The death of Parveen Babi has triggered off a series of shock waves in the Indian film industry.
Perhaps, in death Babi has got the recognition that should have always been hers, ever since she faded off from the glamour of the screen, way back in mid eighties. Perhaps the root cause of her exit from stardom to the confinement of an apartment was the genetically acquired mental ailment ‘schizophrenia’, a disease that unlike others arouses not sympathy but disdain for the victim in our society.
With little awareness around, about the dreaded disease, no one wants to go near the person caught in its ugly tentacles for fear of harm to life, limb or prestige.
No wonder a colossal like Parveen Babi riding high the crest of popularity in the 70 and 80s was a mere entry of those ‘existing’ in the census register of the country for years before her death. Thanks to our callous system her heartbeat may have stopped now, but socially she had died long ago.
Parveen Babi along with Zeenat Aman with their chiselled looks, well-sculpted bodies and anglicised accents donned the mantle of archetypal Indian heroine and imparted to the female prima donna of Bollywood their characteristic mannerisms forever (The likes of Bips and others still draw inspiration from the works of the duo).
It is said that in those days when ‘celebrityhood’ was shining hard on these two contemporary actresses, there was a sharp dichotomy amongst their admirers. It was hard to choose between the best and the second best.
Born as a small town girl in the erstwhile state of Junagadh, she graduated from Ahmedabad University before being spotted by director BR Ishara. She made her debut in Chraitra (1973) with Salim Durrani.
The beginning was rather insignificant to the eventful career that was to follow. It was no less than skyrocketing for her, by featuring opposite the Big B in Majboor (1974) and Deewar (1975). She drew accolades for her work in immortal flick Amar, Akbar and Anthonty (1977).
With Burning Train, Sholay, and Shaan -- the word was out that the angry young man would have no other heroine opposite him except the lanky Babi.
The acme of her career was reached when she featured on the covers of the coveted ‘Time’ magazine. She did a brilliant cameo in Manoj Kumar’s patriotic hit ‘Kranti’(1980). Midway amongst these runaway successes were a few flops too like Dev Anand’s Bullet, Mazdoor Zindabab, Mama Bhanja, and Rangeela.
Nevertheless, flicks like Do Aur Do Paanch (1980), Kaalia (1981), Meri Awaz Sunao (1982) with Jeetendera and ‘Namak Halaal’ with dashing Shashi kept her scales on the upward swing.
In the meantime, she had a dalliance with Kabir Bedi but she soon came back to her job. But most mortifying for her, was her torrid affair with Mahesh Bhatt and its subsequent portrayal in ‘Arth’ by Smita Patil.
Some mediocre roles like ‘Yeh Nazdeekiyan’ with Marc Zuber ,‘Dil Aakhir Dil Hai’ with Naseeruddin Shah and ‘Rang Birangee’ opposite Amol Palekar and she was almost written off as a superstar.
A diseased, failed and a jilted lover and actress, Parveen Babi sort solace in the gospel of J. Krishnamurthy and Osho. But none could redress the agony of dementia. It was perhaps in her US sojourn that someone put her on medication.
She came back to India – a portly, disarranged lady, not even faintly resembling her old self. She turned a recluse, leading a simple and private life. Parveen Babi never regained the Midas touch.
Day after day followed and Parveen Babi struck to her self imposed confinement. Only an occasional spewing of venom against some co-stars broke her silence. But no one took her seriously. Everybody knew that she was mentally off balance.
Her seclusion from society was abruptly ended by a knock from the emissaries of ‘Lord of Death’ on Saturday, Jan 21st 2005. The police suspect an overdose of medicine. The fact remains that she is no more, whatever, the reasons may be. May Lord give her ‘peace’, which she desperately yearned for in her lifetime?