Kabir Bedi says his open marriage with Odissi exponent Protima Bedi was an “experimental unconventional arrangement”. But he left it all for a relationship with yesteryear diva Parveen Babi.
“Protima thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life: the bloody fool. ‘He had it so good with me. I gave him everything, plus his freedom. He could have had his affairs, he could have done anything. I wouldn’t have objected’,” Bedi quoteshis ex-wife in his autobiography titled ‘Stories I Must Tell: The Emotional Life of an Actor’.
“Even so, I had chosen intimacy, love and fidelity. At the time, it was what I needed the most. Parveen symbolised it,” Bedi added in his tell-all memoir.
Kabir Bedi, born to famous parents bore the mixed genes and ideologies of both – a Punjabi father and a British mother. He had multiple relationships, while marrying four times. In fact, his ‘playboy image’ made a lot of noise in the 1970-1980.
Kabir first tied the knot with model Protima Bedi, who later became a classical dancer. In her own autobiography ‘Timepass: The Memoirs of Protima Bedi’, she wrote, “It was clear I couldn’t stop affairs happening, so I took the attitude of ‘I don’t care because I understand’… When the starlets asked me how come I don’t mind my husband flirting and having affairs, I would laugh and say, ‘Well, he’d be stupid to refuse something that came so easily and cheaply,’ hoping that would put the women off.”
Kabir openly went about stating that what he shared with Protima was “love and not possessiveness” as according to him, possession is a negative feeling, but love is positive. “Most of the misery people go through is because they mix up these two emotions,” he said.
Kabir revealed in his book that the couple decided to opt for an open marriage when Protima had an affair with a French man outside their wedlock. But the arrangement eventually brought him more anxiety rather than relief. And at one such time, when his wife was away learning Odissi that he met then Bollywood’s sultry siren Parveen Babi. The two took no time to get into a romantic relationship. Soon enough, the Kabir Bedi-Protima Bedi marriage collapsed, leaving the latter devastated.
Kabir Bedi and Parveen Babi had a whirlwind romance that was open, bold and bohemian in public eye. But her mental health issue soon created a crack. According to Kabir, he wanted to help Parveen, just that she won’t let him in. It was when Kabir Bedi was in Italy shooting for Sandokan (1976) that Parveen completely drifted away. Infact, them moving apart had a lasting impact on Parveen Babi who went from bad to worse, and this was when she met and fell in love with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt who helped nurse her breakup wounds with Kabir Bedi.
“The love that I felt for her was extraordinary and intense,” he told Bollywood Hungama, adding that seeing her suffer, “because of her mental problems” was “emotionally exhausting.”
An except from his autobiography read, “I felt for her suffering mind. But my long-suppressed resentments flared as well. I rued the shadows Parveen had cast on my most joyful years. I reminded myself it wasn’t her fault. Perhaps I was equally to blame. Maybe I should have walked away earlier. Yet I couldn’t; she’d needed me desperately. I’d seen myself as her protector. By then, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I’d gone from one emotionally draining woman to another, without a pause in between, leaving me no time for myself.”
Kabir Bedi married Susan Humphries in 1980 and Nikki Bedi in 1992, all of which ended in divorce. In early 2000s he met British-born Parveen Dusanj, who had come to watch him perform a play, The Far Pavilions in London. The two soon started dating and moved-in together in Mumbai. After being partners for over a decade, they tied the knot in 2016, a day before Kabir turned 70. Today, he calls Parveen, who’s 30-years younger, “a beautiful, fitting climax” to his life.
But there was an instance when Kabir asked Parveen Dusanj to change her name so that people don’t confuse her with Parveen Babi. “She had this very British (reaction), ‘How dare you ask me to change my name?’” He eventually started calling her ‘V’.
Kabir Bedi has two children with Protima Bedi – actor Pooja Bedi, and son Siddharth who suffered from schizophrenia and died by suicide at the age of 26. His son Adam Bedi with British-born fashion designer wife Susan Humphreys, is an international model.
“People may think ‘what a lucky guy’ for having one beautiful woman after another. Only I know the price I paid for being an impulsively emotional man,” he wrote in his memoir.
In an interview with GQ India, he added, “There are a lot of things that you want to leave behind but they’re all part of my life so it makes sense to share it with everyone. It wasn’t easy, but at the end of the day, I had to do it, and it was almost cathartic.”
Happy birthday, Kabir Bedi!