The collective gasp that went up in theatres this week as Madhubala unveiled her magnetic beauty to an entirely new generation of moviegoers can be heard all over the country.

The Madhubala magic has reawakened, thanks to the enchantment created by the newly coloured version of K. Asif's timeless "Mughal-e-Azam" which opened this week.

The magic of Madhubala in "Mughal-e-Azam" is the magic of Hindi cinema. She epitomises all the grace and feminine beauty that make those flickering images on screen come alive as a collective emblem of the life force.

And to think that she died so young. Thirty-six is no age to die. Not for one of the most beautiful women god ever created... or maybe he needed to have her up there to beautify heaven.

Madhubala is as much synonymous with beauty as Lata Mangeshkar is with melody.

Short-lived as her stardom was, Madhubala's reign at the top was swift and splendid.

Born in a conservative Muslim family, Madhubala started her career in 1942 at the age of nine in "Basant". Her first hit as a grown-up leading lady was Kidar Sharma's "Neel Kamal" where both she and Raj Kapoor were introduced.

It was Kamal Amrohi's "Mahal" in 1949 which gave Madhubala the image of an ethereal, unattainable yet warm and gregarious beauty who could be diva and she-devil at the same time. Lata Mangeshkar's haunting melody "Ayega aanewala" added immense allure to Madhubala's screen persona. The actress and the singer remained associated throughout Madhubala's life and career.

Lata Mangeshkar recalls meeting Madhubala socially. "She was always warm and friendly. Though everyone stressed on her breathtaking beauty, Madhubala never took her looks seriously."

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