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Paradoxical, poetic, and poignant Meena Kumari, born as Mahjabeen Bano had that unique voice in the film industry then dominated by men. With many women-centric movies to her credit, she was very much a heroine in the Hindi film industry. The actress was volatile and vulnerable at the same time, and through her films Kumari, portrayed the struggles of Indian women of those times.
She mostly played the roles of traditional bhartiya nari of her times. But she was also able to define the different stages in a woman's life because of her iconic outfits. Yes, though traditional and rooted, Kumari's fashion was rather contrasting and refreshing. From plain to muted to vivid hues, in her short span of career, Meena Kumari donned myriad attires.
She was at once the seductress in an emperor's court and at other times, she would be this woman clad in a plain white sari, evoking sadness. Kumari had a very diverse style sense. Her most famous orange-coloured anarkali teamed with heavy gold jewellery look in Pakeezah is still fresh in our minds. Even her maroon-coloured bridal lehenga or that bright green ethnic attire hasn't quite escaped our mind.
Those clothes of hers talked about the honeymooning and blossoming stage in a woman's life. Her bright-hued attires were contrasted by simple silk saris and floral-printed salwar kameez, which we thought represented maturity and that stage when you are comfortable in your own skin. But that was also followed by very understated attires, which she would wear during her teary-eyed scenes.
Yes, Meena Kumari not only represented women in the purest of ways but even till today inspires a number of fashion designers. You could see so many designers like Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla getting inspired by her iconic outfits. Probably, because the modern and emancipated women of today, still relate to Meena Kumari and her many moods.
The 'Tragedy Queen' Kumari must have died just at the age of 38, but she has left a great legacy behind. On her 85th birthday, we celebrate Meena Kumari as a fashion icon that motivates us to wear our hearts out, quite literally and be true to ourselves.
Happy Birthday Meena Kumari!