Parveen Babi in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977)
|Born||4 April 1954|
|Died||20 January 2005 (aged 50)|
|Resting place||Santacruz Muslim Cemetery, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India|
|Education||St. Xavier's College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat|
|Years active||1972–1973 (fashion model), 1973-1991 (actress)|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
Parveen Babi (4 April 1954 – 20 January 2005) was an Indian film actress, model, and an interior designer. She is remembered for her appearances in several commercially successful films, and playing mostly bold roles throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Regarded as one of the most glamorous actresses throughout Hindi cinema, she was also one of the highest paid actresses of her time.
With a film career spanning 15 years, Babi appeared in more than 50 Hindi films with a variety of genres. She made her debut in 1973 with the film Charitra, and had her breakthrough with the films Majboor (1974) and Deewaar (1975), where she then garnered the reputation of a successful actress. Babi was notorious for breaking stereotypes, and was also the first Indian to have appeared on the cover of Time.
Babi retired from the film industry in 1985. She had remained unmarried after a string of relationships with Kabir Bedi, Danny Denzongpa and Mahesh Bhatt. She was diagnosed with diabetes later in her life, and died of multiple organ failure on 20 January 2005.
Personal life and education
Parveen Babi was born on 4 April 1954 in Junagadh, Gujarat. She was an only child in a noble Junagadh-based family who belonged to the Babi tribe of Pashtuns known as the Pathans of Gujarat that had long settled in Gujarat. Parveen was born fourteen years after the marriage of her parents, her father, Vali Mohammed Khan Babi, was a system administrator with the Nawab of Junagadh and her mother was Jamal Bakhte Babi (died 2001). She lost her father in 1959 when she was ten years old. She did her early schooling from Mount Carmel High School, Ahmedabad and later attended St. Xavier's College, Ahmedabad where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.
Parveen Babi's modelling career began in 1972 and was quickly followed by her film debut with the film Charitra (1973), opposite cricketer Salim Durrani. The film was a resounding flop, but Parveen was noticed and was snapped up for several more films. Her first major hit was Majboor (1974), opposite Amitabh Bachchan. Along with Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi redefined the image of the Indian film heroine in the 70s. She was the first Bollywood star to appear on the front page of Time in July 1976, much to the amazement of her contemporaries. Throughout her career, she was known more as a glamorous heroine and fashion icon rather than a serious actress. Famous designer Manish Malhotra says: "Parveen Babi brought minimalism into fashion. She was always impeccable, not overdoing it even once."
Parveen was one of the most successful actresses of her era, along with Hema Malini, Rekha, Zeenat Aman, Reena Roy and Raakhee. She starred opposite Amitabh Bachchan in eight films, all hits or super-hits. She also starred in other hit films such as Suhaag (1979), Kaala Patthar (1979), and Namak Halaal (1982) opposite Shashi Kapoor, Kala Sona (1975) opposite Feroz Khan, Chandi Sona (1977) opposite Sanjay Khan and Jaani Dost (1983) opposite Dharmendra. Later in her career, she had also appeared in off-beat films such as Vinod Pande's Yeh Nazdeekiyan (1982), playing the "other woman" opposite Marc Zuber, and Dil... Akhir Dil Hai (1982), opposite Naseeruddin Shah.
Her career peaked at the time when most heroines were engulfed in Indian attributes and Babi was one among the few actresses whose attire was completely westernised and this provided her a certain latitude many other contemporary female artists were denied in India's heavily male-dominated and misogynistic cinematic fiefdom. Parveen Babi along with Zeenat Aman with their chiselled looks, well-sculpted bodies and anglicised accents, donned the mantle of the westernized Indian heroine and imparted to the female prima donna of Bollywood their characteristic mannerisms forever. In fact, she acted alongside Aman in Mahaan (1983) and Ashanti (1982) (inspired by the American television show Charlie's Angels, with the third role played by Shabana Azmi). Her more memorable roles include "Anita" in Deewaar (1975), "Jenny" in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), and "Sunita" in Shaan (1980). In films such as Deewaar (1975), Shaan (1980), Kranti (1981) and Namak Halaal (1982), her screen time may have been minimal as the films were largely worked around the hero, but Babi brought a certain presence to the roles and songs she appeared in.
As Babi's personality symbolized western standards, it was difficult for Bollywood producers to give her the typical bharatiya nari and gaon ki gori roles. She mainly starred in westernized and glamorous roles that established her status as a top heroine. She appeared in several commercially successful films of the era and her main co-stars were Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Feroz Khan, Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna, all leading stars of the 1970s and 1980s. In her acting career which spanned almost ten years, she acted in more than fifty films, of which ten were blockbusters. She never shied away from portraying roles of women having a live-in relationship with men and consuming alcohol openly, both of which were taboo in those times. She undeniably lit up and overpowered the screen with her presence. The fact that Parveen was paired with Amitabh Bachchan in eight films during the peak of the Big B mania attests to her stature and star power. It seems to have been taken that only a superstar of Bachchan's stature could stand side by side with the presence of Parveen Babi. Amitabh and Parveen complemented each other in the heady first years of the Angry Young Man phenomenon.
