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Nargis, Madhubala, Meena Kumari - The Yesteryear divas of Bollywood

By Nagarathna Andanappa

'Old is Gold' proverb is true when you look back into our age old Bollywood films. Not only films, people even now value our ‘Old' Bollywood heroines as Gold. They are such divas that actresses from our generation mimic them. Take for example, Madhuri Dixit, who is compared to Madhubala in Indian Cinema because of her beautiful smile. It is also said that Katrina Kaif may play the role of Madhubala in a biopic of Kishore Kumar. Sadhana fringe was sported by Deepika Padukone in films Om Shanti Om and Chandni Chowk To China.

The phenomenal beauty, natural grace, talent and sensuality of the actresses of the golden era are unexplainable. Madhubala, as we all know, is compared to Marilyn Monroe; and Khatija Akbar wrote a biography on her titled 'I Want To Live' The Story Of Madhubala. The moment you see divas like Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Asha Parekh, Sadhana, Saira Banu...on screen, you just can't stop admiring them, such is the effect of these yesteryear divas of Bollywood.

Have a look at the few most beautiful Indian actresses of the 40s-60s in the slider below.


When you think about Nargis, the song that shoots your mind is "Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua...". She is known as the first lady of Indian cinema. She was charismatic and graceful, and considered as one of the greatest actresses in the history of Hindi cinema. Nargis made her debut in films as a child artist in Talashe Haq. She was the first actress to don a swimsuit in movie Awaara. Nargis was famous in abroad too. She died of pancreatic cancer.


This Diva with infectious smile and beautiful, expressive eyes, started working in movies at the age of eight. She was vibrant, sensitive, all in all, a perfect beauty! It was said that her beauty overshadowed her acting talents. She is even compared to Marilyn Monroe. Madhubala was suffering from heart problem and succumbed to death at the young age of 36.

Meena Kumari

Tragedy queen, Meena Kumari started working at the age of seven. It is said that her roles in movie mirrored her life. She was married to film director, Kamal Amrohi, who was already married and was 15 years elder than her. Due to their strong personalities there were conflicts and ultimately divorced. She expressed her sorrows in her poetry. She was addicted to alcohol and died of liver cirrhosis.


Multitalented diva, Vyjayantimala is Bharathanatyam dancer, Carnatic singer, dance choreographer, golfer and Parliamentarian. She was the first South Indian actress who paved way for the other South Indian actresses to foray into Bollywood. She debuted at the age of 13 with Tamil film Vazhkai and later entered Bollywood. She wooed the audience with her dance numbers 'Hothon Pe Aisi Baat', 'Chad Gaiyo Paapi', 'Main Ka Karu Ram' ..., which are even hummed now.


She was one of the finest actresses of Indian cinema. She started her acting career at the age of 14. She was winner of Miss India in 1952 and she was one such bold actress who won millions of heart with her beauty, elegant style and talent. Nutan also followed Nargis and donned swimsuit in the movie Dilli Ka Thug in 1958. She died of cancer, at the age of 54.

Waheeda Rehman

This diva wooed the audience with her natural grace, talent and irresistible charm. Her beautiful smile and expressive eyes can never be forgotten. She is considered as one of the outstanding actresses of the golden era. She made her debut in a Telugu film, Rojulu Marayi. During the success party of the film, Guru Dutt noticed her and decided to cast her in Hindi films. She was a trained Bharatnatyam dancer.

Sadhana Shivdasani

This mystery girl was one of the top paid actresses in the 60s and early 70s. She was the style icon as she started the trend of fringe hairstyle which is named after her - 'Sadhana cut'. She also brought about the fashion of tight chudidar-kurta. Director Raj Khosla cast her in suspense thriller such as Woh Kaun Thi?, Mera Saaya and Anita, thus making her famous as the 'Mystery girl'. Sadhana retired from acting in mid 70s.

Saira Banu

This talented and beautiful actress, who had a perfect figure, was a replica of her mother and actress Naseem Banu. She debuted at the age of 19, in Junglee opposite Shammi Kapoor. This movie instantly made her a successful actress. She was one of the highest paid actresses during 60s and 70s.

Asha Parekh

Her immense talent, beauty and professionalism made many directors to cast her in film more than once. Asha Parekh dominated Bollywood between 50s to 70s and has given maximum number of hits. She remained unmarried, as she claimed that people found her unapproachable and hesitated to propose her for marriage.


This versatile and charming diva was every man's fantasy woman. Mumtaz ruled millions of hearts in 60s and 70s. Mumtaz started her acting career at the age of 12. She acted in many movies as the second fiddle, but she came in to limelight with film Do Raaste in 1969 which made her a big star. She was so versatile that she carried all kind of roles with ease. Mumtaz had acknowledged that she successfully battled cancer.

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