Subhash K Jha picks Parveen Babi’s five finest performances on her birth anniversary

Parveen Babi has been always compared with Zeenat Aman and even labelled as ‘Poor Man’s Zeenat’. In truth, she was a better actress who never got the opportunities that Zeenat did

Subhash K Jha picks Parveen Babi’s five finest performances on her birth anniversary
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Subhash K Jha

Parveen Babi has, unfairly, been always compared with Zeenat Aman and even labelled as the ‘Poor Man’s Zeenat’. In truth, Parveen was a better actress who never got the opportunities that Zeenat did, never worked with directors like Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand, and still left a mark even in the smallest of roles. Here are some of her most notable performances:

1. Charitra (1973): In her very first film, Parveen flung away the image of the typical heroine to play a girl who is compelled to sleep with her father’s creditor who impregnates her and refuses to own up to the child. It took a director of B R Isaara’s unorthodoxy to launch a new liberated Hindi film heroine whose charitra was not impeccable and who shockingly enough indulged in pre-marital sex. From the beginning, it was clear that Parveen Babi wouldn’t fit into the typical Sati Savitri mould.

2. Deewaar (1975): Parveen Babi did a string of some very successful films with Amitabh Bachchan including Amar Akbar Anthony in which she played the role of Jenny, Anthony’s sweetheart. They both emerged out of an Easter egg in the film and captivated the audience. But my pick of her films with Amitabh Bachchan is Deewaar in which she played the liberated, unfettered and unorthodox Anita who shares the bed with Vijay in a no strings attached relationship. Her love theme, I am falling in love with a stranger typified the route that Ms Babi had chosen for her career.

3. Chandi Sona (1977): Sanjay Khan’s incurably silly treasure-hunt film had a treasurable Parveen Babi in that legendary Cleopatra get-up which Time magazine saw and put on their cover, much to the envy of the other top actresses of the time. This is how Parveen Babi became globally famous. This is the film’s only claim to fame. As she goes on a treasure hunt with Mr Khan, Parveen can actually be seen having a whole lot of fun with her dim-witted part. Ever chic and glamorous, we seldom saw her having fun with her characters.

4. Ashanti (1982): This was Umesh Mehra’s Charlie’s Angels with Zeenat Aman, Shabana Azmi and Parveen Babi whooping it up in style. Parveen seemed to enjoy the role of a gun-toting, karate-wielding kickass female hero. And this was one film she enjoyed making because there was so much sexual tension on the sets. I always wanted to see this stunning beauty in an action avtar. This was Parveen Babi chance, and she grabbed it.

5. Yeh Nazdeekiyan (1982): 1982 was an exceptionally busy year for Parveen. She worked with Hrishikesh Mukherjee for the first time in Rang Birangi and he told me he wished he had offered her a more substantial role. During the same year, she played the Other Woman in three films: Eshmayeel Shroff’s Dil Aakhir Dil Hai, J Om Prakash’s Arpan (stealing Jeetendra away from Reena Roy) and Vinod Pandey’s Yeh Nazdeekiyan in which she played a hot model named Kiran who steals Shabana Azmi’s husband but returns him back when she realizes she doesn’t want to be branded a home-breaker. Her meatiest part ever, Parveen sank her crooked teeth into it with a wolfish delight. If only she had lived long enough to see sexual liberation hit Bollywood.

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