Mumbai, Jan. 22: Parveen Babi lived on screen as the face of the bohemian Indian woman and died the ultimate lonely star behind locked doors.
One of Hindi cinema's first glamour girls, who starred in some of the biggest hits of the 70s and 80s ' often opposite Amitabh Bachchan, as in Deewar and Amar Akbar Anthony ' was found in her Juhu flat today, probably two days after she died.
Parveen Babi, who lived alone ' not allowing in visitors or even a servant ' had not opened the door of her flat for three days. Noticing newspapers and milk bottles piling up, the secretary of the building, Riviera, called police. The cops opened the door with a duplicate key to find her dead.
The police ruled out foul play or suicide. 'The post-mortem report is yet to come out, but it seems she died a natural death. It appears she died 40 hours before her body was found,' said deputy commissioner Amitabh Gupta.
Her body was taken to Cooper Hospital, where it lay unclaimed till evening. 'We will wait for seven days, then it will be disposed of in the regular way,' said Gupta.
Soon after, filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt and Ashok Pandit offered to perform the last rites if there was no claimant.
Bhatt, with whom she had been in a relationship, said he was out of touch with her for long, but their relationship was a very significant part of his life. He saw her go through a breakdown. 'My work would not have been what it is without her. My film Arth is based on my life, with the character of Smita Patil (the other woman) being based on her.'
The svelte and sophisticated actress, who was unafraid to smoke or drink on camera when these were taboo, led the life of an absolute recluse because she was afraid people were trying to kill her.
Rarely seen in public since she suddenly left the country in the early nineties to return three years ago, Parveen Babi's last appearance was at a media conference in 2002 when she said she had evidence against Sunjay Dutt in the 1993 blasts case. But she did not appear in court to give evidence. Parveen Babi also claimed that many people, including Bachchan, were trying to kill her. She denied the charge later and the case was dismissed .
Actress Padmini Kolhapure, a resident of the same building, said she was shocked at the news. The last time she had seen Parveen Babi, a diabetes patient also said to be suffering from schizophrenia, was seven or eight months ago.
'She had come to visit us once. She had seemed perfectly all right. She was laughing and speaking to us casually,' she said. 'I did not think anything was wrong with her. But otherwise she was never seen outside. She must have been nursing some grief.'
Parveen Babi was afraid of doorbells and phone calls. It was she who had forsaken the world and not the other way round, said Vinod Khanna, her co-star. 'I remember her as a happy, smiling, light-hearted person on the sets,' he said. 'But there must have been some mental problem that she was suffering from. I tried to get in touch with her once or twice, but I was told that it would not be possible.'
Many felt that her mental affliction, from some deep sorrow the roots of which will never probably be known now, led to her unfortunate death.