Bollywood actress Parveen Babi was found dead in her suburban Mumbai home Jan. 22. She was 55.
Babi — the ‘it” girl of the 1970s — was the first Bollywood actress to appear on the cover of Time magazine’s Asia edition. However, her career ended in accusations of drug addiction and mental illness and in later years she suffered from diabetes. Police broke into her Juhu apartment — where she lived alone — after neighbors notified them that she had not picked up her morning milk and newspaper deliveries for three days. Death occurred due to natural causes, per police sources.
The actress began her career with B. R. Ishaara’s “Charitra” (Character, 1973). She paired opposite Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan with noteworthy B.O. success — among them Yashraj Films’ “Deewar” (Wall, 1975), Manmohan Desai’s “Amar Akbar Anthony” (1977) and “Suhag” (Married Woman, 1979) and Ramesh Sippy’s “Shaan” (Glory, 1980). Her last outing was in “Bad aur badnaam” (Wicked and Disreputable, 1988).
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Babi’s non-traditional looks helped her break the martyr mold of the conventional Indian heroine. But she scandalized Bollywood society living openly with actor Kabir Bedi (“Sandokan”) and later helmer Mahesh Bhatt in the early 1980s. Bhatt made a movie about their life together, “Arth” (Meaning, 1983).
Reportedly schizophrenic, Babi later fled Bollywood to join Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s Oregon ashram. She returned only to become a recluse. In the 1990s she made accusations that people in Bollywood, including Bachchan, were trying to “murder” her.
— Shilpa Bharatan Iyer