Madhubala by Karishma Sangtani

Whispers of prayers that
pricked killed her:
tragic beauty spits
box office poison.
Mumtaz, they said, had no lilt,
only disyllabic slabs of cow’s tongue on a plate.

Prescribed a name
to make it in the industry that
sugar-soaked her, choked her
of her last drop,
and wrung the body twice again.

She was born on Valentine’s day.
Men never stayed though –
fell headfirst into her pocket globe eyes, then
slipped through the hole in her heart,
all while she sang,
Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya?
(what is there to fear if you have loved?)

Easy smile and spins slicing
studio lighting.
You’d forget the shackles
that cut her

life short.
The mahal was hers.
She kept it in a jewellery box.
Then, even Hollywood turned his greasy head
and raised his sour eyebrows.
Camera flashes like a shower of burning cotton
bales in black and white. Reminder of ’44.

Remind her that one man stayed –
blood tie bathing in the shadow of glory.
After all, a nation swooned over her
solitary steps.

Karishma Sangtani

Karishma Sangtani is a poet based in London and Durham. As well as performing regularly at open mic nights, she has performed as a feature poet at the Durham For Refugees Festival and SLAM: an evening of live spoken word and music. When she is not writing, she is almost always reading either as procrastination from or for her undergraduate degree in English Literature at Durham University. She can be found on Instagram @karishmasangtani.

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