She would often appear in popular film songs which have become the craze of the young generations and such song picturisations involved glamorous costumes and ravishing film sets and in time would become hugely popular, and this includes "Jawaani Jaaneman" and "Raat Baaqi Baat Baaqi" in Namak Halaal, "Pyaar Karne Waale" in Shaan and "Maara Thumka" in Kranti, and this popularity made her among the highest paid actresses in Bollywood at those times. She would appear on the front page of every film magazine, whether Filmfare, The Stardust, Bombay Dyeing or even the prestigious Time.
She later "disappeared" from the film scene in 1983, without informing anyone about her whereabouts, a perception that allowed for exaggerated rumours and pompous claims to be whispered in the industry that she might be "under the control" of figures in the "underworld". Many of her completed films were released in the following years, right up to her last film Akarshan in 1988.
On 30 July 1983, Parveen Babi left India and the film industry at the height of her career and travelled to various countries for a spiritual journey with U. G. Krishnamurti and her friend Valentine and spent some of the time in California and Houston. On 7 April 1984, she was suspected at John F. Kennedy International Airport after she failed to submit her identification papers and as she behaved to be difficult, the authorities handcuffed her and kept her in a general ward with thirty other mentally disturbed patients. The Indian Consul General, who had been informed of the unfortunate incident, had personally come to visit her at the hospital. During U.G.'s visit, Parveen smiled and chatted with the Consul as though nothing had happened.
When asked about how she felt about experiences of people and countries that she lived in, she replied: "my experience of people is that human beings are very good people. However, the powerful, to serve their vested power interests manipulate pressure and use ordinary human beings and their power ploy and force them into negative act. However, I believe, eventually, the human spirit of positive will triumph and as far as other attributes of people are considered I find Americans to be extremely progressive and ingenious race. And I identify a great deal with Americans."
She returned to Mumbai in November 1989 where she was unrecognizable as her former self after having put on a considerable amount of weight. She was rumoured to have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a mental illness, although she regularly denied this, stating that her being labelled as such was a conspiracy by the film industry and the media to malign her image and make her appear insane, so that they could cover up their crimes. Some sources[who?] indicate that it could have been a situation of acute depression, but was not confirmed since she had many failed relationships with one of her former lovers openly humiliating her. This led Parveen to break relationships with most of her close dear ones including her own blood relations, having few contacts with known people and had become reclusive as she distrusted everyone.
She accused many foreign dignitaries as well as Indian film personalities including Amitabh Bachchan, Bill Clinton, Robert Redford, Prince Charles, Al Gore, US government, British government, French government, BJP government, Roman Catholic Church, CIA, CBI, KGB, Mossad of conspiring to kill her, but her petition in court was dismissed for lack of evidence and when she was asked to show her evidences by the press, it was some sort of scribblings on a notepad. In an interview to a film magazine dated 1989, she said: "Amitabh Bachchan is a super international gangster. He is after my life. His goons kidnapped me and I was kept on an Island where they performed a surgery on me and planted one transmitter/chip/electronic bug right under my ear." There was a photograph of Babi showing a scar below her ears..
During the early 1990s, whenever journalists or members of the press would come to her then Kalumal estate apartment in Juhu for an interview, she would often ask them to eat her food and drink her water, so that she might be assured her food was not poisoned and she assumed her makeup was contaminated, so that her skin should peel off, and according to her, the international mafia had cut off her electricity to harass her. Even before starting an interview, she would keep her dictaphone on, announcing the day, date, time and the name of journalists and publication into the microphone and would record before the conversation began. Many journalists found her to be very intelligent, vivid, convivial person and one who spoke fluent English. And the next day, when they spoke badly about her illness in the press writings, she would refer to them as "agents of Amitabh Bachchan". One of her neighbours said that when Bachchan's film was shown on cable television, the actress reacted violently and had to be calmed.
Nevertheless, she started a career as an interior decorator in 1983. In 2002, she again hit the headlines when she filed an affidavit in a special court hearing of the 1993 serial bomb blasts case, claiming that she had gathered clinching evidence against actor Sanjay Dutt showing his involvement in the case, but she did not turn up in court after being summoned, saying that she was afraid of being killed. In the last four years of her life, Babi recorded every phone call, always punctiliously informing the caller about surveillance.
She also had the habit of recording her daily thoughts and activities. Some of the collection of her notepads found in the office of the State Administrator General of the Government of Maharashtra, give her thoughts on hooks of suspicion and doubt, and go on to repeat. What shines through is the meticulousness, say, in the planning of an event at her house. A few months before she died, Babi hosted a small Christmas dinner at her Juhu flat. The names of the seven guests are listed on the notepad, one of them is Reverend Avinash Rangayya (the pastor of All Saints Anglican Church, Church of North India at Malabar Hill). The French dishes on the menu are listed and next to them is a series of reminders: "Call caterer for knives, forks, glasses, spoons." "Get four bakery cakes." "Clean plates, table cloths." "Call florist." "Clean and prepare salad ingredients." And finally: "Asparagus".
