Remembering Parveen Babi: A Plaything in Destiny's Hands

If there was anyone who proved that there was a major power called destiny which played a very important part in the life and career of anyone who came into films, it is undoubtedly Parveen Babi - Ali Peter John

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Remembering Parveen Babi (1)

Parveen walked into the world of films when she was entirely aware that she did not have any of the merits to be a part of it and stood no chance of being an actress at all. She was a very pretty girl and was a postgraduate in English Literature. Destiny, however, decided to play its part in her life even before she could settle down in the city. She came across B.R. Ishara, the man who had started some kind of a revolution by casting new actors and making some of the most controversial films which were based on subjects that no director had tried or dared to make. Among the artists who worked with him were Reena Roy, Danny Denzongpa, Anil Dhawan, Rehana Sultan, Asha Sachdev, Vijay Arora and even struggling actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri and legends like Dev Anand and Zeenat Aman and later even with the then superstar, Rajesh Khanna.

Parveen Babi: A Trailblazing Journey in Bollywood

Parveen Babi: A Trailblazing Journey in Bollywood

Parveen was just one more artist in his list of discoveries and he cast her as a model who had to use her body more than prove herself as an actress in a film called “Charitraheen”. No big male star was willing to work with either Ishara or Parveen but Ishara was too much of a rebel to accept defeat. He chose the then most handsome all-rounder in cricket, Salim Durrani to be her hero. Salim was dismissed and rejected as a “wooden actor” but it was Parveen who caught the fancy of all those who saw the film and almost every glamour magazine had her on their cover which aroused the curiosity of all the filmmakers in Bombay, big and small.

Parveen Babi's Bollywood Triumph

A Star is Born: Parveen Babi's Bollywood Triumph

What happened after the release of “Charitraheen” was something that happened to very few actresses. Parveen herself was taken aback when some of the biggest filmmakers came looking for her and wanted her to play the leading lady in the big films they were making with all the big male stars. She did not know what was good for her and what was not. She did not even have friends or advisors who could guide her along the right way. She decided to play the game all by herself and signed some of the many films that were offered to her. Within no time, she was playing the leading lady in films made in Hindi both in Bombay and in the South. Among the successful films, she did with Amitabh Bachchan which was considered a privilege for any heroine, especially a new heroine like Praveen were films like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony”, “Khuddar”, “Kaalia”, “Mahaan” (in which Amitabh played his first and only triple role) and “Shaan”. Amitabh and Parveen were considered the most successful team and a team that made a very big difference to the box-office results. All the films they starred in were hits or very big hits.

Parveen Babi's Cinematic Evolution

Glamour to Grace: Parveen Babi's Cinematic Evolution

She was one of the three most successful actresses. She did films with other leading actors like Dharmendra, Jeetendra, and above all the superstar Rajesh Khanna but it was only the films she did with Amitabh that worked sheer magic.  A stage came when she was not very happy about her glamour image and wanted to be directed by some very good directors who could make her act. She found that director Hrishikesh Mukherjee cast her in one of his typical films, “Rang Birangi” with Amol Palekar and Deepti Naval as her co-stars. “It was a very fresh and enlivening experience for me. I could not imagine that I could act naturally but it was the hand and the constant inspiration of a great director like Hrishida who made me a very different actress, almost a newly born actress. I kept hoping to work with Hrishida and other directors like him but destiny had other plans for me,” Parveen said.

Dazzling Duos: Parveen Babi vs. Zeenat Aman

Dazzling Duos: Parveen Babi vs. Zeenat Aman

She reached a stage when the only competition she had was from Zeenat Aman who was the ruling glamour girl who had worked with all the big directors like Raj Kapoor, Raj Khosla, Ramesh Sippy, Prakash Mehra, and Manmohan Desai. She had the upper hand but there was a time when Parveen gave her a run for her money and also a great feeling of insecurity. Till Parveen came on the scene, all the filmmakers making films with Amitabh could think of only Zeenat as his heroine, but Parveen changed the equation. She was now the leading glamour girl of the industry and Zeenat and all the other girls had to take a back seat….

