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Babita: From a film icon to fierce mother

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CUTTING her promising career short for marriage means Babita perhaps doesn’t get the credit she deserves.

An action-packed seven years saw the strikingly beautiful actress star in a number of hit films, become a fashion icon and show off her impressive talent. She was then brave enough to walk away from an unhappy marriage to actor Randhir Kapoor and became a single mother, during a time when it was almost impossible to take that step.

The former leading lady then used her experiences to turn her daughters Karisma and Kareena Kapoor into fiercely independent, successful film stars. Babita turns a year older on April 20 (Saturday) and celebrates her 77th birthday.

Eastern Eye decided to mark the occasion by presenting 21 quick facts about the underrated movie star’s life and career.

  1. Babita was born in Karachi on April 20, 1947, just months before Partition. Her family moved to India and settled in Mumbai.
  2. Her father was actor Hari Shivdasani, who played supporting roles in movies. This included ones headlined by Babita’s future father-inlaw Raj Kapoor, like Sangam (1964).Her mother was British Christian Barbara Shivdasani.
  3. Legendary actress Sadhana was her paternal cousin. They reportedly had a falling out and never spoke again.
     

    4. dus lakh babita2
    Dus Lakh
  4. Her debut film Dus Lakh (1966) became a surprise sleeper hit, despite not having any major stars. The cast included her future sister-in-law, Neetu Singh, as a child actor.
  5. The first film she had signed was Raaz (1967) opposite then newcomer and future superstar Rajesh Khanna, but it turned out to be her second film release.
  6. Her third film Farz (1967) was a remake of Telugu spy thriller Gudachari 116 (1966) and hugely inspired by the James Bond franchise. It would later have two sequels, but she had retired from acting by then.
  7. Babita starred opposite her future uncle-inlaws: Shashi Kapoor in hit films Haseena Maan Jayegi (1968) and Ek Shrimaan Ek Shrimati (1969); and with Shammi Kapoor in Tumse Achha Kaun Hai (1969).
  8. Her movie Kab? Kyoon? Aur Kahan?(1970) was inspired by French psychological thriller Les Diaboliques (1955).
  9. The actress starred opposite Manoj Kumar in hit romance Pehchan(1970), which would receive multiple Filmfare nominations, including for the best film.
  10. Babita starred opposite Randhir Kapoor in acclaimed film Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971) and fell in love with him during the production. The generational drama also featured her future father-in law Raj Kapoor and future grandfather-in law Prithviraj Kapoor.
     

    10. Kal Aaj Aur Kal kal aaj aur kal5
    Kal Aaj Aur Kal.
  11. She turned down super hit film Andaz (1971) opposite Shammi Kapoor. Hema Malini stepped in and got her first big success as a leading lady.
  12. During her heyday, Babita became a fashion inspiration with her tight churidar kurtas, large hoop earrings and oversized sunglasses.
  13. She got married in a star-studded lavish ceremony on November 6, 1971. The actress completed pending assignments, including her film Jeet (1973) opposite husband Randhir and followed the then Kapoor tradition of female family members not working in films.
  14. Babita only acted in 19 movies in total. Her final release was Sone Ke Haath (1973) opposite Sanjay Khan, the actor with whom she had made a winning debut.
  15. When Babita left her husband, she didn’t want the same fate to befall her daughters Karisma and Kareena Kapoor. She encouraged them to pursue acting and helped both become the first female Bollywood stars in four generations of the Kapoor film dynasty.
  16. Although Babita walked out on her marriage, she never officially divorced Randhir Kapoor. They would get back together decades later.
  17. Babita received no financial assistance from the wealthy Kapoor family after she walked out on her marriage. Kareena Kapoor Khan revealed that her mother single-handedly brought up her two daughters and had to start small businesses to get by. Kareena said: “We were left alone to fend for ourselves.”
  18. Babita instilled strong values in her daughters from a young age. Kareena revealed that her mother made sure to visit their school and asked the teachers to treat them just like other students.
  19. Lead inset Karisma kapoor babita kareena kapoor 1328
    Babita with daughters
    Kareena and Karisma.

    Randhir revealed that his bad behaviour prompted Babita to walk out on the marriage and reportedly said in an interview: “She found that I was a terrible man who drank a lot and came home late, which was something she didn’t like. And I didn’t want to live the way she wanted, and she couldn’t accept me as I am, though it was a love marriage. So, it is okay. We had two lovely children. She brought them up in the best way and they have excelled in their career. What else could I have asked for as a father?”

  20. Karisma Kapoor headlined Haseena Maan Jaayegi (1999), 31 years after her mother starred in a film with the same title.
  21. Babita remains the biggest inspiration for her two actress daughters. Karisma had once said: “Whatever I am today is because of my mother. She told both Kareena and me that it might be easy to get a break, being from a known family. But the day your film is released, you’re nobody’s son or daughter. You are what the box-office creates.” Kareena also said, “My mother is like god. She is, literally, the person I pray to. She’s the sunshine and the oxygen in my life. She’s a true woman of substance.”

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