One of the most iconic celebrities of Bollywood, Meena Kumari (born Mehajabee Bano) made her first appearance in films at the age of 4. She went to become the ‘Tragedy Queen’ of Indian cinema.Kumari became an alcoholic and damaged her liver. Towards the end of her life, she took up the movie Pakeezah. Despite her failing health, Meena Kumari gave the best performance. She died all alone three weeks after the movie released with no money left to pay her hospital bills.
Avtar Kishan Hangal was born in February 1914. He was a freedom fighter after that, he worked as a tailor and came to know actors like Balraj Sahni and Kaifi Azmi, who encouraged him to enter the film industry at the age of 50. Hangal had been associated with the leftist movement all his life; he believed that the state should look after its senior citizens. He appeared in over 225 films before slowly retiring from movies. In 2012 he passed away at the age of 97 in a hospital without money to pay for his treatment.
Ruby Myers was one of the Baghdadi Jews of India and couldn’t speak Hindi. A silent movie star, she was one of the highest paid actors of her day. She was such a crowd-puller. She was rumoured to have a higher salary than the Governor of Bombay. With the coming of talkies, Myers had to learn to speak in Hindi. She had a few hits after that but steadily, the offers dried up. She started her own production house, Ruby Pics, in 1930. She won the Dada Saheb Phalke award in 1973. In 1983, she was found dead in her flat, having spent her days lonely and forgotten with no money.
Achala Sachdev was born in Peshawar in 1920; she started her film career as a child artist though she will most probably be remembered for her mother and grandmother roles. One of the most popular Bollywood songs, O Meri Zohrajabi, was shot on her. Sachdev acted in over 130 films. After her divorce, she married Cifford Douglas Peters, who was a widower and became a resident of Pune. She was very philanthropic in nature and had even gifted her house to Janseva Foundation. However, when she fell and broke her femur and became paralyzed, she was left in a hospital without attendants. Her son from her first marriage, Jyotin, who lived in the US, rarely visited her, while her daughter in Mumbai had no contact with her.
Bharat Bhushan became an established actor along with Meena Kumari after their movie, Baiju Bawra, became a golden jubilee hit. Before that, he had struggled for around 10 years to make his presence felt on the big screen. With the coming of colour films, Bhushan’s film career was also on the wane. He tried to play older roles but was unsuccessful. Towards the end of his life, he had to sell his cars and even his prized libraries of rare book collections. Bhushan worked hard to end his financial crisis and died shortly after becoming more solvent.
Vimi was only in her thirties when she passed away broke and alone. She had debuted in BR Chopra’s ‘Hamraaz’ in 1967 and had gained popularity almost instantly despite being married and mother of two children. However, her marriage was soon on the rocks and the couple decided to separate. After that, her life was on a downward spiral. She did not get good offers and was soon forgotten. She had to sell her business, Vimi Textiles, to pay off her debts.In August 1977, she was admitted to the general ward of Nanavati Hospital for liver complications due to alcohol addiction. Her body was taken to the cremation grounds on a tea vendor’s cart.