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Parveen Babi: Half woman and Half Dream

Oh woman, you are half woman and half dream.
~Rabindranath Tagore, The Gardener


I was surprised. The most beautiful and seductive actress of Bombay film world! She lived alone in her bachelor apartment and has had a series of sensational love affairs. She had never learned to act but was sought after by producers for her glamour. At the peak of her career she had suddenly disappeared leaving behind many films unfinished, ruining the producers. Later, people learnt that she was washing dishes in a New York restaurant. After two years, healed of her wild and crazy actions, she retured to Bombay. The film industry embraced her and she became a star once again.
I first met her in 1981 at a party at Sanjay Khan’s ― the flamboyant film producer-actor-director. As she walked in, a warm wave ran through the party. She smiled and shook hands with everyone. She told me that she had read my novel and invited me over for a cup of coffee to her apartment.
When I went to see her, she was in her nightie, her long black hair tousled. She sat on a cushion places over a straw mat and lighted a cigarette. During the conversation on art, literature, films, I asked her way she had disappeared. “I was ill…a different kind of illness,” she said. “ I couldn’t help my actions. I tried to control myself but a surging wave overtook me. Another force, another being, with a superior will. I was in grip of that superior being, my Double…a superior Parveen Babi who commanded me. But now I’m all right. I love to work in films. I am grateful to my producers. Why don’t you come to my shooting tomorrow?”
The next day I watched her on the sets of a dance-action film. She wore shiny kne-hish leather boots, black short with a silver and gold fringe, and black leather boots, a jacket studded with metal buttons and chains.

It was evening. I sat in the wicker chair in my courtyard. My mind was in a haze…Everything was changing…I saw my face in the mirror while shaving. It was the face of an alien…a different man…the beautiful Parveen Babi had become enormously fat…her glossy hair ratty and snarled, her face ballooned, abnormal. The DOUBLE had taken over. Everything had changed. Communism had committed hara-kiri in Russia. Lenin’s tall statue pulled down by a noose around his neck…Impossible…Impossible! Thirty years ago in a heated discussion with writers in this very room I had laughed at the word ‘impossible’. Everything was possible. Life was moving…changing tracks…heading towards a blind alley.
Passages from Purple Moonlight by Balwant Gargi.
Image: Parveen Babi in bikini is from 1982 film yeh nazdeekiyan directed by Vinod Pande. Vinod Pande is the maker of movies like Sins and a more recent C-Grade flick Red Swastik


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