In an interview in 1998, she said: "I was born a Muslim and later, I converted to Christianity. But I have never done things I didn't believe. Even when I was a Muslim, I didn't understand why it made me a more spiritual entity, if I did not eat pork. I always felt that the essence of spirituality lies in being a good human and following good, positive principles. The Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant at the Taj, those days, was quite famous for pork delicacies and every time I got a break from shooting, I would rush off to the Golden Dragon. Whenever my friends questioned me about my eating pork, I would say that it was more important for me to be a human being than a racist."
After withdrawing from show business, she took up keen interests in music, piano, painting, architecture, literature, writing, cultural and archaeological study, politics, photography, sculpture and human rights issues. She also made numerous contributions to newspapers and magazines from 1973 to 1992.
She was found dead on 22 January 2005 after her residential society secretary alerted the police that she had not collected milk and newspapers from her doorstep for three days. The police suspected that she may have been dead for up to 72 hours before her body was found. The cause of her death was not immediately known. She was found to have gangrene of the left foot as a complication of her diabetic condition. A wheelchair was found near her bed and a series of disarranged paintings, clothes, medicines and old newspapers. She had a bandage on her left foot, that she had put on, to treat her gangrene which had resulted from a long ailment of diabetes. It is possible that she was unable to walk in her last days due to a gangrenous foot and required the use of a wheelchair to move inside the house. A post-mortem was conducted at Cooper Hospital and reports showed that there were no traces of food in her stomach, but some alcohol (possibly from her medication) was found and it is possible that she had not consumed anything for more than three days and as a consequence starved to death. The police ruled out any foul play and it was determined she succumbed due to total organ failure and diabetes.
Mahesh Bhatt said For Me, She Died Twice, once when she had the mental breakdown and now. I owe everything that I am today to my brief association with this magnificent woman. She was a rebel who lived life on her own terms, died on her own terms. Parveen Babi converted to Christianity during the last years of her life, as she stated in an interview, and was baptised in a Protestant Anglican Church at Malabar Hill. and expressed a desire to be buried as per Christian rites, but her relatives who were Muslims claimed her body after her death and buried her as per Islamic rites. Parveen Babi was buried at Juhu Muslim cemetery in Santacruz, Mumbai.
After her death the State Administrator General of Maharashtra became sole custodian of her properties and assets, and took responsibility for the management of them.
After Parveen Babi's death chaos erupted when various distant relatives filed petitions with the high court regarding the will of her property which had been lying in the locker of a Junagadh bank, executed jointly by the late actor and her friend Murad Khan Babi, this will stated that 70 per cent of her property was to be put in a trust in her name to help poor members of the Babi family. Twenty per cent was pledged to Murad Khan Babi, for being "a guiding force", and 10 per cent was to be given to Christian missionary funds.
Five years later, due to a shortage of land space for burials, Parveen Babi's grave along with other luminary Bollywood celebrities such as Mohammed Rafi, Madhubala, Sahir Ludhianvi, Talat Mahmood, Naushad Ali who were interred at Santa Cruz Muslim Cemetery, were exhumed and their remains were disposed of (relocated) to provide space for new burials.
In popular culture
Mahesh Bhatt, Babi's former partner, wrote and directed Arth (1982), a supposedly semi-autobiographical film about his relationship with Babi, and wrote and produced Woh Lamhe (2006) directed by his nephew Mohit Suri, based on his recollection and interpretation of his relationship with Babi and without any inputs from her.
|1973||Charitra||Salim Durrani||Debut Film|
|Dhuen Ki Lakeer||Ramesh Aurora|
|36 Ghante||Vijay Arora|
|Kaala Sona||Feroz Khan|
|Rangila Ratan||Rishi Kapoor|
|Mazdoor Zindabaad||Randhir Kapoor|
|1977||Amar Akbar Anthony||Amitabh Bachchan|
|Chalta Purza||Rajesh Khanna|
|Mastan Dada||Sanjay Khan|
|Mama Bhanja||Randhir Kapoor|
|Chor Sipahee||Shashi Kapoor|
|Chandi Sona||Sanjay Khan|
|1978||Pati, Patni Aur Woh||Sanjeev Kumar||Cameo|
|1979||Kaala Patthar||Shashi Kapoor|
|1980||Do Aur Do Paanch||Amitabh Bachchan|
|The Burning Train||Vinod Khanna|
|Ek Gunah Aur Sahi||Sunil Dutt|
|Khoon Aur Paani||Feroz Khan|
|Meri Aawaz Suno||Jeetendra|
|1982||Desh Premee||Navin Nischal|
|Namak Halaal||Shashi Kapoor|
|Dil Aakhir Dil Hai||Naseeruddin Shah|
|Yeh Nazdeekiyan||Marc Zuber|
|1983||Mangal Pandey||Shatrughan Sinha|
|Gehri Chot - Urf Doordesh||Raj Babbar|
|Rang Birangi||Amol Palekar|
|Chor Police||Shatrughan Sinha|
|1984||Bad Aur Badnam||Sanjeev Kumar|
|Teri Bahon Mein||None||Cameo-dancer|
|1985||Ameer Aadmi Gharib Aadmi||Shatrughan Sinha||Special appearance|
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