The Rise and Fall of Parveen Babi
Parveen Babi was born glamorous. Her porcelain skin and chiseled features enthralled many.
Parveen Babi was a much pampered child, as her parents had her after 14 years of childlessness. After finishing her Masters in English Literature, Parveen Babi entered the modeling industry. Soon she got her first film offer opposite then cricketer Salim Durani. The film Charitra was a failure, yet Parveen Babi had already garnered enough attention.
Then after a few average grosser, Parveen Babi got her first major hit Majboor, opposite Amitabh Bachchan. She also became the first Bollywood star to grace the cover of the Time magazine. In the year 1975, Parveen Babi starred in Deewar. This catapulted her to a place of significance as the movie was both critically and commercially successful. This victory also launched her into the top list actresses of Bollywood. The Amitabh-Babi pair was a hit and they starred together in 6 more movies. All of which were major box office hits. Amar Akbar Antony and Kranti were two of her biggest hits.
Unlike Zeenath Aman, who was considered her competitor then, Parveen Babi wasn’t typecasted. Her roles ranged from femme fatale to submissive housewife.
Parveen Babi was a quintessential Bollywood star, a commercial star. Her career graph is very similar to that of today’s Bollywood heroines. She signed numerous brand endorsement deals and was the ambassador for Lux soap, for a year. She was also one of the highest paid Bollywood actresses along with Rekha and Hema Malini. She wore fashionable costumes and spoke stylishly. She made her scenes bright and garish.
Parveen Babi had numerous affairs. Her affair with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, from 1977-1980,was particularly turbulent. Parveen Babi was recovering after a break-up with Kabir Bedi, when Mahesh Bhatt met her. Since Parveen Babi didn’t have many relatives or friends, Mahesh Bhatt became her pillar of support during turbulent times. However their relationship was ill-fated as Mahesh was already married. When Parveen asked Mahesh to leave his wife, things turned dicey. She was a successful star and Mahesh was a struggling filmmaker. Their match was ephemeral and was doomed to disappear. It was Parveen’s increasing schizophrenia and Mahesh’s LSD addiction that destroyed their relationship. When the Parveen-Bhatt affair ended, both sides were severely wounded.
Parveen Babi did numerous films post the affair. Namak Halal was particularly successful. Little did she know that Mahesh Bhatt was writing a script about their affair.
In the year 1982, just few months after Namak Halal, Arth got released.
Arth was essentially the entire story about the Parveen-Bhatt affair. Had Arth not happened, Parveen Babi could still be alive. Has Arth not happened, Mahesh Bhatt would have vanished, as all his movies till then were mostly unsuccessful. After watching Arth, Parveen was horrified. She finished all the movies she could finish and left India in 1983. Her completed movies got released one by one till 1988.
Several rumors about Parveen Babi circulated in the papers. Some said she was kidnapped by the mafia. Some said she died. When in reality Parveen was in the US to undergo treatment for her paranoia. In 1984, Parveen Babi was detained at the California Airport after failing to submit the necessary document. This was the first official piece of news that spoke about Parveen Babi.
In 1989 Parveen Babi returned to India, barely recognizable and bitter. Due to her affairs many of her relatives had distanced from her so there was no one to celebrate her homecoming. Parveen Babi had not only changed physically but the real change was inside. She called the press to her house and accused many people, including Amitabh Bachchan. She said that the international mafia were after her life and that many famous personalities, like Bill Clinton, Mr.Bachchan, Prince Charles were involved in it. She further feared that her water, make-up, food were all poisoned and that her skin would peel off any moment.
If she ever saw Amitabh Bachchan on TV, she would scream and would become inconsolable. Her paranoia made her give police complaint on 34 people. However none of her allegations were even remotely true and many wanted her to be sent to a mental asylum. Though Parveen was a failure in relationships, her business acumen was sharp. She had invested her money carefully and was never in want. So Parveen moved to a penthouse in Mumbai and lived a largely reclusive life.
Towards the end of 1990’s Parveen Babi became a Christian. This again was criticized by several people. However Parveen Babi remained unperturbed as she has always been. Even in her peak days, Parveen would eat pork, though she was a Muslim. When questioned she said that it would be racist if she doesn’t eat pork.
Her last public appearance was in Shekhar Suman’s TV show Simply Shekhar in 2002. By now she was largely stable and many noticed the difference. Still she never trusted anyone and kept her apartment shabby. Her reclusive life continued and she only had rare visitors. In Jan 22, 2005 her neighbors alerted the police that Parveen Babi hadn’t collected milk from her doorstep for a few days. Upon breaking into her house, they found that Parveen Babi had been dead for 3 days. She lay amid paintings and bandage. The post-mortem report said that she had died of slow starvation. This truly is the worst way to die. Her death had been strange and sudden.
Her funeral was attended by many film personalities. In the end, Parveen Wali Mohammed Khan Babi was interred next to her mother in Santa Cruz, Mumbai.