Raj Babbar And Smita Patil Wedding: One Union That Impacted Many Lives

When news of Raj Babbar and Smita Patil’s hush-hush marriage broke out it became the eternal fuel for immutable gossip and much ridicule for the couple. Patil, who was always known to play women-oriented roles, witnessed women rights group protests right at her doorstep. Nadira, who was Raj’s first wife, was criticised for her gross apathy, and even for her ‘negligence’ to keep her hubby under check. The lives of the trio were at the centre of a storm, and while things were about to worsen, Smita Patil passed away barely two weeks after giving birth to her only son with Raj Babbar. The tale of Nadira-Raj-Smita marriage is a turbulent one, that made each of its stakeholder suffer their own share of miseries. Is it a happy ending finally? Let’s see.

The Actors With A Difference

Raj-Babbar

Raj Babbar was born on 23rd June 1952 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh and was one among eight children of his parents. Raj had most of his education in Agra, and while growing up developed a keen interest in acting. His family was not supportive though, and in 1969 he left home for Patiala where he enrolled for the dramatics course at the Punjab University. It was here that he met actor Om Puri, who suggested that he join the National School of Drama in New Delhi, which he did and passed out of it in the year 1975. He later moved to Mumbai, and made his debut in films in the late 1970s. Since then Raj Babbar has worked in over 200 films. He later joined politics but continues to act till date.

Smita-Patil

Smita Patil was born on 17th October 1955 in Pune to a politician father and social worker mother. Her first tryst with camera was in the early 1970s when she worked as a television newscaster. She made her debut in films in the late 1970s, and after just a couple of films she was regarded as the finest Indian actress of that era. Patil would predominantly work in politically inclined cinema, and parallel cinema, although she worked in several commercial Bollywood films as well. Smita Patil passed away at the age of 31 due to childbirth complications, and brain fever in the year 1986, few weeks after delivering her son Prateik Babbar. Prateik is the only child from her marriage with Raj Babbar.

Nadira-Babbar

Nadira Babbar was born Nadira Zaheer on 20th January 1948 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Nadira was born in the family of communists and her mother was a popular writer of progressive ideology. Theatre and writing were deep-rooted in her upbringing, therefore Nadira went on to graduate from National School of Drama in 1971, where she was a gold medallist. She started her theatre company Ekjute in 1981, and since then has been actively involved in the production and directions of plays. She has even worked in few Bollywood films but theatre remains her primary passion till date.

The First Formal Wedding

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Raj Babbar was still a student in National of School for Drama (NSD), when he met Nadira Zaheer, his senior by four years. While Raj Babbar, was still trying to carve his own niche, Nadira was already an established theatre actress, and was writing and directing her very own plays. The couple’s love blossomed when they were working for a play together, and within five months of courtship, Raj proposed marriage. Raj and Nadira got espoused in 1975, the same year he passed out of the institute. Initially they did not have any place to live, and the couple moved to Nadira’s mother’s apartment in New Delhi, where they lived in a single room.

Raj and Nadira were blessed with a child, daughter Juhi Babbar, in the year 1976. Raj later shared in an interview that those were tough days for them since Raj still did not have proper foothold in his acting career. He sold his scooter for Rs. 6000 and gave that money to Nadira before leaving for Mumbai to find work in Bollywood. But things changed by 1978, when Raj became one of the most sought after actors in during that period in Indian cinema. In fact there was a time when he would sign two dozen films at a time. Since things were all smooth and rosy, Raj asked Nadira, who was in New Delhi, to move with him to Mumbai, and in 1979 she shifted lock, stock and barrel to Mumbai.

“I followed him here. But I didn’t want to work. I had worked hard, travelled far to direct and act in plays for survival. Also, I had a child… I didn’t have a 24-26 inch waist. Where were married actresses getting good roles then?”
– Nadira about shifting to Mumbai with her husband forever

The couple was blessed with their second child, their son Arya Babbar in the year 1981. The same year Nadira started her theatre company called Ekjute (Together). The Babbar family was having a dream run with their marriage but alas the calm perfection would soon be shattered by Raj Babbar’s tempestuous infatuation towards actress Smita Patil.

