Tragedy Queens of Bollywood

Though the tragedy roles for the leading ladies have become a rarity now, they were a commonplace in the Bollywood for many decades. The reasons of the suffering were plenty, ranging from the extra-marital affairs to the extra-ruthless Thakur of the village. Bollywood saw the tragedy queens taking melodrama to a different level altogether, and sometimes they let subtlety marry silent agony

Meena KumariMeena Kumari

The beautiful lady undoubtedly occupies the numero uno position for the tragedy queen title, for the touching portrayal of helplessness in many of her movies.  Her work in Pakeezah, Saheh Biwi aur Ghuam and Baiju Bawra are extremely popular. The gorgeous lady with a unique voice played a constant victim of vicissitudes repeatedly. She unmistakably understood and enacted the intricate characters that were given to her.  Meena Kumari acted with all the stars of those period right from Dilip Kumar to Raj Kapoor.

Nirupa Roy – Dukhi Maa 1
Nirupa Roy
 “Mere paas Maa hai” – the four words phrase deserves a dedicated chapter in the History of Hindi Cinema. In 1975, Bollywood found a ‘Maa’, with Deewar, a mother whose life is dedicated to her children. The love of this mom was in abundance, an unconditional supply which helped the heroes thwart the ruthless villains. The mother-son combination of Nirupa Roy-Amitabh Bachaan was in fact equally popular to a hero-heroine duo, namely Suhaag, Muqaddar ka Sikandar, Amar Akbar and Anthony.  A miracle happens in Shirdiwaale Sai Baba song in Amar Akbar Anthony where the blind and bruised Nirupa Roy regains her eyes and starts crawling towards the idol. The sympathy she could generate was matchless.

Rakhee – Dukhi Maa 2
Another lady who is known for playing the unfortunate “Maa” was Rakhee. She played a sobbing widow repeatedly who is divested of her close ones.  The tone was always filled with hope though – The hope that her son(s) will take the vengeance on the baddies who destroyed her world.  Who can forget the iconic dialogue of “Mere Karan Arjun Aayenge” delivered by the talented Rakhee. The Padma Shree awardee contributed quite a lot to Hindi Cinema in her 42 year old career.


Nargis – Mother India
Nargis in Mother India played a symbol of sacrifice.  She enacted the role of a single and strong mother fighting a battle all alone.  That unkempt hair, that constant struggle, that patience, that unshakable ethics throughout the tragic journey of  Radha stole the hearts of the audience forever. The climax sequence of her son Birju dying in her own arms made the deepest impact!  With Mother India, Nargis attained an irreplaceable position in Hindi Cinema for playing an unusual blend of tenderness and toughness.


Kangana Ranaut – Modern Meena Kumari
The new millennium slightly changed the way the tragedy happened.  Kangana stepped into the shoes of the tragedy-filled female lead this time. In Gangster, she plays Simran, who is entangled between an affair, revenge and guilt, and eventually commits a suicide. She went a step ahead and played a more complex role in Woh Lamhe which is loosely based on Parveen Babi’s real-life story. Probably, the best role she has got in her career. Later, in Mahur Bhandarkar’s Fashion, she played a supermodel addicted to drugs.


Other Tragedy queens
Suchitra Sen also entered the tragic zone briefly with movies like Aandhi and Mamta. In the parallel cinema, Shabana Azmi contributed similarly though Ankur and Arth. In late 90s, we had the leading ladies playing some semi-tragic role too. In Raja ki Aayegi Baarat, Rani Mukherjee played a victim of patriarchy, and in Hey Ram she is raped and murdered.  She becomes a bread-winner by becoming a call girl in Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. Some other roles that to our mind when it comes to tragedy are Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam, Rekha from Umraao Jaan, Aishwarya Rai in Devdas and Vidya Balan in Dirty Picture.


The coming decades shall see some more tragedy queens too, probably fighting the new problems with the changing times.

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