Cinema history has been unfair to Babita. While she wasn’t known for criticial acclaim, out of the 19 films that she did between 1966 and 1972, most releases turned out to be hits. Remarkably, Babita’s success ratio is higher than that of any other leading lady in Hindi cinema, from the 1960s. Yet, she is not the first name that crops up when historians, fans or movie buffs discuss cinema from the 60s and 70s.
Babita’s first release, Dus Lakh in 1966 with Sanjay Khan as her co-star was a big hit. It immediately stamped her as a lucky heroine. And heroes were falling over each other to work with her. As we’ve mentioned before, in 1967, she was Jeetendra’s leading lady in the biggest hit of his career – Farz. They paired up again in Aulad, Bikhre Moti, Anmol Moti, Banphool – every single one of these films turned out to be a hit.
She was also Rajesh Khanna’s first heroine in Raaz which flopped. But their second film together Doli was a hit. In 1968 she teamed up with her future uncle-in-law Shashi Kapoor in Haseena Maan Jayegi, which was a massive hit. It was one of the biggest hits of his career, unmatched by any of the innumerable films he did with Babita’s daughter, Kareena’s mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore.
Babita’s songs were superhits: Rimjhim Ke Geet Sawan Gaye (an immortal Laxmikant-Pyarelal duet with Mohd Rafi) in Anjaana tops her lilt list, followed by all-time blockbusters like Bekhudi Main Sanam (Haseena Maan Jayegi), Akele Hai Chale Aao (Raaz), Sajna Saath Nibhana (Doli), Dekho Dekho Jee (Farz), Kab Tak Huzoor Roothe Rahoge (Aulad), Ho Gaye Tere Ho Gaye (Kab Kyun Aur Kahan), Aahen Na Bhar Thande (Banphool), Sheeshi Bhari Ghulab Ki (Jeet) and Do Qadam Tum Bhi Chalo (Ek Shriman Ek Shrimati).
Babita’s signature tune is Kajra Mohabbat Wala in Manmohan Desai’s Kismat where she was wooed by Biswajit in drag. Even daughters Karisma and Kareena can’t boast of such singular career footnotes.