Tag Archives: Parveen Babi

5 Suicides That Rocked Tinsel Town

Parveen Babi1. Parveen Babi

She is often cited as one of the most beautiful actresses to have ever appeared in Indian cinema. Parveen Babi was one of the most glamorous actress of 1970-80s with blockbusters like Deewar, Namak Halaal, Amar Akbar Anthony and Shaan. She was found dead in her Mumbai apartment on 22 January 2005 after it was noticed that she had not collected milk and newspapers from her doorstep for three days. Her postmortem reports showed that she had not consumed anything for more than three days and sadly starved to death. The police ruled out any foul play and it was determined she succumbed to all organ failure.

divya bharti2. Divya Bharti

Hailed as “the most interesting young actress of her generation”, Divya Bharti acted in a number of commercially successful Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films in the early 1990s. Bharti’s career was cut short by her death on 5 April 1993 at the age of 19. The circumstances of her death, falling from the window ledge of her five-storey Versova apartment have been the subject of dispute over the years. Police investigated the case and closed it five years later without a conclusion.

silk smitha3. Silk Smitha

Silk Smitha, the South-Indian actress was popularly known for her glam doll roles in South Indian films. In 1996, Smitha was found dead in her Chennai apartment. A year earlier, she had tried becoming a film producer. Financial problems, disillusionment in love and alcohol dependency apparently led to depression. It is suspected that Smitha committed suicide by poisoning herself.

4. Guru DuttGuru Dutt

Guru Dutt, often credited with ushering in the golden era of Hindi cinema, was the first among Bollywood stars who committed suicide. He had a raging love affair with Waheeda Rehman and a running quarrel with his wife Geeta Dutt. On 10 October 1964, Guru Dutt was found dead in his bed in his rented apartment in Mumbai. He is said to have been mixing alcohol and sleeping pills. His death may have been suicide, or just an accidental overdose. It would have been his third suicide attempt.

Manmohan Desai5. Manmohan Desai

Known for his family-centered, action-song-and-dance films which catered to the tastes of the Indian masses, famous director Manmohan Desai fell from the balcony of his building in Khetwadi as the rail he was leaning on collapsed. Very little is known about his death except that he was suffering from chronic back pain. There were rumours of him committing suicide but have not been confirmed.

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Alternative Female Sexuality in Indian Cinema

Sampurna Majumder depicts the treatment of homosexuality in Bollywood.

razia-sultan

Sexuality and its discourses are rarely voiced in India. In a society where even heterosexuality is discussed in a hush-hush manner, it’s extremely isolating to belong to a community marked as sexual minority like the gay or lesbian.

Exploring lesbian relationships had always been a taboo in Hindi films, though some earlier films had strong undertones to it. One such incident was the period film Razia Sultan where Hema Malini played the protagonist. A song sequence has Razia lying on bed with her lady-in-waiting beside her, played by Parveen Babi. The latter is seen passing a feather on the former’s forehead lightly. The sequence had obvious lesbian undertones.

fireHowever, it was not until the late nineties that lesbianism as a theme began to be considered seriously by Indian filmmakers. Indian-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta in her film Fire made one such serious attempt. The film demonstrates the struggle of two women in love in a deeply patriarchal backdrop. Radha and Sita are sisters-in-law who develop a close relationship and find solace in each other after their unsuccessful marriages. Once their “affair” is discovered, their spouses desert the two women. Before they are reunited, Radha undergoes a literal trial by fire as she tries to escape the oppressive patriarchal household. The fire symbolizes the rugged road that Indian lesbians are forced to travel in a society that frowns upon homosexuality. However, the movie shows that the two women ‘turn’ lesbians due to loveless marriage, which is not the case always. Some people have that particular kind of mental orientation, which makes them feel for the same sex. The film is known for the controversy it ignited. Weeks after its release, Hindu activists banned the movie for violating Indian traditions and culture. Despite such events, the film did receive positive feedback from critics.

ishaamritamasalaA couple of years later, another film called Girlfriend was released that dealt with lesbianism as well. While Fire was steeped in sensitivity, Girlfriend can be passed on as crass. Directed by Karan Razdan, the film revolves round two housemates Tanya (Isha Koppikar) and Sapna (Amrita Arora) who have been friends for long. Tanya, a jeweler by profession is devastated when she discovers that Sapna has fallen for a man named Rahul (Ashish Chaudhury). Enraged with jealousy, Tanya vows to fight with Rahul and win back Sapna.

The film upholds a stereotypical image of lesbians where Tanya is always seen wearing shirts and trousers and has her hair closely cropped. She is unnaturally mannish and hates men folk. On the other hand, her housemate, the extra feminine Sapna is in distress with her relationship with Tanya and must be rescued from sliding into homosexuality by the male hero. Conservative religious and political groups protested against the screening of this film as well. However, this time the protest was backed by homosexual organizations as well who objected to the ugly portrayal of lesbians in the film.

the-journeyAnother film worth mentioning in this genre is Indian-American filmmaker Ligy Pullappally’s The Journey. The film set in rural Kerala, traces the story of two friends, Kiran and Delilah. Kiran discovers her love for Delilah while helping a neighbuor boy woo her by ghostwriting his letters for her. When Delilah finds out that Kiran is behind the letters, she immediately reciprocates her feelings. Their families have mixed reaction once they discover the truth. However the film ends on a positive note when the two girls are united.

It can be said that despite the continuing stigma things are changing and specially after the decriminalizing of homosexuality in India. Since Fire, Indian society has become more liberal and accommodating to gay and lesbian relationships. The fact that lesbianism can be situated within a world beyond mainstream is a positive development indeed.