Only a few days prior to the release of Mohit Suri’s Voh Lamhe, Mahesh Bhatt, in an interview to a leading newspaper said, "I was watching the last scene of Woh Lamhe in my editing room when it dawned on me why human beings have always tried to keep their dead alive – we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. Woh Lamhe is my last good bye to the memories of Parveen Babi. A woman whom I loved."
Parveen Babi, in her hey days was boldness, beauty and Bohemianism personified. She was the most impeccable face to have graced Bollywood in the ’70s. When at the peak of her career Parveen Babi and Mahesh Bhatt met, fell in love and lived together. After 2 years of having a fulfilling love-life, signs of Parveen’s mental health deteriorating began to show. It was only the beginning of her downward spiral and the end to two years of romance. In January 2005, Parveen was found dead in her Juhu apartment.
It was with Arth that Bhatt’s fascination with immortalizing Parveen Babi on the silver screen began. In Bhatt’s own words Arth was a semi-autobiographical film about his relationship with Babi. Through Kavita, Smita Patil delivered a convincing performance as a mentally unstable actress. The role was small, but was far more complex than that of Shabana Azmi’s in the film. In the last scene of Arth, Kavita(Patil) tells Pooja(Shabana): “I fell in love with a man, not your husband. I wanted a home of my own, I didn’t want to break your home.” According to Bhatt, "Parveen felt guilty about our relationship, she tried to cover it up with her put-on western attitude but she was very conventional."
In Saraansh we find traces of Babi in Sujata Suman(Soni Razdan). Sujata is a successful actress of her time who is head over heels in love with Vilas, the only son of a politician. Razdan’s portrayal of Sujata is remeniscient of Babi and how she coped with her relationship with her beau, Bhatt, falling apart.
Zakhm which stars his own daughter, Pooja Bhatt; deals with an illicit affair that producer Raman Desai (Nagarjuna Akkineni) has with her. She is in love with him but is not allowed to marry him on account of her Muslim faith. Bhatt himself was born to a Muslim mother who never married his mother because he was a Hindu. Through Zakhm, Bhatt relived not only his childhood but also the romantic yet illicit affair he shared with Babi.
Woh Lamhe was only the second film of a relatively fresh face in Bollywood, Kangna Ranaut. Imagine the amount of performance pressure she must’ve been, as her role demanded her to play an iconic figure of Bollywood in the ’70s, Parveen Babi. Apart from a poor portrayal of Parveen, the film was a disappointment in too many ways. It was rather like a eulogy on Shiney Ahuja’s character. In his defence Mahesh Bhatt was quoted saying that the film was not a journalistic piece on Parveen’s life.The film was trying to capture the emotional reflection of the times they spent together.
All his portrayals of Babi have till date never really shown what led to her depression, mental illness and eventual downfall. She’s always been depicted as the one who is perpetually depressed and in a suicidal state. While Bhatt’s portrayal of himself has always been that of a knight in shining armour who gives up everything to care for the star who gave him his first break. Apart from Arth, Saransh, Zakhm and Woh Lamhe, many of Bhatt’s films have illicit affairs playing in the background, remindful of his affair with Babi. Relationships are sensitive things to deal with, and as for Bhatt, he owes the now silenced starlet a film that uncovers her real story.