Persis Khambatta

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Persis Khambatta
Beauty pageant titleholder
Persis Khambatta.jpg
Persis Khambatta, 1978
Born (1948-10-02)2 October 1948
Bombay, Bombay State, India
Died 18 August 1998(1998-08-18) (aged 49)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Years active 1968–1998
Title(s) Femina Miss India 1965
Femina Miss India 1965
(Miss Photogenic)
Miss Universe 1965
Spouse Cliff Taylor (1981–1981)
Naren Parekh (1986-?)

Persis Khambatta (2 October 1948 – 18 August 1998) was an Indian model, actress and author.[1] She was best known for her role as Lieutenant Ilia in the 1979 feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Early life[edit]

Persis Khambatta was born into a middle-class Parsi home in Mumbai, then known as Bombay. Her father left the family when she was two years old.[2] She first gained fame when a set of her pictures casually taken by a well-known Bombay photographer[who?] was used for a successful campaign for a popular soap brand. This led eventually to her becoming a model. She entered and won the Femina Miss India contest in 1965. She was the second winner of Femina Miss India and third Indian woman to participate in the Miss Universe pageant. At the Femina Miss India contest, she also won the Miss Photogenic award.[3]


Persis Khambatta, Femina Miss India 1965

Khambatta's first appearance at age 13 in advertisements for the popular soap brand Rexona set her on her way to becoming a popular model. At age 17, as Femina Miss India, Khambatta entered Miss Universe 1965, dressed in off-the-rack clothes she bought at the last minute. She became a model for companies such as Air India, Revlon, and Garden Vareli.

Khambatta made her Bollywood début in director K. A. Abbas's Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein (1967),[4] playing cabaret singer Lily who croons the film's title track. She had small roles in 1975's Conduct Unbecoming and The Wilby Conspiracy. She went on to have a brief movie career that included the role for which she is most recognized, the bald Deltan navigator Lieutenant Ilia, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). She was originally signed to play the role for five years, as the intention was to create a new Star Trek TV series. Khambatta said that she was thrilled when the project became a movie instead, because it would have greater impact on her career, but she also recognised that she had lost five years' work.[5] Khambatta became the first Indian citizen to present an Academy Award in 1980. She was nominated for Saturn Award for Best Actress for her role in Star Trek. This led to roles in Nighthawks (1981), Megaforce (1982), Warrior of the Lost World (1983), and Phoenix the Warrior (1988). She was considered for the title role in the James Bond film Octopussy (1983), but was passed over in favor of Maud Adams.

Khambatta was seriously injured in a car crash in Germany in 1980, which left a huge scar on her head. In 1983, she underwent coronary bypass surgery. She returned to Bombay in 1985, and appeared in the Hindi television series Shingora opposite Aditya Pancholi and Marc Zuber. Soon after, Khambatta returned to Hollywood and performed in guest roles on various television series such as Mike Hammer and MacGyver. In 1997 she wrote and published a coffee table book, Pride of India, which featured several former Miss India winners. The book was dedicated to Mother Teresa, and part of the royalties went to the Missionaries of Charity. Her final appearance in an acting part was that of Chair of the Congress of Nations in the 1993 pilot episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Personal life[edit]

She married Hollywood actor Cliff Taylor only weeks after meeting him in June 1981. Two months later they filed for divorce.[6] In 1986, she married Naren Parekh, owner of a private detective agency in Toronto.[7]


In 1998, Khambatta was taken to the Marine Hospital in south Bombay, complaining of chest pains. She died of a heart attack on 18 August 1998 at the age of 49.[8] Her funeral was held in Bombay the following day.[8]


  1. ^ Singh, Kuldip (20 August 1998). "Obituary: Persis Khambatta". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 29 December 2012. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Reilly, Sue (January 1980). "To the Top". People. 
  3. ^ "'Star Trek' Actress Persis Khambatta, 49". Obituaries. Bangor Daily News. 20 August 1998. p. B7. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Persis Khambatta, 49, dies". The Indian Express. 19 August 1998. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
  5. ^ "Star Trek The Motion Picture: Remembering Persis Khambatta and Lt. Ilia". Star Trek Communicator. January 1999. Archived from the original on 11 November 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  6. ^ MacNab, Kitty (September 15, 1981). "People in the News". Weekly World News. Weekly World News. 2 (49): 12. ISSN 0199-574X. 
  7. ^ "Its such a compliment to have Lady Di wearing my dress: Naresh Gujral". Retrieved 2016-07-07. 
  8. ^ a b "Persis Khambatta, Movie Actress, 49: Obituary". The New York Times. 20 August 1998. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 


  • The Globe: 10 November 1998
  • Beverly Hills [213] magazine: November 1998
  • New York Post: 20 October 1998

External links[edit]