Parveen Babi's Complex Love Story

Parveen Babi's Complex Love Story

But destiny once again came her way and played the kind of games she had never expected. She started showing a weakness for famous men and had a string of affairs. It all started with Kabir Bedi who was a much-married man but the affair like all Kabir’s affairs did not last long. She then had a hectic romantic affair with Danny, the man from the hills. She almost decided to quit films and marry Danny but it was not to happen. She then fell for Mahesh Bhatt another married man and this time she believed she had found the ultimate man in her life but once again it was gradually proved that this story too was not going the way she wanted. She followed Mahesh in his trips to his Bhagwan Rajneesh and when he was disillusioned with the Bhagwan he shifted his “devotion” to another spiritual leader and self-proclaimed philosopher, U.G.Krishanmurthy and it was during this time that she went berserk and left the shooting of Ramesh Sippy’s “Shaan” which had a huge set standing and the dates of major artists like Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Bindiya Goswami and two new actors, Kulbhushan Karbanda who was making his debut as a villain(Shaakaal) and Mazhar who was to later marry Zeenat Aman who was several years his senior.

Kabir Bedi_Parveen Babi

Parveen Babi: A Tragic Tale

Parveen went missing and the producers faced heavy losses because of keeping the set standing and postponing the shootings which meant a long delay which was “killing” for the film. She was finally found somewhere in America with Mahesh and “U.G.” The producers were shocked to see this new version of Parveen. She looked like a shadow of what she was. The lifestyle she followed with Mahesh and their guru, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and everything wild, had taken a heavy toll on her, but the producers of “Shaan” could not help it because she had to take part in the title song of the film. It was very difficult to bring her back and even when she did come back, she was in no position to face the camera as her body refused to move as the mind was directed to. The song, “pyar karne wale jeete hai shaan se marte hai shaan se” was picturized with great difficulty after several days. News about Parveen on the path to self-destruction spread in the industry and no one sympathized, on the contrary, she was dropped from all the other films she had signed. They did not want to take a risk with a woman who had destroyed herself.

Destiny continued playing havoc with her. She grew into a recluse. She had grown ugly and beyond recognition. She even showed signs of going out of her mind when she called the media and said it was Amitabh Bachchan who was responsible for the state she was in. She even accused Amitabh of implanting a transmitter into her brain which she said was responsible for the state she was in.

parveen-babi in shaan

The Tragic End of Parveen Babi

Her huge apartment in Kalumal Estated in Juhu was like a dirty stable. She did not come out of her house for days and never ate or drank anything. It was only after several days that a foul stench emanated from her apartment. The police and fire brigade were called in. Her door was broken open and she was found in a horrible state and was declared dead, a state in which she was lying for three days. It was one of the most inglorious ends that had come to any actress at any time.

Parveen babi_red dress


  • She had a vast collection of some of the best books which she always said she read and did not keep in her library for the show “like so many others in the industry do, use books as decoration pieces”.
  • She belonged to the royal family of Junagadh in Gujarat and was even supposed to be in the immediate lineup of princes of the former state
  • She tried her hand at writing short stories and poems “but most of them were just expressions of my loneliness and my distrust of people I had placed all my trust in”.


  • She loved traveling and took off for far away and unknown places even in the midst of some of her very important shootings
  • She had a huge apartment in Kalumal Estate in Juhu where Danny was her neighbor and Ajay Devgn, a little boy she played with
  • She was so beautiful when she started her career that she made it to the prestigious cover of “Time” magazine. She was the first Indian actress to have this unique achievement
  • She loved being alone in the beginning but soon found solace in the company of elderly men
  • She had a great liking for paintings and other kinds of decoration pieces which made her house look good

Parveen Babi_Time Magazine

  • She had a secretary called Ved Sharma who took care of her business and even her spacious apartment. Parveen Babi was always keen to be known as a good actress and admired other actresses like Shabana, Smita, and Deepti Naval. She always asked, “When will I find roles like them and be recognized as a good actress?”
  • She was very upset when Mahesh Bhatt who had broken off with her took advantage of their personal story and made a film called “Arth” with Shabana playing the wife and Smita playing the actresses and the other woman which was a reflection on the life she spent with Mahesh, she believed and had nothing to do with Mahesh again
  • She had a huge property in Mumbai and was to get charge of a larger share of her property in Junagadh

Parveen babi_Mahesh Bhatt

  • The mystery about her death is still being investigated and there are cases filed by different people who claim to be related to her and have appealed to different courts in Mumbai and Junagadh to hand over all the money and property she had and others owed to her.
  • There were just three or four people at the Muslim cemetery in Juhu when she was buried. The only “lover” who was present was Danny. All the other lovers and the entire industry that treated her as one of the most popular stars proved what it always does. A man or a woman matters and means business only as long as he or she is alive and worth doing well or being profitable and a business proposition to others.

Parveen Babi Filmography

Parveen Babi Filmography

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