Model and reputed Odissi dancer Protima Bedi, was a bold and beautiful lady, known for her open-mindedness and for being way ahead of her time. Protima - former wife of actor Kabir Bedi and mother of Pooja Bedi- had stirred controversy when she was pictured streaking on Juhu beach, Mumbai way back in 1974.
The bold move was part of the promotion of a newly launched magazine, Cine Blitz. Blitz newspaper baron Russi Karanjia needed to create a massive buzz of sorts to attract buyers and actress Protima was the obvious choice as the cover girl.
"The idea was to create a splash. We were coming in quite late into a market which had a lot of competition, so how were we going to attract the buyer and reader?" Rita Mehta, daughter of the legendary Russi Karanjia, had told Mid-Day.
"That actress was to be Protima Bedi because she was such an open-thinking lady, certainly way ahead of her time," said Rita, adding that, "I asked her, would you do it? And she said, yes, why not? I did not expect an answer like, 'why not?'"
How they went about shooting for the cover picture?
The venue chosen was near the Flora Fountain in Mumbai and the shots were taken early in the morning when the streets were deserted. Interestingly, the naked scene was captured twice as Protima was reportedly unhappy with how she was captured and had asked for a reshot. The second shoot was done at Juhu beach, which finally made it to the cover. "It worked like magic and that issue, which was a thick one, was a sell out." said Rita.
No point guessing, the image created a massive sensation although the magazine was a hit among masses. Such was the ruckus over the image that the otherwise upfront and frank Protima was forced to deny it herself.
Explaining her baffling behaviour, Mahesh Bhatt, who was a close friend of Protima's husband, Kabir Bedi, had said: "The streaking was meant to be a liberated, progressive statement endorsing the view that one is free to express oneself how one wants. But when Protima saw that her freedom of expression was looking like a publicity stunt for a magazine, she probably backtracked and gave the version that the picture was taken when she was part of a nudist camp in Goa and later the image was superimposed on a backdrop of a beach in Bombay."
In 1998, Protima Bedi, who rechristened as Protima Gauri, passed away during a pilgrimage to Kailash-Mansarovar in one of the worst landslides.