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Parveen Babi: A Life

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Item Code: HAK519
Author: Karishma Upadhyay
Publisher: Hechhette Book Publishing India Pvt. Ltd
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9789350095782
Pages: 312 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.50 X 5.00 inch
Weight 330 gm
Book Description
Back of the Book

Sensuous, glamorous and bold, Parveen Babi set the Hindi cinema screen ablaze during the 1970s and '80s, breaking the pious, nice girl' mould of the film heroine and redefining it after her own style. On-screen, she sizzled in unforgettable roles in blockbusters like Deewaar, Shaan, Kaalia and Amar Akbar Anthony-while, off-screen, her bohemian and unabashed lifestyle lit up gossip columns, and her appearance on the cover of Time magazine, a first for an Indian actor, created a stir nationwide. Yet, for all the sensational rumours and films her life inspired, Parveen has remained something of an enigma to generations of fans.
In Parveen Babi. A Life, Karishma Upadhyay traces the journey of a shy but ambitious girl, and explores with depth and sensitivity the myriad facets of the actress's life. Rich with insights from the star's friends, former lovers and colleagues, this compelling narrative captures the nuances of an extraordinary life- the highs and lows of finding fame, love and solace, and then, in the end, losing it all.


When I moved to Mumbai in the late 1990s, I lived in Juhu. There's a particular, relatively quieter section of the beach that I visited often. As I'd breathe in the salty air and take in the sunset, I often found myself thinking about the lucky few who lived in apartments and bungalows on the beachfront. There was - still is one particular building complex at the intersection of the beach and the road leading up to it that always caught my attention. There was no discernable reason for my fascination with this nondescript building, but I could never take my mind off it.
In the last three years, I've learnt that the apartment complex - Riviera - was where Parveen Babi lived the last years of her life. She died there, alone. I've learnt about her professional triumphs, her mental lows and her lifelong search for love. Now, when I walk down that same stretch of Juhu beach, I find myself thinking about the importance of family, the lure of fame and the stigma around mental health that persists even today.
Three years ago, when an editor at Hachette India asked me if I'd want to write about Parveen Babi, I knew almost nothing about the glamorous actress besides a handful of hit songs that featured her. There was always an air of mystery about her; it intrigued me. The prospect of digging through hundreds of old magazines, speaking to an entire generation of people in the film industry and tracing sources who would be authentic was daunting and exciting at the same time. As I began my attempt at rescuing Parveen's legacy from the bondage of myth and gossip, I was all too aware of my own limitations. They say every story has two sides, and Parveen wasn't here to tell me hers. So, every scene and every fact recorded in this book has been double- and triple-checked to keep the narrative as true to her story as possible. To tell her story with surety I have had to rely on a decade-plus worth of interviews she had given during her years in the limelight.
Parveen Babi: A Life is the fruit of three years of research, over a hundred interviews, numerous files of photographs, articles and interviews, many sleepless nights and travelling to innumerable locations, from Ahmedabad to Gangtok. As many places as I physically visited, I have to admit that my research took me just as much to unexpected emotional spheres. There were moments of great elation when the extremely private Danny Denzongpa shared his memories of Parveen, or when I held in my hand a note of apology written in her beautiful penmanship for her friend, costume designer Xerxes Bhathena. Yet, for every joyful discovery, there were moments of almost unbearable heartbreak as I navigated the troughs of her life, through to her final days.
My goal with this book was to piece together the known and unknown parts of Parveen's life without judgement. This was only possible because of the generous cooperation I received from everyone I reached out to her lovers, her co-stars and directors, her closest friends, her employees, and the only surviving family member of her family who was close to Parveen and her mother Jamal. Not only did they share their memories and candid insights, and verify facts and anecdotes, but they also steered me in the right direction when unnecessary nuggets tended to distract me.
In the end, Parveen's story is so much more than a story of fame. It's a story of ambition and expectation, love and betrayal, obsession and mental illness - and its consequences. My only hope is that I have presented it with empathy and insight.

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