Parveen Babi was nearly 50 and had been plagued by a mental illness during the last years of her life. Pics: Jitendra AryaUnclaimed Body No 16. From the reigning sex symbol of Bollywood in the 1970s, all that identifies Parveen Wali Mohammad Khan Babi alias Parveen Babi (55) as she lies in the Cooper hospital morgue, is the tag on her toe left by the police Token No 62.
Given her status as a yesteryear film star, the only luxury afforded to her in the morgue is a trolley on which her body lies.
The other 15 unclaimed bodies are of persons involved in road and train accidents and have been packed in broken wooden boxes in the next room.
We will wait for seven days for someone to claim her body, said Amitav Gupta, deputy commissioner of police. Under the law, the husband and the children have the first claim on a womans dead body, followed by parents.
If they are dead, siblings can also claim the body. If no surviving relatives are willing to claim the body, friends can apply to the police and claim the body to conduct the funeral rites. In case no genuine claims are received in seven days, the police will bury the body.
As of Saturday night, there were two claimants to the body. Late comedian Mehmoods younger brother Anwar Mehmood. She was like a sister, Anwar told the police.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who had a relationship with the actress, also said, I have just sent a message to Javed Ahmed that in case no one claims her body and it doesnt legally violate any clauses, I will give her a dignified funeral. I only met her mother when she was alive and I did hear of a distant cousin, but I dont know of any other relationship that she had.
A nephew of Babis from Junagadh has also approached the police.
Untouched newspapers and milk bags
The body of the actress was discovered by the police in Palm Beach Rivera building flat, Juhu on Saturday afternoon, after the neighbours complained of foul stench emitting from the seventh floor flat.
ACP Gahininath Nimgaonkar of Zone Nine said that the police had to use duplicate keys to enter the flat.
We discovered the body of Parveen Babi, who was dressed casually in off-white long shorts and a top, lying face up in the bedroom. There were no signs of any struggle or foul play. She had a bandage on her left foot, that she had put on, to treat her gangrene which had resulted from a long ailment of diabetes."
There were untouched newspapers, eggs and milk lying outside the door for the last two days. Initially we did not take the issue very seriously as Babi was a recluse and would often be locked inside the flat for days without interacting with anyone. Our concern grew when no one responded to the doorbell, said M S Mahotra, a fourth-floor resident.
Malhotra added that in the last 20 years, she must have seen the actress not more than 15 times.
We all knew that Babi was suffering from psychological problems. Things took a turn for the worst when she lost her mother, who was her sole companion, a couple of years ago. In the last couple of months, she could barely walk, even with the aid of crutches, she said.
Babi had been living alone ever since and had refused to appoint even a maidservant to do the household chores, evident from the mess in her flat.
Calls to the police
Even the staff of Juhu police station, often harassed by calls from Babi, would not have anticipated her lonely demise. The actress was notorious for calling the police at all hours, complaining that her former co-stars were tormenting her.
Once she had also complained that the CIA was out to get her, said senior inspector Shyam Chavan of Juhu police station. The calls had substantially reduced in recent times.
Prima facie, the death seems to have occurred 24 hours before her body was discovered as it shows initial signs of decomposition, said forensic doctors Dr Shivaji Kachre and Dr B S Shinde who conducted the autopsy. She has a diabetic gangrene on her left foot, the doctor added.
The autopsy also found alcohol content in her stomach and the viscera has been sent for a chemical analysis report to rule out foul play, the doctor said. The cause of the death has now been kept reserved.
Her right leg was swollen and her face puffed. This indicates that her kidney, liver and other vital organs had stopped functioning, said Dr Kachre, Her heart was abnormal.
Who will inherit Babis crores?
Police have not yet found any will as to who would inherit the beach-facing flat, worth Rs 1.5 crore. The police are also drawing up a list of her investments and other properties. Babi also owes her building society Rs 3 lakhs, besides monthly charges for the last couple of months.
Kabir Bedi, actor
Parveen and I shared a major relationship after my marriage ended. We lived together for about three years.
We had a deeply emotional relationship and any news like this affects you. We were young at the time and at the end of the day, when I went abroad, she came with me to Italy and London but then chose to come back and join the Indian film industry again.
