The actress who changed the face of Bollywood and expanded the horizon for Indian women, the Superstar of the 1970s and the 1980s was born in Junagadh, Gujarat. Born to an affluent Muslim family, Parveen Babi was an MA in English Literature. She began her modeling career in 1972 and quickly moved to the film industry in 1932 with the film Charitra. Though the movie was a flop, Babi’s presence was felt and her work was appreciated. Due to her chiseled looks, shapely body and fashion sense, she was always a glamorous heroine rather than a mainstream actress. Babi, for her times, was highly westernized, be it her dressing sense that made her a fashion icon or her liberalized thoughts on religion.
While all the actresses of her times were busy portraying the typical Indian woman, she was redefining the way people looked at women in India. She became the first woman from India to be on the front cover of Time (1976). Though she was frequently seen on the covers of film magazines like Filmfare, Bombay Dyeing and The Stardust. During her ten-year long acting career, Babi was seen in over fifty movies. She shared screen space with the likes of
Amitabh Bachchan, Shahi Kapoor,
Feroz Khan, Dharmendra and
Rajesh Khanna; all of whom were the leading stars of that era. Due to her westernized looks and her screen presence, she was always given roles that portrayed the standards of a film star rather than trying to associate her with the Indian sentiment. She was often compared to her contemporary,
Zeenat Aman, due to their similarities.
Babi has acted alongside Zeenat Aman in Ashanti(1982) and Mahaan (1983). Apart from these, Babi has worked in multiple hits sich as Suhaag, Kala Pathar, Namak Halal and Jaani Dost. Though her best performances of all times are said to be in
Amar Akbar Anthony, Shaan, and Deewar. It was in 1988, at the peak of her career that she disappeared from the radar of the film industry without informing anyone. She was never married, but there was much speculation among the tabloids about her relationship with
Mahesh Bhatt, Amitabh Bachchan,
Kabir Bedi and
Danny Denzongpa. It is said that she traveled to various countries with U G Krishnamurthy, on a spiritual journey. When asked about her experience of travel and meeting a variety of people, she said that "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 the 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.” On her return to India in 1989, she was rumored to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, but she denied it by calling it a conspiracy of the industry and media against her.
She lived a lonely life, with hardly if any friendships and relations. She had accused Amitabh Bachchan of trying to kill her. It was later in life, around 1991, that she took to interior designing and decorating as a career. During the last few years of her life, she became highly suspicious, recording every phone call, recording her daily activities and thoughts. It was in 2005 that she was found dead in her apartment. The secretary of her residence and informed the police about Babi not opening her door for three days and she had not collected her newspaper and milk too. Later, after the post mortem, the cause of death as diagnosed to be diabetes and total organ failure. Even though in her last years, Babi had converted to Christianity, she was buried next to her mother in Santa Cruz by her relatives as per Islamic rites.