GURU DUTT On 10 October, 1964, Guru Dutt succeeded with his third suicide attempt. When found dead in his rented flat at Peddar Road, the actor-director of some of the most acclaimed movies from the Hindi film industry (‘Kaagaz ke Phool’ and ‘Pyaasa’ being his two most cherished creations), was suspected of an overdose of sleeping pills mixed with alcohol. Dutt has been a depressive with his checkered innings with Bollywood for some time then
Whitney Houston’s untimely death in a hotel room a day before the Grammy Awards highlights yet again how fragile the lives of those in showbiz are. We give you 10 examples of our desi stars (and starlets) whose lives and career innings ended abruptly. By: Vishwas Kulkarni
DIVYA BHARATI Midnight, 5 April 1993. The budding actress who was recently married to producer Sajid Nadiadwala fell to her death from her five-storey apartment in Versova. Despite much speculation – was it suicide? was it murder? – the investigation reached a dead end and the case was closed in 1998. Designer Neeta Lulla, famous for draping Ash, was present at Divya’s apartment a few minutes before she plummeted to her death
SILK SMITHA India’s first bonafide porn star Silk Smitha became a household name for her role in Malayalam skin-flick ‘Layanam’ (1989). She was also found dead in her Chennai apartment on September 23, 1996. A botched attempt at becoming a producer merged with her alcoholism had created a lethal cocktail of acute depression. The first reports that emerged suggested suicide. Yet there remains a shroud as to what happened in that apartment on Silk’s last night. Smitha was immortalized recently in a tour de force performance by Vidya Balan in ‘The Dirty Picture’.
PARVEEN BABI In November 1989, the ‘70s sex siren returned to Bombay after an almost decade-long hiatus. A front page photograph shot at Sahar airport revealed Babi with a chubby face and twice her size. Later, at a press conference, in her bloated hand she held a manuscript of her ‘experiences’. These included having been the victim of an assassination plot in which Amitabh Bachchan, Ronald Reagan and the FBI were equal accomplices. The media had a field day at Babi’s expense who was a paranoid schizophrenic. Through the next decade and a half, Babi made on-and-off appearances on talk shows and filed her random FIRs against Prince Charles, Margaret Thatcher, Amitabh Bachchan, you name it. Finally she was so paranoid that she would only consume Coca Cola and eggs, the only two items she believed her would-be assassins could not contaminate. She was found dead in her apartment with complications related to diabetes in 2004.
NAFISA JOSEPH The MTV VJ hanged herself in her Versova pad on July 29, 2004. A botched love affair was said to be the reason for her depression, even though her fiancé-to-be made it quite clear that Nafisa had a string of failed relationships behind her even before she was with him. Her career was a flash in the pan, with a Miss India Universe pageant to her name in 1997 and an Indian version of Charlie’s Angels being the two highlights. However, what her suicide highlighted most was the chronic insecurity and vulnerability of those in the industry
VIVEKA BABAJEE The Mauritius-born model became a household name in the 1990s thanks to the Kama Sutra campaign. As her modeling career began to fade, she attempted to start fresh in Bombay with an innings in event management. On June 25, 2010, she was found hanging from a ceiling fan. A notebook in her room had a page that read, “You Killed Me, Gautam Vohra.” This again highlighted Babajee’s instability for a regular break-up had unhinged her so badly.
PRIYA RAJVANSH The actress of ‘70s hits such as ‘Heer Ranjha’ and ‘Haste Zakhm’ was found murdered in Chetan Anand’s bungalow on March 27, 2000. Rajvansh had been Chetan Anand’s live-in companion for many years. After Anand’s death, she inherited some property along with Chetan Anand’s sons Ketan Anand and Vivek Anand. Rajvansh’s handwritten letters nailed veteran actor Dev Anand’s nephews who, in connivance with their employees, killed Priya Rajvansh. In her last days, Rajvansh wrote anxiety-ridden letters fearing for her life, a premonition that indeed came true on that fatal night. All her killers were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2002
SMITA PATIL The beacon of parallel cinema in the 1980s and someone who even surpassed Shabana Azmi for her thespian prowess died when giving birth to her son, Prateik. The nation mourned her loss and her husband and son have moved on – Babbar has a thriving career in politics and Prateik is making his mark in Bollywood. Yet, a spark that was extinguished this early in her prime remains one of Bollywood’s saddest tales…
NAZIA HASSAN The stereo-silk voice that brought to us some of the best foot-stomping delights from the early 1980s succumbed to a long battle with cancer. Her debut album, ‘Disco Deewane’, went on to sell 60 million albums worldwide. Her ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’ from ‘Qurbani’ made her the youngest recipient of the Filmfare award for Best Female Playback Singer. She was 15 then; it is a record she still holds posthumously. This trailblazing wonder died of lung cancer at 35
MEENA KUMARI At 40, the arc of Meena Kumari’s life came full circle. She died in pretty much the same impoverished circumstances she was born in, a victim of liver cirrhosis due to alcohol abuse. It was an addiction that has cost her her looks and her magnum opus, ‘Pakeezah’, took as much as 14 years to complete. Towards the end of her tether she was reduced to character artiste roles. Her lover, Kamal Amrohi, and she had a turbulent relationship due to her alcohol abuse. When ‘Pakeezah’ finally hit the silver screen in 1972, Meena Kumari became an overnight legend. Sadly three weeks after the film’s release, India’s tragedy queen died from complications of the liver.