The leading lady of Hindi Cinema who is remembered for glamorous roles in the 1970’s era is the fashionista Parveen Babi, best known for her portrayal of iconoclastic woman throughout her career. Babi was one of the highest paid and most successful actresses at that time. But after all the unforgettable roles she played in films, Babi remained something of an enigma to the generation of fans. Her decision of quitting films, years of battling with mental illness, her tragic, untimely demise and a very lonely end shows an ugly side of the glamourous show business world. But that’s not how she started her journey.
The model cum actress Parveen Babi was born on 4th April 1954 in Junagadh, Gujarat. She was an only child in an aristocratic family. Her father, Vali Mohammed Khan Babi, was a system administrator with the Nawab of Junagadh and her mother was Jamal Bakhte Babi (died in 200). She lost her father in 1959. She did her schooling from Mount Carmel High School, Ahmedabad and later attended St. Xavier’s college, Ahmedabad.
Parveen Babi started her career as a model in 1972 when she was spotted by renowned B.R. Ishara and he approached her to act in his upcoming film ‘Charitra’ opposite renowned cricketer Salim Durrani. Though the film was a flop, but Parveen Babi got noticed and since then there was no looking back for her. Babi first received recognition for her role as Neela in the drama film Majboor(1974). Her role as a prostitute, Anita, in the action crime-drama film Dewaar(1975) established her as a leading lady. After that she appeared in many super hit films like Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Suhaag (1979), The Burning Train (1980), Shaan (1980), Kaala Patthar (1979), Kalia (1981) and Namak Halal (1982). Parveen Babi was the first Bollywood star to appear on the cover page of “Time Magazine”. She acted in several commercially successful films in the 1970s and 1980s opposite heroes like Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Feroz Khan, Sanjay Khan, Naseeruddin Shah, Dharmendra.
Her career took a turning point when she stood out as a fashionista and completely westernized actress when other heroines were engulfed in Indian attributes. The sensuous, glamourous Parveen Babi set the hindi cinema screen ablaze at that time. Because of her image she got a certain latitude in a completely male dominated field. Breaking the ‘pious’ ‘nice girl’ mould of hindi film’s heroine, Babi redefined it in her own way and never hesitated portraying roles of women who consumes alcohol openly and have a live-in relationship, which were taboo in those times. In her acting career which spanned almost ten years, she acted in more than fifty films, of which ten were blockbusters.
Though on screen she was a successful and glamourous parveen Babi, off-screen her rumours, affairs, and unbashed lifestyle lit up the gossip columns. Reportedly Parveen Babi and Danny Denzongpa were together for four years when he had no idea about her illness and later they moved on due to their different expectations from the relationship. After that she began dating Kabir Bedi who was a married man and father of two kids. There were stories about Parveen being pregnant with Kabir’s child and her subsequent abortion. Though she gave her all to save this relation, but these two broke and so did Parveen from inside. She later had relationship with director Mahesh Bhatt. During their relationship her sign of paranoid schizophrenia began to appear, which was disclosed by Mahesh Bhatt in various interviews. In an interview with Bombay Times, Bhatt said that he was into an extra marital affair with Parveen Babi, who was fiercely lonely. She was alone and he needed to play the prince on a white horse. Parveen Babi was madly in love with him, but this fairytale had a bitter ending. In 1979 Mahesh Bhatt noticed her attacks became frequent, doctors and filmmakers wanted her to undergo ‘electric shock treatment’. Parveen Babi’s philosopher in Bangalore advised Bhatt to stay away from her as her condition got worsening. In one night Parveen Babi and Mahesh Bhatt fought over some issues and he walked away from her life.
Due to the disorder Parveen stopped meeting people and on 22nd January, 2005, police found her dead body at her Juhu resident. Later the police suspect no foul play and determined she succumbed to total organ failure and diabetes.
Though she had a fascinating life on-screen but the saddest part is that she was mired towards the end of her life. She gained a lot as a star but she didn’t gain anything in the land where she was suffering.
Visual by: Abhiskar Banik
Article by Bhaswati kumar das, The North-Eastern Chronicle