Meena Kumari started her career as a child artist in order to support her poor family. She had always wanted to go to school like other children but destiny had something else planned for her. She became one of the most appreciated actresses of Indian film industry and even after several years of her death, film lovers and critics consider her as a classy actress of all times. She also has some of the classic films to her credit.
Although she started very young and did 20 films as a child artist, her turning point in full fledged acting career was brought by the film Baiju Bawra in 1953. She effortlessly portrayed the character of a lover who negates herself for the mental and material advancement of her lover. She suffered so that he could make soulful music and be known for it. Meena Kumari became the first Indian actress to win the Filmfare Award for best actress in 1954 and shot to fame instantly.
Parineeta was another remarkable film showcasing her fine acting talents. This socially inclined film narrated the rich – poor divide in society and how a dutiful wife protects the secret of her marriage with a rich man. Meena Kumari along with Ashok Kumar has shown heart warming performance in this film for which the Filmfare award for best actress -in the year 1955- came to her for the second time.
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam
Once again the Filmfare best actress award was added to her name for the brilliant, seductive and compelling performance in the film Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam in the year 1962. She essayed the character of Chhoti Bahu, trying to bring back her husband, Chhote Babu, from brothels. She is a devoted wife to her husband and rightfully wants to perform her duties towards him. She resorts to alcohol to woo her husband, even though, it is against her conscience. She skillfully enacts the dilemmas, sorrow and desires of a wife who is caught between customs and traditions of a Hindu family and her husband.
This film stands as a cult film in Bollywood because of several reasons. This film was released after the death of Meena Kumari, for the acting in which she got nominated for the best actress award. Pakeezah featured her as a famous courtesan and daughter of Shahabuddin, who fall in love with a forest ranger and elope. But her fame as a singer and dancer makes people recognize her even after she is renamed as Pakeezah (meaning of pure heart). She comes back to her brothel leaving her lover, son of Shahabuddin. He gets married to another woman in which ceremony she is called to entertain the audience.
She won best actress four times, the fourth one for Kaajal. Most of her characters were melancholy in nature and silently suffered traumas. Meena Kumari came to be known as Tragedy Queen of Indian cinema.