Mahesh Bhatt Remembers Parveen Babi

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Arth came into my life after a string of duds.These included Vishwasghat and Lahu Ke Do Rang which were fairly big-budgeted commercial films. Arthwas a personal statement on the man-woman relationship that shattered the belief of the traditional power centres within our film industry that only a certain kind of formula works at the boxoffice.  

I made Arth on the firm belief that any work which originates from a filmmaker’s heart inevitably connects with the aam junta. And it hit home in ways that shocked the industry, but not me. I remember  India won the Cricket World Cup on the very day when Arth was declared a hit.

\I remember I was at the Plaza cinema in Delhi watching the film on the Friday when it was released. We were tense, since this was not the kind of entertainment the public was used to. The scene where the deserted wife Shabana Azmi rejects  her husband Kulbhushan Kharbanda and walks away from him  got a standing ovation from the so-called front-benchers at this hardcore mass-entertainment theatre. I knew then and there that our film was a hit.

It was because of Arth that the Rajshree’s Saaraansh, Rajendra Kumar’s Naam and Mudra Vudeotech’s Janamcame my way. I think Arth worked so well because it was an honest film. It was an autobiographical  film. The film’s emotional truth was sourced from my life’s welters and wounds. I think the audience connected with my honesty.Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil gave their very best to the film.Their rivalry was more a public perception than a reality.

The two of them respected one another’s talent.They did not pretend  to be the best of friends on the sets.But they worked like professional actors of the highest calibre. Without Shabana and Smita, Arth would not have been what it was.People said Parveen Babi was emotionally affected because I had cannibalized my relationship with her in Arth.But Parveen was genetically predisposed towards mental illness. To say that Arth was responsible for her breakdown was absurd.I wasn’t affected by accusations of cannibalizing my life for the screen. How can the truth hurt the filmmaker?”

Remembering Parveen Babi on her birth anniversary

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