The men who loved Parveen Babi

Farhana Farook
·Contributor
·10-min read

Someone who puffed her Dunhills in full view, someone who was unapologetic about living-in and was a sort of an icon of feminism had to seek succour from a guru-philosopher.

Someone for whom red carpets were once rolled out, was handcuffed and had to be lifted by four policemen from the JFK airport in New York to a hospital after she refused to go through the customary procedures and grew hysterical.

Parveen Babi in Yeh Nazdeekiyan
Parveen Babi in Yeh Nazdeekiyan

The first Indian actress to appear on the Time magazine cover had to walk down the Mumbai airport tarmac in November 1989 holding a placard that identified her as ‘Parveen Babi’.

The glamour goddess had given way to ‘a fat lady with soda bottle glasses and messed up hair’ - a bizarre version of herself.

More from Yahoo Tragic Tales series:

Tragedy was Parveen Babi’s heirloom.

Reportedly, she’d inherited a genetic biochemical disorder that hastened her descent into paranoid schizophrenia. Hounded by pathological insecurity and fear, every relationship of hers had to endure the brunt of her erratic emotions as well.

But what merits mention is that the three men with whom she was once deeply involved – actors Danny Denzongpa and Kabir Bedi and filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt – were present at her poorly attended funeral. It not only bodes well of them but also of the woman, who loved intensely, gave generously and left her footprints in their lives…

DANNY DENZONGPA

Parveen met both Danny and Mahesh on the sets of her debut film Charitra (1973). Initially, she entered a relationship with Danny. They were part of the bohemian ‘Juhu group’, which included Kabir Bedi and wife Protima Bedi and Jalal Agha.

The oddballs revelled in night parties on the beach, sundown dips at Sun n’ Sand Hotel and midnight rides to Mount Mary Church in Bandra. Parveen and Danny were in a relationship for four years until it petered away.

Danny described Parveen as ‘a nice human being, very beautiful’. “We were two young kids. We lived together for four years. That was big news those days. But later we grew apart and parted on a good note. We remained friends,” he mentioned in a rare interview.

Years later, Parveen continued living in the same colony, Kalumal Estate in Juhu as Danny. The actor further shared, “Parveen would keep inviting me for dinner. I had a new girlfriend (actor Kim) those days. She was wary of her. Also, if your ex keeps walking into your house anytime like a mother hen, it would be difficult for any girl to accept. I’d reach home to find Parveen in my bedroom watching a movie on the VCR. I asked Parveen not to do it. But she’d say, ‘We are friends’,” laughed Danny, who then requested Mahesh Bhatt to make her see sense.

Danny recalled the time he first noticed Parveen's mental instability. “Once, I’d been for dinner at her place. There were silver conches on the table. When I began blowing one, she got frightened. Mahesh Bhatt (her then boyfriend) said, ‘She gets easily frightened these days and is turning into a recluse’.”

One day Mahesh asked Danny for help saying Parveen was hysterical. “We sent for guru UG Krishnamuthi immediately. He held her hand and said, ‘Parveen you’re perfectly alright, there’s nothing wrong with you’. She believed in him. Whenever Parveen needed me, I was always there,” said Danny.

Danny revealed why Parveen eventually cut off ties with him narrating, “One day she happened to read an interview where Amitji (Bachchan) had mentioned that I was a good friend of his. That was it. When I went to meet her the next time, she saw me through the keyhole and refused to let me in calling me ‘his agent’. She was frightened of me too.”

KABIR BEDI

So madly-in-love was Parveen with the much-married Kabir Bedi that she accompanied him to Italy where he was shooting for the blockbuster TV show Sandokan (1976). She even lived in London with him only to pack up and leave for Bombay one day.

“She saw herself as an outsider. She wasn’t a star there, while I was. She was still getting offers from Bombay. For her own sense of security, she returned,” revealed Kabir years later. Kabir even got her the lead role in the sequel Sandokan Rises Again. But she ditched the project.

“It was a double blow. At the personal level, I felt rejected. At the professional level, Parveen abandoned Sandokan Rises Again at the last moment. They had to cast an inappropriate actress and the project suffered… So yes, Parveen dumped me and that’s the truth of the matter,” said Kabir Bedi

Kabir mentioned that indications of the illness were evident even then. “Since, I lost my son Siddarth to schizophrenia; I am familiar with the disease… all the symptoms were present in her. That made the relationship very, very difficult, yet, in a strange way very close,” he said.

