‘Parveen, I remember not just the star…’

‘…but the incredible person you were.’
‘I am deeply thankful for having known you, for the love and the challenges we shared.’

On Parveen Babi’s 70th birth anniversary on April 4, Mahesh Bhatt pays tribute to the woman who held a special place in his life.
As told to Subhash K Jha.

IMAGE: Parveen Babi in Prakash Mehra’s Namak Halaal.

What do you say about a girl who embraced Walt Disney’s philosophy, believing earnestly that if you can dream it, you can do it?

What do you say about a girl from a traditional Muslim family in Junagadh who fearlessly ventured into Mumbai’s dreamscape, ascended to Bollywood stardom, and then leapt onto the cover of Time magazine, becoming the first Indian actress to achieve such a feat?

How do you capture the essence of a girl who courageously lived beyond society’s boundaries, faced its backlash head-on, and marched forward with grace?

IMAGE: Parveen Babi in Ramesh Sippy’s Shaan.

What do you say about a girl who, knowing you were perpetually broke, led you to Mumbai’s famed bookshops, urging you to select books without sparing a thought for the price?

Or about the girl who, with the utmost discretion, slid money under the table in a seven-star hotel in London to preserve your pride, challenging the conventional narrative that it’s acceptable for a woman to receive money from a man but not for a man to accept money from a woman, especially when it’s out of love?

IMAGE: Parveen Babi in Manmohan Desai’s Suhaag.

What do you say about a girl whose light dimmed under the shadow of what the world too quickly labels as madness, who never managed to return to her former self?

And about a girl who, after reaching the pinnacle of fame, faded into a quiet struggle, ultimately passing away alone, her body unclaimed in a Juhu suburb morgue?

What do you say when it’s up to you to claim her, to insist she deserves a dignified farewell, refusing to let her depart as laavaris — forgotten and unnamed?

IMAGE: Parveen Babi in Rajendra Singh Babu’s Meri Awaaz Suno.

Parveen, on your birthday, I remember not just the star you were, but the incredible person you were. I am deeply thankful for having known you, for the love and the challenges we shared.

It was through the pain and love you bestowed upon me that I found the strength to rise again, inspired to pen the first lines of Arth, which made me rise like a phoenix from the ashes and resurrected my film career.

Thank you, truly, for everything.