The MSN lead said it was Madhubala’s 83rd birthday and the article inside declared it was her 85th. Whatever it is, and I do know actresses did, and perhaps do, deduct a few years from their age, this is a star who is worthy of commemoration.

Considered the most beautiful face to ever hit Indian cinema, Madhubala was also called its Venus. On that sobriquet the late Ashokamitran rather cattily remarked in his My Years With The Boss that one similarity between Madhubala and Venus was that both were rather broad in the waist. But he does go on to record a rather melancholy fact – it was in Madras, while shooting for Bahut Din Hue (a Hindi remake of the Gemini hit Bala Nagamma (1942)) in 1954 that the actress first fell seriously ill with the heart complaint that would later claim her life when she was just 36 (or 34 if you believe today is her 83rd and not 85th birthday).

The shooting was held up for quite a while with Madhubala recuperating at Connemara Hotel at Gemini’s expense. Mrs Pattammal Vasan was her constant companion and food came from the Vasan home. The film when released did not do well. You should read Ashokamitran’s hilarious take on the storyline and about how there was a so-called horror sequence which was the only time Madhubala ever smiled.

She remains one of my favourite stars. Among her several movies, my favourites are Mr & Mrs 55, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Mahal, Kala Pani and Howrah Bridge. I know Mughal-e-Azam does not feature here but then I have never liked that film.