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Parveen Babi found dead in Mumbai
18.44 IST   22nd Jan 2005

By IndiaExpress Bureau

Bollywood actress Parveen Babi was found dead in her Juhu residence in Mumbai on Saturday, police said.

Although the actress was ailing for sometime, the reason behind her death is still a mystery. But the police suspect that the death could be due to "medical overdose". She was reportedly suffering from schizophrenia and diabetes.

The death came to light when the police opened her apartment door after neighbours informed that milk bottles and newspapers were not collected from the actress' doorstep for the past two days.

"We opened the door of her house with the help of a duplicate key and found her body," DCP Amitav Gupta said.

The preliminary enquiry has ruled out any foul play, he said.

Parveen Babi is perhaps the prettiest actress to have ever appeared in Bollywood cinema.

She undeniably lit up and overpowered the screen with her presence. The fact that Parveen was paired with Amitabh Bachchan in 8 films during the peak of Big-B mania attests to her stature and star power.

Amitabh and Parveen complemented each other in the heady first years of the "angry young man" phenomenon. They were paired to each other as the tragic lovers in the seminal "Deewaar" (1975), which is (although a secondary part) one of Babi's most enduring and memorable roles.

In "Deewaar" Parveen showed the prospects of a maturing serious actress with much potential. Perhaps she was too pretty, unconventionally Westernized in her look and lithe body and it is very obvious from just one glance that her role in the film would not be the typical Indian heroine.

It was Parveen and Zeenat Aman who revolutionized the look and body image of the Bollywood female. Their athletically sculpted bodies and jet set looks modeled after Western tastes signaled new trends for what was desirable and fashionable on the Bollywood screen. The influence of the Zeenat and Parveen explosion of the early to mid 1970s still reverberates today. Current actresses like Bipasha Basu are often compared to Zeenat and Parveen even though it has been 25 years since their heyday.

This said, Parveen was only a major star in Bollywood for a short period. Her star status really began in 1974 with "Majboor" (again opposite Amitabh Bachchan) and peaked with her performance in, "Amar Akbar Anthony" (again with Amitabh) in 1977.

Parveen continued to act through the 1980s but her star and image were continually diminished as the years past. She was type cast because of her Western good looks and (like Zeenat Aman) uninhibited nature to 'reveal' (the term for wearing provocative clothes) and received parts as the 'other woman' or 'bad girl' and her acting talents were overlooked and never allowed to stretch after her promising beginning. Parveen was relegated to 'item dancer' status and exploited because of her fabulous face and voluptuous figure.

There was also a tortured and erratic side to Parveen that began to emerge in the late 70s. It was the first stages of schizophrenia that would eventually consume her being and end her career in films.

The stories of Parveen’s erratic behavior filled the Bollywood gossip fan magazines of the late 70s and early 80s. Her very real mental illness was covered up by the press and the Bollywood publicity machine. One could sense a certain puritanical morality at work, with gossip eluding to the "Westernized" wild girl who was a bit mad. The publicists and journalist termed Parveen's battle with schizophrenia as 'Her long standing illness' and the general consensus was one of don't ask, don't tell.

In 1983, after a prolonged effort to extend her oeuvre by working with middle-of-the-road directors like Vinod Pande (Yeh Nazdeekiyan with Marc Zuber), Esmayel Shroff (Dil Aakhir Dil Hai with Naseeruddin Shah) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Rang Birangee opposite Amol Palekar) came to naught, Parveen, the emotional gypsy, mysteriously flew off again, this time to the US.

Some claimed it was her association with the spiritual guru, UG Krishnamurthy, the release of Mahesh Bhatt's Arth (a semi-autobiographical look at his extramarital relationship with Parveen) and her disturbed state of mind that prompted her to abandon everything. But Parveen never confirmed the veracity of any media speculation.

When she returned after an extended stay in New York, a now-bloated Parveen vented spleen at Amitabh and accused him of a deep-seated conspiracy.

Parveen Babi's landmark films were ‘Majboor’ (1974), ‘Deewar’ (1975), ‘Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), ‘Suhaag’ (1979), ‘Kaalia’ (1981), ‘Meri Awaaz Suno’ (1981), ‘Namak Halal’ (1982), ‘Ashanti’ (1982), ‘Khuddar’ (1982), ‘Rang Birangi’ (1983).

Parveen Babi's famous songs were ‘Teri jheel se gehri aankhon mein’ (Dhuen Ki Lakeer), ‘Aankhen milayenge, nazdeek aayenge’ (Bhanwar), ‘Humko tumse ho gaaya hai pyaar’ (Amar Akbar Anthony), ‘Main toh beghar hoon’ (Suhaag), ‘Baahon mein tere masti ke ghere’ (Kaala Patthar), ‘Pyaar karne waale pyar karte hain’ (Shaan), ‘Maaara thumka badal gayee’ (Kranti), ‘Jawani jaaneman haseen dilruba’ (Namak Halal), ‘Raat baki baat baki’ (Namak Halal), ‘Angrezi mein kehte hai ke I love you’ (Khuddar).

Bollywood will always miss Parveen, one of the leading exponents of style.

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