Parveen had an extraordinary sensitivity to things, which worked against her. But there was a highly intelligent and sensitive human being I interacted with. There was a fierce attachment, a fierce clinging, and a fierce desire to be sheltered from the world… Parveen brought out the protector in me,” said Kabir.

Years later the estranged lovers met when she visited London to shoot a film. “I met her at Protima’s (ex-wife Bedi) funeral service too. It was gracious of her to come… Some years later, I attended her funeral,” he said.

MAHESH BHATT

The filmmaker’s relationship with Parveen has been the most controversial. It began around 1977 when she returned from Italy, after her break-up with Kabir Bedi. A top star, she was filming for Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Kala Pathar (1979) those days, while Mahesh Bhatt was a flop filmmaker.

“I left my wife Lorraine Bright and my daughter Pooja (Bhatt), a kid then, to live in with Parveen. At home she was a normal, traditional girl, who loved to oil her hair and cook - a Gujaratan from Junagadh, albeit with Western influences,” said Bhatt in an interview.

It was a dull evening in 1979 when Mahesh walked into Parveen’s Juhu apartment to find Parveen, still in costume, curled up in the corner. “Her gait was beast-like. She had a kitchen knife in her hand. She said, “Shhsssh….! This room is bugged. They’re trying to kill me; they’re going to drop a chandelier on me,” Mahesh recalled the weird incident.

After many such bizarre incidents, her mental illness was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. Mahesh called up Kabir Bedi informing him of her condition. “He suggested a few hospitals in the UK, which could help Parveen. Danny was also helpful. I’d take her down to his house to calm her during her panic attacks,” said Mahesh.

Reportedly, Parveen also feared Amitabh Bachchan. “Once she accompanied me to Mehboob Studio, saying she wanted to apologise to him. She believed she had harmed him and so had incurred his wrath. Her hallucinations were real for her,” revealed Mahesh.

A huge set put up for Shaan had been waiting for long. Doctors suggested electric shocks to make her fall in line and resume work. To protect her from electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) – shock therapy, Mahesh took Parveen to UG in Bangalore in September 1979. UG saw little chance of complete recovery. He suggested an alternative life, away from the pressures of stardom. In October 1979, Mahesh left Parveen in charge of UG, who urged him to ‘take hold of his life’.

After some time Parveen followed UG to Gstaad, Switzerland. “UG wrote me a letter dated June 6, 1980 where he stated, “If it were not for a fear of a crack up again, she’d have certainly gone back… A new way of life is hard for her… I should leave her to her inevitable fate, which is of course, insanity!”

Meanwhile, Mahesh moved back with Lorraine. Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979) had failed. He began to write Arth in a bid to exorcise his demons. In 1980, Parveen returned to India and into his life once again…

Parveen knew how much UG meant to Mahesh. His was the voice of sanity, which she didn’t want to hear. One night, she asked him to choose between UG and him. Mahesh would never leave UG. Instead he chose to walk away.

“I walked through the dark passage. I heard her call, ‘Mahesh, Mahesh!’ I didn’t turn back… I heard her running behind me… stark, bare… I wanted to tell her, ‘Look, you can’t come out in this state!’ But instead I walked on and out… into the rain,” Mahesh summed up their midnight break-up in 1980.

In July 1983, Parveen abruptly left India to be with UG in the US again. Allegedly, the release of Mahesh’s Arth (his semi-autobiographical film based on his turbulent relationship with Parveen) had upset her. When she returned from the US after six years in 1989, she was a different Parveen altogether.

In 1991, Mahesh was leafing through some books in a book shop in Holiday Inn, when he heard a voice, ‘Excuse me!” It was Parveen. “There was no intimacy in her eyes. There was child-like anger instead. I stepped aside… she moved past me and left,” Mahesh recalled the moment.

Fourteen years later, on January 22, 2005, Mahesh’s phone was flooded with SMSes, “Parveen Babi is dead. She was found dead in her apartment (due to gangrene and diabetic complications).”

He learnt that her body was lying unclaimed at the Cooper Hospital. Mahesh thought if none of her relatives came forward, he’d bury her.

“Parveen was the springboard of my life, my success. I owed everything to her. Arth became the lifeblood of my resurrection… By offering to bury her, I felt a sense of closure," said Mahesh Bhatt

And so did perhaps Danny and Kabir, who lay to rest the incredible Parveen on January 23, 2005.

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