Greece was at one point of time a big admirer of Hindi films. And one of the stars who ruled the Greek hearts was Madhubala, called the “Venus of Indian cinema”. Many Hindi songs had their Greek versions recorded by established artistes around the 1960s. Madhubala, known as ‘Mandoubala’ in the Mediterranean country, however, had a specific work dedicated to her.

Sung by popular Greek singer Stelios Kazantidis, the ‘Madhubala’ song is a tribute to the Indian actress’ ethereal beauty and grace. Set in the Rebetico/Laiko genre of Greek music, the song is a lover’s cry for his beloved who he has lost. It is however not clear who wrote the song that immortalised the eastern beauty. While some say the lyrics was by Kazantidis himself, it is also attributed to female lyricist Eftihis Papayiannopoulou by many.

The Madhubala song was a huge hit, and people still listen to it. Loosely translated into English, the song goes like this:

“I wish I could see you and then die, my dear.
My soul wants only this.
Since I lost you, I’m melting,
I cry out your name with pain,
Mahdubala, Mahdubala.”

Listen to the Madhubala Greek song here.

It’s Madhubala’s 86th birthday today. Born in 1933, she lived for only 36 years. However, the films done in the few years she could give to the industry were enough for people to fondly remember her forever. Through her films, she became a beauty icon across the world.

Madhubala was hugely popular in Greece in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the country greatly connected with India through its Hindi films and music.

Greek educationist Helen Abadzi had once written about how Hindi movies had conquered Greece more than half a century ago. Her article, ‘When India Conquered Greece: Hindi Films of the 50s in Greece’, explained how Greece felt the connection with the movies made in another part of the world and in a completely different language.

In the early 1950s, the economic condition of Greece was bleak. The World War II and a civil war had killed many. In that climate of desperation, the Hindi movies made an indelible impression, wrote Abadzi.

The Bollywood films made around that time mostly dealt with love stories with tangled family relations, poverty and exploitation. And songs and dances were an integral part of it.

“The plots of the movies resonated with the wounded Greek psyche. Suffering women, street children who had to drop out of school, jealous sisters-in-law, vengeful mothers-in-law, interdependencies, betrayals, and frequent unhappy ends resonated with the difficult choices of poorly educated Greek people subsisting in large cities. In particular, the characters appealed to poor women. The maidservants and factory workers saw themselves depicted on the movie screen, hoping for deliverance,” Abadzi said in the article.

While Nargis was considered the great priestess of family dramas, Madhubala was not far behind in popularity. “The ability of these heroines to express pain made the beautiful and haunting songs that they sang instant hits. It was only natural that the emotions of the poor Greeks would be expressed through those very same melodies,” Abadzi wrote.