The Liaison Begins

smita-patil-and-raj-babbar

Raj first worked with Smita Patil during the making of the film Tajurba in 1980 but it is said that the two did not have a formal or even informal meeting during the making of the film. For that reason, the making of their next film together, Bheegi Raatein (1982) is often cited to be the moment when they finally met in a cordial manner. Raj later shared the following words about his first meeting with Smita Patil-

“I met her for the first time in Rourkela in Orissa, where we had gone to shoot Satish Misra’s film Bheegi Palken. Our first meeting ended in a sort of clash – a sweet clash that laid the foundation of a relationship later. I was impressed by her from the word go…”
– Raj Babbar about his first meeting with Smita Patil

This was circa 1981, a year that seemed to mark all the significant events in the lives of Raj, Nadira and Smita. Nadira had just started her theatre company, and was blessed with her second child. On the same time, Raj was head over heels in love with the dusky beauty to the point that he had forgotten he was a married man with two children. But it was not just Raj who was drawing close to her. Even Patil found solace in the arms of a man, who for the first time ever, felt like true love. Since it was a mutual flame burning across the heart of these two lovers, they decided it would be best to culminate it with a wedlock, even if it seemed illicit.

“My relationship with Smita was not the result of problems with Nadira – it just happened. Nadira was mature enough to understand my feelings. Juhi always loved being with Smita.”
– Rab Babbar about his relationship with Smita Patil

The Marriage Which Changed Everything

smita-patil-wedding

“Then he went away from us, from his family…” rued Nadira softly in a 2013 interview while reminiscing those days in 1981, when she learnt about her husband’s infidelity. Initially, she would hear news about her husband’s extramarital affair from tabloids and well-wishers but would pay little heed to them. But later when she confronted Raj herself, her biggest fear became real, when he candidly acknowledged his marriage to Smita Patil. While Nadira was shell-shocked, she never let her husband’s treachery disrupt her own life, and that of her children.

“Theatre and my children helped me hold myself. I grew protective towards my children, more so towards Arya who was very young.”
– Nadira Babbar about those days when Raj was married Smita

While Nadira found solace with her work and children, Smita did not have those luxuries. She became the hot topic for gossip those days, and was labelled as ‘homebreaker’. Raj and Patil’s marriage went through turbulent phase during that era but that did not impede them from having a family of their own.

The Tragic End To The Story

The-Tragic-End-To-The-Story

Patil gave birth to her son with Raj Babbar in November 1986, and the couple named him Prateik. But Patil suffered from certain childbirth related complications after the birth of her son Prateik. While she was taking small steps towards recovery she suffered a bout of brain fever in December 1986. Sadly, she could not have a proper recovery. Smita Patil passed away on the 13th of December 1986 at age of 31. Raj Babbar was shattered to the core after her death.

“Smita left me forever. I was traumatised by her death. But I didn’t want my problems to affect the lives of those who counted on me. I sought refuge in my work, but the wounds took time to heal.”
– Raj Babbar on the death of Smita Patil

Soon after Patil’s death, Raj returned back to Nadira and his children. Nadira attended the funeral of Smita Patil for which she was mocked by everyone but defended herself by saying that she has forgiven and forgotten it all.

“I was ridiculed for going to her place… She had her dreams and wishes. It’s sad she couldn’t live those. The grief of her passing away became larger than any other sorrow. It left everyone broken. I have forgiven it all. I have no ill feelings towards anyone.”
– Nadira Babbar on death of Smita Patil

While the entire nation mourned the death of the exemplary Smita Patil, the young Prateik had little idea what had happened. He was soon shifted to his maternal grandparents home, which is where he grew up all his life. Growing up he would avoid watching his mother’s films to avoid reliving her trauma vicariously. But he soon reconciled with his mother’s memories but could never reach a bonhomie with his father. He once shared in an interview that his father never gave him ample time because he was busy with his ‘other family’. He later even banished the surname Babbar from his very own name, and now prefers being referred as just Prateik.

Each One Their Own Path
Raj-Babbar-son

Raj-Babbar-family

Nadira has always been vocal about the good rapport her family shares with Prateik, and she refers him as her own son. She is proud of the fact that she never let the shadow of her husband’s misdeeds fall upon her children. In fact, despite Raj’s glaring infidelity she never left his side, and was happy with him as long he gave her the status of being his respectful wife. The family has moved on since then; Prateik and his half-brother Arya Babbar both work in films, while their sister Juhi Babbar works as an actor and designer. She is married to theatre artist and actor Anoop Soni. While the past can never be changed or erased, we hope that the Babbar family’s paradise remains calm, cordial and free from grudge forever.

Images Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 57, 8, 9

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