She was a very beautiful, talented and spirited girl. And in the few years in spent the industry she certainly made her mark.
I will remember her for the good times we had together, for her sense of humour and ready laugh.
We were part of a whole group of friends who lived in Juhu and wed hang out together and had met several times before we actually got together.
The last time I saw her was when we had the memorial service after Protima died. Parveen had come to pay her respects. I saw her then and she said, Lets stay in touch but I think it was more of a courtesy thing.
Its very sad, she had problems but in the end shes left an indelible mark in the industry.
B R Ishara, director
I met Parveen when she came to see a shooting of mine in Ahmedabad. I thought she had a great face and asked the photographer to take pictures of her. When I saw the pictures, I signed her for Charitra and my guess proved right she became a star.
She was a beautiful human being and we used to meet and talk on the telephone even though we werent very close, but I havent spoken to her in the last three-four years. I had actually narrated the script of a mother and daughter when I first met her.
I wanted her to play the part of the mother and she agreed. It showed that she had self-confidence at 19-20 years, even though I didnt end up making that film. With me, she was a newcomer so she was always one of the unit.
She was of above average intelligence. I made her sign on stamp paper because I knew she was a modern girl and I didnt want her to back out of the film.
There was a rumour that this sickness was in her genes her father was said to have suffered from a persecution complex. I didnt know much of her family. After Mahesh Bhatt took her to Bangalore to meet U G Krishnamurthy, she came back much better. Its sad news. What went wrong, I have no idea.
Jagdish Mali, photographer
Ive taken so many pictures of her for Cine Blitz over 3-4 years, when she did Namak Halaal and Do Aur Do Paanch. She was always very co-operative. Bharat Godambe used to do her make-up and we used to shoot her at her Kalumal Estate house in Juhu.
She was a nice person, but I never met her after she went away. She was so glamourous, so stylish at that time that people were shaken up. She always seemed more like a model than actress.
Bindiya Goswami, actress
I knew Parveen way before she joined the film industry. She and my sister Pearl were in boarding school together in Ahmedabad. Shes seen me as a baby and whenever we were shooting together she used to baby me quite a bit.
It was like having my didi on the sets. We had a lot of happy moments together, especially during the making of Shaan where we were really a big group.
One of my favourite memories of her was sharing make up tips. We had the same make up man and she would always come and ask me, So, what are you trying out these days? Have you bought anything new? I liked experimenting with eye make up a lot, and shed always ask me about it.
Then I got married, had kids and though I lived down the road from her, the last time I met her was years ago at a party at Madh.
Jayesh Sheth, photographer
I shot her only once, for an interior magazine because she had started designing for hotels. I went to shoot at the flat that she had designed herself. She was very humble and so beautiful, unlike what I had heard. There was a workshop in her house and she was so polite to the carpenters.
We spoke about how she had moved from the industry and lost interest in films. She seemed very philosophical and spiritual; she was talking a lot of sense. She even gave me tips for decorating my studio. Even though she looked bloated, her style and grace were exactly the same. She was very Angrez.
We were a disastrous cocktail
Mahesh Bhatt on his explosive relationship with Parveen Babi and her audacious, fun-loving side
I feel that Parveen died twice. Once before in 1979, when her personality collapsed like a house of cards. The illness tore us apart. She was trying her best, but once the ailment devastates you, every attack erodes you and debilitates your body. Mental illness isolates you
We live in ignorant times where mental ailments are still linked to stress and strain. I was just in Hyderabad giving an address to new IPS officers and I commented that mental ailments are a part of a biochemical disorder and I was using Parveen as a reference. Her death came on a sms, just as my plane was coming to a halt.
We met her when she was with Kabir Bedi, whos a very dear friend. Their relationship suddenly ended while he was in Italy and she came back and was all alone. Thats when we became close."
I lived with her for two-and-a-half years and she was an intense, dear, intimate person who collapsed in front of my eyes and so-called literate people attributed it to external factors. She always lived on her own terms and was a very outgoing, fun-loving, audacious girl. She was the first Time magazine cover girl, but she never deluded herself. She was generous and kind and she brings a smile to my face.
I was known through my association with her, as Parveen Babis boyfriend till Arth, which had echoes of my life with her. It was an ethical decision (to put her in the film).
