Parveen’s screen presence was immense and undeniable. She starred in no less than 60 feature films. In the Seventies and Eighties, she paired up with the leading heroes of the time in a series of hits like Deewar, Amar Akbar Anthony, Namak Halaal, Suhaag and Shaan. Parveen broke several taboos onscreen as she portrayed roles of women having a live-in relationship and consuming alcohol openly.
She paired with Amitabh Bachchan in no less than eight films during the height of his stardom, which attests to her own power as a leading lady. Parveen also featured in several chart-topping Hindi film numbers. From ‘Jawaani jaaneman’ and ‘Raat baaqi baat baaqi’ in Namak Halaal, to ‘Pyaar karne waale’ in Shaan and ‘Maara thumka’ in Kranti, her songs involving glamorous costumes and ravishing film sets added to her huge popularity. She was also one of the top paid actresses of her times.
A stunning beauty with her luscious hair, gorgeous face and fabulous figure, Parveen Babi completely changed the image of the typical sari-clad Indian film heroine. The first Bollywood star to appear on the front page of Time magazine in July 1976, she was a leading fashion icon.
She became the darling of the B-town fash scene with her bohemian chic style statements, bold bikinis, halter necks, knotty blouses, and thigh high dresses. Says famous designer Manish Malhotra, “Parveen Babi brought minimalism into fashion. She was always impeccable, not overdoing it even once.”
Never one to hide her love life, Parveen was daringly open about her relationships.
She was apparently involved with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt as well as actors Kabir Bedi and Danny Denzongpa. She was also allegedly linked with her co-star of many films, Amitabh Bachchan.
Her mental illness
Parveen was reportedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, a mental illness, although she regularly denied this. She maintained that her being labelled as such was a conspiracy by the film industry and the media to malign her image and make her appear insane, so that they could cover up their crimes.
It was also claimed that she suffered from acute depression brought on by a failed relationship, which led her to mistrust and break ties with all her near and dear ones.
Her tragic death
Parveen was found dead on January 22, 2005 after her residential society alerted the police that she had not collected milk and newspapers from her doorstep for three days. The police, however, suspected that she may have been dead for up to 72 hours before her body was found. She had gangrene of the left foot as a complication of her diabetic condition. The post-mortem reports showed that she might not have consumed anything for more than three days and starved to death as a result.