Did you know she was the first Indian woman to appear on the cover of Times magazine, way back in 1976? Parveen Babi, during her short career, was the most successful heroine of her time. In fact, the only flop she acted in was her debut film, Charitra (1973), in which she was cast opposite Salim Durrani. Remember him? He was a famous cricketer of the 1960’s. Also known as Sixy Salim, due to his ability to strike sixers at will, Durrani was the first Indian cricketer to star in a film. Charitra was a crashing flop, but it did launch Parveen Babi’s colorful career in Bollywood.
Her biggest hits were with Amitabh Bachchan, but I think she gave her best performance in Yeh Nazdeekiyan (1982) in which she played the other woman’s role, opposite the late Marc Zuber.
Along with Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi destroyed the traditional ‘Bharatiya naari’ concept of the Bollywood heroine. She was slinky, sensuous, glamorous and hot – and she knew it. Like Aman, she flaunted her body with a boldness that made audiences gasp. And like Zeenat Aman, she too was under-rated as an actress, in spite of her talent.
Babi remained unmarried, but had relationships with several men, especially Mahesh Bhatt and allegedly with Amitabh Bachchan. Her career came to a sudden end in 1984, after which she disappeared for several years. At that time, not many people knew that she was suffering from schizophrenia. Her ailment eventually destroyed her career and made her a recluse.
She was the most sought-after woman in her prime, but Parveen Babi spent the last years of her life all alone. She was found dead in her apartment, in Jan 2005. Her death was apparently caused by cardiac arrest in her sleep.
What a tragic and undeserving end for such a colorful personality and a fine actress.
Here’s a rare song from her early career, from the movie Dhuen ki lakeer (1974). The movie has been long forgotten, but this particular duet by Nitin Mukesh and Vani Jairam remains alive. See how pretty and innocent Parveen Babi is in this song.
That’s how she deserves to be remembered.
Cheers … Srini.