The very brave Protima Bedi!

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When the new magazine Cine Blitz was to be launched in the year 1974, the team, helmed by Blitz newspaper baron Russi Karanjia, brainstormed about how to make everyone not just sit up, but jump up! As Russi’s daughter Rita Mehta tells it, “The idea was to create a splash. We were coming in quite late into a market which had a lot of competition, so how were we going to attract the buyer and reader?”

Since a newly-launched product is literally judged by its cover, the idea was to get an actress to streak.That actress was to be Protima Bedi. She was the clear and obvious choice “because she was such an open-thinking lady, certainly way ahead of her time.” The cover that Cine Blitz launched with was certainly aeons ahead of its time. They spoke to the bold and beautiful Protima about her streaking for the shoot, running wild and free minus a stitch of clothing. She agreed. They shot the streaking scene twice, with photographer Tyeb Badshah.

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Once, they shot very early in the morning on the streets at Flora Fountain, which was eerily quiet at that hour. However, Protima was reportedly unhappy with the pictures – she didn’t feel happy with the way her body was captured. The other shoot was done at Juhu Beach. In the end, it was this shoot that made it to the cover. “It worked like magic,” Rita recalls, adding, “that issue, which was a thick one, was a sell-out.” But obviously! Not surprisingly, it created a huge sensation at the time and whipped up more than its fair share of controversy – to the extent that it was denied by Protima herself! In fact, Mahesh Bhatt, who was a close friend of Protima’s husband, Kabir Bedi, went on to try and explain this baffling behavior… 

“The streaking was meant to be a liberated, progressive statement endorsing the view that one is free to express oneself how one wants. But when Protima saw that her freedom of expression was looking like a publicity stunt for a magazine, she probably backtracked and gave the version that the picture was taken when she was part of a nudist camp in Goa and later the image was superimposed on a backdrop of a beach in Bombay.” Whatever her personal issues with this audacious cover, Protima Gauri, as she later rechristened herself, never regretted her streaking episode. Not even when her daughter, a then five-year-old Pooja Bedi once came home upset from school, saying that all the children said their mummies were talking about how Protima ran ‘nanga’ (naked) on the streets… “This is my life. No one has the right to tell me how to live it or to question what I do. When you grow up, you will make your own choices. It will be your life and your way. I will never interfere. It must be awful for these people to have such boring lives that all they can do make them interesting is to talk about somebody else’s life. I am glad I provided with them with timepass conversation,” she responded.

In 1998, the 49-year- old Protima Gauri who had become an Odissi dancer of repute and had also set up her dance school Nrityagram, passed away during a pilgrimage to Kailash-Mansarovar, in one of the worst landslides, about 60 km from Dharchula on the Indo-Tibet border. She was proud to remain “a hippie” all her life.

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