I told as much of my life as of hers and she never said anything to me about it. My identity was through my association with her because Arth is still regarded as the glowing point of my career.
I heard through people that she was disturbed by Arth, but we never met after that. I ran into her in 1991 at a bookshop in Holiday Inn. She was picking up the Architectural Digest, she said, Excuse me, and I stepped back. I froze like you do when you meet someone from the past. She looked at me and that was it.
We were a disastrous cocktail and had to be weaned away from each other because it was dangerous. When Shaan was being shot with this mega star cast, she had a nervous breakdown and was not responding to drugs. The producers were getting restless and they blamed it all on me."
They wanted to allow the electronic shock treatment so that she could be functional to suit (Ramesh) Sippys next opus. I rescued her from this world and we ran away to Bangalore and met U G Krishnamurthy. We lived there, then escaped to Ooty and Kodaikanal and it was there that she limped to normalcy under U G Krishnamurthys umbrella.
She came back and completed the movie, but she was not the same in those last six months and you can see that in the song Jeete hai shaan se. She was stitched up together to meet the ends of the industry and they are the ones who now pretend concern.
She was intelligent enough to invest, from what I know of her. She was worldly-wise. I always knew that she would have solitary fadeout, that she would withdraw into her cocoon. But maybe, were superimposing tragedy on her. Maybe the world is mad and her life is not that tragic.
Whether a celebrity or an ordinary person, your social network when you are alive, defines how many people would be there when youre dead, say psychiatrists.
But globalisation has ensured that the quantum and quality of networks between people are poor. Neighbours dont talk to each other no one knows whos coming and going. No one bothers if milk or kachra are left unattended outside.
Says a doctor, Parveen Babi had paranoid schizophrenia. When youre mentally ill its worse, especially if its a mental illness that isolates you. People generally find it is easy to empathise with someone who is depressed but not with someone who is paranoid.
Even if someone had taken her to the hospital, there was no support network to monitor her treatment at home, on a permanent basis. Other people are scared to reach out. Law has become such that if a person is mentally ill, you cant reach out to them. If you took the patient to the hospital against his or her wishes, you would be violating their human rights. Nobody takes a risk with a mentally ill, single woman. In future, there will be many such cases. It is the nature of globalisation there is an overall lack of sympathy.
Urban isolation is a by-product of the times, whereby parents are left alone while children move away to other cities or countries to earn a living. Children who have moved away also live in isolation. The number of support groups, homes for the mentally ill or rehab centres is simply not enough.
"Mumbai has two just support groups for patients of schizophrenia. And while these are doing a commendable job, the odds are against them, for about one per cent of Mumbaiwallahs suffers from some form of schizophrenia.
Health professionals say that between 60 to 80 per cent patients of schizophrenia can lead a normal life. The illness is more common in the young simply because it starts at a younger age but is not gender-specific.
And while the predisposition to schizophrenia is genetic, it is something that happens in the persons life that pushes him or her over the edge. Claimants
* Anwar Mehmood, brother of late comedian Mehmood. She was like my sister.
* Mahesh Bhatt, who had a relationship with the actress. I will give her a dignified funeral.
* Two women who demanded to see the body. Police refused.
* A nephew of Babis who has come in from Junagadh.
She was the sexy actress of the 70s. There was a big craze about her when I was young. She formed a good pair with Feroze Khan.
I loved her in Namak Halal. Stunningly beautiful, Parveen Babi was the definitive babe of the seventies. Classics like Shaan and Deewar and Amar Akbar Anthony with Amitabh are still fresh in my mind.
She was a very good actress, but it is unfortunate the way she died. Her persona resembled Zeenat Aman in more than one way and they both were the sex symbols of their times.
I liked her movies; she was very charming, quite attractive and had very beautiful eyes. Deewar, Amar Akbar Anthony were my favourites movies and she actually lent good support to Amitabh Bachchan. She also resembled Zeenat Aman, both were westernised, but Babi could also carry off an Indian look, Zeenat Aman still had that Anglo look.
I still remember that song from Shaan Jeete hai shaan se where she looked really good. But we basically remember her because of Amitabh Bachchan. She resembled Zeenat Aman a lot.