From Romeo and Juliet to Heer and Ranjha, the greatest love stories are tragedies. The story of Parveen Babi and Mahesh Bhatt’s romance is one such heartbreaking tale that will have you reaching for the tissues. On the actress’s birth anniversary, let us take a trip down memory lane.
In 1977, Parveen was nursing a broken heart, after ending her relationship with Kabir Bedi. It was during this time that she found solace in Mahesh, and they began a passionate relationship. The filmmaker was already married to his childhood sweetheart Lorraine Bright aka Kiran Bhatt, but that did not stop him from falling head over heels in love with Parveen. He walked out on his wife and daughter Pooja and began living with Parveen.
Everything was perfect in their fairytale romance, until one fateful evening in 1979. In an interview with Filmfare, Mahesh revealed that as he entered Parveen’s apartment, he saw her petrified mother in the corridor, who requested him to check on the actress. He walked into the bedroom and witnessed a sight that sent a chill down his spine.
“Parveen was dressed in film costume and sat curled up in the corner between the wall and the bed. Her gait was beast like. She had a kitchen knife in her hand. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked. She said, ‘Shhsssh…! Don’t talk! This room is bugged (installed with a spying device). They’re trying to kill me; they’re going to drop a chandelier on me.’ She held my hand and led me outside. I saw her mother look helplessly at me. Her gaze revealed that this episode had happened before; it was not the first time,” Mahesh said.
Top psychiatrists were consulted, and Parveen was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Mahesh tried being there for her, but her delusions kept getting worse. “Sometimes she’d say the air conditioner had a bug. We had to dismantle it and show it to her. At other times there was ‘a bug’ in the fan or in the perfume,” he recounted.
Mahesh recalled one particular incident when Parveen believed that the car they were travelling in had a bomb. “She threw open the door of the moving car, saying the bomb would burst and ran out on the road with me trying to hold her. People thought ‘Parveen Babi’ was having a fight with her boyfriend. Somehow, I huddled her into a taxi and brought her home,” he said.
“The scene was scary – I got into LSD and Parveen went through a series of nervous breakdowns. I went through trauma and a hell of my own making for two and a half years,” he told The Times Of India.
When the attacks got out of control, doctors said that electroconvulsive therapy was the only option. But Mahesh did not want his ladylove to go through that ordeal. His opposition to this particular method of treatment led to whispers that he was a “user” who did not want what was best for her.
Seeing no other way out, Mahesh ran away with Parveen to his philosopher friend UG Krishnamurti in Bengaluru. “I believed the quiet life there would give her solace even as the drug therapy was on. If she had to heal it would be there under the veil of anonymity. UG saw little chance of complete recovery. He suggested an alternative life, free from the pressures of stardom,” the filmmaker told Filmfare.
Shortly after, in October 1979, he left Parveen in the care of his friend and came back to Mumbai. Mahesh believed that he was part of the problem, and that he needed to distance himself for her to be on the path to recovery. He moved back in with his wife and tried to mend what was left of their marriage. He also began writing his breakthrough film, Arth, and found it to be cathartic.
However, the same year, Parveen returned to Mahesh’s life. Though he had reconciled with his wife, he could not resist going back to her. “Parveen knew I was in touch with UG, who was against her returning to films. He was the voice of sanity, which she didn’t want to hear. So she played the last card,” he said, adding that just as they were about to make love, she asked him to choose between her or the philosopher.
It was then that he understood that their relationship was doomed and walked out into the pouring rain, leaving a stark naked Parveen calling out to him. But he never looked back.
“I understood that the relationship was doomed and that I was deluding myself in hoping for a happy ending. The only person who had cushioned her from ECT, who had nursed her and had suggested a way out; she didn’t want to hear his truth! UG had fathered me and mothered her. There was no way the party would continue. We broke up in 1980,” Mahesh said.
Outlook quotes him as saying, “I remember, the last time I saw her was at a bookshop in Holiday Inn when the Gulf War was on. We didn’t even say hello to each other. She had become a completely different personality.”
When Parveen passed away in anonymity in 2005, Mahesh was the one to claim her body. “I thought if none of her relatives came forward I’d bury her. She was the springboard of my success. Arth (based on his relationship with Parveen) became the lifeblood of my resurrection. You take away this defining watershed tragedy and my narrative ceases to exist. I owe it all to her. By offering to bury her I felt a sense of closure,” he told Filmfare.