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Parveen Babi on Time Magazine Cover, 1976. Quest is over!

All sort of books on Indian Cinema, news pieces about Parveen Babi sad death, glossy film magazines, blog posts about her, all are replete with references to Parveen Babi making it to the cover of Time Magazine, a first for any Indian actress. Few were sure about the date of the issue, fewer could claim to have actually seem the cover. Many were on the trail of the elusive cover.

I first tried to find it around two years ago, since then I would look for it whenever I was reminded of that 'will someone find it' cover.

Last night, while watching her in Kala Sona (1975) I decided to give the old quest one more try.

And today when I finally found it, I was ecstatically delighted. Actually bouncing on my chair.

Matter of date.

The year was 1976, it was an almost established fact even though a lot of folks even got the year wrong. But the Time magazine archive available at their site, the easiest and the first logical place to look, offered no such cover. She must have been on the cover of the Asian cover, that was the easiest conclusion and the chances of finding an old Asian edition preserved is quite slim.  Still, going through Time magazine archives of the 70s looking for Indian Cinema stories relieved that the U.S edition of Time for its June 28 1976 issue carried a feature on Asian cinema titled Asia's Bouncing World of Movies. Among others liked Shahi Kapoor, Zeenat Aman, Shabana Azmi, it also mentioned a young rising starlet of Hindi Cinema named Parveen Babi. [Link: the Article ]. This had to be the issue. Yet, cover for that issue had a biker and a blonde, the cover story was Travel '76 Re-discovering America. Remember it was the cover of the U.S. edition.

I had already come this far two years ago. Just when I was about to give up, I came upon a new clue, based on which it seemed that the same story in some Editions was titled Asia's Frenetic Film Scene and the issue was dated July 19, 1976.*

This threw up all new possibilities - new keywords and a new date .

But the cover still remained elusive. Searching for an Asian edition of Time magazine with that date offered nothing. often I hit upon result pages with just one or two results, and even those just junk.

The problem needed some frenetic re-thinking.

The dates.

Why would an Asian story be covered first in U.S. edition and then a month later in the Asian edition. U.S edition came out in June and Asian edition came out in July. Given the logic of magazine business, it made little sense.

A Hypothesis.

Maybe, the Asian Cinema story, the one titled Asia's Frenetic Film Scene, was first published as a cover story in the Asian edition of Time with Parveen Babi on the cover. My guess is it was any month before June and then the story was re-published with a rather funny title change to Asia's Bouncing World of Movies in the U.S edition for June. Maybe the story was carried by some other issue of Time magazine and maybe that issue was later published July again with the original title. And if it was then there was an outer chance that its cover had Parveen Babi or maybe I would find an image inside. But I had little hope by this time. The chances were just too slim. The hypothesis, just as hypothesis.

The first search with all the new concoctions - the name of the actual article, exact date, (keyword) edition,  (a desperately concatenated keyword) Parveen Babi, one pickled feet of mice, feather of an old owl, some warm bat blood, a three legged of toad and one nagmani, all thrown in - offered me the fabled image. And to my surprise it offered me the cover and it was the cover of the Europe edition of the Time magazine dated July 19, 1976. The cover story was Asia's Frenetic Film Scene.

Found the issue at the French site and it was on sale for 15€.

Parveen Babi did indeed make it to the cover of Time Magazine  (at least in the Europen edition for sure) and in style. She looked like a true Bollywood heroine. And she was just 21 at the time. Looking at the image, now, you could add to the story of the famous cover that she seemed to be sporting a nose-ring in that cover. The quest was over.

Parveen Babi on the cover of Time Magazine. July 19, 1976.

*Found the crucial snippet in Google books snippet preview from the book Media Asia , Volumes 1-3 from Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre (strangely dated 1974).

Update: The last time this image appeared in Indian Media.

Came across it in 15th Anniversary issue of India Today published in 1990.


  1. And I still spell her name the wrong way. Remember - Parveen(F) and Praveen(M).

  2. Wonderful find. I too had been on the quest for quite a while.

  3. We can safely assume that the quest must have consumed hours and hours of productive time of many people.

  4. Great find! I had never liked Parveen much, I've always been a loyal fan of the bold, sultry and seductive Zeenat from that era.

    -- Vishal

  5. O Good! You will find all sort of vinatge Zeenat Aman here.

  6. Great find and well done, i have been looking for that cover myself ever since i heard about her being featured and i did he exact same thing of going through the Time magazine archives on their site. Once more a big hearty Mubarako, thanks for sharing

  7. The cover is awesome but the article is even better - so says a Shashi fan :) That summary of Indian popular cinema seems like it could have been written today, doesn't it? As a trained librarian, I applaud your work! And thank goodness Time puts so much material online - I wonder what other goodies are lurking in there?

  8. Beth,
    that article sure is a delight. Indian popular Cinema often does get press coverage these day but writing such a piece back then is commendable. And yes Time has done a wonderful job of putting their archives online. I see lot of vintage goodies from Indian publishers listed at Google books but the stuff is all under snippet preview. I think these things serve a better purpose if in free public domain. And then there is my pet peeve about Indian national broadcaster Doordarshan sitting on (and often mis-managing) its archive ( a will post a sample soon) that was built with public money and for public consumption in the first case. At least their entire archives should be in public domain and easily available to all. If you don't have the technical infrastructure, at least move to youtube. Instead I think in the name of project lot more of public money would be spent on a website that in the end won't work. I really hope these folks wake up and with time more and more content becomes availabe in public domain.

  9. The Film Archive in Pune needs to do some serious archive publishing work too :) They could start with their magazines!!!!

  10. Absolutely! I am quite shocked at times that even people who work in media industries have no easy access to archives. A person wonders if the thing that they are looking for even exists anymore or not. I have been looking for an old Kashmiri film called 'Maenzrath' made in 1964 that I caught on Doordarshan in the 90s. Now there is no easy access for me to know if it even is preserved anymore. Or where to find Erza Mir's Pamposh (1954). These are all almost futile quests with little hope of success.

  11. OMG!!! I cant believe you found it! I had been looking for this cover so long (even did a post about it), but couldn't find it anywhere and today i just stumbled on it! I so estatic right now, seriously thank you so much for this!!!

  12. Hi Karen,
    yeah I remember coming across you write-up often while looking for this beauty. I can imagine your joy.

  13. Finally found that first Kashmiri film too! Another quest over. Read about year 1964 Kashmir film Maiz Raat here.

  14. I enjoyed reading your article very much. Would love it if you could reveal the mystery surrounding her later career and death.

  15. Hello Vinayak

    I was reding in the Wiki page of Parveen Babi and came to know that she was on Time magazine's cover page. There is a link to the image of coverpage but no actual image inserted on the page. Can you make it happen. Wiki page will surely benefit this effort.



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