Films like Silsila and Woh Lamhe might have established Parveen Babi as a bombshell-turned-rogue in public eye. The truth remains though that her life and presence was corner-turning phase in Bollywood. Born in 1949, the actress would have turned 78 on April 4 this year. And while she has departed the world of mortals, her legacy continues to reverberate for the ones who ones who can hear the Nietzscheist music.
1. Breaker of Bollywood’s glass ceiling
Having debuted at a time when the industry was particularly dominated by men (not that there’s too much of a difference now), Babi made her presence known with a dozen hit films. In fact, she starred with the 1980s’ angry young man Amitabh Bachchan in no less than eight films during the peak of his career.
“It seems to have been taken that only a superstar of Bachchan’s stature could stand side by side with the presence of Parveen Babi.”
2. Dared to challenge taboos
Not only did she break free form the saree-clad Bollywood heroine stereotype, she portrayed characters in live-in relationships and ones that consumed alcohol openly. Both of which were considered big taboo in those times. Badass much?
3. Strong, independent woman
For all of the 55 years of her eventful life, Babi chose to stay unmarried. That might have led to various rumours of alleged relationships with men in the film industry such as Amitabh Bachchan and Mahesh Bhatt as well as Kabir Bedi and Danny Denzongpa, but well a girl’s gotta have some fun. She never needed a man to pave way for her success though.
4. Sex symbol
You don’t need to tell us how Parveen Babi, along with contemporary Zeenat Aman, sizzled the screens with her oozing sexiness in the 70s and 80s. Big-eyed and pouty-lipped, many of her antics including the bikini-clad sequence from Yeh Nazdeekiyan, will go down among Bollywood’s hottest moments.
5. Ahead of her times
Born in a Mulsim family, Parveen was never the one to conform to bigotry. She headed West after her sudden disappearance from films in 1983 and came back with a great stories from her travels.
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
As an act of ‘defiance’, she would also go on to publicly admit to eating pork. A few years before her death, she would also convert to Christianity. She spent her last days as an interior decorator and was known for her meticulous planning and attention to detail.
Whenever my friends questioned me about my eating pork, I would say that it was more important for me to be a human being than a racist.
It’s a shame that her legacy would always be associated with mental health issues; but with the increasing awareness about psychological wellness, we hope that one day her true genius would be recognised. Happy birthday, legend!