘Dillagi’ and became the highest paid actress in the country. Suraiya’s reign at the top was brief. Her last film was ‘Rustom Sohrab’. She passed away on January 31, 2004, following a brief illness.

Lalita Pawar:

Mother of all mothers-in-law: Also known as Lalitabai, Pawar started her career as a child artiste in 1928. She was known as the “most ravishing beauty of the silent movies”. Later, when she had her fill of lead roles, she switched over to doing character roles and some “vampish” roles came her way but it was her enactment of the wicked and tyrannical mother-in-law, which was most popular. One of her last memorable roles, albeit as a character artiste, was that of ‘Mrs Disa’ in ‘Anari’ starring the late Raj Kapoor. Lalita Bai had spent her last days in her hometown Pune where she died alone on February 24, 1998.


A short and beautiful life: Madhubala, one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the Indian silver screen, was envisaged early in life, to live a life of fame and die at a young age... Mumtaz Jehan Begum Dehlavi alias Madhubala was born on February 14, 1933 in a poor family of Pathan Muslims in Delhi. It was during the 50’s when on a routine checkup it was discovered that she had a major heart problem. Madhubala endured her fate bravely and her sickness was kept a secret from the industry for many years. After her marriage she went to London for an operation but the doctors refused to operate on her as the chances for survival were remote. She succumbed to her fate on February 23, 1969, at only 36 years of age.

Priya Rajvansh:

A gruesome end: One of the ravishing actresses of Bollywood, Priya Rajvansh did movies like ‘Heer Ranjha’, and did some successful and some damp squibs with Chetan Anand — all starting with the letter ‘H’ — ‘Hindustan ki Kasam’, ‘Hanste Zakhm’ and the last ‘Haathon ki Lakeerein’, way back in 1985. Priya was a recluse in her lifetime and she became more isolated from the film industry after her mentor-friend Chetan Anand’s death. Rajvansh died under mysterious circumstances in Mumbai in the last week of March, 2000. Police said she was strangled; insiders insisted her throat was slit wide open!

Meena Kumari:

The queen of sorrow: Christened Mahjabeen, she was born to a musician father, Ali Bux. Strained financial circumstances had her and her two sisters Khurshid and Madhu, entering films as child stars. Little Meena got her name in her debut in ‘Leather Face’ in 1939. In 1968, Meena fell seriously ill and had to be flown to England for treatment. She turned to poetry, old wine and new friendships for solace. Even as the nation marvelled at her ability to infuse life into her role in ‘Pakeezah’, Meena Kumari breathed her last. Within a couple of months of ‘Pakeezah’s release, Meena Kumari died on March 31, 1972 and left behind a film befitting her legend.

Divya Bharati:

Brief reign: Divya Bharti had become a star from her very first film and was the only actress of her times among the young lot who had 14 films yet to be released at one time. She died falling off a sixth-floor building while drinking.

Nafisa Joseph:

Mysterious exit: A former Femina Miss India Universe (1997), and MTV veejay Nafisa Joseph hanged herself in her Mumbai home on July 29, 2004, allegedly over a hitch in her marriage plans in the following month. — Compiled by Sanjeev Satgainya