Long live Meena ji. Even though, she was Mahjabeen but viewer did not know her by that name. Only the word Meena Kumari was enough to remind of what she was. She got first award for best actress of Indian cinema. When acting in films She was not meena kumara but the characters she was supposed to play, The Bahu Begum, Parineeta, Sahibjaan, Majhli Bahu, etc etc. All the characters came to life in those films, the actress and the characters were synonymous. Unlike few actors who are remembered for their style and not the characters. In few actors of past we read many things about them that they had a particular style/ mannerism whatever character they portray in films. That becomes an impediment in their persona.
I don’t know when I saw her film for the first time. We did not own a TV till 1982, when I was in class eleven. We used to travel for one kilometer to watch TV films etc from Type one at Nankari gate to type two which were situated near IIT Kanpur gate. In those days I was lucky enough to watch black and white TV and her films. At Type one family had TV and that was out of bound for me. Only I was fortunate enough to watch films while hanging on to the window. And most often it was like watching an audio film. I became fan of her films. When she used to cry I used to cry with her. When she used to rush in happiness I could felt the same happiness. When she felt pain on hearing the cries of that little boy who was being beaten by lalita pawar I also used to feel the pain for that boy. When she felt the shy in coming in front of a man – the hero- I used to feel the same. That was the embodiment of her I was having for her.
But foremost important thing was that I danced with her in all her films. The “Thade rahio baanke yaar re” became the favorite. Initially I used to dance on “Inhin logon ne” of Pakeezah, I was considered OUTCASTE in my school by everybody- by the classmate who used to sit next to me and to all students outside the class also. I was just a toy and mean of amusement for all of them. Even girls also felt the same towards me. As soon as I started learning the first steps of Kathak, I started liking the Thade rahio song, I tried to match each and every step and beat of the song. I took this as challenge and after few months I started dancing on the song matching on each beat. And still I try to match every beat. But as I grow older and older the pause, gaps, the nuisances, the moods of those gaps of sound and different stress on beats of table and strings of sarangi open up more challenges to me. I try to portray them and grasp them more and more with different meanings. As Birju Maharaj ji puts it that this is pure Bhakti, as the SAM is the Lord Krishna and these beats and all sur etc are RAHDA who all try to search for the Lord- the SAM. Therefore this Thumri song of Pakeezah has various meaning and various moods which are to be enacted. As I learnt from olders that in past there were danseuses who were invited only for singing. They only sang wherever they were invited to do so. They sang the songs while seated. Those songs, as my grandmother referred to as the TUMAIN. The word in the local slang means the song sung while seated. I heard the names of Gunni, or ginni and Nooran often from my grandmother. She categorically told me that they never danced. The dancing girls were different class.
So the Thumri used sung while seated but through the singing only the mood is to be portrayed to the audience. Often, while singing those girls enacted few moods of like Radha or Krishna, or bewitching lovelorn mate etc.
But I am not any of them. I try to follow what Birju Maharaj ji has said (as he is a god like to me). I try to match the beats and the SAM. In the song Gopika says that lord wait let me have the “shringar” first so that when you come, I greet you in a well attired shape full with Kaajal in eyes, flowers in the VENI and well knotted, and all of SIXTEEN decorations.
Another aspect is that Lord Krishna, a Naughty and play full Lord wait don’t come near I wish to protect my pot which is full of Butter or curd. Since the Gopika fears that lord will throw the stone and the pot of milk, butter or curd will be broken.
She remained loner in the end and I have always been so in the path of my life.